August 25, 2008

Shouldn't we just grade class participation rather than ban laptops?

Through this new post at his home blog, Eugene Volokh continues a thoughtful discussion of his new experimental one-laptop policy (details here).  I found this account of his goals helpful and interesting:

In my view, the main impetus for the non-laptop policies has not been paternalism towards students who choose to tune out....  Rather, the concern is about the impact of laptops on others — both (1) the distraction to other students when someone is surfing the Web or (even if Internet access is turned off) is playing solitaire, and, probably more importantly, (2) the perceived decrease in class discussion stemming from laptop use, and the hoped-for increase in the number of participants and the quality of participation when people stop using the laptops.

Now I'm not sure whether class discussion improves as a result of no-laptop policies. I've heard favorable reports from others, but the reason I'm calling this an experiment is precisely because I don't know for sure whether the results will be positive (though I've heard enough to suggest that the results are unlikely to be highly negative).  But ... we're trying to improve class discussion, a discussion through which each student's participation benefits the other students as well as the participant.

Among many notable comments is this one making a provocative (and accurate?) assertion about what law students really care about:

Most law students, I think, would say that their priorities are (in this order): (a) receiving their degree, preferably backed by good grades and awards; (b) maintaining a personal life that is not tied to school; and (c) engaging in intellectual conversation in a limited set of courses.  But even for those students who enjoy the intellectual side, surely most only enjoy it in certain select courses, and not in every class they are required (or choose) to take.

These thoughts lead me back to an idea I have long supported: making class participation an integral and significant part of law school grading systems.  Laptops or no laptops, I think students would be very involved in (and very prepared for) class discussion if they were certain that, say, 35% of their final grade was directly impacted by their classroom performance.  (Moreover, since an ability to talk about legal ideas effectively when placed on the spot is more relevant to most legal jobs than an ability to write a quick answer to a contrived essay question, having grades turn significantly on in-class performance makes some sense when grades are largely designed to be a signal to the legal marketplace.)

I know there are various reasons why grading in-class might not produce the ideal classroom environment.  But if improved class discussion is what Eugene and others are seeking, wouldn't it make a lot more sense just to give students a direct and tangible incentive to improve class discussion rather than to ban classroom use of a particular technology?

Some recent related posts:

Posted by DAB

August 25, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 22, 2008

What if a dean prohibited some faculty use of technology...?

My (half joking) questioning of Eugene Volokh's one-laptop experiment has generated some fun and some serious discussion in the posts and comments at The Volokh Conspiracy:

In the course of responding to one of these posts, I started to ruminate on how law school faculty might react if deans started also to impose some restrictions on the use of technology within law school.

Specifically, I wondered aloud how law faculty might feel if a dean decided to prohibit all professors from using power-point in class AND/OR from using TWEN to post announcement AND/OR from communicating with students through e-mail?  The dean might (reasonably?) assert that he genuinely believed law schools were more personal and more effective when all professors did things the old-fashioned way --- using the chalkboard, putting announcements on paper, talking to students in their offices.

How do you think most law professors would react to a tech ban on some of their common modern communication methods?

Posted by DAB

August 22, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 21, 2008

Experimenting with a one-child one-laptop policy

Chinaflagvirus I am intrigued and a bit surprised by this post at The Volokh Conspiracy, titled "Experiment with a No-Laptop Policy for Class."  Despite the title, it appears that Eugene Volokh will permit one laptop in his (upper-level?) class, but only for a designated note-taker to transcribe notes that must be shared with collective group.  Eugene justifies his forced experiment this way:

Several law professors at other schools, including some I know well and trust, have conducted such an experiment, and report that they have gotten great results.  Class discussion, they say, is much better.  Students are less distracted, both by things on their own laptops and on their neighbors'.  Students don't feel pressured to take verbatim notes (since that's very hard to do in longhand on notepads), and instead focus on identifying the important points and tying them together.  Students are therefore listening more actively, and are more ready to discuss things and answer questions.

Also, most of the other professors report, anonymous surveys at the end of the semester show that most students like this system more than the normal laptops-OK rule.  (The few exceptions report that students are on balance indifferent to this new system.)  So it sounds like a win-win, which is why I decided to try it here as well.

After the semester is over, I will ask you folks to anonymously report back on the results; you will then also be able to compare your in-class experience in this course with your in-class experience in the other courses, which to the best of my knowledge aren't conducting this experiment.

Not surprisingly, Eugene's one-laptop policy for his classroom has generated lots of interesting comments.  An early comment by A.W. explains part of my surprise about Eugene's decision to embrace this command-and-control approach to his classroom:

[F]rankly, for a libertarian, its funny how quickly "libertarian" professors turn into an authoritarian on this.  If students want to check drudge, shop, or god forbid, visit your site, what is it your business? Really.

Another commentor (jokingly?) calls out Professor Volokh for his "commie-pinko preferences."  Indeed, though I am disinclined to assert that this alone shows how quickly professorial power can corrupt philosophical commitments, I do find remarkable the dramatic move to collectivism here.  Not only is Eugene severely restricting laptop liberty, but he also is mandating that individuals share the fruits of their labor with a student collective all for purported good of the UCLA School of Law.

Posted by DAB.

August 21, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 18, 2008

Facebook and the law school prof

Jim_chen Today, on the addictive magical world of cocaine Facebook, I saw co-blogger Jim Chen welcome his incoming class of law students with a link to this article.

Would love Jim or anyone else to weigh on how you use Facebook or social networking in general for the classroom. What do you hope to accomplish by being on Facebook? Do you have a policy for friending your students? Does even the concept of "friending" raise concerns about the appropriate relationship you should have with your students? What unique issues have arisen as a result of Facebook friending? (Did you have to go and remove all of your drunken party pics from back when?)

- Gene Koo

August 18, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 19, 2008

Liveblogging the CALI Conference 2008: Simulated Practice in-depth

SIMPLE is a system for authoring and managing practice simulations for professional learning, especially practices that are document- and transaction-centered. SIMPLE can, for example, articulate a multi-party negotiation, collaborative drafting of documents, complex litigation, etc.

Some articles about SIMPLE:

Pedagogy of simulations

Often, students are coming in from essay/exam-based undergraduate course: thus some transitional learning is critical. At Strathclyde, lectures have been largely designed out in favor of transactional learning, with rare lectures focused on dynamic speakers. Otherwise, knowledge-transmission is pushed into webcasts/podcasts between sessions.

(More after the break)

-- Gene Koo

Overview of the SIMPLE interface

Student logs in and sees, essentially, an inbox of documents/communications related to one transaction, with calendar and tasks (much like Outlook). There's also a document bank (like Google Docs) that include documents, map of the fictional town where the simulation takes place, websites for fictional firms and companies, etc.

Backstage, teachers have a list of characters within the simulation and can assume that role. There's also a list of variables that allow the simulation to be modified in small but important ways to make each instance of the simulation unique (which doubles as a plagiarism-catching device). A Narrative Event Diagram shows how the transaction proceeds from the perspective of the staff, Non-Player Characters (staff puppets), Player Characters, and critical events that pop up.


Student work is assessed as normal -- usually they submit a specific document like a motion or a memo. Feedback goes back to the student in role of the managing partner.

Students also conduct self- and peer-assessment, which provides early warning signals about slackers within teams. They also log times, much like they bill hours in practice.

Logistics of simulations

Simulations have generally run between 1-2 days to 12 weeks. This may have ripple effects on other courses: could their simulation activities suck up all of their time from other classes? It's a disruptive technology that changes everything about how teaching/learning happens.

What does this do to teaching? The instructors and mentors are essentially role-playing, responding to student-driven actions with more information (or mis-information) and documents.

(Note that in Glasgow, there are only TWO (2) full-time faculty for 270 students).

Simulation design

The simulation is designed to highlight particular areas of knowledge as well as specific skills. This would include "traps," such as one party having the wrong location for an accident requiring more investigation (or wasting resources pursuing a red herring).

Simulations are also built around "standardized clients" -- a term borrowed from medicine, in which "standardized patients" provide a common experience for all students that hits important learning points.

Simulations also need to catch students before they go off the track. Careful mentoring by the instructors should guide the firm (students) back on track, in-role as the students' supervisors. For example, in one case students tried to arrest funds at the bank, which would have taken the case out of bounds, so the tutors had to act in-role as the bank to reject the requests to steer the sim back.

(I would note that there is substantial overlap between designing a good simulation and designing a good computer game. See especially What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Literacy and Learning.

Practice management sessions help students analyze and cope with inter-personal team issues.

Simulation sharing

Simulations "blueprints" are big capital investments -- it makes eminent sense for teachers to share and modify them.

What does it take to make SIMPLE happen?
Two ways to interact with SIMPLE that do not require technical knowledge: (1) Build the simulation; (2) upload the simulation to the platform. The authoring tools have been simplified to allow laypeople to create simulations.

Thus, requires up-front investment in creating the simulation, which can be capital intensive.

However, in terms of ongoing execution, it only requires 1 Professor, 8 Mentors (post-grad adjuncts) -- the simulation requires little upkeep and maintenance. The Mentors play the various roles in the simulation, from the parties to the firm partners to shopkeepers or even unexpected characters.

June 19, 2008 in Conferences, Teaching -- pedagogy, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 19, 2008

Self-serving paternalism: reflections on Baze and law school learning bans

Another full read of Baze led me to a couple unexpected insights: (1) the Justices are very comfortable using 21st-century materials, even as some law schools and professors try to preserve 20th-century teaching norms, and (2) the raging debate over banning laptops or the Internet in law school classrooms is somewhat akin to the debate between Justices Stevens and Scalia in Baze concerning a constitutional ban on state use of capital punishment.  Let me explain each insight in turn:

1.  In the Baze lethal injection ruling from SCOTUS, a majority of the Justices' opinions (4 of the 7) cited to websites, and I counted a total of 13 references to website materials.  Among the cites, Justice Stevens' referenced a forthcoming law review article now appearing only on SSRN, and two opinions cited to two distinct transcripts from legal proceedings that have been made widely available through on-line posting.  I am not sure if all these citations officially make Baze the most web-friendly ruling in Supreme Court history, but they clearly reveal that the Justices understand that effective judging in the 21st century — and thus effective lawyering in the 21st century — requires an Internet connection.

And yet, on the very same day that the web-friendly Baze decision is released, we get this report that the University of Chicago Law School is now blocking student access to the Internet in classrooms "to help them concentrate on course instruction."  Even though the Justices now clearly appreciate that effective judging and lawyering in the 21st century requires an Internet connection, the super-smarties at the University of Chicago Law School apparently now believe that being an effective law student requires preservation of a 20th-century teaching environment by banning Internet connection in the classroom.

2.  I realize that I am troubled by Internet bans and laptop bans in the law school classroom for some of the same reasons that Justice Scalia is troubled by Justices Stevens' advocacy in Baze for a constitutional ban on the death penalty.  Responding to Justice Stevens' arguments that the death penalty is now unconstitutional, Justice Scalia laments what he sees as misguided (and constitutionally inappropriate) self-serving paternalism: "Purer expression cannot be found of the principle of rule by judicial fiat.  In the face of Justice Stevens’ experience, the experience of all others [such as legislatures, social scientists, and citizens] is, it appears, of little consequence.... It is Justice Stevens’ experience that reigns over all."

I have the same reaction to all the professorial self-congratulation about the positive impact of banning the Internet or laptops in the classroom.  I can fully appreciate why the experience of some law professors — particularly those professors who use only traditional casebooks and have not updated their teaching materials, styles or notes in light of modern technology — might be improved if students cannot access 21st-century technologies in the classroom.  But I have never thought that my experience in the classroom, rather than the experience of my students, is of paramount importance.  Thus, unless and until my students tell me that they prefer a classroom setting without laptops or the Internet (or alumni/practitioners tell me that a web-friendly classroom was not helpful training for their future careers), I will keep trying to create and improve a 21st-century classroom experience for students rather than self-servingly conclude that preserving a 20th-century teaching environment is needed "to help [students] concentrate on course instruction."

