Paul L. Caron

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Colker: Stop Banning Laptops In Law School Classrooms!

LaptopRuth Colker (Ohio State), Universal Design: Stop Banning Laptops!, 39 Cardozo L. Rev. 483 (2017):

Banning laptops in the classroom constitutes a needless barrier to academic performance that is increasingly common at the university level. In this article, I review the existing literature that is cited to support laptop bans and show how that literature does not, in fact, support such a ban. Further, I report a modest empirical study that reflects that students who use laptops in a large lecture class do as well as students who do not use laptops so long as Internet use of the laptop is clearly and effectively banned. The article concludes that a permissive laptop policy should be on the list of Universal Design features that supports effective learning for all students.


Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink


The "N" is this "study" is very small and restricted to a single area of law. Re-do this study with a nationwide survey of law students in at least several types of law. Then, maybe you have a leg to stand on.

Posted by: Kneave Riggall | Jan 21, 2018 2:37:21 PM

What these studies tell us is that law students don't know how to take notes. Tomorrow in class I'll tell my econ undergraduate seniors that they shouldn't take verbatim notes. I hope they aren't, anyway, since they have all my powerpoints available--- on their laptops during class, if they want. I wonder if taking notes ON the powerpoints is a good idea? I'll talk about it with them. I know that some of my students use their phones to take photos of impromptu graphs I draw, which is a good idea.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Jan 21, 2018 5:31:35 PM

While merely anecdotal, my experience of watching my fellow 1L, 2L and 3Ls from 2004-2007 have laptops in class (I handwrote all my notes) is that they should be banned from the classrooms. The amount of websurfing that went on during lectures was astounding.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Jan 22, 2018 4:06:02 AM

As a lover of both technology and data-driven analysis, I was intrigued to see the article but disappointed. Beyond the small n-value, the large standard deviations and lack of information about mean square error are also a "tell". More troubling, without an ex post power analysis, an assessment of potential latent effect size, and an identification of what sample would be required to confirm the potential confirmation of a null result in a future study, the results of this "modest" study are likely irrelevant. Only time and replication will tell. It is one thing to report a null-result. It is quite another to report the null result with an appropriate degree of information about likely error. But the making of an inference (as the author does) about the lack of no reliable relationship (i.e. no relationship between laptop use and grades) from one null-effect without having a sense of effect size or statistical power is wrong from a scientific perspective.

Posted by: Susan Franck | Jan 22, 2018 4:38:39 AM

Might I be so bold as to note that the blame should not all be on the students for the reality that, in many cases, students can idly surf the web during class, purchase an Aspen Examples and Explanations a few weeks before the end of semester, and ace the final. Look to yourselves and to the still-Langdellian pedagogy.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 22, 2018 8:17:02 AM