By John Evans
Most law students love their laptops. Editable, searchable notes which take less space and are much lighter than traditional books and pens. Laptops can also enable access to online textbooks and research platforms—all in the middle of class. These new age textbooks can substitute lower costs, incorporate all sorts of media, and integrate advanced note taking options.
On the flip side, there is the distraction of social media, online games, articles and newspapers. Are the academic benefits worth the attention drain and temptations?
Some classes greatly benefit from the incorporation of laptops. For example, I found that the ability to update my work in real time while discussing issues in class was of immeasurable help in Foundations and Advocacy. However in more traditional classes, laptops only serve as a note taking devices.
Even professors seem divided on the issue. Some professors have issued outright bans. Others have embraced technology by abandoning the analog casebook.
Recent academic studies do point to some answers. One study from the University of Michigan, showed that when laptop use is incorporated into classroom, as opposed to just being used to take notes, students report greater classroom engagement. Another study showed that when laptops were only used for note taking, students who used laptops in class had a statistically significantly lower grade when controlling for academic aptitude. The study also found that 25% of students played games in class and 43% used the laptop to surf the web.
Does this question come down to self-control? Is the onus on us, as students, to uses are laptops more responsibly. Should professors put their foot down and ban laptops? Is it just another factor helping the cream to rise to the top? Does the ability to concentrate through available distractions demonstrate a useful job skill, thus reflected in a student’s GPA?
What strategies do you use to ensure you only use your laptop for classroom activities?