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January 12, 2007

Should students watch their professors lose?

Like some other full-time faculty (including Doug), I sometimes get involved in cases within my field, federal criminal practice.  I usually include students in my work, both to help me prepare and to observe the proceedings.  For example, in preparing for a 3d Circuit argument later this month, I will have students pull cases, help with a moot argument, and flag last-minute issues.  For some, this becomes one of their favorite parts of law school.

However, because some of my work is as a defense attorney in Texas, I often lose.  Is there a problem with students seeing me lose a detention hearing?  Some of my colleagues believe that it risks undermining the aura of the professor as master of the law if students see him lose a case.  I'm of the opnion that it provides a realistic portrayal of the practice. 

What do others think?

-- Mark Osler 

January 12, 2007 in Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 11, 2007

Out with the old, in with the new...

I love the idea of using blogs and wikis as support tools for classes, discussed in several posts below.  I will probably keep track of Doug's experience with his death penalty blog and look to using one in the fall for my own class.

One of the things that I like about this idea is that it may offer freedom from using Blackboard software, which has (for me, anyways) proven to be ungainly and unreliable.  At the very least, creating a blog gives the professor much more control over the construction of the web component of the class, and that's all to the good. 

Are there others out there who would consider replacing Blackboard with a blog?  It could be that others have not had the same problems I have faced.

-- Mark Osler 

January 11, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Online Scheduling for Meetings With Students

My colleague and blogger extraordinaire Jack Ayer (currently guesting at CreditSlips) inquires as to a simple online resource to schedule meetings with students during this spring term.

He asks about Yahoo and Google calendars--and hopes that he can set up a special one just for this purpose.

Any suggestions?

Anupam Chander

January 11, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 10, 2007

The launch of my death penalty class blog

As first noted here, this semester I am experimenting with a class blog for my course on the Death Penalty.  Today was my first class, and thus also became the day for launching the new blog, cleverly titled Death Penalty Course @ Moritz College of Law.  Though I am doing all the blogging right now, in a few weeks I am going to expect students not just to read the blog, but also to do some posting.

As detailed by this post on the new blog, I already like having the class blog as a means to  immediately follow-up on issues discussed in class.  Of course, it remains to be seen if students will like or appreciate that I now have a means to  immediately follow-up on issues discussed in class.

Posted by DAB.

January 10, 2007 in Blogging by lawyers and law professors | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thinking Like Law Librarians: Innovation in Teaching Legal Research

At Law Librarian Blog, I posted a list of IMHO Awards that covered a number of 2006 developments I thought worthy of highlighting, some good, some not. One positive development highlighted there is very forward-looking, namely NCBE's consideration of developing a legal research component for bar exams. I'm sure many readers wonder how legal research skills can be tested in bar exams, but they can be if legal research is taught by emphasizing principles of legal research in a format-neutral context. I know, some are wondering about the existence of legal research principles; I'm here to say they do exist.

When I was a large law firm librarian, the bane of my existence was teaching young associates how to perform legal research. Most of the young associates I worked with graduated in the ten percent of the top ten law schools. They simply did not learn effective legal research in law school; most still don't.

Access Points & Routes. Back in the mid-80's, Virginia Thomas, currently Director, Law Library and Information Technology at the University of Cincinnati Law Library but then Documents/Reference Librarian at IIT/Chicago-Kent College of Law, and I, then a Research Librarian at Seyfarth, Shaw (Chicago), and occasional guest lecturer on labor law research for the graduate human resources program at Loyola University (Chicago)  developed a novel teaching approach that focused on access points and routes using bibliographic analysis of document types within the context of the structure of legal literature. This teaching approach applied, and still applies, regardless of publishing format and the on-site availability of legal resources. It also overcomes one of the most serious problems faced by legal research instructors, namely, trying to teach legal research  to students who know so little substantive law. Alas, we both were working stiffs who did not have time to publish but it is rewarding to see that some law librarians have published their insights into similar approaches to teaching legal research. See, for example, J.D.S. Armstrong & Christopher A. Knott, Where the Law Is: An Introduction to Advanced Legal Research (2d ed, 2006).

Anti-Toolbox Approach to Legal Research. At the time, Virginia and I characterized this approach as an anti-toolbox approach to teaching legal research. By that we meant to criticize the still all too common practice of trying to teach legal research by just explaining what each research tool did; "this is a digest, this is a case name index. this is an online research service..." Unfortunately the toolbox method still remains the prevalent approach to teaching legal research, performed perhaps more so by non-librarian legal research and writing instructors, but also still performed by law librarians, even in many elective advanced legal research courses.

