My main concern was they were focusing on trying to transcribe every word that was I saying, rather than thinking and analyzing. The computers interfere with making eye contact. You've got this picket fence between you and the students.
We actually find ourselves surprised, first of all, that this was the reason for the ban. Most profs who ban the laptop do it because students "multitask" in class: playing games, answering email, instant messaging, writing papers for other classes, etc. Serving a life sentence of lecturing in higher education, we believe that professors who have students who multitask on their classroom laptops will have students doodling, writing notes, reading books, talking or staring out the window if they ban them.
But what Prof. Entman notes is about notes, and we admit to a great deal of sympathy for her point of view. Copious notes are viewed by many students as a sign of good scholarship, on the part of both the student and the professor. The student with lots of notes is to be commended for meticulous attention to detail; the professor, for delivering meticulous detail.
We, however, believe that there is something else that delivers the detail. It is called a textbook, or in law school, a case book. Classroom lectures and discussions, by contrast, are mostly about analysis, the building of generalizations, the testing of hypotheses, the formation of arguments, and the like. Such activities require more engagement than what a student can deliver who is preoccupied with transcribing as much of the lecture as possible.
We do not believe we have succeeded as a lecturer when students write down sentence after sentence of our inspired discourse. Rather, we believe we have succeeded when students stare intently at the front of the room, then turn to a student who raises a question or objection, then formulate a question or objection of their own, then sit back, stroke their chins, and write in their notes a few key words that summarize the insight they've gained through five minutes or so of classroom dialectic. It's a rare event, but most valuable events are.
So, Prof. Entman, you go, girl!