May 09, 2012

Wash. U. innovates with online law masters programs

I am intrigued to see this new article from the New York Times concerning showing the details of a real law school innovation coming from the Show Me State.   The article it headlined "Law School Plans to Offer Web Courses for Master’s," and here are excerpts:

The law school of Washington University announced Tuesday that it would offer, entirely online, a master’s degree in United States law intended for lawyers practicing overseas, in partnership with 2tor, an education technology company.

Legal education has been slow to move to online classes, and the new master’s program is perhaps the earliest partnership between a top-tier law school and a commercial enterprise.

“We don’t know where the students are going to come from exactly, but we believe there is demand abroad for an online program with the same quality that we deliver in St. Louis, accessible to people who can’t uproot their lives to come to the United States,” said Kent D. Syverud, the dean of the law school, which currently offers students on campus a Master of Law degree, or LL.M., in United States law for foreign lawyers. “It’s not designed to prepare students for the bar exam.”

Nonetheless, graduates of the new program, which will include live discussions via webcam and self-paced online materials, would probably be eligible to take the California bar exam.

Washington University will share the revenues from the $48,000 program — the same tuition paid by students at the St. Louis campus — with 2tor, which will provide marketing, the Web platform and technical support, including a staff member to monitor each live class and deal with any technical problems that arise.

2tor, a four-year-old company based in Maryland, has partnerships in place with the University of Southern California, Georgetown and the University of North Carolina for online graduate degree programs in education, business, public administration and nursing....

A growing number of law schools offer online master’s degrees in specialized areas of law, like taxation, health care, estate planning, the environment or business transactions. Florida Coastal School of Law, a commercial school, offers a master’s in United States law, created, like the Washington University program, for international lawyers.

New York University Law School’s online Executive LL.M in Tax program enrolls more than 100 students, mostly from the United States, with a smattering from other countries. “Online students can see videos of all the brick-and-mortar classes,” said Joshua D. Blank, faculty director of the graduate tax program, which has been available online since 2008. “We use the same technology Netflix uses to watch movies online. Now that there’s the technology to do this, I think there’s a lot of room for these programs to grow.”...

Classes will be kept small and, Mr. Syverud said, will re-create the discussion between students and professors that characterizes most in-person legal education. Mr. Syverud said he hoped to enroll 20 students in the first group, starting in January, and have four groups a year, totaling more than 100 students.

Posted by DAB

May 9, 2012 in Deans and innovations, Technology -- in the classroom, The mission of law schools | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 13, 2011

The importance of appreciating (and teaching) iPad realities for lawyers and law students

I am at a great session (on a Sunday morning!) of the Appellate Judges Education Institute concerning modern brief writing and reading in our digital age.  The biggest take-away is that the iPad has become a "game-changer" in part because already perhaps as many as half of all appellate judges nationwide are at least sometimes reading briefs on an iPad and because it seems likely that soon all judges will read most briefs on screens.  

This sessions is reinforcing my belief that law schools should be looking for ways to intergrate iPads and/or other e-readers into their skills curriculum.  Notably, a Ninth Circuit judge on reported that his circuit is providing all its judges with iPads, and I strongly believe it should be only a matter of time before some clever law schools (and/or law publishers) figure out the opportunities and advantages that might flow from giving groups of students pre-programmed e-readers with specialized applications and/or content.

Some related prior posts:

 Posted by DAB

November 13, 2011 in Electronic Education, Teaching -- pedagogy, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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: 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

September 12, 2011

Should law schools teach how the best lawyers and law firms use the internet?

Debates about adequate skills instruction have raged for decades within and outside law school.  Less debated, though no less important, is whether law schools are teaching their students the right kinds of lawyering skills.  My own experience as both a law student and a law professor leads me to believe and fear that law schools too often focus on teaching the next generation of lawyers the most critical skills of the last generation of lawyers.

Those who went to law school around the time I was a student (1990 to 1993) likely recall the debate over whether and how students should be allowed access to computer research sources like Westlaw and Lexis or instead needed to be taught how to "only use the books."  Savvy students (but very few faculty) at the time appreciated that computer-based research skills we ultimately likely to be much more important to our future than book-based skills.  Nevertheless, back then (and still it seems two decades later), commercial providers like West and Lexis supplied much more (and much more effective) training in computer research than did my law school.

