October 02, 2011
What technologies (other than e-casebooks) can or will transform legal education?
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable commentary discussing some new tech ideas in the field of K-12 education. The piece by Jonathan Alter is headlined "Robo-Truant Tech And Other Apps To Fix Education," and here is a snippet:
The education reform movement is at an important juncture. It will either peter out in platitudes or advance based on a new consensus. At this week's Education Nation conference in New York City, I came away with some hope for the latter. My cautious optimism is rooted in two Ts -- technology and transparency....
Even if they cordially despise each other, reformers and traditionalists will now have to work together to implement the new accountability laws enacted in the past few years in about a dozen states. One way to do so is by embracing smart new technology.
For years, faddish tech fixes like computers in the classroom have yielded few results. But that could be changing. One of the most intriguing parts of Education Nation was the Innovation Challenge, a contest with shades of Donald Trump's show, "The Apprentice." Three young innovators presented their ideas on stage to a panel of judges moderated by Tom Brokaw:
Classdojo.com uses a competitive point system (always popular with students) to enable teachers to better handle the behavioral problems that so often impede learning. The idea is to build character by rewarding teams of students who work together to stay on task and avoid disruptions. Technology can't substitute for a teacher's class-management skills. But with as much as half of class time consumed by dealing with disruptive kids, it can help....
Classdojo won the $75,000 prize. Even if this and other 2011 innovations flop, we're edging closer to the era when technology finally changes what is essentially a 19th-century system of education. In science, paradigm shifts follow technological breakthroughs. Education won't be any different.
Regular readers know I have been saying for quite some time that e-readers will eventually transform the traditional casebook model for legal education, and the popularity of the iPad and the forthcoming Kindle Fire reinforce my views on this front. But I am wondering, and truly hoping, that there will be other technological innovation and/or breakthroughs that further revamp legal education for the 21st century. Anyone bold enough to make predictions about what those innovations might be?
Some related prior posts:
- Could the iPad help transform law school and even lawyering?
- An iPad in a Law School Class -- A Skeptical View
- How an iPad (or an even better e-tablet) could transform legal education
- Incorporating Technology & University Responses
- How could/should Apple (or other tech companies) partner with a law school to foster e-casebooks?
- Supreme Court Justices are now doing work on iPads and Kindles, when will law students?
- “I think [the iPad] could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector.”
Posted by DAB
August 31, 2011
"Think [And Practice] Like a Lawyer: Legal Research for the New Millennials"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper by Aliza Kaplan and Kathleen Darvil, which is available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
It is time to heed the calls for legal education reform. In our changing economy, new attorneys need to be properly trained in law school to be competent at providing effective legal services for their employers and clients. Law schools must remain open to and interested in legal reform; they must partner with practitioners to incorporate more practical skills into the law school curriculum.
Updating how we teach legal research by making it accord more with how attorneys actually conduct and use legal research in practice will help accomplish this and will also more actively engage our Millennial students. There is no question that making some timely changes to legal research instruction would better prepare new attorneys to be competent practicing lawyers and would be a win-win for students, law schools and employers.
August 22, 2011
IAALS launches new program called "Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers"
Via e-mail I received this annoucement of note about legal education reform, which gets started this way:
The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) at the University of Denver today launches a unique, national initiative to change the way law schools educate students. “Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers” provides a platform to encourage law schools in the U.S. to showcase innovative teaching to produce more practice-ready lawyers who can better meet the needs of an evolving profession.
Rebecca Love Kourlis is the Executive Director of IAALS and a former Colorado Supreme Court justice. “Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers leverages the Carnegie Model of learning,” Kourlis says. “Our project provides support for shared learning, innovation, ongoing measurement and collective implementation. We are very excited to launch this project to encourage new ways to train law students and to measure innovation in the years to come.”
