I know I haven’t written in here for awhile, but the professors’ new laptop policy has really got me peeved. So, I’m back for now at least.
For those of you who aren’t up on this, teachers are increasingly banning the use of laptops in class. Even the professors that aren’t banning them are restricting their use. Two of my classes require that I take hand-written notes. The class I’m writing this in prohibits the use of laptops except for word processing.
They give paternal reasons for it. “You get distracted.” “You distract your classmates.” “It impedes discussion.” “You write everything down.” Each of these reasons is bs. Let’s go through the list!
1.) You write everything down.
Oh yeah, heaven forbid we actually listen to what you say and take notes for our own education. The only reason you shouldn’t want us writing down what to say is if you have no idea what you’re talking about and are afraid that some student acting like a court stenographer provides the administration with a transcript of your own incompetence.
The thing is, this isn’t even generally true. If you are a remotely competent student, you know that there are somethings that are worth writing down and somethings that aren’t. I take the same amount of notes regardless. I actually spend more time taking notes when I’m writing the notes out and I miss much more of class because it takes me longer to translate what is said onto the page.
Speed isn’t the only reason why taking notes on a laptop is better than handwriting them. The biggest reason is that you can actually organize your notes. Some professors try to give you an outline at the beginning of class, but anyone who’s ever spent time in class knows that sometimes we dabble into topics that were taught previously. If there is something noteworthy, I either end up with my note buried amongst unrelated material so it’s impossible to find quickly or it’s crammed onto a page with materials that it are related, but because there’s no room, it is completely illegible meaning that it is totally worthless to me when I go back to study for my exams. Thanks professor!
2.) It impedes discussion.
On its surface, this appears to be completely true. When I’m checking to see if someone’s made a funny comment on Deadspin, I’m not really participating and discussing the great issues in class with my class mates. Here’s the thing though: I can talk to my classmates about this stuff at anytime. The best discussions about the law with my classmates have taken place outside of class rather than in it.
Why is this? Well,
Outside of class, discussions can be frank. You can tell people who have vapid, regurgitated statements to take a hike or you can just walk away from them. If you tell some kid in class he’s an idiot, that comes off as rude and hurts your standing with the professor. Outside of clas, many people will applaud your putting the automaton in his/her place.
Basically, everything that’s good about class discussion can be had outside of class. You just have to be willing to put forth the effort.
On top of this, my friends and I usually have discussions within class. That’s right, we get on IM and chat about what’s going on, asking questions concerning something we don’t’ understand. You may say “But that’s exactly the problem! Raise your hand and say it so the whole class can hear!” No. I don’t’ want to get into a debate with Gunner McGee. I don’t care about his opinion. I’ve already heard him ape the professor’s statements enough. I want actual insight or a different take from my friends. If we hit a point where we can’t figure out what’s going on, then we raise our hand and as the professor. We eliminate the fluff and ask a question that actually moves the class forward.
Computers improving efficiency?! Asking good questions? What a couple of crazy ideas
3.) You distract your classmates
Oh my Godding God. I have spent a lot of time being bored in class in my time in law school. I doodle in my notebook, I surf the web. I cannot remember ever being distracted by someone’s web browsing. Even when I run out of things to check online, I don’t go looking at my compatriots screens. I can’t believe someone who is actually wanting to focus on class can get distracted by someone playing a game online. You have to be as OCD as Adrian Monk for that to happen.
Even if yo do have the focus of a gnat, this can be corrected by sitting in the front of the room. Generally speaking, when you sit in the front of the room, the people around you aren’t going to be surfing the web. It’s too hard to hide that you’re not paying attention and far too dangerous as you could very well invoke the wrath of the cold call. If you can’t pay attention because you’re spying on your classmate’s computer, that’s pretty sad. Next thing you know, you’re going to be touching and counting every parking meter or pole you walk by. On the bright side though, you’ll also be a fantastic detective.
4.) You get distracted
Finally, we get to the main argument against us having laptops in class. Instead of listening to your brilliant description of mens rea, we’re finding out that Angelina and Brad might be on the outs (OMGZ!!!!!11!!!!1).
The only argument that holds any weight in this discussion is that you want to make sure we learn as much as possible in class since we’re the future of the
If you want to get us to stop web surfing in class, make it impossible for us to score well in the class if we’re not paying attention. Or, you could just teach better. I know, that’s a shocking alternative. God forbid you actually improve yourself rather than lashing out punitively at your students.
Also, we’re paying to be here. We’re all adults. At this point in our life, we should be allowed to make our own choices. If I want to watch someone getting hit with a shovel on youtube instead of listening to you tell me what qualifies as consideration because I know I can just go read it in the book later, then that should be my prerogative. When I screw off in class, I’m not hurting anyone else, except for the OCDers. I am just quietly minding my own business and getting what I want to out of law school. Professors should respect my ability to choose and stop being paternal. If you feel that you’re that important that I have to pay attention to you, then make yourself that important. Otherwise, let me read the news and chat with my friends about what’s going on in class.