This recent article by Robert Algeri in the The National Law Journal, which is headlined "The future of the law firm website: Your website will become bigger, more important — and more focused on the needs of individual attorneys," has me thinking about these realities and prompted the question in the title of this post. Here is how the piece starts:

After a half-century of remarkable stability and steady growth, the legal industry got hit by a ton of bricks called the Great Recession. Several years after the initial shock, it is clear that this downturn wasn't just a momentary blip, but a rather sizable shift in the business landscape. As a result, law firms are being forced to reconsider many aspects of how they do business.

What does all this mean for legal marketing? Lots.      During the past two years, my colleagues and I have studied the Great Recession's effects on legal marketing and law firm Web sites.  Our conclusion is that the law firm Web site is about to undergo a revolution. Specifically, we expect law firm Web sites to:

• Become more valuable....

• Become bigger....

• Focus more on attorneys....

Web sites already play a vital role in law firm business development. Numerous studies show this.  However, I strongly believe that they will become even more important--nearly as important as face-to-face meetings.  Why?  Because face-to-face meetings will happen less and less.

The legal business has traditionally been locally focused, with clients and the firm often located within 25 miles of one another.  That's changing. The Internet and related technologies have made it much more practical to work long distance.  But that's the least of it: Our culture is also changing. 

I could say a lot about the long-standing failure of law schools to help students better understand the business of law and the provision of legal services.  Those broader concerns aside, given the tight legal marketplace and changing legal and technological environments, are law schools uniquely deficient for not helping students better appreciate when and how modern lawyers use the internet?

Posted by DAB

September 12, 2011 in Legal profession realities and developments, Serving students, Teaching -- curriculum, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 05, 2011

"In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores"

Because of my enduring interest in the relationship between technology and education, I found notable this recent article from the New York Times (with the same headline as this post).  Here is a snippet that follows a discussion of a tech-heavy seventh-grade classroom experience:

[S]chools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.  This conundrum calls into question one of the most significant contemporary educational movements. Advocates for giving schools a major technological upgrade — which include powerful educators, Silicon Valley titans and White House appointees — say digital devices let students learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets.

Some backers of this idea say standardized tests, the most widely used measure of student performance, don’t capture the breadth of skills that computers can help develop. But they also concede that for now there is no better way to gauge the educational value of expensive technology investments.

“The data is pretty weak. It’s very difficult when we’re pressed to come up with convincing data,” said Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an investor in educational technology companies. When it comes to showing results, he said, “We better put up or shut up.”

And yet, in virtually the same breath, he said change of a historic magnitude is inevitably coming to classrooms this decade: “It’s one of the three or four biggest things happening in the world today.”

Critics counter that, absent clear proof, schools are being motivated by a blind faith in technology and an overemphasis on digital skills — like using PowerPoint and multimedia tools — at the expense of math, reading and writing fundamentals.  They say the technology advocates have it backward when they press to upgrade first and ask questions later.

Regular readers know I have been asserting for some time that greater use of technology in law school instruction is inevitable; I have also been troubled by what I see as the "Luddite instincts" of some professors who are quick and eager to ban laptops in the classroom.  Perhaps usefully, this article reminds me that nearly every time I see something new about technology and education, I become less sure of their proper relationship.  

Posted by DAB

September 5, 2011 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | 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

January 11, 2011

“I think [the iPad] could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector.”

The title of this post is a quote from this recent New York Times article, which is headlined "Math That Moves: Schools Embrace the iPad." Here is some of the discussion surrounding this quote:

The iPads cost $750 apiece, and they are to be used in class and at home during the school year to replace textbooks, allow students to correspond with teachers and turn in papers and homework assignments, and preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios. “It allows us to extend the classroom beyond these four walls,” said Larry Reiff, an English teacher at Roslyn who now posts all his course materials online.

Technological fads have come and gone in schools, and other experiments meant to rev up the educational experience for children raised on video games and YouTube have had mixed results. Educators, for instance, are still divided over whether initiatives to give every student a laptop have made a difference academically....