Cross-posted at SL&P

April 19, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 17, 2008

Professors Going Paperless

The Affordable Textbooks Campaign is a coalition of Student Public Interest Research Groups and Student Government Associations in fourteen states who are working to make higher education more affordable. Continuing their campaign to draw attention to the cost of textbooks, the Campaign recently celebrated a milestone— reaching 1,000 professors who have signed a statement supporting the use of free, online and open source textbooks. Looks like only two law professors have signed the Open Textbooks Statement to Make Textbooks Affordable.

Course ePacket Practices. Georgia State has been sued for course ePacket practices by Cambridge UP, Oxford UP and Sage Publications. According to the suit, “hundreds” of Georgia State professors have posted “thousands of copyrighted works” without permission on the University's library electronic course reserve system, Blackboard, departmental Web sites and individual course syllabi posted online. Details on Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

April 17, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 21, 2008

Report on Tech "Experiment": Teaching from home

posted by Elmer Masters

With permission from Prof. Jonathon Ezor of Touro Law Center, I wanted to share this post from the teknoids mailing list. Prof. Ezor made good use of available technology to hold classes that would have otherwise been canceled.  This provides a reasonable prototype that other schools can look at for developing distance ed applications.

From the Teknoids post:

I thought the Teknoids community might be interested in the below report I
sent to our faculty and deans regarding an experimental effort that allowed
me to teach my Cybercrime class from home twice this week, after various
family illnesses made it probable that I would otherwise have to miss the
class.  Special thanks to Touro's IT professionals (including frequent
Teknoids participants Peter Stanisci and Matt Perna, along with their
colleague Rich Quinn) for their enthusiastic, last-minute help in making this
work.  {Jonathan}

---------------------------cut here--------------------------------

To my colleagues:

As promised, I am reporting back after my experiment teaching my Cybercrime
class from home.  Although I had initially only planned on doing so once, on
Monday, I ended up having to do so again this morning as well (again on very
short notice--kudos to the IT department), so my report is based on two days
of experiences.

In short:  It worked.

More specifically, it worked adequately, particularly given how little
advance planning had gone into this impromptu experiment.  We used two pieces
of software: the free audio/video chat program Skype (,
and a free Skype add-in called YugmaSE ( which allowed
me to share my computer screen and/or a window (in this case, a PowerPoint
presentation) with the students via Skype.  Peter Stanisci and the IT staff
had already built a rolling computer setup with an attached video camera they
call the Kramer Cart (after Lynne Kramer, who used it first to record her
trial advocacy students), which had Skype installed on it.  They added the
YugmaSE software and brought the cart into the classroom, pointing the camera
toward the students and using the room's screen and projector to show the
Kramer Cart's computer display.  They connected the entire setup to the
Internet.  On my end, I was running Skype and YugmaSE from home, connected to
my home Internet router, with my own Webcam and microphone.  At the start of
class, we established a standard Skype connection (audio and video), then
started the YugmaSE software and set up the screen sharing on both ends.
Once I began the PowerPoint presentation, the students were (from what I've
heard) able to see the slides and hear me clearly (I turned off my camera
while showing the presentation, to save on bandwidth).  Although the
classroom lights were out to make the screen more visible, I could see the
students fairly clearly, and hear them as well (although it was easier to
hear them when I was wearing headphones, versus using my laptop's own

It was not entirely bulletproof.  During the first day, the PowerPoint
connection froze and had to be restarted in the classroom, although I was
able to continue the lecture and discussion portion.  Today, it was my
computer that crashed (probably because I hadn't prepared it appropriately
before starting), and the students had to wait for 5 minutes while I called
the room via telephone and rebooted my machine.  The students also had to
bunch themselves together a bit in their rows to fit the camera's field of
view.  That said, this very cobbled-together, free setup saved me from having
to reschedule two classes, and I accomplished real teaching.

