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March 19, 2010

An iPad in a Law School Class--A Skeptical View

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 My blog colleague (and former JON law clerk colleague!) Doug Berman wonders if an iPad (or similar Tablet computers from a plethora of other makers) could transform law school.    

Imagine three possible constituencies:

1. Students. Students use laptops both to take notes (alas, sometimes verging on stenography) and to read material (alas, sometimes including Facebook). Most reports suggest that inputting text is slower on a touchscreen than via a keyboard. Indeed, reports suggest that typing is faster than writing in cursive for many people. 

It's unlikely that we'll see folks using Dragon Dictation or IBM Voice in class to do dictation (unless engineers come up with noise canceling systems that prevent your noise from leaking out, rather than other people's noise from leaking in.

Also, where would a student put the iPad in a classroom--on her lap, or on the desk?  Steve Jobs showed off the device in a nice overstuffed chair, but unfortunately we do not provide those in our classes.

2 Faculty.  Faculty spend much of their time writing--mostly emails, it increasingly seems.  Again, it seems difficult to imagine writing a 50 page law review article with 400 footnotes, or a 300 page book on a touchscreen device. Faculty members might however employ dictation software--typically in the privacy of their office. 

3. Staff. Staff are constantly organizing and writing, again making it difficult to rely upon a touchscreen device. 

It may be that writing on touchscreens has improved far more than I recognize, or that it is about to do so. I find writing on my iPhone to be a huge nuisance, and I limit myself to short Twitter like bursts--but others find it less debilitating than I.

Now consider a fourth constituency:

4. Libraries and Other Information Services.  Given that we aren't typically allowed to write in a library book and simply receive the information provided therein, a Tablet might well prove useful.  However, libraries may be quite concerned about (1) breakage on devices that might roam (a fear that might be lessened if ; (2) theft; and (3) battery life. Apple's requirement that you send in your iPad to them to have a battery changed seems less than ideal. 

The times may overtake me; five years from now, perhaps I will be writing this blog entry on a tablet. But for the next couple years, at least, I think I can comfortably predict that I will be loyal to my laptop.

(photo by Dawn Endico.)  

Anupam Chander 

March 19, 2010 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink

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Comments

Its a lot cheaper to buy a generic battery for my ibook rather than buying one from the apple store...has anyone had any problems with a generic one? do they work the same or are they a lot worse?

Posted by: generic viagra | May 17, 2010 4:10:13 PM

You left out the potential use that interests me most as an incoming 1L student: an eReader! What a dream it would be to have all my casebooks accessible on a tablet (though stored on the cloud for safety), and easily annotated with a note-taking app. Laptops will rule for the foreseeable future when it comes to in-class note-taking, but iPads ostensibly have the potential to turn casebooks into dinosaurs of the past.

Posted by: gobgoblin | Jul 10, 2010 10:56:00 PM

I'm not a law school student, but a law librarian-turned-consultant. I use my iPad extensively for note-taking during conference sessions and client meetings. I use the Incase convertible book jacket to prop the iPad up: http://www.goincase.com/products/detail/cl57512R and use an Apple bluetooth keyboard for touch-typing. Very discrete, very effective. It's not yet useful for extensive formatting, but it is a lot more portable than a full laptop.

I'm also using it as an e-reader, primarily using the Kobo app. The non-fiction books I want to read is not yet readily available, but it will get there I'm sure. Imagine being able to carry all your law texts around everywhere on an ereader?

Posted by: Connie Crosby | Sep 6, 2010 9:40:05 AM

Hmmmm, I think Ipad will do good for law school as a secondary gadget next to a mac or net book. Ipad is amazing when it comes to reading ebooks which will definitely help law students on their hardcore reading.

Posted by: ipad blog | Nov 3, 2010 4:16:17 AM

You left out the potential use that interests me most as an incoming 1L student: an eReader! What a dream it would be to have all my casebooks accessible on a tablet (though stored on the cloud for safety), and easily annotated with a note-taking app. Laptops will rule for the foreseeable future when it comes to in-class note-taking, but iPads ostensibly have the potential to turn casebooks into dinosaurs of the past.

Posted by: hamilton beach 70610 | Nov 22, 2012 11:49:46 AM

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