But school leaders say the iPad is not just a cool new toy but rather a powerful and versatile tool with a multitude of applications, including thousands with educational uses....

Educators also laud the iPad’s physical attributes, including its large touch screen (about 9.7 inches) and flat design, which allows students to maintain eye contact with their teachers. And students like its light weight, which offers a relief from the heavy books that weigh down their backpacks.

Roslyn administrators also said their adoption of the iPad, for which the district paid $56,250 for the initial 75 (32-gigabyte, with case and stylus), was advancing its effort to go paperless and cut spending. In Millburn, N.J., students at South Mountain Elementary School have used two iPads purchased by the parent-teacher organization to play math games, study world maps and read “Winnie the Pooh.” Scott Wolfe, the principal, said he hoped to secure 20 more iPads next school year to run apps that, for instance, simulate a piano keyboard on the screen or display constellations based on a viewer’s location. “I think this could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector,” Mr. Wolfe said.

The New York City public schools have ordered more than 2,000 iPads, for $1.3 million; 300 went to Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, or enough for all 23 teachers and half of the students to use at the same time.

More than 200 Chicago public schools applied for 23 district-financed iPad grants totaling $450,000. The Virginia Department of Education is overseeing a $150,000 iPad initiative that has replaced history and Advanced Placement biology textbooks at 11 schools. And six middle schools in four California cities (San Francisco, Long Beach, Fresno and Riverside) are teaching the first iPad-only algebra course, developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Even kindergartners are getting their hands on iPads. Pinnacle Peak School in Scottsdale, Ariz., converted an empty classroom into a lab with 36 iPads — named the iMaginarium — that has become the centerpiece of the school because, as the principal put it, “of all the devices out there, the iPad has the most star power with kids.”

In this blog space a mere 10 months ago, before anyone even got a chance to get their hands on the iPad, I opined here on "How an iPad (or an even better e-tablet) could transform legal education." I continue to be intrigued (but not surprised) that law schools and legal publishers are already behind the curve on this tech front, but this story confirms my sense that the law students of the future will not merely expect an digital-friendly educational environment, they will demand it. As I put the matter in my prior post, "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."

Some recent related iPad posts:


Posted by DAB

January 11, 2011 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 13, 2010

Supreme Court Justices are now doing work on iPads and Kindles, when will law students?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new video from a portion of a C-SPAN interview with new Justice Elena Kagan. The video is titled "Justice Kagan on Using a Kindle to Read Briefs," and in the segment Justice Kagan reports on how she uses the Kindle to read all the SCOTUS briefs, and also discusses that Justice Scalia has his briefs on an iPad. (Hat tip: How Appealing.)

In a series of prior posts about technology and legal education, I have suggested that the advancement of new reading technologies will at some point transform legal education. I articulated the point this way in this post after first seeing the iPad in action earlier this year:

[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.

When traveling to speak at various conferences, I have noticed more and more lawyers with iPads and other e-readers. I expect that buzz about the Justices reading briefs on e-readers might add even more juice to the on-going digital revolution in the collection and distribution of legal materials.  And if law schools do not get with the program soon, I fear we will be doing even worse than usual in training the next generation of lawyers.

Posted by DAB

December 13, 2010 in Electronic Education, Legal profession realities and developments, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 25, 2010

Official law school resources or unofficial law student help: is there an app for that?

I know that there are a fair number of interesting "apps" for a fair number of legal resources.  (Many of these apps can be located via The Law Pod, which "specializes in legal reference software for smartphones and web devices.")  In addition, via the terrific blog iPhone J.D., I have seen reviews of various traditional law-school commercial services turned into apps (such as BARBRI and Law in a Flash).

But I have yet to see any law school develop its own official app for its students (and prospective students), nor have I seen any truly creative apps developed by entrepunrial lawyers or law students for the law student marketplace.  Just as all law schools (and many law students) now have intricate (and sophisticated?) websites on which law school resources and promotional materials often reside, I suspect it may be only a matter of time before apps become a more common part of law school life. 

I wonder if any law school is thinking about trying to raise its profile through the development of an app for its students or as a distinctive means to promote its faculty and programs.  Gosh knows that the development of a clever law-school app seems like it would be a much better use of promotional resources than producing and distributing all the hard-copy law porn I find in my faculty mailbox (which gets quickly relocated to my faculty trash can, often within a matter of seconds).

Posted by DAB

October 25, 2010 in Electronic Education, Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 25, 2010

"Monterey College of Law -- First Law School in US to go iPad"

The title of this post is the headline of this new press release, are here are excerpts:

Monterey College of Law, a California accredited law school located in Seaside, California is the first law school in the US to adopt the iPad as an integral part of the law school curriculum. Law students at Monterey College of Law returned from summer break to the exciting news that they are part of a unique pilot program that will provide iPads to each law student at the school. Through an innovative program developed by the law school with BAR BRI, the country’s largest bar exam review company, each MCL law student receives an iPad when they enroll in the BAR BRI supplemental curriculum program that the students use while attending school and in preparation for the California Bar Exam.

“Law schools are rarely found close to the leading edge of technology,” said Mitchel Winick, President and Dean of the law school. “However, it is clear to me that combining this technology with interactive, portable, timely content and harnessing the energy of on-line social networking provides a number of immediate educational opportunities.” This is particularly true for an evening law school like MCL that has a traditional classroom-based legal education program in which many students are balancing a full work and family schedule while attending law school....

Chris Marohn, a third-year MCL law student who is the immediate-past President of the Student Bar Association noted that “excited Facebook posts about the iPad program were circulating through the rest of the student body before the Dean finished announcing the new program to the first-year class. There was a lot of excitement among my classmates, particularly once Dean Winick started handing out iPads," said Marohn. Winick noted that 100% of the entering first-year students and approximately 70% of the upper level students enrolled in the new program by the end of the first week of law school. He expects that most of the remaining students will enroll over the next few weeks as students begin experimenting with new ways to study using the iPads. It is only a matter of time before virtual study groups are formed to support each of the core law school classes....

The second step of the program is to provide access to iPads for MCL law faculty members who are interested in integrating the iPad into their regular course materials and classroom presentations. “Historically, law faculty members are known to be very traditional in their approach to teaching. In some law schools, classes have been taught the same way, with very few changes, for more than 100 years” said Winick. “The objective of the MCL faculty pilot program will be to develop examples of using iPad technology to enhance and expand traditional legal education without diminishing any of the core academic values,” said Stephen Wagner, law professor and President of the faculty senate. The law school will pilot-test the faculty program during the current academic year and anticipates expanding the program to include all interested faculty members next year.

I figured it would only be a matter of time before the iPad and/or other like tablets became a regular part of the law school experience.  But I am still pleased and impressed that this innovation has taken hold so quickly in at least one law school setting.  Will others follow?

Some recent related iPad posts:

Posted by DAB

August 25, 2010 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2010

"'MacLitigator' Uses iPad Successfully in Jury Trial"

The title of this post is the headline of this recent posting at Legal Blog Watch via  Here are the basics:

Who better to be the first reported lawyer to use an iPad to help win a jury trial than someone who calls himself MacLitigator? ...

Writing in the rarely used "third-person blog nickname" voice, Summerill posted here over the weekend that "Maclitigator just completed a four day jury trial ... using the iPad as the primary means of getting information in front of the jury."

Two of the most effective uses to which MacLitigator put his iPad during trial were the presentation of documents and cross-examination of witnesses. MacLitigator says he loaded all documents to be admitted at trial on to the iPad as slides. His examination outlines cross-referenced the appropriate slide. Photos were then grouped as a single exhibit (e.g. Exhibit 5 was a series of 5 photos, or 5 slides in Keynote).

He also loaded deposition transcripts, and reports that "because the iPad can switch so quickly between presentations, flipping from the Trial Slides to the deposition transcript slides during a cross examination is an effortless process."

A story like this one confirms my view that the iPad (or a similar user-friendly tablet) could become a transformative piece of technology for lawyers (and also law students).  It also confirms my strong belief that law schools are disserving our students when we prevent them from having laptops in the classroom and thereby push them away from developing more tech lawyering skills. 

Some recent related iPad posts:

Posted by DAB

May 3, 2010 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | 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

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

March 19, 2010

An iPad in a Law School Class--A Skeptical View

CC Culture
 My blog colleague (and former JON law clerk colleague!) Doug Berman wonders if an iPad (or similar Tablet computers from a plethora of other makers) could transform law school.    

Imagine three possible constituencies:

1. Students. Students use laptops both to take notes (alas, sometimes verging on stenography) and to read material (alas, sometimes including Facebook). Most reports suggest that inputting text is slower on a touchscreen than via a keyboard. Indeed, reports suggest that typing is faster than writing in cursive for many people. 

It's unlikely that we'll see folks using Dragon Dictation or IBM Voice in class to do dictation (unless engineers come up with noise canceling systems that prevent your noise from leaking out, rather than other people's noise from leaking in.

Also, where would a student put the iPad in a classroom--on her lap, or on the desk?  Steve Jobs showed off the device in a nice overstuffed chair, but unfortunately we do not provide those in our classes.

2 Faculty.  Faculty spend much of their time writing--mostly emails, it increasingly seems.  Again, it seems difficult to imagine writing a 50 page law review article with 400 footnotes, or a 300 page book on a touchscreen device. Faculty members might however employ dictation software--typically in the privacy of their office. 

3. Staff. Staff are constantly organizing and writing, again making it difficult to rely upon a touchscreen device. 

It may be that writing on touchscreens has improved far more than I recognize, or that it is about to do so. I find writing on my iPhone to be a huge nuisance, and I limit myself to short Twitter like bursts--but others find it less debilitating than I.

Now consider a fourth constituency:

4. Libraries and Other Information Services.  Given that we aren't typically allowed to write in a library book and simply receive the information provided therein, a Tablet might well prove useful.  However, libraries may be quite concerned about (1) breakage on devices that might roam (a fear that might be lessened if ; (2) theft; and (3) battery life. Apple's requirement that you send in your iPad to them to have a battery changed seems less than ideal. 

The times may overtake me; five years from now, perhaps I will be writing this blog entry on a tablet. But for the next couple years, at least, I think I can comfortably predict that I will be loyal to my laptop.

(photo by Dawn Endico.)  

Anupam Chander 

March 19, 2010 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 16, 2009

Watching Kanye West Rather than Your Professor

Farhad Manjoo has a reminder of the remarkable amount of time we might spend away from our work pursuing digital distractions available online.

It seems useful to remind students to avoid such distractions during the course of this coming school year.  It is hard to imagine the email or Facebook status update that requires immediate review or response during class.

Distractions from work, of course, are not the purview of students alone--emails and news often distract me during my own writing.

Anupam Chander

September 16, 2009 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 06, 2009

Who will get the first e-book into the law school classroom?

Thanks to this post by Jonathan Alder at Volokh, I see from this article that Case Western Reserve University will soon have students in certain classes getting their their textbooks via the Amazon Kindles.   This Wall Street Journal report explains that Amazon "on Wednesday plans to unveil a new version of its Kindle e-book reader with a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers."  Here's more:

Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school's chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said.

The new device will also feature a more fully functional Web browser, he said.  The Kindle's current model, which debuted in February, includes a Web browser that is classified as "experimental."  Five other universities are involved in the Kindle project, according to people briefed on the matter. They are Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State.

Here at Law School Innovation, we have been talking about the Kindle and other e-readers in the law school classroom for nearly two years already (see 2007 posts here and here and here).  From the get-go, I have never doubt that e-books would eventually take over the law-school classroom.  Because of the extraordinary costs and inconveniences of traditional law school casebooks, the issue iin my view has always been, not whether e-books become common, but rather just when and exactly how they will enter the law school classroom.

Cross-posted at SL&P (by DAB)

May 6, 2009 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 04, 2009

Interesting report on a laptop ban experiment

Over at The Volokh Conspiracy one can now find this interesting postfrom Eugene Volokh, titled "Results of Student Survey About My No-Laptop-in-Class Experiment."  Linked there is also this memo that Eugene wrote to his faculty about his experience with a laptop ban.  Eugene provide a lot of interesting and useful information and insights through his post and memo.