I would not recommend this solution for everyone; it requires a reasonably
high level of technical sophistication by the teacher, and needs an IT person
in the room just in case.  It does, though, give us a backup for certain
situations, and shows a method that (with the right, non-free resources)
might scale up to reliable ways to do this.  Beyond that, it was just fun to

I welcome your feedback, and would be happy to show you the software on my
office laptop.  Thanks for your collective interest.  {Jonathan}

Prof. Jonathan I. Ezor
Assistant Professor of Law and Technology
Director, Institute for Business, Law and Technology (IBLT)
Touro Law Center
225 Eastview Drive, Central Islip, NY  11722
Direct: 631-761-7119  Fax: 516-977-3001


March 21, 2008 in Technology -- in general, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 25, 2008

On the Benefits of Class Podcasting

Ken Kristl (Widener) who offers students in his Property I course the opportunity to download podcasts that provide a summary of IL Property doctrine covered in class, explained the benefits of podcasting to fellow Widener faculty members recently. Details (with a link to the podcast about podcasting forthcoming). -- Joe Hodnicki

January 25, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2008

Blogs as teaching tools : CALI/Berkman lunch wrapup

AALS 2008 bloggers

Conglomerate and Workplace Prof Bloggers at the "Open Source" CALI booth, AALS 2008

Thank you to all the bloggers who came to lunch and to our "Open Source Booth" at AALS -- this is a belated attempt to scribble down what little I remember from our lunch about how blogging can advance law professors' roles as educators. (The luncheon was titled, "Beyond Scholarship," and was intended as a followup to Berkman's Bloggership Symposium of 2006.) More after the jump...

Blog as discussion forums

There was considerable interest in using blogs as, essentially, a re-working of the discussion boards of the earlier Web. There seems to be something about blogs that perhaps feels less intimidating and more intimate and personal about blogs. Further, blogs' strong anchorage around time maps well onto classes that run on a syllabus.

The flip side of this is that most people understand blogs to be public, although they need not be, and when they are, students who post under an identifiable name could risk repercussions in the "real world" (especially later employment or, inevitably, that Senate confirmation hearing). This is a concern being echoed all over the Web over the Millenial Generation's laxer attitudes about privacy, but in the classroom it's easily solved by making the blog private to the class. More than one professor suggested, however, that keeping the blog public can help students begin to shape their future public identities as lawyers by turning the experience into a teachable moment.

There was some conversation about participation and whether blogs encourage a different set of participants than the typical classroom 'gunner.' I suggest it may be time to update my very limited research in this area. One thing I would like emphasize in this regard is that having students discuss a topic as an assignment is a very different thing than opening a general forum for discussion, and that for the former instance we're still awaiting an easy-to-use version of Berkman's H2O Rotisserie to manage structured conversations. For whatever reason, online dialogue technology has not otherwise progressed since the mid-1990s.

Blogs as raw course materials

This conversation was mostly instigated by myself in putting forth the question, how can we take all the work we're doing on our various blogs as scholars and turn them around for use in the classroom? I'm particularly keen to answer this question in the context of eLangdell, which will allow law professors to remix teaching materials -- and presumably the most important of these will be up-to-the-minute updates that we're posting on our blogs. But are blog posts usable as educational content?

I'm sure I'm missing quite a lot as there was considerable conversation going on all over the table. I would love if anyone who was there -- or anyone with any related ideas -- would post them in the comments. (I would also love speculation as to why we ended up with only one woman at the table... it can't just be that we were competing with Justice O'Connor... I hope it wasn't my own bias!).

January 14, 2008 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 31, 2007

Another test of teaching with a blog

Last spring, when I was teaching an upper-level specialty course on the death penalty, I experimented with using a blog to support the course.  This blog, on which students had to post some materials, served my purposes and goals very well.  But that course lacked a traditional text and the topic lent itself to bloggy innovation.

This spring, I am teaching the first-year Legislation course.  Though the course is a relatively innovative part of the Ohio State curriculum, it is a classic large 1L lecture course.  I am much less confident that this course blog (rather than a propriety law-school-support technology like TWEN) will be an ideal tool for me and the students.  But I'll never know the blog potential (and drawbacks) for traditional courses unless I try this out. 

So that's what this new blog is about, and comments from any and everyone about this enterprise are welcome.

Posted by DAB

December 31, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 21, 2007

Anyone have reactions/input on

For a variety of reasons, I have decided this coming Spring to try out for my Legal Writing & Analysis course.  Based on my initial investigation, I am cautiously optimistic about using this innovative platform for a course that lends itself to innovation (and that is more about doing than about content in a traditional text).

I would be grateful to hear from anyone with notable experiences (good or bad) with the TeachingLaw format (or any other on-line, e-book format) for any kind of course development and/or classroom use.

