Laptops in the Classroom

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"Laptops in the Classroom" Project

The disheartening "wall of laptops" has become matter of course in law school classrooms across the country. Although technology can clearly benefit students, it also creates a physical and psychological barrier between students and their professors and peers. Faculty and students have been debating the merits of allowing laptops and internet access in classrooms for the past few years, but HLS has yet to hold a vote on whether or not to ban these technologies in the classroom. Rather than continuing to look at the issue from these polarized extremes, and rather than simply resigning themselves to the status quo, I believe teachers should reconsider their attitudes and approaches to the rhetorical space of today's "wired" classrooms. To that end, I am attempting to rally support for a faculty/student panel on the issue, the main goal of which will be to empower teachers to take charge of their classrooms and develop a considered approach to the use and/or elimination of technology in their classrooms on a course-by-course, day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis.

Faculty/Student Panel Progress

IT, Student, and Faculty Support

We have sent emails to the HLS IT Committee and the Law School Council in order to secure their support before approaching the Dean about the event. The LSC expressed interest but will not be able to confirm their support until their next board meeting, which will be held in January.

Berkman Center Collaboration

I have also contacted Gene Koo regarding his December 7th forum on networking and the use of technology to develop learning communities in order to determine whether we might be able to collaborate on our respective efforts.

Proposal

Once we have support from the IT committee and LSC, I will schedule a meeting with Dean Kagan to make our proposal.

Podcast

My podcast on this issue is available here.

The Traditional Debate

While the purpose of this project is to shift professors' thinking about how to approach laptops in their classrooms, it is crucial to understand the arguments on both sides of the traditional debate in order to understand how/when/why laptops can be beneficial and how/when/why they might be superfluous or even detrimental. Another layer of the debate is whether internet access should be available in classrooms, giving us three "cells" of traditional arguments around this issue:

1. Allow laptops, allow internet

2. Allow laptops, ban internet

3. Ban laptops entirely

Again, I do not believe that looking at the issue in this limited, all-or-nothing manner is the most useful way to address the issues created by technology in the classroom. However, we can learn a great deal about how to develop novel approaches by looking at the arguments from all sides with an open mind.

My memo on the pros and cons of laptops/internet in the classroom is available here.

My memo on how disheartened teachers feel about technology is available here.

Questions, Comments, and Support

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this project, offer criticisms or concerns, ask questions, voice your support, or volunteer to help out...