January 27, 2007
Teaching innovation war stories (blog edition)
Kudos to Mark for his suggestion that we use this space to highlight individual stories of innovation within the classroom. I hope co-bloggers and commentors might jump in.
I have already noted here that this semester I am experimenting with a class blog for my course on the Death Penalty, cleverly titled Death Penalty Course @ Moritz College of Law. Though my students might have a different view, three weeks in I consider the blog a great success (and it has me thinking I will make a blog a regular feature of all my upper-level courses).
For more innovation war stories that involve a class blog, check out this post at the Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog. In the post, Randy Picker of the University of Chicago explains the different ways he uses a class blogs in his Network Industries course (found here) and in his Antitrust and IP seminar (found here).
Posted by DAB
Individual (Accidental?) Innovation
So far, this blog has addressed an impressively wide array of topics, in large part due to Doug's good idea of having many editors and contributors. We seem to have had particularly strong posts on the topics of technology and curriculum structure, and recently I have seen more of an emphasis on innovation directly within the classroom or an individual prof's scholarship.
Technology and curriculum structure are generally more public concerns within a law school community, and are the result of discussion and committee work, while pedagogy and scholarship are individualized pursuits requiring less collaboration. I think in part this explains the early emphasis in this very public forum on community-structured innovations such as technology and curriculum.
Also, innovation within the classroom sometimes is, well... almost accidental. When I began teaching, I didn't realize that some of what I was doing was innovative, because I had no idea what law teachers, other than the ones who taught me, did in the classroom. I never had a class in pedagogy or testing-- I just had to bumble along, utilizing techniques that I often made up on the fly. Failing to find a challenging modern text for oral advocacy, I used Aristotle's On Rhetoric. This was innovative (within our curriculum, at least), but not the result of anything other than scrambling to get the class ready. Other ideas I came up with in this period were more "disasters" than "innovations," but these first few classes were the perfect breeding ground for both.
I hope that as we go forward, we will have more discussion of individual scholarship and pedagogy, because we have a lot to learn from one another in these areas. For example, Doug's idea of using a blog for student writing is one I will adopt this quarter, and will make the class even better.
-- Mark Osler
January 25, 2007
Take Corporations from UCLA Prof. Bainbridge!
At his eponymous website, Prof. Steve Bainbridge is posting both the lecture audio and the powerpoint slides from his Corporations class at UCLA. He even includes quizzes and answers!
Does this devalue the education at UCLA by making it available to everyone--even those who don't attend?
Or does it increase the value of a UCLA education by showing off its very fine teaching? (I suspect the latter is more likely.)
Will other law professors follow? Harvard's Zittrain/Palfrey/Fisher/Nesson have repeatedly offered material specially designed for online consumption. Posting lectures online for public inspection allows others to critique one's lectures--it allows anyone to sit in on, and thus judge, a professor's teaching. That will give many professors pause, before they do so.
A side-benefit is that entry-level corporate law professors--especially one's teaching from the Klein/Bainbridge/Ramseyer text--could listen to Steve's lectures before giving their own.
I would be remiss not to note the IP issues here. Who owns the lecture (and thus has rights to authorize public dissemination)? As I understand, Berkeley claims to own the MP3 recording for its professors, but gives ownership of the lecture itself to the individual professor. I don't know what UCLA claims (perhaps there is a Regents policy on this). That said, I'm would be surprised if the Regents would interfere with the dissemination of educational material in this manner.
I asked Steve about his intentions and he reports that he sees it "as a service to adopters of my casebook and students"--and, corporate-minded person that he is, "as guerrilla marketing."
In my view this is a brilliant move by Steve. Kudos to him for his leadership.
January 24, 2007
On-line law review companions: too much of a good thing?
As I have noted over at my home blog, it seems that nearly every high-profile law journal now has a high-profile on-line companion. As Orin Kerr spots here, the Virginia Law Review has now joined the club with its new (and slick-looking) In Brief. Orin is also asking all the right questions about this innovation:
I'd be very interested to hear from [students who are on journals that recently added online companions] as to whether the online versions have proved worthwhile. How much traffic are these sites drawing? What formats are working or not working?
