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Tales from an Instructional Technologist in the world of legal education and beyond…

Laptops in the Classrooms

Ban Laptop ImageRecently, one of my students alerted me of a post on Slashdot about a law professor who would like to ban laptops in her classroom. It has sparked quite a debate over whether or not this is a good thing. Notetaking on a laptop can be much more efficient when one is a fast typist however, it is true many students tend to try to copy everything the instructor is saying verbatim. In Socratic, highly-discussion based legal education, I can especially see the argument where this kind of activity can just get in the way. Not to mention the temptation of crawling online the wireless network, where available. I do believe there is a better way though.

Students, especially graduate students, do not like to be told they are prohibited from doing something universally. They are adults paying high tuitions to attend these universities, and should be given the right to use tools they feel will assist their understanding, in most cases. One way a professor could manage the intrusion of laptops is to simply instruct the students the professor will give a cue when laptops should be down, when discussion is at the center of the learning objective. Also, if the professor makes it known that there will be a general outline after class on the course web site, that should assuage anxiety over not being able to use laptops during discussion time. Recording classes to podcasts that students could review on the go and take notes later on is also an emerging trend. Professors could even designating one student note-taker per class that posts the general notes to a dropbox on the web site that all can access or on a class outline that exists on a wiki. Banning laptops should not be a problem, as long as the professor provides alternative means for students to gain access to the material.

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Filed under: Educational Technology, Instructional Technology

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