Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mansion of the Living Dead

This issue has probably appeared here before, but the ABA Journal ran an article today: "Profs Kibosh Students' Laptops." You probably know what it said. Basically the argument goes like this:

Point: You are all a bunch of Luddites! Students carry laptops to make their studies more efficient by centralizing and organizing their notes. Professors who value learning should love them! Besides, the real world of lawyering is rife with distractions, too. Sometimes it seems like law schools take paternalism to the extreme, and this is just another example--like it or not, no one can protect the easily distracted forever. Finally, who is paying the salary in a classroom? If students want to use the time they purchase (for what will soon be about $100 an hour at Boalt) then so be it.

Counter-Point: You are a bunch of spoiled brats! There is a huge difference between watching TV in class, and watching the professor--your tuition only entitles you to one of those activities. Web browsing is distracting not only to yourself, but to the students around you. It adds little or nothing to the classroom, and sucks the soul from the lectures. And your claim that the internet makes you a better student? Please. Do your peers a favor and grow up.

I carry a laptop, and the first thing I do when I get to class is open it, check my mail, etc. Nevertheless (and most of you will forget Bekki ever existed in your lust to kill me when you finish this sentence) if I were a professor, I would kibosh laptops in my classroom.

I have a general leave-me-alone-and-I'll-do-you-the-same philosophy, and I am sympathetic with those who believe students should be allowed to use the class time for which they pay as please. However, I graduated from a small state university full of wonderful people with backgrounds very different from the average Boalt student. It was a great experience, but it was also not the intellectual environment of which dreams are made. I decided to spend a great deal money to come to Boalt because I wanted to be in a room full of people who are brighter than me. And I am, every day. But when those people glue their face to the Internet(s), I feel I am losing on my investment. In other words, browsing the net is keeping ME from getting the experience I am trying to pay for. I suspect my position will not be popular with N&B-ers. But there it is.

On a side note, the article repeatedly mentions the evils of watching porn in class.


Why do professors think that is what we up to? Is that what they would be doing if they were in our place? Or is it the journalist?

A commenter below suggested an online survey. Though I have never conducted one before, I am fairly certain I set it up correctly. I realize the wrinkle that many of you will respond while in class, thus distorting the results. Actually, I kind of enjoy the irony.

Anyway, click here to chime in. Please do not cheat--the results really do not matter enough for that.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not put one of those internet poll questions on the blog so we can vote anonymously?

Ask, "if you could ban fellow students from using the internet in class, would you:

1. Not ban it at all.
2. Ban it first year only.
3. Ban it all three years."

11/11/2007 11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear God. Please do NOT let this blog provide fodder for the evidently growing movement among the faculty.

We had an unfortunate incident in Bundy's class this week having to do with internet usage (I attribute it more to 2Ls and 3Ls just not caring as much about class anymore as 1Ls than to an internet problem overall), and it was a sad reminder that the school could indeed take them away. Your points in favor are basically good (i'd add that I also use IM to ask a friend what the heck the super-quiet person seven rows over said), but your argument about classmate quality isn't very good. Someone who can multitask, look up cogent things during class and contribute them to the discussion, and in general AVOID FALLING ASLEEP A THE SHEER PAINFUL BOREDOM that is most law school classes is a better, not worse, learning peer. And, trust me on this, you WILL be glad you have typewritten notes when it comes to outlining. I cannot imagine coming up with someone cohesive from the crap notes that I'd produce on paper . . . .

Also, depending on how they ban internet, it could be a First Amendment and/or anti-scrambling/communications law problem.

And - GASP - a wealth/class problem - rich kids could presumably get Sprint cards rather than rely on campus wireless. Is that the fair result that Boalt should encourage?

11/11/2007 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also have a problem with the classmate-contribution argument.

I promise you that if you take away laptops/internet from the students, people who never speak up won't all of a sudden start contributing a lot more. Some people don't raise their hands because they don't really like talking in front of 90+ people. Internet doesn't affect that.

11/11/2007 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish that I couldn't access e-mail during class. But it's like's there, and I HAVE to do it, especially since I take notes on my laptop. Sometimes I'm able to keep myself from looking at my e-mail, but then when a student starts talking, I use that as an opportunity to catch up on e-mail. I agree with the other poster that at least internet has ended the problem of classroom boredom. By the way, I realize that this post makes no sense.

11/11/2007 11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is that many law professors don't put enough effort into their lecture. They get up and just lecture even though that teaching style may not work for everyone. Teachers like Sklansky really do a good job of using different teaching styles and most people pay attention in his class. Likewise, people like Bundy could benefit from using more than the board and a dry erase marker. (Don't get me wrong, I LOVE his songs and did like his class).

