Marie S. Newman at Out Of The Jungle reports on Professor Eugene Volokh’s ban on laptops in his criminal law classroom at UCLA. Professor Volokh references the ban himself on his own blog, the Volokh Conspiracy. According to Professor Volokh, over 70% of students surveyed reported a strong positive or positive effect on concentration and over 50% reported that they enjoyed the course more after the ban. The responses regarding the positive effect on learning were less marked and many were neutral on that aspect.
Prawfsblawg’s Howard Wasserman reports increased eye contact and decreased keyboard noise following his classroom ban on laptops.
But do these benefits outweigh drawbacks? Some people type with comprehension better than they can write with comprehension. Notes become searchable (unless you are using a Pulse smartpen). Students can quickly hope on-line to flesh out a thought or visit a concept mentioned in the classroom.
I like Ms. Newman’s point that law students should have already adopted their most efficient techniques for learning, assimilating and note-taking before reaching law school. And a laptop ban may cripple many modern students who have developed a keyboard note taking style or rely on digital records for later reinforcement.
As for eye contact, I cannot imagine having better contact with writing than typing: I sit straight up when I type and can offer eye contact with a mere glance, while I famously slouch over my handwritten notes, requiring neck contortions to meet my professor’s gaze. That is, if I even really wanted to do so – eye contact might result in being called on to brief Marbury v. Madison.