With horror, I'm beginning to realize that classes (at my law school, anyway, and at many others as well) are actually starting up again this coming week, bringing summer '09 to an end, alas. Time for my annual plug for my "Writing Guidelines" -- if you're a beginning law student, or a returning law student, or just someone who writes, you're encouraged to download a copy and look through it. I've put much of what I've learned about writing well over the years in there, and, from the reaction of people who've downloaded it in the past, I think it's a decent guide to the art. (Not, incidentally, as a replacement for Eugene's terrific book on "Academic Legal Writing," but as a supplement, looking at the craft of writing from a somewhat different perspective).
And speaking of classes, I've made the decision this semester to ban computers from my classroom(s). It's something I've been thinking about for a couple of years, and it's not something I've come to (I hope) without giving the matter some serious thought. This is particularly so because this semester one of the courses I'm teaching (and in which I'll be implementing this new rule) is a course on "Cyberspace Law" -- I know it's going to strike some students as bizarre that they won't be allowed to have their laptops in a Cyberspace Law class, but I'm prepared to defend the decision. Simply put, I think they'll learn more without them because they will be forced to engage with the material being presented (or at least they will have fewer alternatives to engaging with the material being presented -- you can lead a horse to water and all that). Several years ago, I sat in on a Law and Economics seminar taught by a colleague of mine at Temple Law School, Dave Hoffman, in which he forbade students from using laptops during class. It was pretty clear to me that the quality of student engagement in the class discussion benefited immensely from the decision. The computer is a powerful distractant -- when the discussion gets messy or difficult (indeed, especially when the discussion gets messy or difficult), it's awfully tempting for students to check out for a few minutes to check their Facebook page, or send out a few emails, or organize their files, or do a little Lexis/Westlaw research, or check the baseball scores, or . . . and then, 9 times out of 10, they're lost for the whole class. I want confused students to tell me they're confused -- to put their hands up and say "Excuse me, but what exactly are you talking about?" They don't need good excuses not to do that.