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February 1, 2007

Why Many Profs Don't Podcast Lectures – A Response

In this post Anupam Chander raised four points exploring why more faculty are not podcasting. I would like to respond to each of those points as a way of expanding the discussion. Most of what I know about podcasting in law schools comes from the experience of developing, implementing, and supporting the Classcaster blogging and podcasting network for CALI. I will draw on that experience in responding to Anupam's points. I will also propose a use case for podcasting that some may find interesting.

Responses

First, the benefits may not be obvious. After all, most students do attend the lectures, few students likely have the time or inclination to replay them online.

Yes, the benefits of podcasting are not obvious, in part because there are few examples to demonstrate the benefits. It took the incentives offered as part of the Legal Education Podcasting Project (LEPP) to prime the pump of Classcaster. Getting faculty to podcast courses requires demonstrating the benefits to students. Most students do attend the lectures, but they do find the time to access the recorded lectures. We surveyed students of LEPP faculty last spring and asked them if they used the podcasts. 38.4% of the students responding indicated they listened to most or all of the podcasts and another 14.5% of the students listened to 6 to 10 of the course's podcasts. About 25% downloaded the podcasts to listen on an MP3 player or iPod or burn to a CD. The comments collected from the survey generally indicated that students found the recordings useful and they found ways to make listening to the podcasts fit into their schedules.

Course podcasts need not be recordings of the lectures. A number of faculty record 10 – 15 minute summaries of the material covered in the class. These highlight the important parts of the lecture and are useful as a supplement.

Second, will podcasting just encourage absenteeism? There may be little reason to attend lecture if one can simply get it off the web while still wearing pajamas (and surfing on a laptop in bed wirelessly).

Our experience with Classcaster indicates that making recordings available does not promote absenteeism. Anecdotally, faculty using podcasts are not seeing any drop in attendance. Many do take attendance and enforce their schools policies on missing classes. About 80% of the students replying to the question in the survey indicated that they attended courses with podcasts as regularly as other courses. Students tend to use the recordings as a way of clarifying what they are learning, a supplement for the course, not a replacement for the lecture. What better study aid to provide for your students than your own words on a subject.

Third, posting a lecture may hamper class discussion. Perhaps a controversial discussion about sexual crimes, or abortion, or limits on free speech, or limits on freedom of contract might become somewhat stilted if a student realizes that his or her statements are being recorded for posterity. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may be grateful that we don't have audiotapes of all their in class comments while they attended law school. Most likely that such a recording would demonstrate yet again their formidable talents, but yet, public scrutiny of law school classroom dialog seems unwarranted.

This is a very big concern. The answer is that recording classroom lectures for podcasts is not always appropriate or desirable. Recording of classes works well for lectures that are primarily the professor speaking. It doesn't work well for most seminars, or classes that are discussion driven. There are considerable technical difficulties with recording a whole classroom. Sensitive subjects are also problematic. For example a professor teaching family law wanted to podcast the course but discovered early in the first lecture that the subject matter of the discussions in class was quite frank and personal. The recorder was turned off and the course was not podcast. Podcasting is just one tool and like any tool, it has it uses.

Most professors announce their intention to record and podcast a class at the beginning of the first session. I have heard a number of faculty ask for objections after informing students that their in class comments would be recorded. I have not heard any objections from students. Faculty recording lectures generally report no drop in either the quantity or quality of student in class comments. Indeed, I had an email exchange with a student who was concerned with the quality of audio of a particular podcast. Seems he couldn't quite hear himself giving some lengthy rely to a faculty question and was there anything I could do to boost the level of his voice.

Fourth, professors may worry that their teaching style or content may be second guessed by others.

A valid worry. Faculty have reported listening to other, more senior faculty's lectures to get tips and listening to their own lectures for self-evaluation purposes. Students have reported listening to other faculty lectures to help work through some point that they were not getting from their professors podcast and listening to podcasts from professors at other schools as a study aid. One faculty member keeps the podcasts behind a password because other faculty teaching other 1L sections do not want their students listening to those lectures. Podcasting lectures exposes the most intimate part of your teaching to the world, so you have to be comfortable and confident in what you do and ready to take what this exposure brings.

