"Their face is on 'screensaver'"

USA Today has this article about professors banning laptops from their classes:

This school year, the University of Michigan Law School became the latest graduate school to block wireless Internet access to students in class, joining law schools at UCLA and the University of Virginia.
The problem professors face is "continuous partial attention," an expression coined by Linda Stone, a former Microsoft executive, to describe how people check e-mail and try to listen to someone at the same time.
"As a teacher, you can tell when someone is there, but it's just their body that is there," says Douglas Haneline, a professor of English literature at Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Mich. "Their face is on 'screensaver,' so to speak, because what they are really doing is checking their e-mail."

This is not a problem I've seen in my classes yet. Lately, I've been making my own notes available to students online, and of course there's the weblog, so I guess I'm a real techno-enabler. I find that really cuts down the "transcription problem":

For some, the issue comes down to learning styles. Professor June Entman of the University of Memphis Law School in Tennessee says some students with laptops end up typing every word said in class.
"When you focus primarily on transcribing everything said, you are not making good use of the class as a practice opportunity," she wrote in an e-mail to her law students, explaining her decision to ban laptops.
Law school students say laptops are good for taking neat notes and e-mailing them to friends who miss class. Laptop notetaking is still largely a graduate-school phenomenon, but the practice will probably spread to undergrads -- unless teachers balk.

It seems to me there is an unrecognized selection effect here. Aren't the students who take notes using laptops in graduate schools very likely to be the same few who did so as undergraduates? Except now they are many because they got admitted?

I mean, especially since these are law schools and business schools being profiled -- aren't these exactly the kind of conscientious, note-taking students that they profess to want to admit? And now, they are saying, "No, we don't like that behavior; graduate school should be entirely different than that strategy that you've been succeeding with up to now."

This seems to me to be a lot of professorial complaining about something entirely under professorial control. Don't want excessive transcription? Then give out the lecture notes, allow recordings, give podcasts. Want to facilitate discussions and exchanges in class? Then make students responsible for them. Don't want them checking e-mail and reading the newspaper? Then give frequent quizzes and grade more strictly.

The bottom line is that students are good at multitasking and setting priorities. If listening to the professor isn't a priority, it is probably because the class is boring!