Friday, September 6, 2013

Maybe We Should Try to Be More Interesting? Just a Thought

The National Law Journal reports on a recent article by Jeff Sovern (St. John's University School of Law) entitled "Law Student Laptop Use During Class for Non-Class Purposes: Temptation v. Incentives," 51 U. Louisville L. Rev. 483 (2013).  The article concludes that first-year students have more incentives to pay attention during class and therefore are less distracted by laptop use than second- and third-year law students. 

My own classroom policy seems somehow misguided in light of this conclusion.  I don't allow laptops in first-year Civil Procedure, but allow them in upper-class courses.   My reasoning is that 1Ls need to be weaned from their slacker college ways, that it is almost impossible for them to multitask Civil Procedure, and that they have no choice in being assigned to my section, so they can't transfer out.  After they survive the first year, I treat them like the adult graduate students they are and try (not always successfully) to make the class valuable enough to pay attention to. 

By now, most professors have fairly strong views on their laptop-in-class policy, but the article may provide some food for thought.

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For the first time, I've banned laptops in an upper-level class. Ironically, I banned them in my Cyberlaw seminar, a course that focuses heavily on discussions of technology.

I took care to make clear with the students that the course would focus heavily on discussion, and that I wanted to minimize distractions. I also invited students to suggest things for me to display on my iPad in case there was something that they wanted me to pull up on the screen.

So far, the laptop ban seems to be paying off: the quality of discussion in this class has far surpassed any I've ever seen in any upper-level course.

Posted by: Ira Steven Nathenson | Sep 18, 2013 7:26:29 AM

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