Technology in the Classroom: A Blessing or a Curse?

These days, technology is so ingrained in our lives that it’s practically impossible to go without it. While there are those who oppose our collective reliance on phones and computers to go about our daily lives, it’s hard to deny the benefits. Technology has revolutionized many aspects of human life, including our careers, and the legal field is no exception. Gone are the days of spending hours in a library pouring over volumes of case reporters — now, you can simply plug keywords into Westlaw and have access to whatever information you need right away. But if lawyers nowadays are constantly using technology to do their jobs, why is it that some professors institute no-tech policies in the classroom?

Before going any further, I should acknowledge that I’m biased. As a member of Gen Z with a father who works in the tech industry, I grew up using technology for pretty much everything. I rely on the GPS to get everywhere, I watch YouTube videos instead of reading instructions, and the last time I took handwritten notes for class was in middle school. My freshman year of high school was the first year the administration decided to give all the students iPads — a product with great educational potential, but in the hands of teenagers, probably more of a distraction. 

Indeed, the potential for distraction from laptops and the like is a big reason why many professors choose to ban them from their classrooms. Fewer screens should mean more focus, right? For high school students who would probably prefer to be anywhere but in class, I’m inclined to agree. I’ll admit that at my high school, more kids were using their iPads to play games than take notes. But at higher levels of education, most students are adults who enrolled because they have a desire to learn. Some spent a lot of money on laptops or tablets to use in class, only to have them banned. It can feel somewhat insulting to be told that you are not allowed to use the device you purchased because you can’t be trusted to focus on the material that costs tens of thousands of dollars to learn. 

Yet, studies support the fact that taking notes by hand is better for long-term understanding. One particularly influential experiment from 2014, titled “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking,” was comprised of three studies using a subject pool of college students. In all three studies, students who took notes by hand had better memory retention and performed better on tests regarding the material on which they took notes. One of the contributing factors was the fact that students who typed tended to transcribe everything they heard, whereas students who wrote by hand were more selective, only writing down that which was important to remember.

The data from these findings is certainly compelling. However, students in college in 2014 had likely been taking notes by hand for most, if not all, of their academic careers. It would be interesting to conduct the study with people like me, who have spent the majority of their time in the classroom typing their notes. Transcribing a lecture verbatim could also speak more to an individual’s own general problems with note-taking rather than an issue caused by the method they use.

Of course, I’m no scientist. I can only speak to my own experience, but I feel that being forced to write notes by hand in a law school class puts me at a disadvantage. It can be challenging to keep up with lectures when writing by hand, and it is far easier to reorganize and edit notes on a computer than it is in a notebook. Laptops also give students access to virtual casebooks, which removes a lot of physical strain from our backs. Additionally, virtual casebooks often come with additional materials like videos and quizzes to enhance student comprehension.

Maybe most people do perform better when they take notes by hand and professors are doing their students a service by instituting bans on tech. Students who have conditions that cause them to struggle with such policies are also able to request accommodations, so the rules are malleable.

Still, at this level of education, the students are all adults, and perhaps that alone means they should be able to decide for themselves how to take notes.

Eddie Godino is a first-year student at BC Law. Contact him at

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