William M. Sullivan is the Director of “Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers.” He also is the lead author of the 2007 Carnegie Foundation report, Educating Lawyers. “Our goal is to encourage law schools that are already committed to innovation to share what they know in a structured, collaborative place so that other law professors may discuss and develop new teaching techniques,” Sullivan says.
IAALS will manage this initiative, the first of its kind in the country. The initiative is partnering with a growing number of law schools in a consortium committed to innovative teaching.
The website for Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers is interesting and seems to have some useful contents, though I do not yet see just why the website (or this companion blog) ought to become a regular stop for law professors or law students.
Posted by DAB
April 18, 2010
Incorporating Technology & University Responses
I have to agree with my co-blogger (here) that we need to start recognizing that innovative devices may provide a new method for casebook materials. But I have yet to see the device that really provides what is needed. The Kindle and iPad, offer steps in the direction of providing devices that allow paperless products to be disseminated quickly and in a pleasuring manner (note - I have not bought an iPad yet). But each seems to also have its drawbacks (see Anupam Chander's comments here). The device uniquely designed for law schools has not surfaced....yet.
But what is particularly interesting here is that many universities are not ready when a new device reaches the market. When places like George Washington, Princeton, and Cornell (see Melissa Korn, Dow Jones, Apple's IPad Gets Rejected From Some Colleges, For Now) are unable to allow new devices because of security concerns or bandwidth overload, one has to wonder if universities are ready to meet advances of this new generation. It will also be important that universities prepare for ADA accommodations should new technology be incorporated as part of a classroom experience (see here).
- ellen s. podgor
March 22, 2010
How an iPad (or an even better e-tablet) could transform legal education
My old pal Anupam in this post expresses skepticismabout whether the (soon to be in stores) iPad could transform law school. This skepticism is justified if the iPad is merely just a mini-laptop without a keyboard. But if the iPad is ultimately a "better" e-reader and a "better" media player than any existing device --- or whenever someone produces an affordable e-tablet with a great e-reader and media functionality --- then it will only be a matter of time before such a device helps speed the demise of the living dinosaur that is the traditional law school casebook.
The traditional law school casebook has all the analog features of vinyl records and VCR tapes that made them very popular and useful until a better digital version came along. Except vinyl record and VCR tapes were easy to carry around and got cheaper over time. In contrast, casebooks weigh a ton and new ones now often cost more than $150 each. I suspect the average law student spends at least $1000 each year on casebooks, with little to take away from these costs other than a sore back. I suspect most law students would jump at the chance to instead spend, say, $750 on a slick new e-tablet device with course materials pre-loaded that could serve as a professional resource even after a course is completed.
Further, imagine if digital course materials could effectively incorporate media other than words through links and embedded pictures and videos. Con law materials could include audio from oral arguments in famous cases; crim pro materials could include video of Terry stops and custodial interrogations; IP materials could include film clips and pictures of patented devices; and so on and so on. And, of course, these materials could be effectively and cost-efficiently supplemented and updated when new cases or laws come down the pike.
And, ideally, a great e-tablet would facilitate electronic note-taking by students in an e-window right next to the course materials. And students could, ideally, create their own links in their notes to related primary materials or outlines (whether commercial or prepared by fellow students). And faculty could, ideally, integrate their own tablet-friendly syllabi and supplemental teaching materials with other electronic case materials. And, of course, these materials could be easily searched via a find command in a way that no index or other hard-copy resource can be search.
This appealing vision of a casebook-friendly e-tablet is only the tip of the new media iceberg that could be facilitated by an iPad or some other tablet that becomes to casebooks what the iPod became to vinyl records. Of course, just as record companies (and some artists) resisted music being packaged and distributed via new media, casebook publishers (and some authors) may resist legal materials being packaged distributed via new media. But, as the iPod and the DVR and other digital innovations have demonstrated, a better means to distribute content digitally will eventually prevail over analog precursors. The iPad may not prove to be the casebook tipping-point technology, but it seems to me to be only a question of when, not whether, the traditional casebook will go the way of vinyl records and VCR tapes.
I have an inkling that co-blogger Ellen Podgor is on the same e-page with me on this front, but I would like to hear what others think via additional posts or comments.
September 30, 2008
Future of the Law School Coursebook wrapup
My own takeaways:
- We need to distinguish strongly between electronic distribution of textbooks and new methods of creating/authoring them.
- We need a new word other than "book" (or coursebook or casebook or textbook) to describe the resources that today's law teacher requires -- from audiovisual examples to simulations to traditional texts.
- Whatever new systems emerge, they must feature some combination of generativity or interoperability to ensure flexibility, innovation, and cost-effectiveness.
- Traditional legal publishers are making good-faith efforts to keep up with needs, but they cannot lead -- it is up to the legal academy to figure out what we want. Furthermore, some of them may be hamstrung due to shareholder demands for profit, legal/copyright caution, or lack of the right personnel to drive change. They may be able to overcome these barriers, or they may not. Either way, law schools must lead.
- Keep an eye on technology companies entering the market from unexpected directions -- whether Amazon, Google, or some hot startup we've never heard of. The legal textbook market is not a very big one, but it might be ripe, low-hanging fruit for some of these players.
- Gene Koo
September 27, 2008
Liveblogging the Future of the Law School Casebook workshop part 4
This final segment of the workshop, excepting dinner, asks participants, "Where do we go from here?" Ron Collins now believes "the future is only across the street" -- it is not that far away, if we can collaborate.
Specific ideas after the jump.
- Pick one first-year subject that spans all schools in which to work out all the kinks
- Berkman & CALI is convening such a meeting, in the cyberlaw area
- Law schools can open their law journals for open access to unknot the problem identified in the last session
- Create a consortium in which law schools buy out one of the top casebooks to put into a desired platform
- Chip in for an extreme course makeover. "Pimp my course" :)
- Open this conversation to a wider public participation (this was a closed workshop)
- AALS session: how to do this, get a big room of people on board
- Or a summer program / writer's retreat, rather than at AALS
- Collaborate among publishers so we don't have separate, non-interoperable silos.
- Publishers: join IDEF to support standards as they converge. PDF + EPub, etc. They may not be the best, but they are going to be standard.
- We want one platform, not unlike iTunes -- creators should be able to sell/offer their materials without having their own music stores.
- CALI, as a nonprofit consortium of almost all American law schools, stand ready to provide that platform, open-source if desired.
- So does Sony (not the nonprofit part)
- We need both motivation and training for professors, once we have a platform to push them into
- Build a prototype to get people excited.
Liveblogging the Future of the Law School Casebook workshop part 3
Matt Bodie is moderating a discussion on "Competing Online Architectural Formats: advantages and disadvantages." One of the big elephants in the room regards intellectual property and what the role of the professor will (and won't) be in that future.
Take the jump with me here...
Susan Case describes making her book available for free on the Web, which has become incredibly popular and led to speaking invitations, etc.
Daniel Albohn (Sony) is demoing our submitted memos on the Sony Reader. Why is the screen so small? Maybe take a look at the iRex iLiad.
Skover: before recepticles become useful, we need to answer -- what kind of platform do we want to have for containing these digital packages.
Joel Thierstein: what's our ethical obligation to make our content open?
David Vladeck wonders how many law professors expect to make money from casebooks? Leslie Levine (West) responds that the motivating force seems instead to be (usually) about getting information out there and
John Palfrey suggests dividing up the analysis into three pieces: (1) the authoring; (2) the platform; (3) the recepticle. We should design a system that is at least dual-purpose -- (a) for students, and (b) enable a standard mode of copyright transfer.
JP's suggestion strongly seconded by Ron Collins. Imagine a platform that allows both proprietary and open information available for remixing. This need not be a war between those who want to give it away and those who seek some renumeration for their work.
I noted that in addition to fiscal renumeration, authors will want reputational returns as well.
John Mayer: www.eLangdell.org. How about creating a pool of money to pay authors to create texts, just as CALI does with lessons? over to Joel...Connexions likewise has a teaching commons, with CC-attribution that allows for collaboration with publishers. back to John... What about SSRN as a source of teaching resources? How about Connexion's model of buying a statistics textbook, funded by a foundation, that now is being remixed by professors and potentially even published at a price.
Craig (Concord) -- frustrated that the technology is all there. Why must we re-invent the wheel because the publishers and appliance manufacturers are "tying our hands" because they want to be the only platform.
Some confusion now arising over what "open source" means -- distinguishing open access from open source.
Heidi Hellekson (West) is responding to the question, pointing out that they've been heavily pushing DRM. [ This didn't seem to be the actual demand from the audience ]. Leslie (Lexis) points out that they are not stopping independent authors from self-publishing; John Chatelaime (Aspen) adds that the academy -- the authors -- need to start releasing their rights. Third-party copyright holders have presented a major obstacle.
JP is describing Harvard's open access initiative and repository (see also Duke et.al.) to alleviate this problem on the production side.
David Skover argues that professors should start asserting their market power to keep their copyright. Bill McCoy (Adobe) notes that the larger publishing industry is getting over these problems -- deal.
Kraig -- we're both the licensor and licensees -- can't we join these interests here?
Greg Silverman -- content production today can be quite complicated with many collaborations; don't underestimate the expense of such.
Why not just collect links to cases, articles? The cases are out there, but the editing-down is a clear value-add. (But is it enough?)
Paula Lustbader wants to know what the law students are doing -- are they reading the articles? notes? cases? Steve Friedland suggests we add these questions to our end-of-class surveys.
Do students demand it in electronic format? Conrad: They want something they can own, control -- and if we experiment, we can learn from their reactions.
Liveblogging the Future of the Law School Casebook workshop part 2
Part 2, moderated by David Skover, is "The Printed Casebook & Its Print/Electronic Alternatives: advantages & disadvantages in content & delivery systems." We broke into four groups loosely discussing these topics without any formal structure. Summary notes of each groups reportback follows the jump...
First group: Is every change positive? How is the Bar driving how schools teach? Disagreement between preparing for the Bar vs. other teaching goals. How do you handle assessment tools? What are the forces driving innovation -- probably it's convenience, not pricing. Don't dichotomize between print and electronic -- it's a continuum.
Second group: What's wrong with the casebook? Lacks flexibility, customizability, doesn't take advantage of new media. What will it look like? Probably not a purely open database because newer professors want some structure -- more a set of modules that would represent a course. What role does the publishing industry have in this future? Creation, marketing, distribution?
Third group: Books are just a modality -- form of what we're creating (books) isn't intrinsic but a practicality. Impediments -- law schools' reward structure not geared towards creativity of teaching.
Fourth group: "Flexibility" -- how to give teachers maximum flexibility for designing, using content in the classroom. Would require a production team, law profs, technologists, instructional designers. How to disaggregate to obtain optimal granularity: (1) instructional design -- should correlate to learning objectives; (2) authoring systems -- should be separate from the delivery system, allowing multi-channel distribution; (3) delivery system -- make it optimal for class, or even individual students; (4) business model -- preference for open source but accommodating of commercial units, a payment model that would be consistent between the two.
Subsequent discussion points:
- Print lacks inherent value as a delivery mechanism? Distinguish between the entire value chain of print vs. final print product. Non-flexibility has some value for certainty of who's writing what.
- Is there a difference between electronic & print "thinking"? Some research suggests that the gap in cognitive absorption of learning between e & p is shrinking (see Bill Hill's research at Microsoft; see John Palfrey's Born Digital; see MacArthur's recent series).
- Generativity and interoperativity (on open standards) as watchwords of PLATFORMS moving forward.
- Is the digital / media evolution of practice going to change teaching with it?
- Bar exam driving law school pedagogy: might be an opportunity to teach differently. This is generating significant discussion.
Liveblogging the Future of the Law School Casebook workshop part 1
I'm here at Seattle University School of Law with many esteemed law professors, publishers, and technology companies to discuss: where is the law school casebook headed in the near future?
Dean Kellye Testy is moderating our first conversation, "Glimpses of the Future: the possible, the probable, and the potential of innovative reform." This is an open discussion -- details after the break.
- David Scover describes himself "weaning away" from the Socratic method -- something that may have been rooted in a certain reliance on control.
- David Vladeck, as someone steeped in practice, emphasizes problem-based learning -- which existing case-oriented materials don't support.
- Ron Collins notes that a common theme that's emerged from the pre-workshop memos is "collaborative" -- that while Langdell implied a top-down, individualistic method, the big question moving forward is how to network people together.
- Kraig Baker, also as a practitioner, describes his own passion for law and how casebooks tend to quench that passion -- instead we need to find out how to feed that passion.
- Ed Rubin notes that new / emerging courses require new materials; otherwise, teachers won't adopt the courses. Furthermore, pedagogically we no longer understand skills as separate from doctrine, but rather the way we come to understand doctrine -- implying an interactive format.
- Dennis Patterson describes the innovation of the "intervention" -- breaking into cases to ask students about the opinion as it unfolds. But West's system could not handle publishing this electronically. For a problem in commercial transactions, he wants to see video & schematics describing an actual industry / transaction in context -- and most importantly, be able to deploy imagination to apply doctrine.
- Michael Schwartz cites Prof. Oates' research that most successful students learn from cases with a problem in mind -- and therefore, what real data should we keep in mind, moving forward.
- Paula Lustbader wants students to think about why are you thinking this -- what did you do to figure it out, so you can replicate it. We need a combination of text and real-life experiences, even interview real clients -- not for every case, but thoughtfully about how stories can make learning more rich. Materials should model the expert protocol and WHY is the lawyer asking this question, what's the approach to problem-solving. As for imagination: there's a need for students to PLAY with the materials, not putting them into boxes.
- John Mayer discusses how so much technology is available, but points out that the problem has been professors creating one-offs rather than collaborating, and furthermore, why not consider students as collaborators too, to help create a/v resources.
- John Palfrey -- reconceptualizing materials as born digital to begin with, and reprovision them for different needs, rather than putting things into Langdellian buckets. And students, too, are born digital and therefore thinking differently -- sometimes a strength, sometimes a weakness.
- Conrad Johnson -- what's often missing is the context, law from the ground up -- you can ask your students what they want to know, so you can catch the kinds of things that we overlook in the Socratic method.
- Bill Harmon -- students are already very proficient at getting information, and the next big step is to enable them to collaborate. Law is about people: what do these people need as a remedy?
- Me -- what kinds of training will professors need to be able to teach in new ways?
- Steve Friedland -- we need to reframe from how are we teaching vs. how are they learning? "We need to get rebooted." What is our purpose: we are teaching them to be law students, and then we ask them to be lawyers.
- John Mitchell -- shift the figure ground so the cases, the statutes -- that's the library -- the clients/case/context is how we're teaching. That we can do without technology ("I have a handpuppet"). See, as lawyers do, that cases are the library -- going to a client-centric context.
- Ed Rubin explains what transactional work is, and laments how students never even see contracts. And how transactional work is non-zero-sum -- a different attitudinal approach than dispute-centered legal problems.
- Kellye Testy points out how drafting made a huge difference in understanding contracts in a class she taught: changes can be small, and it can go to learning what they should not adding more.
- Paula Lustbader -- so much we should be learning from undergrad, even kindergarten level. Describing a game to learn history in which students were so motivated -- "What would be our World War II simulation?"
- Peggy Davis -- learn law by using it, especially through simulation. Working collaboratively to solve problems is how we learn -- "structure a field of play." Is this happening in practice?
- Keith Stipe (Carolina Academic Press) -- where do we fit in?
