Banning laptops from lectures

March 15, 2010
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Could you survive law school without using your laptop in class? There’s a push by some professors to ban laptops from class because they are distracting students from learning. Students check e-mail, update their Facebook status, or surf the Web when they should be taking notes or paying attention to the professor. Basically, laptops are 21st century versions of doodling in your notebook.

I don’t know when laptops became the norm in college at the undergrad or graduate levels. I rarely saw someone with a laptop in class when I was getting my bachelor’s degree, but I suspect laptops caught on in graduate studies faster. And even if a student did have one when I was in school, the student couldn’t have checked Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace because those Web sites didn’t exist.

But now it seems as though all students are encouraged to have laptops to take to college, and they are essentially required for law students. I found an article from 2001 on the American Bar Association’s Web site with interviews from law students about “secret technology weapons” for surviving law school. Most listed the laptop. (Does anyone else’s mind wander to the scene in “Legally Blond” when Elle Woods shows up to her first law school class to discover she’s the only one without a laptop, or is that just me?)

According to Al’s Morning Meeting, an e-mail I receive from the Poynter Institute, when a Georgetown law professor banned laptops for six weeks, 80 percent of students reported they were more engaged in class discussion. Almost all admitted they had used their laptops for more than just taking notes.

If I’d had a laptop when I was in college, it would have been great. I can type much more quickly than I write, the notes would have been legible, and I could have organized them more easily. There’s also a good chance that if the lecture wasn’t keeping my attention, I would have surfed the Web.

Anyone have a professor ban laptops in a law class? Did the ban make your attention in class better or worse?
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