Comments to Orin's post are already intriguing and I hope to see more there and perhaps here. I would also be interested to hear, of course, from law professors about whether they enjoy writing for this new kind of forum and whether they believe that such writing is generally "counted" in any assessment of their scholarly productivity.
January 23, 2007
Simulations, part 1: Thinking like (and being) a lawyer
In my next few blog posts I’m going to focus on the role of simulations in the law school curriculum, writing both with reference to my current research as well as my own experience developing and participating in simulations.
Simulations and games can provide learning environments in which students develop the knowledge, skills, values, and identity that uniquely define a profession, according to Prof. David Shaffer of the University of Wisconsin. His new book, How Computer Games Help Children Learn, outlines how carefully-designed games can, with appropriate scaffolding by teachers, help learners develop appropriate “epistemic frames” for understanding the world and solving problems. While Shaffer’s book focuses on K-12 education, its focus on professional frames offers a very promising avenue to implement the recommendations of the Carnegie study to integrate doctrine with lawyering skills and ethical and moral considerations.
Simulations and Epistemology: “Thinking like clients”
Stanford might well be the leading law school developing simulation-based courses as part of its broader efforts to reshape upper-level classes, as Dean Larry Kramer described in an earlier LSI post. In a recent chat, Dean Kramer described to me the goal of these simulations as helping law students to “think like a client” rather than merely “think like a lawyers” across different doctrinal areas. Through simulations, law students work in teams with students from other graduate schools to solve a fully-described, substantive problem. “The responses from students,” he states, “have been tremendous.”
To get a better sense of how Stanford’s simulations might help law students to “think like clients,” I spoke with Stanford’s Vice-Dean, Mark Kelman, who offered several examples. In one recent course, eight law students worked prepped eight graduate science students for a simulated patent litigation (validity and infringement) case. The law students’ role was to help the scientists convey technical information to a lay audience. According to Kelman, “For the lawyers, if you can’t learn to both prep and understand the people who are the source of the IP, you’re grossly handicapped in your work.”
What, then, does it actually mean to “think like a client”? Returning to Shaffer’s framework of (1) knowledge, (2) skills, (3) values, and (4) epistemology, it seems clear to me that the IP simulation Prof. Kramer sketched out does not intend (primarily) to teach lawyers the knowledge or skills to be an engineer. Rather, by introducing law students to engineers’ values and broader sense of identity, these simulations help future lawyers better represent future clients by better understanding their needs. (Conversely, future engineers learn how to work with their attorneys to craft more effective IP protections for their inventions).
Of course, learning to “think like a client” is itself a skill – one that Dean Kramer is betting as foundational to not just “thinking like” but actually being a lawyer.
-- Gene Koo
January 22, 2007
Ditching the Syllabus
Today was a big red-letter day for Doug and I, since we focus on federal sentencing: The Supreme Court issued its opinion in Cunningham, which has major implication for the federal system. When an opinion like that comes down, I sometimes will ditch my syllabus, run into class with the hot-off-the-press opinion, and riff off of that instead. [Not today, though-- I'm not teaching sentencing this quarter, and I'm in Philly for a 3d Circuit argument on a related topic]
Is it worth it? On the plus side, covering the hot case offers the advantages of immediacy and the obvious excitement of the prof. It also allows for a more free-wheeling discussion, particularly in a seminar. On the minus side, it means other material may not be covered as thoroughly, and there may not have been time to properly digest the opinion itself.
As with so many things, the key may be moderation. It can be worthwhile to spend some time talking about the hot new case, but not the entire hour, or even most of that time. This can take some self-control from the excited prof to cut off discussion of the hot case and refocus on other matters, but in the end may be necessary to create a proper balance.
-- Mark Osler
Essay Exam Software for the MacMost law schools require students who plan to use their laptop to write a timed law school exam to first install ExamSoft. ExamSoft prevents students from accessing other files while they are taking the exam.
ExamSoft's major deficiency, from my perspective at least, is its lack of Mac support. ExamSoft is also quite expensive.
Is there a popular, well-tested alternative software to ExamSoft that allows Mac users to take law school exams?