Monday, December 05, 2005

Why did the law professor ban laptops?

Brooklyn Law Professor Jason Mazzone isn't bothered by the prospect of students websurfing and emailing in class. He even likes laptops. So why did he ban them in his Constitutional Law class?

I came to the conclusion that serious and attentive students suffer when they use laptops in class. First year law students don’t know how to take notes effectively, particularly in a difficult course like Constitutional Law. Their strategy, therefore, is to record every single word uttered in class. Their hope is that even if they have no idea what anything means at the time, so long as they get it all down they can look it up later on and they’ll be OK.

Laptops, I found, turned the most diligent students into scribes.

I spoke—they typed. I spoke again—they typed some more.

But law schools train lawyers not court reporters. Learning to be a lawyer requires hands on experience: tussling with the cases, articulating arguments, reflecting on what others have said, offering quick reactions, presenting rebuttals. This is the whole point of attending law school rather than just reading about the law in a library. And you can’t do these things if you’re busy typing. There is a good reason lawyers are not the ones asked in the courtroom to produce the transcript of what has transpired.

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