Sunday, April 25, 2010

More colleges, professors shutting down laptops and other digital distractions [Washington Post]

I’ve seen this debate in many corporate contexts over the last 15 years as well, e.g., meeting contexts wherein only the designated scribe is allowed to use his or her laptop, in order to take notes (ideally to be subsequently summarized and shared with all participants). imho it’s symptomatic of several bigger problem, e.g., people who can’t resist multitasking (and/or feel out-of-touch if they don’t track updates from their “social networks” every minute), collaborative domains (meetings, classrooms, etc.) in which there is an insufficient signal-to-noise ratio, etc. In any case, especially with beyond-the-basics collaborative hypertext tools such as OneNote 2010, I believe it’s counterproductive to disallow laptops in classrooms or other collaborative meeting contexts.

The trend of laptop-banning seems strongest at law schools, where discussions and understanding the material are vital to getting past the dreaded first year. Georgetown University Law Center professor David Cole bans laptops, as does University of Memphis law school professor June Entman. George Mason University law professor Michael Krauss has banned laptops for five or six years now.

The way his first-year law-school classes are taught, Krauss said, is by asking questions for students to answer in discussion. Distractions and the Internet aren't Krauss's concern in banning laptops; the reason for the ban is that laptops have "become a substitute for thinking." The material in a law class requires a lot of thought to help understand concepts, and students who type verbatim what is said in class into their notes aren't giving themselves any time to absorb and analyze.

More colleges, professors shutting down laptops and other digital distractions

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