Krauss on Classroom Laptop Bans

Laptops "have become a substitute for thinking," according to Professor Michael Krauss, who joins an increasing number of professors in not allowing laptop use in the classroom.

For Krauss, who has banned laptops for the past five or six years, the issue is not so much the common complaints of Internet surfing and other distractions during class. He believes the material in law classes requires a great deal of thought to analyze and understand. Students who busy themselves typing verbatim notes into laptops may not, he believes, be able to focus on discussion.

Some professors who ban classroom laptops cite their belief that students using laptops in their classes generally have lower grades than those who do not. Law professors may be among those most concerned with laptop use, with a number of them joining Krauss in banning them from the classroom.

The Blackboard Versus the Keyboard, The Big Money (from Slate), April 20, 2010. By Laura Mortkowitz.

"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 Law professor Michael Krauss has been banning laptops for five or six years now.

"The way his first-year law-school classes are taught, Krauss said, is by asking questions for the students to answer in discussion. Distractions and the Internet aren’t Krauss’ 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.

"Two years ago, Carrie B. Fried, a psychology professor at Winona State University in Minnesota studied the effect of laptops on learning [7]. She discovered that computers were a significant distraction in class, and that using laptops negatively affected students. The students admitted that they learned less and performed poorly in comparison with those who didn’t use them during class."

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