A law professor at Georgetown has banned laptops from his classroom, and here's why.
Much of Professor Cole's complaints regarding students dicking around on the Internet during class come across as somewhat crotchety, and don't, in my opinion, form a legitimate basis for banning laptops. Students will pay attention or they won't, and those who are rating kittens when they should be larning themselves some Commerce Clause knowingly run the risks appurtenant thereto.
That being said, Cole's other, less developed reason, is something I fully agree with:
"Note-taking on a laptop encourages verbatim transcription. The note-taker tends to go into stenographic mode and no longer processes information in a way that is conducive to the give and take of classroom discussion. Because taking notes the old-fashioned way, by hand, is so much slower, one actually has to listen, think and prioritize the most important themes."
At some point during my last year of law school I stopped bringing my laptop to school, mainly because it was heavy and I was sick of carrying it around. I discovered that my handwritten notes were significantly more helpful than my previous stenographer-style typed notes, likely for the reasons that Cole states. Handwriting forces you to digest the information as you take it down, so you're engaging the material more critically as it's presented and recording it in a way that will be more useful later on. It's something I'd recommend at least trying while in law school. Incidentally, I also observed a quantum leap in my grades during my 3L year after I switched to spiral notebooks.
But, again, this choice should be left to the student, not dictated by the professor. Professors might extoll the virtues of handwritten notes to their students and encourage them to ditch the laptops, but it's not something that should be mandated.