A use case for podcasting

All this really focuses on the notion of recording full in class lectures for podcasting. That is just one possibility. Right now on Classcaster faculty from over 50 schools are podcasting a variety of things. Some podcast full lectures. Others record class summaries. Some do weekly summaries. Some add interviews and guest podcasts. Most do exam review podcasts (very popular). Some mix and match these different formats depending on the course being taught. All of these formats work and it would not be difficult for a professor to find a format that fits into their style of teaching.

There is another use for podcasting that is being explored more and more at the undergraduate level that I think may be a good for law: the use of podcast lectures as class preparatory material. The give and take of the Socratic method is a mainstay of legal education. Law professors enjoy engaging students in these discussions that are aimed at bringing the student to understanding the nature of the law. Yet, this is a difficult task. Required reading often needs some elaboration through lecture to bring the student to a base level needed to begin discussing the concepts. And there are only 50 minutes! Podcasting offers some assistance here.

Imagine recording the lecture part of the class before the class is held. 20 – 30 minutes of lecture to be listened to before attending class. Then the in class time is focused on discussing and expanding the concepts raised in the recorded lecture. The expanded time for discussion means engaging more students at greater depth. A richer discussion will follow allowing students to get more from the class. Students will appreciate the higher level of engagement and will quickly learn that they do need to listen to the lectures before attending class.

Using the tools provided by Classcaster, a professor could experiment with this approach for a few classes. If anyone out there wants to give it a try, I'd be more than happy to help out in any way I can.

I hope this response helps further the discussion over the use of podcasting legal education.

 

Elmer Masters – blogged with Word 2007

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

Linguistic Analysis of the Socratic Method

Wisconsin Law Prof Elizabeth Mertz's new publication, The Language of Law School: Learning to "Think Like a Lawyer" (Oxford, Feburary 2007), is the first detailed anthroplogical linguistic analysis of the intellectual transformation commonly referred to as "learning to think like a lawyer." Professor Mertz bases her linguistic study on tape recordings from first year Contracts courses in eight different law schools. She shows how all these schools employ the Socratic method between teacher and student, forcing the student to shift away from moral and emotional terms in thinking about conflict, toward frameworks of legal authority instead. This move away from moral frameworks is key, she says, arguing that it represents an underlying worldview at the core not just of law education, but for better or worse, of the entire US legal system which, while providing a useful source of legitimacy and a means to process conflict, fails to deal systematically with aspects of fairness and social justice. The latter part of her study shows how differences in race and gender makeup among law students and professors can subtly alter this process.

Of interest, perhaps, to law professors who are examining the current state of legal pedagogy. Cross posted on Law Librarian BlogJoe Hodnicki

February 1, 2007 in Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 31, 2007

Using Word 2007 to write and edit blogging posts

One of the new and exciting features included in Word 2007 is the 'Blog Post' tab. Yes, that's right, Microsoft has added a blog editor to Word 2007. This post is written using the Word blogging features. Seems like an innovation to me. Imagine being able to blog from the same program you use for your word processing. The potential here is great. I've tested the blogging features with a number of blogging packages and it all works just fine. I will certainly be using this to write my posts, no more little web boxesJ -ERM

January 31, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who and what and how should we teach?

Posts at PrawfsBlawg and the Legal Profession Blog are reacting to this Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by NYLS Prof Cameron Stracher about the purported failings of legal education.  Here is the heart of the WSJ op-ed:

Legal education has been taking a beating recently.  This month the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching issued a report criticizing the Socratic case method that dominates law-school teaching. According to the report, it does little to prepare lawyers to work with real clients or to resolve morally complex issues.  Several months ago Harvard Law School announced a reform of its first-year curriculum to require classes in "problem solving," among other things.  There appears to be an emerging consensus that although law schools may teach students how to "think like a lawyer," they don't really teach them how to be a lawyer.

It is hard not to agree.  One of the biggest problems with the current state of legal education is its emphasis on books rather than people.  By reading about the law rather than engaging in it, students end up with the misperception that lawyers spend most of their time debating the niceties of the Rule Against Perpetuities rather than sorting out the messy, somewhat anarchic version of the truth that judges and courts care about.  When they graduate, young lawyers rarely know how to interview clients, advocate for their positions, negotiate a settlement or perform any number of other tasks that lawyers do every day.  In short, they are woefully unprepared to be lawyers, despite the outrageous hourly fees charged for their services.

The comment thread at PrawfsBlawg is quite intriguing (even though not always civil).

To stimulate a different discussion here, let me stress my affinity for the notion that a big problem "with the current state of legal education is its emphasis on books rather than people."  Though Cameron Stracher is mostly focused on a lack of client engagement, I would add my concern about the lack of team lawyering experiences in law school classrooms. 

When clerking and in practice, I never produced a document that was not the product of a team effort.  And yet, when I was a law student, the skill of serving an effective member of a team of lawyers was never discussed, let alone enhanced.  (I did develop some teamwork skills through law review service and other out-of-class activities, although these activities were rarely promoted for teamwork skill development.)

I now try in various ways in various classes to encourage (or force) group projects that will give students a teamwork experience.  (Indeed, I often think my affinity for blogging is driven in part by feeling that law professors tend to be too monastic and the blogosphere creates a distinct kind of peer interactivity.)  I strongly believe that intra-lawyer people skills could and should be a great focal point for our educational efforts.  I also recognize, however, the time (and grading) challenges that attend to the creation and evaluation of effective group projects.

Posted by DAB

January 31, 2007 in Teaching -- pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 30, 2007

Caravaggio's Ethics

It's time for round two of challenging convention here at Baylor.  As I have discussed before, one of the things I love about this job is the leeway we have for developing individual teaching techniques.  For example, last summer I went to New York and attended an art history lecture by a wonderful professor at Wesleyan, John Paoletti.  His presentation was inspiring on several levels-- both in the insights he conveyed and in the way he expressed passion with meaning.  I wanted to do that:  Open minds with giant slides and a laser pointer.  Though the subject of Paoletti's talk was limited to Robert Rauschenberg, the presentation gave me a great idea for a broader use of fine art on the first day of ethics.  Thus, my first-day assignment:  http://law.baylor.edu/CurrentStudents/CS_firstDayAssignments.html.   

In short, the class is structured around three moral principles:  Honesty, engagement, and humility.  I use the paintings to frame and define these principles. 

Get ready, Waco.

-- Mark Osler

January 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 29, 2007

Specialty Journals at HLS, Past, Present and Future

The rise of legal specialization and interdisciplinary legal studies spawned hundreds of specialized journals. This new type of publication was spurred by increasing competition within law school student bodies and among law school faculties. With the popularity of using web communications to publish and distribute legal scholarship, one could argue that we are in the midst of a similar change for the same reasons. It would be very interesting to see detailed law school specific studies of the use of web technology similar to the following study of HLS specialty journals that used print technology.

In The Rise and Rise of the Specialty Journals at Harvard Law School, Jennifer L. Carter sets out for the first time a history of specialty journals at Harvard Law School and places the journals in the context of HLS events. Written to fulfill the J.D. written work requirement at HLS, Carter's article also assesses the present state of affairs, using HLS as a case study, and considers the future of law journals. 

Cross posted on Law Librarian Blog today. [JH]

January 29, 2007 in Technology -- for advancing scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2007

Why Many Profs Don't Podcast Lectures

Elmer Masters asks, in a comment to my post below on Steve Bainbridge's business associations class, why more law professors are not podcasting (or vid-casting) lectures.

Here are some thoughts as to why. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying podcasting is a bad idea. I'm simply exploring why many professors do not do it.

First, the benefits may not be obvious. After all, most students do attend the lectures, few students likely have the time or inclination to replay them online.

Second, will podcasting just encourage absenteeism? There may be little reason to attend lecture if one can simply get it off the web while still wearing pajamas (and surfing on a laptop in bed wirelessly).

Third, posting a lecture may hamper class discussion. Perhaps a controversial discussion about sexual crimes, or abortion, or limits on free speech, or limits on freedom of contract might become somewhat stilted if a student realizes that his or her statements are being recorded for posterity. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may be grateful that we don't have audiotapes of all their in class comments while they attended law school. Most likely that such a recording would demonstrate yet again their formidable talents, but yet, public scrutiny of law school classroom dialog seems unwarranted.

Fourth, professors may worry that their teaching style or content may be second guessed by others.

These are just some preliminary thoughts. Are there other reasons? Are any of these reasons compelling? Are any of these concerns obviously misplaced? For my own part, I think arguments #2 and 3 are serious.

Anupam Chander

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January 28, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack