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More Law Profs Ban Laptop Use in Class

Posted Jan 11, 2010 7:47 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Concerned that law students' use of laptop computers in the classroom is interfering with their legal education, some professors at Villanova University School of Law are banning them within their own classrooms.

"Professors here at Villanova, and indeed at law schools across the country, have been wrestling with concerns about the impact laptops have on engagement in the classroom and the consequent impact on learning," the school's acting dean, Doris Del Tosto Brogan, tells Above the Law. "The concerns expressed by faculty focus not only on students engaging in other activities, but also on students falling into typing a virtual transcript of the class rather than listening, analyzing and synthesizing material."

Nonethless, the policy—which is similar to responses previously reported at the University of Chicago (where the school simply shut down Web access to a number of classrooms) and the University of Wisconsin—apparently has provoked unhappiness among some students.

Last year, Eugene Volokh reported in a Volokh Conspiracy blog post that he gave students a survey about their reaction to a laptop ban he imposed in some of his classes.

Overall, students seemed to feel that the no-laptop policy did enhance class discussions, but at the cost of more time-consuming review after class and difficulty studying because of having notes that weren't as detailed and easy to read.

Profs who see a problem, however, appear to be holding their ground.

“What we want to encourage in these students is active intellectual experience, in which they develop the wide range of complex reasoning abilities required of the good lawyers," Robert Summers told the New York Times in 2008 after announcing a laptop ban in his contracts class. He is a longtime law professor at Cornell University.

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