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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  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

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