Well, technically, I think only section 2 gets no laptops, while section 1 is able to use them. This is the new policy at school. And I think it only reaches the 1Ls. The purpose, obviously is to test how effective learning and class room participation, etc. is when there is/is not a laptop present in the classroom. Section 1 is the control group. The hope is that Section 2 kids pay attention better.
I have a few thoughts on this. First, I think it's an interesting idea (and one that's gaining popularity) because, for me, surfing the internet was a huge distraction. However, I'm not sure if eliminating laptops in classrooms will actually make learning that much more efficient. I say this because classroom learning is still, actually a small part of your learning of the material. I mean, if you think about it, you have your reading, outside thinking (and discussions with classmates), outline making/outline reading, briefing/book briefing, finals study time, and office hours. I learned most of my stuff outside of classroom (and within 2 weeks of my final). I don't think eliminating laptops will necessarily make things better. I mean, kids are still going to doze off in class. Whether they are reading the news online or thinking about the awesome sandwich they're eating for lunch. If the kid is bored, the kid will be bored.
Secondly, laptops are good because people have terrible handwriting and taking notes via word processor is simply more efficient. For a short time, I tried leaving my laptop in my locker and just taking notes by hand. Big mistake. Either my hand would get too tired, my notes too unreadable, or I wouldn't be able to write everything fast enough. Plus, I'm a southpaw so my hand tended to smear the ink over the paper (and over the side of my palm.) So, I decided that taking notes on my laptop was a good thing. Which is weird, because I used to take notes in college by hand. However, in college, there wasn't much active participation in the discussion. As opposed to law school where you're supposed to be interacting with the discussion. This, I found, is much easier when I'm not worried about whether I'll even be able to decipher what I've written.
My final thought was...why couldn't the administration just put a block on wireless access in the classrooms (I don't even know if that's possible). I guess that would just make too much sense. Because the problem with laptops is that people stop paying attention to lecture because they are surfing the internet, not because they are so smitten with their word processing programs. If we can just prevent them from surfing the internet, people can still get the efficiency of note taking on MS Word or whatever Mac users use.
Well, whatever. There are a lot of other factors obviously to consider, but I don't much feel like thinking too deeply (or writing too deeply) about it now. So long as it doesn't effect me, it'll be interesting to see how the 1Ls do. A grand experiment, indeed.