This semester, I am teaching a seminar in Law & Entrepreneurship, and I asked my students to leave their laptops in the carrying cases. I have written about banning laptops in the classroom (here and here), but this is my first experiment with it. And I like it.
A law professor at the University of Memphis has banned laptop computers from her lectures because they fence her off from her students.
Professor June Entman's decision has some students in her Civil Procedures class so upset they are considering transferring to another law school, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported. They say they can't keep up without their electronics.
"If we continue without laptops, I'm out of here. I'm gone; I won't be able to keep up," said Cory Winsett said.
Entman does not think that students need to take verbatim notes.
"My main concern was they were focusing on trying to transcribe every word that was I saying, rather than thinking and analyzing," Entman said. "The computers interfere with making eye contact. You've got this picket fence between you and the students." James Smoot, the law school dean, said he would not interfere with Entman's decision, although he would not ban laptops from his own class.
The picket fence phenomenon is real, especially in large classes. In large second- and third-year classes, I deal with that phenomenon by lecturing more than I did when I first started teaching. Next fall, I will be teaching a large section of Contracts for the first time, and I am not sure how I will handle that.
I was emboldened to ban laptops in my seminar this year because the students are being graded on two papers -- a case study of their own choosing and a business history book report -- whose contents are not discussed directly in class. Plus, I give them hard copies of all of my PowerPoint slides. As a result, there is very little that we discuss in class that is necessary for them to record. I hope that the result is that they are listening more closely to me and to their classmates.
Then again, I may just be kidding myself.
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