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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, March 15, 2018

WSJ: I’d Be An ‘A’ Student If I Could Just Read My Notes

No LaptopWall Street Journal, I’d Be an ‘A’ Student if I Could Just Read My Notes:

Professors are banning laptops in class, driving college students to revert to handwriting—and to complain about it; ‘a hand cramp in government’

Adam Shlomi says he is a good student at Georgetown University. But the sophomore is failing in one unexpected area: note-taking.

Back in his Florida high school, he brought a Chromebook to class, taking “beautiful, color-coded notes.” So he was shocked to learn many professors at the elite Jesuit university in Washington, D.C., don’t allow laptops in their lecture halls.

With nearly illegible handwriting—a scrawl of overlapping letters with interchangeable t’s and f’s, g’s and y’s—Mr. Shlomi, 20 years old, begs notes from friends, reads textbooks and reviews subjects on YouTube when it’s time to take a test.

As professors take a stand against computers in their classrooms, students who grew up more familiar with keyboards than cursive are struggling to adjust. They are recording classes on cellphones, turning to friends with better penmanship and petitioning schools for a softer line. ...

Professors are weary of looking out over a sea of laptops, with students’ faces aglow from who knows what. Are they taking notes? Ordering sneakers on Amazon? Checking out memes? Some lament that students’ speedy typing lets them transcribe on autopilot, rather than synthesize class information. ... 

Students complain professors just don’t understand how hard it is to write by hand. ...

It’s hard to know how many college classes have gone laptop-free, as schools generally leave the policies up to professors. Some students can get to graduation logged on in every lecture hall, while others bemoan that the majority of their courses have banned electronic devices.

Laptop bans come as a generation of students who didn’t learn to write in script enters college. ...

Articles by professors instituting bans go viral every few months, often inspiring another set of teachers declaring tech-free zones.

Many of them point to academic studies showing that students taking computer notes retain less than those who handwrite, that multitasking makes people less effective at any single task and that grades can suffer when internet distraction is an option.

(Hat Tip: Trey Childress.)

Legal Education | Permalink


This is a desperate situation for this poor student, the ban on laptops has even caused him to read textbooks. The nerve of his professors. Read textbooks

Posted by: Bill | Mar 15, 2018 6:36:25 AM

Here is a law school study that shows that taking notes by hand is more effective for academic performance than taking notes on a laptop.

Note-Taking Mode and Academic Performance in Two Law School Courses by Colleen P. Murphy, CJ Ryan & Yajni Warnapala at

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | Mar 15, 2018 8:30:01 AM

I was recently at a conference for legal academics where faculty attendees were permitted to use laptops. I sat toward the back so had a good view of the use to which faculty were putting their laptops. Almost all of them were surfing, shopping, etc., and not paying attention.

Posted by: TS | Mar 15, 2018 2:17:10 PM

It’d be easier for Shlomi to just take notes while rewatching or relistening to the lecture at home.

Posted by: Trump 2.0 | Mar 16, 2018 2:33:34 AM