Should laptops be banned in law school classrooms? Yes
Should we extend this ban to juries in the courtroom? Maybe
In “Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting“, Susan Dynarski writes that research shows that: “college students learn less when they use computers during lectures. They also tend to earn worse grades. The research is unequivocal: Laptops distract from learning, both for users and for those around them.”
Dynarski explains the downsides of laptops. When using a laptop students are focused on transcribing the lesson. They are not focussed on processing information. However, when using paper and pen students are focused on processing information. They have to condense the lecture into simple notes. Otherwise they cannot keep up with the lecture. “The handwritten versions were more succinct but included the salient issues discussed in the lecture.”
Additionally, laptops distract the user and the students around the user. Students become distracted while watching another student’s laptop screen.
The effects of laptops in the classroom were studied by the United States Military Academy. Their research revealed that students performed substantially worse in classrooms with laptops when compared to students in classrooms without laptops.
Given the advantages of paper and pen over electronics, what role should laptops/tablets play in the courtroom? Should we allow jurors to use tablets, even if they are unconnected to the Internet? Should judges be discouraged from using laptops in the courtroom? How should we reconcile this research with the move from a paper based court system to an electronic based system?
I would argue that a courtroom is similar to a classroom, and that this research should be considered carefully by our courts.
(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization. This post was originally posted on slaw.ca)