Cutting off the internet is just a lazy way for the profs to get people to pay attention to them. Maybe they should look inward and make a stronger effort to be a good teacher. Although a lot of us will use the internet no matter what if it is available, we will use it a lot less in a class that is actually engaging.

11/12/2007 12:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason you dink around on the net is that your *professors* aren't digging deeply enough? Sorry, I don't believe you.

That's not why I dink around on the net in class. As someone else said, it's like crack. How about turning off the wireless router in the building? Is that possible? Someone here must know.

11/12/2007 12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few peopel with lousy self-control shouldn't ruin it for the rest of us. how about you turn YOUR wireless receptor off?

11/12/2007 9:18 AM  
Blogger Bekki said...

I turn off my wireless connection in class. It's that simple. I want to pay attention to the prof and get my money's worth. If the guy sitting next to me would rather play internet golf, then bully for him.

I'll also admit that there's one class I simply can't sit through and pay attention for the entire time. I think surfing the internet is less rude than falling asleep in class.

Turning off the internet seems like an overly draconian measure. People who don't want to pay attention won't, even if they don't have the internet or their laptops to distract them.

Conversely, if someone does want to listen to the prof, they'll decide to do it on their own. I've seen several of my classmates decide to stop bringing the laptop to class because they wanted to pay attention and realized their computers were too distracting.

I'll be turning my typed notes into a solid outline for exams. As for the people who use commercial outlines or outlines from past classes, I wish them the best of luck. We all study differently, and if someone's so smart that they can fool around in class and still ace the final, who am I to judge how they use their time?

11/12/2007 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, 9:18. Amen.

11/12/2007 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

at michigan, they have "blocked" internet during class. essentially they make you log in, in order to use the law school wireless. it knows your schedule, and thus, if you are supposed to be in class, it "blocks" you.

however, rather than just completely block you, it lets you on for about 2 minutes at a time. you can keep logging out and logging back in, for 2 minute intervals. i think i waste more time fixing my internet in class than i do actually using internet. and people either just get their friends' log-ins (who don't have class at that time) or create scripts to automatically login/logout, or play solitaire. Some profs have banned laptops from their classes- luckily they give warnings about that so upperclassmen don't have to take those classes if they don't want to do so. Not that it would keep me from doing so, but at least they are being upfront with us, if extremely paternalistic otherwise.

11/12/2007 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:25 - First Amendment "law problem"? care to elaborate?

11/13/2007 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those defenders of internet during lectures, what arguments could you make (with a straight face) to the administration? Really going to tell Dean E that professors should compete for your attention by being more interesting? That the rare occasions someone looks up and contributes something from the web outweighs the distraction? That there's some "fundamental right" to internet during lectures? That we're all Adults and it's patronizing to tell us what to do? I'm listening...

11/13/2007 10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing that sticks out in my mind is that if you do not want to use the internet during class, then don't do it. No one is forcing you to use it. I really don't see what the problem is.

And since we're (almost) all paying out the ass to go here, then yes, we should have the right to use the internet during class. I'm not saying it's a wise decision, but we should have the right.

11/13/2007 10:34 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Oh my how the winds have changed. In the not too distant past, I remember when students PETITIONED!!!!! the administration to have wireless installed. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about it during my second semester of 1L year...using wireless in the classroom. I think people missed the joke...and the irony.

Yes, 10:27, there's probably no academic argument for the use of wireless in the classroom. I certainly have not used it to research Blackstone. In fact, if you run some sort of a regression, you'll see a strange correlation between my Boalt schedule of classes and number of posts.

But you can be so smug only in hindsight. You've never sat in a classroom that doesn't have internet. You've never sat in the SOLE top 8,000,000 law school without wireless in the classroom. THAT's how pathetic Boalt is. The fact of the matter is that most other law schools have debated this issue YEARS ago--long before Boalt had any hint of wireless internet (unless you count stealing from unsecured routers at the frats).

Oh the luxury of debating internet in the classroom. Hey here's a novel idea, how about you guys try to have grades turned in SLOWER.

11/13/2007 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Armen.

While you are at it, could you contact the ABA and tell them how out of touch they were for running the article? Because apparently they didn't get the message either.

11/14/2007 8:38 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

Yeah I just might because Texas and Michigan debated the issue three years ago. Just another fascist professor banning the internet a news item does not make.

11/14/2007 8:45 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

And in case you're too dense to get the point of my initial comment, it's that we lagging other schools technologically so badly (for the premier law & tech program no less) that we're years behind even in the debates on the issue. Again, don't kid yourself. This was an issue long before Boalt got wireless.

11/14/2007 8:47 AM  

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