- David Vladeck agrees that lawyers do practice collaboratively, cutting across firm boundaries -- students need to learn that lawyers need to collaborate with "the other side." "I want to grade them on their ability to collaborate with their peers." Silo-based learning is not conducive to learning how to practice, which cuts across these lines.
- Kraig -- making mistakes became OK, students making corrections points out that they're learning together.
- David Skover -- "Publishers have been leading us down the path for a long time, and only the fringe have moved away." Maybe it's time to prioritize the materials first. Publishers need to hear us -- this session is more for them. Also: as we innovate, are we going to lose the teaching of logical thinking that we excel at?
- Marilyn Berger underlines the importance of lesson plans / teaching goals so that new methods are not gimmicks. Also describes her collaboration with Aspen to create a textbook and website exactly as the professors imagined it -- addressing identified student needs. What about tenure -- why does it take 8 years before professors can be innovative?
September 23, 2008
Workshop on the Future of the Legal Course Book
This Saturday, Seattle University School of Law is hosting a workshop on the future of the legal course book. According to the official description,
Among other questions, the workshop sessions will consider: (1) What fundamental changes in legal education are necessary, and how might such changes best be made at the national level? (2) How do the traditional curriculum and casebook constrain any such reform efforts? (3) What viable alternatives are there to the traditional print casebooks, as far as content and delivery systems are concerned? (4) What are the advantages and disadvantages of competing infrastructural designs for electronic delivery systems (including closed-source vs. open-source architecture) and the electronic devices for receiving and viewing such materials?
A lot of great memos have gone back and forth among the participants. I thought I'd share my submission here in in PDF form. Text of the post follows after the jump
Networked computing provides new capabilities to law teachers that remain largely unrealized. I categorize these into three broad areas:
1. Experience, as opposed to knowledge
2. Collaboration, as opposed to exclusivity
3. Relationships, as opposed to information
1. 1. Experiential learning
Computers are doing for systems what the printing-press did for information: provide a scalable method of distribution. The upshot for educators is that while books convey information to enable students to develop knowledge, computer-driven simulations convey systems to enable students to have experiences. And experiential learning has become an emerging best practice in today’s pedagogy.
Books, and the information they convey, will remain critical for establishing a baseline of knowledge and the ways of “thinking like a lawyer” that we cherish. Our challenge as educators is to enable our students to take the next step and integrate that knowledge into the professional strategies, behaviors, habits, and values that constitute modern legal practice.
Until recently, legal educators who wanted to provide students with learning experiences were obligated to do the work by hand: write the materials, play the roles, and most burdensome of all, manage the logistics. Like monks transcribing texts, their work was valuable but never scalable.
Video games demonstrate the power of computers to convey first-person experiences rather than third-person stories or disconnected facts. Computer-managed simulations will allow law professors to offer students legal practice experiences that were previously inaccessible:
- Clinical practice is irreplaceable in its authenticity and reality, but it can also be expensive and highly variable. Simulations can provide a uniform set of experiences, especially in practice areas that law students would rarely have the chance to touch (e.g. complex corporate transactions).
- Many law professors lack significant practice experience and are reluctant to portray something with which they are unfamiliar. A professionally-authored simulation can capture the wisdom of practice in a way that offloads that responsibility from the professor.
- Likewise, many educators lack experience and know-how with running a simulation at all, which entails architecting a space for movement rather than directing learners along a linear path. A computerized system can offload much of that from the instructor.
By “computer simulation” I don’t necessarily mean fully-rendered 3D virtual worlds. When you consider the virtual world of a typical law firm, much of it exists within the boundaries of email, the Web, and EDGAR/Lexis/Westlaw. The kind of virtual reality required for this type of simulation would entail those worlds, not necessarily a 3D “World of Warcraft” knockoff. Of course, the technology required for any given simulation depends on the kind of experience desired.
