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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Watching on-screen, working on paper

The posts from Jessica and our other guests on teaching remotely/online have been great. But here is a question on integrating tech learning with non-tech work (this arose during our remote 1L orientation session today):

I ordinarily limit students' sue of technology in class-no laptops, hand-written notes, hard-cover books. I do it out of a believe, backed by much if not unanimous science, that this is the best way to learn. Obviously, I cannot prohibit them from taking notes on a computer when they are home. But how hard should I advise (or push) them in that direction? And should I require them to purchase hard-cover books so they at least have to do that part by hand?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 23, 2020 at 07:18 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


Adam: I look at having a physical book, on which you can write and underline and make margin notes, as of a piece with handwritten class notes. I am better able to read, mark-up, understand, and evaluate when reading on paper than on a screen. The hand-writing component seems true for both. But that may be generational and there is, as far as I know, no research on reading on paper as opposed to taking notes that way; my apologies for conflating the two. The second-screen (or third-screen) issue still arises if students are going to have ebooks, even if prepping from them is the same.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Jul 24, 2020 12:46:57 PM

I've read some of the research on the importance of taking notes by hand, but you mention hard-cover books twice - I've not seen that. Can you explain a bit more?

Thank you for a great series.

Posted by: Adam Shostack | Jul 24, 2020 10:39:00 AM

That's a good point Jessica. Thanks.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Jul 24, 2020 8:32:23 AM

I don't have a view on the laptop policy generally. I think it will be next to impossible to have a formal rule banning note taking on computers in a remote course, but I think you could share the research with them and let them decide.

That said, I do think schools should encourage students to have dual monitors this year if the students plan to take notes on the computer and/or use an electronic casebook. I know that's an additional cost, and we should recognize that, but it is incredibly difficult for students to have Zoom/our PowerPoint on one screen without another screen for note taking. Frankly, if they have electronic texts, they might need three monitors. That sounds crazy, but setting up the right environment for home learning is an important investment these days.

Posted by: Jessica Erickson | Jul 24, 2020 7:55:05 AM

Best practices say that you should share the research with the students; both on the importance of note taking generally and on taking notes by hand specifically. You can also provide them with skeletal outlines that they can use to develop these practices. For online specifically, make a video (or do it during a synchronous session) showing the students how you take notes and how these notes help you master the material and remember it; and how their notes will help them when it comes to exams. Do not require them to purchase hard copy books - that is not equitable.

Posted by: Christine Scott-Hayward | Jul 23, 2020 11:33:07 PM

They've been really swell.

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Jul 23, 2020 8:13:41 PM

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