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:

 Posted by DAB

October 2, 2011 in Electronic Education, Teaching Resources, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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 31, 2011 in Teaching -- curriculum, Teaching -- pedagogy, Teaching Resources, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2011

IAALS launches new program called "Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers"

6059929829_79278f1731 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

August 22, 2011 in Deans and innovations, Teaching -- curriculum, Teaching -- pedagogy, Teaching Resources, The mission of law schools | 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

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.

March 22, 2010 in Electronic Education, Teaching Resources, Technology -- in the classroom, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 30, 2008

Future of the Law School Coursebook wrapup

Coverage of the event in the local press and by John Palfrey. Also: Chronicle of Higher Education.

My own takeaways:

Audio recording of the first session

Audio recording of the seciond session

Audio recording of the third session

Audio recording of the fourth session

- Gene Koo

September 30, 2008 in Conferences, Electronic Education, Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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 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

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.

February 20, 2008 in Teaching Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack