We’ve talked before on this site about how seminary has changed. The days where all you need is a Bible, notebook, and a library card are over. There is a whole world of resources available, means to access them, ways to organize your time at seminary. Apps get all the spotlight these days, but there is some hardware that can really make your seminary time a lot easier.
Laptop (or Tablet/Keyboard Combo)
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people end up going to seminary without this. Yes, it can be a distraction on many fronts. It’s so easy to surf over to any number of other sites, and the constant clicking and clacking of keyboards can ruin some of the romance of the moment, but nevertheless, the world that is opened up to those with a computer during lectures is profound.
Having done the first part of my seminary education almost ten years ago, and finishing it up now, one of the biggest changes has been the proliferation of tablets being used in lieu of laptops. I see lots of people with iPads or Android devices with Bluetooth keyboards (here’s the best one out there, if you’re wondering). Not only can this be quite cost-effective, but it is easy to carry around campus.
The real benefit to having something like this is that it can do so much on its own. You can record lectures, take notes, share information with classmates, study, read articles, do research, etc., without having to jump around.
Yes, you read that right. I said scanner. I’ve written before about how your camera can be used as a really effective scanner, but there is something to be said for having an actual scanner around. And no, I don’t mean one of those large flatbed scanners. I mean portable scanners. I use this one, and love it. I have binders full of notes and articles I’ve kept over the years. Having a scanner like this allows me to digitize them all, making them searchable for whatever class, sermon, or research I’m having to do later on. Also, getting one of the portable “wand” scanners, allows you to easily scan pages out of books and large theological tomes so you don’t have to pay for the copy machine or check out a huge book just for one article.
My daily driver for a computer is a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I love it, and have found it to be the perfect device for seminary. (If you want a similar device, and you’re on a budget, check out the Surface 3). I mention that here because it comes with a stylus with which you can write on the screen. I know many think that the time of the stylus is well passed us, but I’m here to say it’s not.
Yes, the keyboard cover on the Surface is great, and I love typing on it, but I have found myself more and more folding the keyboard back and writing out my notes in programs like Evernote, Word, or OneNote.
Anyway, I now not a lot of people have a Surface device, so for your tablet or iPad, I can’t recommend enough getting a stylus (this one’s really good) for taking notes, practicing writing Greek and Hebrew, and marking up readings and such.
No matter how much technology you get, there will just come those times when you need some good ol’ paper and pen. My suggestion is Moleskine notebooks, though if you still want the technology tie-in, check out their Evernote Smart Notebook, that lets you easily scan and tag your handwritten notes into Evernote.
When I was in an in-resident seminary program, I remember each class beginning with the same ritual of students laying out their portable recorders on the table in front of the professor, so as to capture the audio of their lecture. I still have the recordings I made at that time, and they can be extremely helpful in the future for a refresher. If you’re in the market, this is a highly-reviewed one.
Also, if you use Microsoft’s OneNote to take notes, it has a feature where if you attach audio to a note, it can make the speech in the audio searchable. Now that can come in handy.
Perhaps the most important piece of hardware for your survival in seminary. Get a good one that can handle iced drinks in the summer, and hot drinks every other time.