Charles R. Nesson, a professor at Harvard Law School, says the key for professors is to know when laptops are good for class and when they’re not.
“Technologies are not good for everything,” says Mr. Nesson, who is also a founder of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “Sometimes they destroy some good things along with the opportunities they make available.”
In Mr. Nesson’s classes, laptops are good for looking up legal material. During class students are encouraged to find the right evidence rule on the Web and to contribute to a class wiki, a communal Web site they frequently edit and update.
He says laptops are not good, however, during and immediately following a guest speaker’s presentation. He requests that the computers stay shut, signaling to students that they should all participate in discussing issues the speaker raises.
This just isn’t going to go away. I think the real answer here is for law school tech folks and interested faculty to actively pursue and advocate for constructive ways to use laptops in class. Make the laptop a useful tool rather than a distraction.