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November 9, 2007

Laptops Again

The ABA Journal reports that "more law schools are banning [laptops] as a distraction." 

The tiered seating arrangement of most law school lecture rooms allows students to easily see what others are doing. “Laptops are pedagogical nuisances,” [Suffolk Prof. Kate Nace Day] says.

The article quotes our very own Doug Berman, who supports students rights to use laptops in class.  Ironically, however, the quotes themselves suggest the problem--as they show that Doug himself can be distracted by basketball scores on a laptop screen!

Ohio State University law professor Douglas A. Berman isn’t bothered by what his students do in class. If students want to play poker or watch porn during class, so be it, he says, though he knows his opinion is out of the mainstream.

“I have students who don’t come to class. I have students who are paying attention and say dumb things. But so be it,” Berman says.

Berman’s only concern is when one student’s behavior distracts another’s learning experience. It is a lesson he learned all too well when sitting in on a colleague’s evidence lecture during the March NCAA basketball tournament.

“I noticed a student’s laptop with the basketball scores on the screen,” he says. “I got distracted looking at the scores.”

I suspect that more professors will encourage students to rethink their use of laptops.

Anupam Chander

November 9, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink


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Though I think laptop distraction is inevitable, I also think it unwise to restrict students from technology. Part of being an effective lawyer is figuring out how to cope with distractions. I also think multi-tasking is an essential lawyering skill. For these reasons, and others, I hope faculty will ask themselves who really benefits --- and who is harmed --- by banning laptops from the classroom.

Posted by: Doug B. | Nov 11, 2007 8:14:35 AM

Doug--I agree. I wonder how students will react to a professorial directive that some will believe (often unnecessarily) will harm their education.

Of course, some students will appreciate not having the distraction of others' use--and yet others will appreciate, like Ulysses, someone else keeping them from the Siren song of the laptop.

I would personally suggest simply that students think through their own use--perhaps even experimenting with a week of no laptops to see how they fare.

Posted by: Anupam Chander | Nov 12, 2007 1:46:32 PM

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