Teaching Legal Research Tomorrow. How will legal research be taught if legal research becomes a bar exam component? This is the focus of an upcoming conference at the University of Texas Tarlton Law Library, one I hope all interested parties attend, not just law librarians. Of course I believe the approach Virginia Thomas and I use is one such way, but, relative to law school curricular changes, I also hope serious consideration will be given to requiring a legal research course separate and distinct from traditional legal research and writing courses.

It's time for the legal academy to recognize that legal research and writing classes do a very poor job at teaching legal research; the noise of the writing component drowns out the legal research message and, unfortunately that message is almost universally based, perhaps necessarily so, on a toolbox approach to teaching legal research.

Must law librarians teach the legal research course I am recommending for your consideration? Absolutely not. Anyone can teach legal research following the approach Virginia Thomas and I have used for years now. Come to the Tarlton conference on Oct. 18-20, 2007 [brochure] to contribute to improving the instruction of legal research in law schools.

Ultimately we must teach law students to "think like law librarians" but law librarians are not the only ones who already approach research thinking this way. Joe Hodnicki

January 10, 2007 in Teaching -- curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 9, 2007

Emailing Submissions to Law Reviews

My colleague Donna tells me that there is a great resource for lists of email addresses of law reviews that accept submissions via email, as well as web addresses for law reviews that offer web forms for submission. The service, available here, is offered by the Chase Law School in Kentucky, and the list is compiled by Dean Bales. I know that Express-O offers similar functionality (and is likely more comprehensive and full service), but this has the virtue that it is free. I'm going to recommend it to my students, especially. This is a terrific resource for my foreign students, who are spared the expense of mailing from afar. UPDATE: (Bumped up from comments) Commentator Anthony suggests that Washington & Lee's site may have greater functionality. It is located here: http://lawlib.wlu.edu/LJ/ One important issue is whether these sites are kept up to date, as law reviews are constantly tinkering with submission methods (and even, I suppose, potentially changing email addresses in the process). If readers find that one site or the other is better, please keep me informed via the comments here. Anupam Chander

January 9, 2007 in Technology -- for advancing scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

CALI Classcaster: A Course Centric Blogging and Podcasting System

Note: This article contains a lengthy description of the Classcaster system.  I am preparing a separate article on what I've learned about the pros and cons of course blogging while administering Classcaster.

Classcaster® is a course blogging system that provides faculty, librarians, and staff of CALI member schools with a new way to interact with students and communities. A Classcaster blog provides authors with tools for posting not only traditional blog articles but also tools for podcasting and sharing any documents and/or files with students and communities. During the Fall 2006 semester over 70 faculty and librarians from CALI member schools posted over 1000 hours of course lectures and summaries for their students.  In addition many authors posted syllabi, assignments, slides, and engaged students in discussion on their Classcaster blogs.

By visiting the Classcaster homepage faculty, staff, and librarians can quickly create a Classcaster blog with features that include a unique URL (web address), custom templates, moderated comments, password protection for blogs and posts, file sharing, podcasting, and the ability to list your blog in the iTunes Music Store.  This collection of features allow authors to easily connect with students to share information.  A single author can create multiple blogs, so you may have a blog for each of your courses.  Using Classcaster's advanced features you can record your lectures or audio supplements to lectures using a telephone and have that recording posted to your blog.

Support for getting started with and using Classcaster is available from the Classcaster FAQ and the support forum.  Additional information about Classcaster is included in the Legal Education Podcasting Project FAQ and the original Classcaster whitepaper.

In the two years we have been developing and using Classcaster a number of questions have come up about the system beyond just how to use it.  I have included them below to help people in deciding about whether or not to use Classcaster.

Elmer Masters


January 9, 2007 in Teaching -- pedagogy, Technology -- for advancing scholarship, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 8, 2007

Course Wikis

Geoff McGovern, in a comment, proposes the use of a Wiki as an adjunct to discussions in a law school class.

A Wiki sounds like a great idea. I think Jonathan Zittrain and John Palfrey at Harvard may have employed them for classes.

But here's the basic logistical question--how would one set one up? And how do you avoid being overrun by spam? Do you limit participation to enrolled students only?

I'd consider setting one up for my "Is International Law Democratic?" seminar this term.

Anupam Chander

January 8, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 7, 2007

Experimenting with a class blog

This coming semester I am teaching a course on the Death Penalty.  Because death penalty law is in a constant state of flux and because so much is happening in this area so quickly, I am experimenting with a class blog instead of a casebook for assembling the course readings.  In addition, I am going to expect students not just to read the blog, but also to do some posting.

I would be grateful to anyone with advice or suggestions as I prepare for, and try to make the most of, this new adventure in blogging.   Posted by DAB

January 7, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack