« Facebook and the law school prof | Main | What if a dean prohibited some faculty use of technology...? »

August 21, 2008

Experimenting with a one-child one-laptop policy

Chinaflagvirus I am intrigued and a bit surprised by this post at The Volokh Conspiracy, titled "Experiment with a No-Laptop Policy for Class."  Despite the title, it appears that Eugene Volokh will permit one laptop in his (upper-level?) class, but only for a designated note-taker to transcribe notes that must be shared with collective group.  Eugene justifies his forced experiment this way:

Several law professors at other schools, including some I know well and trust, have conducted such an experiment, and report that they have gotten great results.  Class discussion, they say, is much better.  Students are less distracted, both by things on their own laptops and on their neighbors'.  Students don't feel pressured to take verbatim notes (since that's very hard to do in longhand on notepads), and instead focus on identifying the important points and tying them together.  Students are therefore listening more actively, and are more ready to discuss things and answer questions.

Also, most of the other professors report, anonymous surveys at the end of the semester show that most students like this system more than the normal laptops-OK rule.  (The few exceptions report that students are on balance indifferent to this new system.)  So it sounds like a win-win, which is why I decided to try it here as well.

After the semester is over, I will ask you folks to anonymously report back on the results; you will then also be able to compare your in-class experience in this course with your in-class experience in the other courses, which to the best of my knowledge aren't conducting this experiment.

Not surprisingly, Eugene's one-laptop policy for his classroom has generated lots of interesting comments.  An early comment by A.W. explains part of my surprise about Eugene's decision to embrace this command-and-control approach to his classroom:

[F]rankly, for a libertarian, its funny how quickly "libertarian" professors turn into an authoritarian on this.  If students want to check drudge, shop, or god forbid, visit your site, what is it your business? Really.

Another commentor (jokingly?) calls out Professor Volokh for his "commie-pinko preferences."  Indeed, though I am disinclined to assert that this alone shows how quickly professorial power can corrupt philosophical commitments, I do find remarkable the dramatic move to collectivism here.  Not only is Eugene severely restricting laptop liberty, but he also is mandating that individuals share the fruits of their labor with a student collective all for purported good of the UCLA School of Law.

Posted by DAB.

August 21, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c8ccf53ef00e5540581a18833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Experimenting with a one-child one-laptop policy:

» A Provocative Take on No-Laptop Policies from PrawfsBlawg
Doug Berman is surprised by Eugene Volokh's one-laptop policy (in which one student takes notes for the rest of the class):Indeed, though I am disinclined to assert that this alone shows how quickly professorial power can corrupt philosophical commitme... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 22, 2008 12:00:26 PM

» Eugene Volokh, Collectivist?: from The Volokh Conspiracy
Over at Law School Innovation, Doug Berman suggests that Eugene's laptop ban reveals he is not a true libertarian: Although I am disinclined to assert that this alone sho... [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 22, 2008 2:27:59 PM

» Libertarianism and Actions Within Institutions: from The Volokh Conspiracy
I've often seen people -- usually not libertarians -- argue that some supposedly "authoritarian" or "collectivist" action within some institution is inconsistent with true libertarian principles. Doug Berman's [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 22, 2008 6:13:10 PM

Comments

This all continues to perplex me. As long as students aren't being offensive (scrolling porn sites, using audio, etc), I fail to see how this is different than, when I was in LS (and most of us who graduated LS > 10 yrs ago were in LS), if I were bored, I'd read the box scores or do a crossword puzzle.

If my students are playing solitaire or shopping or reading the box scores (on ESPN, not in a surreptitiously folded newspaper) that suggests to me that we aren't engaging them. It's on us.

On the other hand, if students are online, and a case comes up in class, I can ask someone to quickly check the year or the court or whether the dissent actually said what I remembered it saying, etc.

I teach 50% of my classes online (using chat rooms as the main teacher-professor mode of interaction [though there are also two day-long live seminars as part of the courses]), so students are online for the entire 75 minute classes (they have to be) in those courses. I have been doing this for 8 years and have taught dozens of times, so my n is fairly robust. There is no question that the quality of class discussion in these courses is, in almost every instance, far better (more participate, more participate frequently, more say original things, more push their classmates to think harder -- every metric I can think of) than in the bricks & mortar class.

The world has changed. We need to accept that and move on.

(Afterthought: I'm one of those who can't be tethered at the podium, so I move around the class alot. Granting that students can sometimes scope out my path, and minimize an off-topic screen, I still see very few computers on anything but a Word or Wordperfect screen for note taking, and often, Westlaw or Lexis. A few years ago, in a seminar, I was walking around the table, and noted a student (an excellent student; one of my research assistants) was playing online solitaire. W/o breaking stride, I said, "Jane, red 6 on the black 7" and kept talking. She blushed, the class giggled, and I have an idea it never happened again.
Best,
Michael Perlin
(using full tag here only b/c it is relevant to this post)
Prof. Michael L. Perlin
Director, International Mental Disability Law Reform Project
Director, Online Mental Disability Law Program
New York Law School
57 Worth St.
New York, NY 10013
212-431-2183
michael.perlin@nyls.edu

Posted by: Michael Perlin | Aug 22, 2008 2:03:03 PM

" I do find remarkable the dramatic move to collectivism here."

Comments like these are why I stopped referring to myself as a libertarian althought I'm probably more educated on libertarianism that 99% of libertarians.

Next using a common swimming pool instead of taking a separate bath is going to win the distain of some libertarians because of it's collectivism.

Posted by: Brian Macker | Aug 26, 2008 6:55:34 AM

there are also two day-long live seminars as part of the courses]), so students are online for the entire 75 minute classes (they have to be) in those courses. I have been doing this for 8 years and have taught dozens of times, so my n is fairly robust. There is no question that the quality of class discussion in these courses is, in almost every instance, far better (more participate, more participate frequently, more say original things, more push their classmates to think harder -- every metric I can think of) than in the bricks & mortar class.

Posted by: omega watch | Aug 6, 2012 5:31:00 AM

good post!I move around the class alot. Granting that students can sometimes scope out my path, and minimize an off-topic screen, I still see very few computers on anything but a Word or Wordperfect screen for note taking, and often, Westlaw or Lexis. A few years ago, in a seminar, I was walking around the table, and noted a student (an excellent student; one of my research assistants) was playing online solitaire. W/o breaking stride, I said, "Jane, red 6 on the black 7" and kept talking. She blushed, the class giggled, and I have an idea it never happened again.

Posted by: Breitling bentley | Aug 27, 2012 10:14:27 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.