I personally continue to view complete laptop bans to be a crude, paternalistic and self-serving response by professors to a technology that at least some students genuinely believe enhance their classroom/learning experience.  That said, I have a lot of respect for Eugene's efforts to experiment with such a ban, to share his experiences, and to suggest "best practices." 

I continue to believe and predict that, within a decade or two, law school faculty will adapt teaching styles and goals in ways that will make laptops (and/or some other student-empowering technologies) seem like an essential learning tool instead of a classroom hindrance.  In the meantime, I hope faculty imposing limits on student use of technology in the classroom do so in ways that replicate Eugene's efforts to make the experience thoughtful and productive and educational for everyone.

Some related posts:

Posted by DAB

March 4, 2009 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2009

Forget the laptop debate ... how about cellphones in the classroom?

This past sunday's New York Times brought this fascinating article about technology in the classroom, headlined "Industry Makes Pitch That Smartphones Belong in Classroom."  Here is how the article starts:

The cellphone industry has a suggestion for improving the math skills of American students: spend more time on cellphones in the classroom.

At a conference this week in Washington called Mobile Learning 09, CTIA, a wireless industry trade group, plans to start making its case for the educational value of cellphones. It will present research — paid for by Qualcomm, a maker of chips for cellphones — that shows so-called smartphones can make students smarter.

Some critics already are denouncing the effort as a blatantly self-serving maneuver to break into the big educational market. But proponents of selling cellphones to schools counter that they are simply making the same kind of pitch that the computer industry has been profitably making to educators since the 1980s.

The only difference now between smartphones and laptops, they say, is that cellphones are smaller, cheaper and more coveted by students.

I wonder if any law prof has figured out how to take the digital teaching revolution to the cellphone.  I can imagine (and would generally endorse) students using their cellphones to keep up with my class blogs or to process e-mails outside the classroom, but I am not yet sure how I could effectively integrate the cellphone in my classroom teaching.  But if students get accustomed to using their cellphones for homework in grade school, law professors will eventually have to learn how to surf on this new digital wave.

Posted by DAB

February 17, 2009 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 12, 2008

"The Laptop-Free Zone"

The title of this post is the title of this new article on SSRN.  The article appears to be a thoughtful examination of the laptops-in-the-classroom debate that has engaged so many law professors.  Here is the abstract:

This new article, "The Laptop-Free Zone," addresses the hotly debated issue of laptops in law school classroom; those debates are ongoing on countless blogs, on NPR, in national newspapers, and across law school campuses. This article reports and analyzes the data collected through an IRB-approved survey of almost 450 law school students at three different law schools regarding the students' views of laptops and reported distractions caused by laptops. To provide context, the article also addresses the current arguments against laptops, negating those points as being outweighed by the proper and beneficial use of laptops. Additionally, the article provides information to be considered in teaching adults and to different learning styles, namely, global and analytic learners, and how those concerns are matters to consider in the laptop debate.

According to the survey results, students who do not use a laptop are overwhelmingly more likely to be distracted by others' laptops than students who are using their own laptops. In other words, yes, laptops cause distractions, but that primarily affects students who are not using a laptop. Accordingly, based on the learning style information and my survey results, I suggest that laptops not be banned from law school classrooms. Instead, I argue that professors must do their best to teach to all students - to those who feel they learn best by using a laptop as an aid and to those who complain of the distractions caused. I do this by implementing a laptop-free zone, restricting the first or first few rows in my classrooms to no laptops. This creates an area where students who are distracted by neighboring screens and nearby typing are free (as possible without an all-out ban) from those distractions. Further, doing so still respects those students who have learned to use a laptop as an educational tool.

As a surprise to me, the survey also showed that many students make the decision to give up their laptop after experiencing attending a class without one, noting they would not have been willing to go through such an experience by their own decision. However, once they experience not using a laptop in the law school classroom environment, they often change their method of taking notes and report improved learning and classroom experiences. Accordingly, I also suggest that instead of banning laptops, we provide beginning students with only a week or two of a laptop ban at some time during the first semester of school. This compromise will serve the interest of the most students most effectively, respecting them as adults while providing supportive guidance to their own decisions about their learning environment.

Some recent related posts:

October 12, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack