Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sovern: Student Laptop Use During Law School Classes

Macbook-proJeff Sovern (St. John's), Law Student Laptop Use During Class for Non-Class Purposes: Temptation v. Incentives, 51 U. Louisville L. Rev. 483 (2013):

This article reports on how law students use laptops, based on observations of 1072 laptop users (though there was considerable overlap among those users from one class to another) during 60 sessions of six law school courses. Some findings:

  • More than half the upper-year students seen using laptops employed them for non-class purposes more than half the time, raising serious questions about how much they learned from class. By contrast, first-semester Civil Procedure students used laptops for non-class purposes far less: only 4% used laptops for non-class purposes more than half the time while 44% were never distracted by laptops.
  • Students in exam courses were more likely to tune out when classmates asked and professors responded to questions and less likely to tune out when a rule was discussed or textual material read in class
  • For first-semester students, policy discussions generated the highest level of distraction while displaying a PowerPoint slide which was not later posted on the web elicited the lowest level
  • With some exceptions, what was happening in the class did not affect whether upper-year students tuned out or paid attention.
  • The format used to convey information -- lecture, calling on students, or class discussion -- seemed to make little difference to the level of attention.
  • Student attentiveness to the facts of cases is comparable to their overall attention levels.

Update:  National Law Journal, Laptops Found More Likely to Distract 2Ls and 3Ls in Class

Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink


I mean, as far as my own experience goes, my class time priorities looked something like this:

1.) Pay enough attention in case something important is said by the professor.
2.) Make sure to ask any important questions that came to mind.
3.) Fantasy football and flash games.
4.) Chatting on gchat with pals.
5.) Everything else.

Let's be real here guys -- most of the important stuff (i.e., the stuff that affects grades and therefore job prospects) is done outside of the classroom. I feel like most of the actual law that I learned was learned outside of the classroom on my own, and I'd imagine the experience was the same for most. Just my two cents.

Posted by: No, breh | Sep 4, 2013 8:43:29 PM

This seems exactly right.

Posted by: No, breh. | Sep 4, 2013 11:24:32 AM

I'm not surprised to hear how much law students use their laptops during class. Most people feel like they need to be connected and using a laptop is a way for them to stay "in the know."

Posted by: Kim | Sep 4, 2013 10:52:23 AM