Sunday, October 28, 2007

Laptops in Class

First of all, I'd like to state my appreciation for the email function that lets any law student send mass emails to the whole law school. There's a good argument to be made about that function encouraging open debate, but my approval is grounded in the amusing exchanges that happen every once in a while because of that function. Here's the most recent email-based controversy that made me laugh.

The law school is considering banning laptops in class. They sent an email out last week listing their points:

  • in class laptop use encourages students to surf the web,
  • students are failing to contribute to classroom discussion as a result of laptop use,
  • laptops encourage students to become stenographers rather thoughtful note-takers,
  • students surfing the web cause a distraction for other students.
Those are some pretty paternalistic arguments. Here are their proposed solutions:
  • A no-laptop policy: a ban of laptop use (in-class)
  • Honor Code Violation: any non-authorized laptop use will constitute an honor code violation; likewise, failure to report a fellow student’s non-authorized laptop use will also constitute an honor code violation
  • Absence: professor may mark students absent for non-authorized laptop use
  • Grade Deduction: professors may lower students grades for non-authorized laptop use
Are we in high school again? If you have to threaten students with an honor code violations and grade reductions for not paying attention in class, something is wrong. A couple (highly reactionary, but hilarious) emails were sent in response to the school's email. Here are the highlights:

"If laptops are taken away, I'm going to bring my desktop."

"How much money does the school collect each semester in tuition? Frankly, if I want to sleep through class and borrow an outline to prepare for the exam, I think I've paid for that right. And I will take responsibility for my grades."

"If the faculty and administration want to treat this "school" as a business, I fail to see why the students shouldn't respond in kind."

"[I]t all comes down to personal responsibility. The faculty and administration should focus on controlling the aspects of our legal curriculum that they control. They should leave the practice of being students up to the adults who happen to be their students."

So, what do you think?


Anonymous said...

Is it appropriate to use the pronoun "they" to refer to the law school?

Ms. Feasance said...

I was so annoyed by those e-mails. If they're that worried, they should either mandate tablet PCs (so the screen is flat and profs don't have to worry about screens standing between them and their students)or just turn off the wireless in the classrooms.
On the point of "[l]aptops encourag[ing] students to become stenographers rather than thoughtful note-takers," I'm confused. Taking detailed notes that we take time to pare down later is...bad? Isn't that the definition of outlining? Paring away details?

Also, there's a great place I discovered to look for bad grammar:

Brandon Hudson said...

I like your style of writing. You break it down nicely. Very informative post. Keep up the good work.

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