The University of Chicago Law School has recently adopted a policy blocking internet access in classrooms (hat tip: my colleague Michael Krauss). Some individual professors at other schools have taken similar steps in their classes. I am of two minds on this. On one hand, law students are adults. They should be able to decide for themselves whether surfing the net has greater value to them than using class time to listen to what the professor is saying. Indeed, if a high percentage of students are surfing regularly, that may be an indication that the professor isn't doing such a great job of teaching.
On the other hand, there are potential negative externalities from in-class surfing. If a lot of students are doing it, and therefore not contributing to class discussion, that will reduce the value of the class for their classmates, not just themselves. This point suggests that there may be some merit to the University of Chicago policy. For now, however, I'm not going to change my own live and let live approach to net surfing in the classroom.