Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Yet more reasons for banning laptops in the classroom

According to this editorial in the Hufffington Post, the Harvard law faculty have voted unanimously to ban laptops in first year courses.  And that's a good thing according to this this editorial by U. of Washington law professor Maureen Howard who argues that classroom surfing not only undermines learning, but it also trains students to behave in ways that won't be tolerated in the "real world."

[Some say] it is we professors who are to blame for not grabbing and keeping the attention of 21st Century students. This view was humorously endorsed by NYU law students (#5 U.S. law school per U.S. News& World Report) in a music video acknowledging widespread internet surfing during NYU law school classes. The not-so-implicit message is that professors are responsible for student frolic and detour during class because we are boring.


But much of day-to-day post-graduation life in law--or in any other profession--can be pretty darned boring. And it is career suicide, if not professional malpractice, to "zone out" or surf the web during a meeting/presentation/deposition/trial/surgery/real estate closing because the work isn't as entertaining as a television reality show. Professor Mariana Hogan at New York Law School acknowledged this multitasking behavior can be risky for law students post-graduation, noting "we've added material to our Professional Development curriculum to alert our students that partners in law firms might not see these work habits the same way." Professor Hogan observes that students are surprised to learn that such multitasking might be frowned upon in practice. And why wouldn't they be surprised, considering it is generally tolerated in classrooms all over the country?

Our role as post-graduate educators should include mentoring students about post-graduate professional expectations and professional behaviors. Allowing students to surf the internet unrelated to class work hamstrings their ability to learn both substantive information and professional behavior needed for a smooth and successful transition into the post-graduation workforce. How well-received would a recently-graduated, newly-hired entry-level management trainee be if she started surfing eBay for Prada shoes in the middle of a monthly department meeting, no matter how boring the meeting? We are failing students if we tolerate mindless election of disposable entertainment over legitimate education in the classroom--because the behavior will not be tolerated after the diploma is awarded and the student is no longer paying the freight, but pulling in a paycheck.

You can read the rest here.

Hat tip to Above the Law.


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