Following up my previous posts (links below): Wall Street Journal op-ed, I’m Banning Laptops From My Classroom, by Stuart Green (Rutgers Law School):
For more than 20 years, I have taught college graduates, most in their mid-20s, the basics of criminal law and procedure. In all that time, at half a dozen law schools, I’ve had the daily opportunity to observe some of the miracles that modern technology has wrought in the legal academy: Computerized research. PowerPoint. No more handwritten blue books!
But now and then, carrying out my institutional duty to observe classes taught by younger colleagues, I move from the front of the classroom to the rear. What a revelation to see what the students are up to. While virtually all of them have open laptops and most are taking notes, many seem more intent on emailing and texting, posting on social media, reading news sites, shopping online, or looking at YouTube videos. I recently saw one student systematically checking out law-firm websites for summer-associate salaries. Another spent an entire class streaming an NHL hockey game.
If this is what the students are doing while I’m sitting behind them, observing the class, I can only imagine what they’re doing when I’m up front, lecturing.
Has the time come to ban laptops from my classes? The arguments for doing so seem pretty straightforward. As common sense suggests, and a March 2013 study by Faria Sana, Tina Weston and Nicholas J. Cepeda confirmed, students who are multitasking during class have less understanding and recall of what’s being discussed. ... [S]tudents who take notes on a computer tend to perform worse than students who take notes by hand, according to a 2014 study by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer. ...
My best guess is that many of my students, millennials almost all, have never been in a university classroom where they weren’t connected to the internet. As bright and hard-working as they are, they don’t know what it feels like to be completely focused on a text, or fully absorbed in a classroom discussion. Like so many others in today’s overly wired society, they are perpetually distracted, never fully present.
In August, when the new semester begins, I’ll have a new rule for my classroom: no laptops. No doubt the students will roll their eyes, mutter that I’m a Luddite, and present arguments showing why I’m wrong. They are law students, after all. But I hope that some eventually will realize that there is much to be said for being liberated from their devices. Maybe one or two will even send me an email to say how revelatory it is to really listen. I hope they won’t do it while sitting in class.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- Jeff Sovern (St. John's), Student Laptop Use During Law School Classes (Sept. 4, 2013)
- Clay Shirky (NYU), Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away (Oct. 25, 2014)
- L.A. Times, Classroom Technology Bans Improve Student Performance (Mar. 6, 2015)
- Princeton/UCLA Study, It Is Time To Ban Laptops In Law School Classrooms (Nov. 10, 2015)
- WSJ, Students Who Handwrite Notes Get Better Grades Than Students Who Type Notes On Laptops (Apr. 14, 2016)
As regular readers of this blog know, I have long advocated the use of clickers to combat the adverse effects of student use of laptops in the law school classroom.