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09 April 2007

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Matt Berns

As a 1L at Georgetown, though not one of Prof. Cole's students, I have two criticisms of his op-ed.
1) I hear that Cole framed his survey question about whether students preferred laptops in a way that biased the results. He doesn't include the phrasing of the questions in his Post piece. (I didn't see the survey, so this is second-hand info, but coming from students who took the survey.)
By way of comparison, a professor of mine, intrigued by Cole's example, asked our class whether she should ban laptops in her class next year. The results were overwhelmingly against a ban.
2) If Prof. Cole is worried about students checking the Red Sox box score, he underestimates the wonders of internet in class. He should really be worried about students watching a live feed from Fenway.

William Henderson

Pat,
That is a great point the resonates with my gut instinct. But perhaps the most apt analogy is not to utility but temptation. Alcoholics and junk food addicts (I am picking things I can relate to) would do better in an environment with no alcohol and no junk food.

It is possible that Gen Y is too easily distracted by the instant stimulation of the net, instant messaging, and email. I think the reaction of Cole's students is, at a minimum, counterintuitive.

Pat Baude

Can anyone think of any past advance in human knowledge or understanding that was accomplished by teachers prohibiting advanced university students from using methods they found useful?

William Henderson

Tony, that is a good point. Some might counter that their notes reflect all that is relevant and hence are shorter and more tractable. The notetaking process also reflects a distillation of sorts. In law school, I was not this type of notetaker, but I have seen it done. Those who have this knack often swear by it.

Tony Lopez

If laptop transcription is helpful because information can be distilled after class, then students and professors need not choose between exam prep and class discussion. The professor could ban laptops, yet still provide a transcript of the class, either through weekly student volunteers or some other means.

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