Law.com has a piece. (I'm quoted at the end.) Why all the articles on this subject? I keep getting phoned up for quotes.
Well, something seemed to be happening at Harvard -- rumors of a ban -- and you know how reporters act when something happens at Harvard.
Is there anything new to say on this old issue?
A student is quoted complaining about the problem of the "angry typist" -- which is a slightly amusing way to refer to someone who bangs the keyboard too much. I used to hear more talk of the horrible sound of typing a few years back. Deal with it, folks. You're living in the world. Why not complain that you can sometimes hear people breathe? Angry breathers. Personally, I find the snapping of ring binders pretty annoying -- are they expressing hostility? -- but it's never occurred to me to ban them.
The fact is people are used to writing on laptops, and laptops are quite ordinary tools now. All the age-old complaints about how students don't pay perfect attention or don't behave perfectly well are being restated in terms of a bogus laptop problem.
IM-ing is just the new note passing or whispering. Playing a computer game is the new doodling. Surfing the internet is the new... Oh, who even says "surfing the internet" anymore? It's just reading and looking at pictures. You think everyone's looking down at the screen? In law school classes, everyone was always looking down. It was an effort not to get called on. They looked at their books and their note pads. These problems are as old as school....
A law professor stands in front of a group of students. Maybe he's lecturing about the grand values of individual liberty embodied in the Constitution and maybe he's waxing eloquent -- he thinks -- about how repressive, arrogant government authorites subordinate those values in blind pursuit of their own goals. But the students are not fully engaged. They're off in their own lives, reading messages from friends, planning what they'll do when class is over, reading things that interest them, blogging. What can the professor do? If his idea for a solution is to ban the laptops in the hope of making the students pay attention, I hope he at least perceives the irony. Let me force you to listen to me talk about liberty.