Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2004


Law schools (and indeed all of higher education) have witnessed an explosive growth in the use of technology in the classroom. Many law teachers now deploy a wide array of technological bells and whistles, including PowerPoint slides, Web-based course platforms, in-class Internet access, and the like. Students, in turn, increasingly come to class armed with laptop computers to harvest the fruits of the classroom experience. Yet in recent years there has been something of a backlash, with various law teachers arguing that this technology is interfering with, rather than improving, pedagogy in the classroom. According to the critics, the technology increases student passivity and thus interferes with the active learning that should be the hallmark of a law school classroom. In addition, the critics complain that laptops provide too much competition for the students' attention, enticing them to play computer games or DVDs and, with in-class Internet access, to read and send e-mail (or instant messages), shop online, or check out the latest political, financial, or sports news. This article opens a new chapter in the debate, explaining how law teachers can use both old and new technologies to increase student engagement in the classroom. We first lay out the pedagogical case for creating an active-learning environment in the law school classroom and then examine the critics' charge that technology impedes these goals. We offer a competing vision of how technology can be harnessed to increase active student learning and, in the process, empower students to resist their laptop's siren song. In particular, we describe how we combine both old (substituting word-processing text for PowerPoint slides) and new (using handheld wireless transmitters) technologies to inject more active learning into our classes.

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