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April 23, 2010

Pro or Con- texts?

Over the past three years, I have taught over 20 classes, in six different subjects.  In that time, I did not use a single traditional textbook.  This wasn’t done out of some revulsion at cost or content; rather, I found that texts simply did not fit well into the practice-oriented classes I was teaching.  For example, I teach a class in Appeals and Habeas, and certainly there are books that cover each of those subjects.  However, I was combining Texas appellate procedure with federal and state habeas and focusing on how those systems operate, and never found a text that fit those needs.


I’m starting to see signs, though, that the textbook industry is adjusting to the reality of practice-oriented classes.  My classmate Sarah Ricks, now teaching at Rutgers-Camden, is one of those in the middle of that movement.  She has developed a text to be released later this year by Carolina Academic Press entitled Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation: Roles of the Courts, Attorneys, and Administrators.  Like my appeals and habeas class (and, overlapping with that class), Constitutional litigation is by its nature practice-oriented.  Prof. Ricks’ book accommodates that reality by incorporating non-case material including not only simulation exercises (a device that has been used often), but appellate briefs, oral arguments, and expert reports, to focus more sharply on the role of the practitioner.  Multimedia material includes the testimony of a prison guard accused of assault of a prisoner, and interviews with some prison rape victims. 


I would like to use a textbook—it is a pain in the neck to assemble new materials every time I start teaching a new class.  The work of people like Prof. Ricks gives me hope that in the future there may be a textbook that fits my class and style.

-- Mark Osler

April 23, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 19, 2010

How could/should Apple (or other tech companies) partner with a law school to foster e-casebooks?

I explained in this post last month why I believe that the iPad --- or any other new affordable e-tablet with a great e-reader and media functionality --- could and should help speed the demise of the living dinosaur that is the traditional law school casebook.  I now have an iPad, and both the significant potential for, and the significant challenges of, an e-reader replacing the traditional casebook has become even more clear.

First, though the iPad is not (yet?) a perfect product, it is an extraordinary "consumption" device.  Accessing information in e-books and through websites is easy and beautiful, and the iPad is convenient and portable and conversation-friendly in ways that cannot be readily described.  Moreover, I sense that the iPad could (perhaps with a well-designed app) facilitate the kind of effective multi-tasking consumption that lawyers and law students might especially appreciate --- e.g., having a SCOTUS case and an outline or law review article or draft brief pulled up for reading side-by-side.

Second, the iPad does not (yet?) feel like an effective "production" device.  Though perhaps others will get in the habit of composing memos and briefs on the iPad, the traditional keyboard and screen-size of a desktop or laptop are likely to remain my chosen tool for composing documents and blog posts and even longer e-mails.

In light of these realities, and the fact that traditional law school casebooks (and also the traditional hornbook and comercial outline and law review) are merely static (and costly) consupmtion devices, I still think the iPad or another new affordable e-tablet could become a serious playing in the law school educational marketplace.  But I do not think it is (yet?) a replacement for a laptop, and I also think it will be essential in the short-term for both tech producers and legal consumers to forge an effective partnership to facilititate making the iPad or another new affordable e-tablet something of value in the law school arena.

Ellen's post yesterday noting that some universities already stuggling with iPad-friendliness not only prompted my post, but it especially inspired the question in the heading to this post.  I am wondering what a tech company might do (or what a law school might ask a tech company to do) in order to help make the iPad or another new affordable e-tablet the must-have new tech item for the next generation of law students.

April 19, 2010 in Electronic Education, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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  

April 18, 2010 in Teaching Resources, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack