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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.

Official notes for session 4

September 27, 2008 in Conferences, Electronic Education, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Official writeup of Session 3

September 27, 2008 in Conferences, Electronic Education, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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:

Official notes for session 2

September 27, 2008 in Conferences, Electronic Education, Teaching -- pedagogy, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

And... here are the official notes from the conference for this session.

September 27, 2008 in Conferences, Reform, Teaching -- pedagogy, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 25, 2008

Do lawyers now need to know all about web searching and wikis?

Perhaps the only thing I took away from the my law school legal research class a couple decades ago was that I should always remember to check the pocket part for new developments.  Though I know hard-copy pocket parts are still produced, I wonder if current legal research classes now tell students always to check on-line for new developments. 

Speaking of new on-line developments, these two stories from legal newspapers had me wondering if modern legal research courses ought to be taught by folks with a tech background:

September 25, 2008 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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

Memorandum on Preliminary Thoughts:
Workshop on the Future of the Legal Course Book

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:

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.

Casebook2 Instead it seems more accurate to describe the set of professors teaching any given subject as a community, networked through personal and professional relationships:

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.

September 23, 2008 in Conferences, Electronic Education, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2008

What if Westlaw merged with SSRN?

Legal scholarship truly is bizarre, in that the status of our work is largely determined not by our peers, but by students (the law review editors) at schools other than our own. We all know this-- that status correlates to the reputation of the law review that publishes our writing. That is, our publication outcomes are determined by people we don't teach and who have not even completed their own basic education. Now, of course, we have an alternative process developing on SSRN. Most people do both-- submit their work to SSRN and publish them as law review articles. One reason to do both is that only by publishing in a law review does our work become available via the Lexis and Westlaw databases, which then lead to citation. But what if SSRN pieces appeared on Lexis and Westlaw? Would we then see an end to the absolute need to publish such work in a law review? It would seem that the only reason to publish in a law review at that point would be to subject ourselves to the pecking order imposed by students at schools other than our own, and that does not make much sense. Freed from the bizarre land of law reviews, it could be that status would be determined only by the ways and frequency with which our work is read and cited-- both of which are status markers much more rational than the filter of other people's students. -- Mark Osler

September 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack