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September 6, 2007

Encouraging Dissent

Relative to most of my students, I am older, more experienced, have a broader knowledge of the law, and a better sense of what is important.  Nonetheless, sometimes I am wrong-- by not considering all possibilities, for example, or in failing to differentiate between the law of different jurisdictions.  (hopefully, I don't get doctrine wrong, but sometimes I may make that mistake, too).  At those times, I would like for my students to say so.  Even more, I would like them to speak up when they disagree with my ideas on policy issues.

Too often, that doesn't happen, even when I openly invite dissent.   Why does this bother me?  In large part because what should be teaching is critical thinking, and that talent should be on display in class, so it can be further honed and embedded as a method of analysis.  When I am teaching future prosecutors, for example, I want them to learn the importance of critically analyzing the evidence brought to them by investigators, rather than passively accepting cases.

I am still working out how to foster dissent in my classroom.  Here are the steps I take right now:

1)  Make it clear that dissent is welcome.  As part of my first-day lecture, I make it clear that I hope and expect them to disagree with me, and that they won't be punished for their disagreement with me.

2)  Reward dissent.  When I can, I try to reward those who apply critical thinking to what I am presenting.  This may take the form of affirming their logic, or even rewarding them with extra credit towards a grade.

3)  Making space to disagree.  If I am opining on policy or law which is part of a controversial policy, I always try to immediately ask for opposing views, and allow time for them to be discussed.

Is there more I can do?

-- Mark Osler

September 6, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 4, 2007

Electronic Education # 6

New Book - Legal Issues in Distance Education
Edited by Deborah C. Brown, John R. Przypyszny, and Katherine R. Tromble

The advent of online education - both in the form of so-called "distance learning" and as a supplement to traditional classroom teaching and learning - continues to dramatically alter the face of higher education. The use of new technology, including all of the facets of the Internet, presents a host of legal and practical questions for colleges and universities. The contents of the compendium include:

Table of Contents - here
Information to Order - here

Ellen S. Podgor (w/ disclosure that Debbie Brown is at Stetson University College of Law)

September 4, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 2, 2007

Is a paperless classroom inevitable ... desirable?

A new piece from Legal Times (available here from law.com) has me wondering whether the traditional casebook is on the way to extinction and whether that would be a good or bad reality.  This piece is entitled, "Skilled E-Scholars Click Their Way Up: An interactive electronic casebook brings digital learning to law classes," and it is authored by Prof. Diana Donahoe of Georgetown.  Here is how it begins:

Are your students surfing the Web or checking their e-mail during your class?  Most law professors would answer this question with an exasperated "Yes!" and wonder what steps they can take to win the war against technology.

Some professors have banned laptops and other wireless devices from their classrooms. But I believe this digital energy can be harnessed -- not discouraged -- in order to facilitate learning in law school. I have therefore taken a different tactic and joined the digital generation on their side of the laptops by creating an interactive, electronic casebook called TeachingLaw.com (Aspen Publishers, 2006).

This e-book, which is being used in law schools from the District to California, combines nonlinear text, interactivity, immediate feedback and multimedia with rich legal content into a convenient online package to meet the needs of the "digital students."

September 2, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack