This page is a companion to the
presentation I gave at the 2008 meeting of the American
Association of Law Schools (AALS) on January 3, 2008 in New York
City. My presentation was a part of a three-hour program
co-sponsored by two Sections of the AALS: the Teaching Methods
Section and the New Law Professors Section. The title of the
program was "Attractions and Distractions: Student Use of Laptop
Computers in the Classroom."
My basic message on this topic is a simple one. There
is no disputing that laptops can provide a distraction in the
classroom. But the response to that, it seems to me,
should not be to ban them but to leverage them instead.
Technology brings good and bad into all areas of our lives, and
it is incumbent upon us to learn how to use it effectively.
Think cell phones. Being contactable everywhere is a
tremendous convenience, but it also has a downside.
Managing the downside and maximizing the convenience is what we
all have done - with varying degrees of success - with cell
phones. My point is we need to do the same with laptops in
The good news is that there are fabulous ways to leverage
laptops in the classroom, and there are more on the way. A
wealth of teaching opportunities await the law professor who
chooses to embrace them. I show screenshots of some of
these options in this presentation, and doubtless there are many
Included in this presentation is also some data that I
collected from my students near the end of the spring semester
of 2007. It was an anonymous survey, constructed with
University IRB approval, with 32 respondents. The message
from this small sample is clear: banning laptops in the
classroom will not be popular with our students, and we need to
more directly engage them in the classroom. The days of
hiding behind the podium are nearing an end.
In sum, given all the criticism of legal education - from
MacCrate, to Carnegie, to Best Practices, if the perception is
that laptops in the classroom are changing the face of legal
education as we know it, that might not be such a bad thing.
While it is still fairly standard practice, I prefer not to
hand out paper copies at any presentation I give. Not only
does doing so kill trees, but it ends up being something you
have to carry home, and they are ultimately less useful and
interactive than a digital file. So here on this page you
will find a downloadable copy of my presentation in several
Here it is in the form of a
Here it is in the form of a
And here it is in the form of an
Shockwave Flash file you can view through the browser if you
have Flash installed.
If you attended the AALS Laptops presentation - or even if
you have visited this page because you are curious about this
subject - thank you, and feel free to contact me with your
thoughts via E-mail.