2. 2. Collaborative authorship
Digital media have exposed the core limitations of paper-bound books. We begin to realize that casebooks are arbitrary dips out of the larger pool of knowledge. That larger pool has eluded us because the costs of distributing the entirety of the pool in using paper have been too high.
It is more accurate to imagine existing paper casebooks as professors scattered on at least two axes – how they approach the law and how they teach – and clustered around casebooks:
Conversations with casebook adopters reveal that this clustering is often arbitrary and rarely efficient. Most admit, even the authors themselves, admit that every casebook winds up being a massive compromise across different constituents.
And while a small subset of the community have taken it upon themselves to author casebooks – sometimes for the money, but most of the time for other motives, not least of which is altruism – most professors are “micro-authoring” every semester whenever they create coursepacks to supplement those books when they are incomplete, inadequate, or outdated. Indeed, some have simply abandoned casebooks for coursepacks altogether.
Before the Internet, it was prohibitively expensive to share coursepacks, leading to much wheel-reinvention. Some professors now use listservs as an ad hoc solution. What’s desperately needed is a platform with the following features:
· A means to share materials with colleagues
· A means to find and remix materials to create custom coursepacks, including export to digital and paper formats
· A system to authenticate authors and their reputations
· A system to evaluate and credential materials and collections of materials
· A business model to keep this system sustainable both for the entire system and the individual authors within it.
3. 3. Relational learning
Peer learning is critical to most law students’ success. Study groups play a storied role in the law school experience, yet law schools provide little support for them. E-casebooks present new potential spaces for these groups – less because they are digital than because they are networked.
Whereas e-books and e-book device readers like the Kindle present certain physical capabilities, such as instant downloading/updating, lighter-weight packages, and almost infinitely scalable distribution, they currently lack a key property that made the Web so robust: networking. Rather, the existing Kindle functions more like television: a one-to-many broadcast. This stifles the greatest possibility of digital texts for learning: that they might become platforms for students to learn with each other.
Imagine if a study group could outline a case together, share notes, and answer each others’ questions within the text itself. Imagine if the casebook was as much about the whitespace between words as the words themselves – whitespace for students to do their own teaching and learning.
There is an enormous disjunction between learning materials that are in textbook format (whether paper or digital) and the learning tools that students increasingly rely upon, whether they are “official” tools offered by the school (e.g. Blackboard) or cobbled together ad hoc (e.g. Google Docs, wikis). It may not be that the e-casebook platform itself offers these new capacities – the beauty of Web 2.0 is allowing content to “exist” in different “places” – so long as they are open and permeable, preferably to as much experimentation as possible.
Many students want to learn in community together – study groups are mostly voluntary. We need learning materials flexible enough to bend to unforeseen uses that today’s students will inevitably invent if given the chance.
February 20, 2008
CALI to offer tools for professors to make use of free cases
Last week, Carl Malamud's Public.resource.org gave the American public and legal community a small gift: over 1.8 million federal cases, fully browseable and indexable by any search engine. Launched in partnership with the Electronic Freedom Foundation and Creative Commons, the database is a major push towards opening up all court decisions to the public.
At present, the interface for this database is pretty, but fairly barebones. In this article, Carl explains that he expects niche online services will emerge and develop innovative new methods for searching, categorizing and adding value to court rulings. In addition to companies like Google and Yahoo! that are surely salivating over the the West/Lexis empire, CALI (the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction) is rolling out an interface that's designed specifically for legal education.
While the CALI interface is also very basic at the moment, it does feature a search engine (it will eventually be hosted at CaseCorpus.org). Like Public.resource.org, the database will be free and open to the public, but the main purpose of the site is to enable professors to abridge cases for inclusion in coursepacks and sharing with colleagues; it's not intended to compete with AltLaw.org and similar, more public-facing initiatives. Currently, the CALI database contains about 500,000 cases, which will soon form a foundation for the eLangdell project to create an open commons of legal education resources. I will be discussing that effort in more depth tomorrow in Atlanta at the International Conference on the Future of Legal Education.