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November 20, 2006

Student blogging as an educational experience

Here's an open question following on DAB's earlier referral to the excellent discussion going on about how blogs change legal education. I am curious to what extent law professors are blogging with their students, and how that works as an educational experience (as opposed to blogging yourself, or independent student blogging).

One way in which you might do this would be through an official class assignment. The point here would be less about producing "useful" legal scholarship as for students to engage with course material. For example, recently a Brandeis University professor presented a short talk at the Berkman Center describing how he turned around the practice of podcasting in his undergraduate class from him talking at students to students talking with each other -- a practice well in line with today's theories of how learners actively construct rather than passively receive knowledge. (And, as a practical matter, he found that students would actually download and listen to each others' podcasts while they largely ignored his -- perhaps partly because students better understand that a six-minute chat is far more palatable than a 50-minute lecture).

Another possibility is blogging as collaborative project between professors and students. For example, Ben Spencer of Split Circuits forwards the day's Westlaw alerts to his research assistants, who find and summarize cases relevant to the blog's subject matter. Like research assistants everywhere, these law students receive mentorship (Ben reviews their posts for relevance, importance, accuracy, and completeness), in the process learning-by-doing what makes a case "important" and how to find and highlight those parts. What's especially interesting about this model is that it enables students to contribute directly to a vital part of the academic discourse while learning at the same time.

Ben writes:

The RA’s have been thrilled with the opportunity to stay abreast of developments in the law in a way they otherwise would not experience.  They have grown much more knowledgeable about contemporary federal procedural issues of importance and are better able to discuss these and incorporate them into their own writing.  Hopefully it will also enhance their experience at law firms and with clerkships.

How many of you ask your students to blog as part of their educational experience?

Gene Koo

November 20, 2006 in Scholarship -- online | Permalink


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Take a look at http://aelr_blog.classcaster.org/blog/ for an example of how one legal research course is blogging together. Also we have over 60 law faculty podcasting and blogging on http://www.classcaster.org/ and I'm sure it will provide some ideas about how blogs and podcasting do work in legal education.

Posted by: Elmer Masters | Nov 21, 2006 4:54:56 PM

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