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August 22, 2008

What if a dean prohibited some faculty use of technology...?

My (half joking) questioning of Eugene Volokh's one-laptop experiment has generated some fun and some serious discussion in the posts and comments at The Volokh Conspiracy:

In the course of responding to one of these posts, I started to ruminate on how law school faculty might react if deans started also to impose some restrictions on the use of technology within law school.

Specifically, I wondered aloud how law faculty might feel if a dean decided to prohibit all professors from using power-point in class AND/OR from using TWEN to post announcement AND/OR from communicating with students through e-mail?  The dean might (reasonably?) assert that he genuinely believed law schools were more personal and more effective when all professors did things the old-fashioned way --- using the chalkboard, putting announcements on paper, talking to students in their offices.

How do you think most law professors would react to a tech ban on some of their common modern communication methods?

Posted by DAB

August 22, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink

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Comments

I don't think I understand the analogy, as it's hard to imagine why a Dean would have a role in classroom teaching. I think the better analogy would be a Dean's control over salaries, stipends, and the like.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Aug 23, 2008 11:53:12 AM

Orin: don't you think a dean has a role and a general responsibility to try to enhance teaching by profs, comparable to a profs role and general responsibility to try to enhance learning by students?

To me it seems analagous (and plausible) to imagine a dean --- particularly one who has been around law teaching a long time --- concluding that new technologies distract new profs from effective teaching. Thus, in order to prevent profs from spending too much time on power-points and/or TWEN and/or e-mail, that dean might experiment on banning the use of these new technologies for a semester. Indeed, I bet if a dean really did try this, a lot of faculty might ultimately like having been unplugged for a semester.

As I understand laptops bans, they reflect the view that student access to laptops in the classroom disserve the overall learning environment within the classroom. I certain could see a legitimate basis for a dean to assert that power-point and/or TWEN and/or e-mails disserve the overall learning environment within the law school. Meanwhile, I do not see the analogy to salaries or stipends at all, since they are (market-influenced) rewards for performance (perhaps akin to student grades).

Does this make my analogy more clear?

Posted by: Doug B. | Aug 23, 2008 1:59:20 PM

Well, I presume we already have rules like these. When Deans think something is important, they mandate it. Some schools have mandatory minimum office hours.

I suppose a Dean might mandate or prohibit particular technology if he had a strong belief. Then faculty might protest and he could reconsider if he wished, based on the content of the protests. Much like the laptop policy. I affirmatively encouraged my students to protest if the policy troubled them, but none did.

Posted by: frankcross | Aug 25, 2008 4:24:01 PM

I think the better analogy would be for a Dean to prohibit faculty use of blackberries, iphones, laptops etc during faculty meetings and faculty colloquia. Bloggers might complain about the educational and intellectual benefits lost, but the Dean might plausibly conclude most faculty members weren't using it for this reason and that it distracts both the blogger and the audience from the meeting/presentation. I could see the ban being justified if such use was a problem, but to the extent it isn't it's likely because the social norms of a faculty deter it and not because the faculty members don't use those devices in other contexts.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 27, 2008 1:38:51 PM

if a dean decided to prohibit all professors from using power-point in class AND/OR from using TWEN to post announcement AND/OR from communicating with students through e-mail? The dean might (reasonably?) assert that he genuinely believed law schools were more personal and more effective when all professors did things the old-fashioned way --- using the chalkboard, putting announcements on paper, talking to students in their offices.

Posted by: omega watch | Aug 6, 2012 5:30:08 AM

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