College is not about collecting notes

It’s reassuring, I guess, that whining is universal across industries. A professor at the University of Memphis banned laptops from her class.

On March 6, Professor June Entman warned her first-year law students by e-mail to bring pens and paper to take notes in class.

“My main concern was they were focusing on trying to transcribe every word that was I saying, rather than thinking and analyzing,” Entman said Monday. “The computers interfere with making eye contact. You’ve got this picket fence between you and the students.”

What’s the issue? The law isn’t about rote memorization, to my knowledge. I’d rather my attorney be able to tell me what precedents and facts mean than I care when a case was decided and in whose favor. Having been a graduate (MBA) student, I’m aware of the lack of understanding from trying too hard to capture every word. My style of learning may or may not be common, but I learned the most in classes where I paid attention. Strange, I know, but it might work for Professor Entman’s students, too. Considering Professor Entman’s students filed a complaint with the American Bar Association that was dismissed might indicate that she knows more than they do about the law.

Of further note is this tidbit:

“If we continue without laptops, I’m out of here. I’m gone; I won’t be able to keep up,” said student Cory Winsett, who said his hand-written notes are incomplete and less organized.

At some point in the 20th century, someone invented the tape recorder. Later in the 20th century, someone invented the digital voice recorder. Is it possible that Mr. Winsett and his fellow classmates could transcribe the class discussion during their post-class studies? Maybe they could take turns or request that Professor Entman offer her class as a podcast.

Of course, if I was in Professor Entman’s position, I might not institute a ban on laptops since that punishes the students who use them responsibly. Instead, I might just make class participation more important in each student’s grade. If the student can’t keep up because of poor note-taking strategy, he or she will adapt or fail. That seems like a reasonable early test for future lawyers.

I make that suggestion with full acceptance that I don’t know how much participation she requires. I assume it’s greater than nothing, but I could be wrong as to the practicality of my suggestion.

2 thoughts on “College is not about collecting notes”

  1. If laptops were around when we were in college, we would have FLUNKED RIGHT THE HELL OUT. The draw of The Internets would be too great! I’d have been searching for Flavor of Love news and you’d be watching Spring Training games online. Sigh. If only.

Comments are closed.