Posted by DAB

December 21, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 20, 2007

Kindle won't catch fire in law schools

A late rejoinder to the discussion about ebooks and casebooks (Tech Law Prof Blog, Law Librarian Blog, two previous LSI posts): I don't think Kindle will replace paper casebooks in the near-term because it's less functional than a paper book for study purposes without adding obvious digital/network features for study purposes. I emphasize "study purposes" because students are not romance novel readers, and the Kindle targets the latter:

Now, lighter weight is a significant feature (after all, I personally chose a 3.1lb tablet PC over larger, heavier, cheaper alternatives), but I would want more for my $400, even if I could get all of my casebooks on it for, say, $20 each (which I can't imagine the publishers offering). And that's because Amazon is trying to make books work like mp3s, not like blogs or wikis.

Casebooks exist in a social ecosystem of study groups, hornbooks, and inherited outlines. What students really need to do with casebooks -- after reading them, of course (!) -- is to rip /mix /burn them into streamlined study aids. Oh, and then share those with each other. While that's not necessarily incompatible with DRM, locking down the texts sure makes it a heck of a lot harder to do. (Witness the Zune, which, without DRM, would be a much better model for law school ebook hardware than the iPod).

There's one product that I think gets it in terms of the real potential value of ebooks in law schools, and that's Aspen's Studydesk. Though, of course, the problem remains DRM and its inherent conflict with sharing among peers. But it does get the idea that in law schools the casebook is only a means to an end (learning and getting good grades) rather than end in itself.

(I do, btw, think that Kindle has potential as a Toilet Browser, depending on how well it handles news sites and RSS feeds. So if someone wants to send over a stocking stuffer... ;)

Gene Koo

December 20, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 26, 2007

Kindle-ing Legal Publishers

OSU law professor, blogger, and friend Douglas Berman writes:

After learning about Kindle and other e-books in production, I really think the question is not whether, but rather when and how, the traditional casebook will go digital.

Not just casebooks, Doug. Today's law students want the option to buy digital versions of all titles sold by Thomson-West, LexisNexis, Aspen, etc. Some legal publishers, well at least one that I know of, is bundling selected eBooks into proprietary study aid applications. See the very interesting AspenLaw Studydesk which I believe will morph into a sister app for studying for the bar. The legal publishing industry needs to start offering eBooks to law students for all titles in their sales catalog. Kinde-ing their titles is not the way to go but it most definitely is time to light a fire under the major players in the law book publishing industry.

My experience indicates that most recent law book titles are available from our publishers in PDF so it is about time to include a web catalog link to "buy the digital version" now!

Source: Beyond the Kindle Hype. - Joe Hodnicki

November 26, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 22, 2007

When will e-books become a platform for casebooks?

I have just finished reading this week's Newsweek cover story on the new e-book entry, Kindle.  Like Deven Desai at Concurring Opinions, I was intrigued.  Though I am not sure Kindle has the perfect business model or the ideal set of feature, I am sure that something akin to a wireless IPod for books is inevitable.  Many persons are already accustom to getting (and reading) periodical contents on-line.  I think the will to go digital with books already exists, all that's needed is an effective way.  (This recent Computerworld article suggests that Kindle "is the forerunner of a number of limited-purpose wireless devices that are expected to hit the market in the next few years.')

Ever the law geek, I was especially drawn to the idea of some kind of special e-book device to replace traditional casebooks.  Many students surely would pay a lot for one sleek device to replace all of their bulky casebooks, and an ideal device would also enable download of treatises, hornbooks and commercial outlines.  And casebook authors could readily provide integrated updates and supplements more quickly and efficiently than through print hard-copy.

The hiccup, of course, is the traditional casebook market model, which is based on traditional book publishers producing traditional hard-copy casebooks.  However, I sense that electronic content is already starting to break-down the traditional market model.  Here is hoping that publishers might get ahead of the curve by working with some tech companies to make this kind of innovation become a reality relatively soon. 

After learning about Kindle and other e-books in production, I really think the question is not whether, but rather when and how, the traditional casebook will go digital.

Posted by DAB

November 22, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 13, 2007

University Business Webinar Tomorrow: Is classroom technology working?

Enhanced Classroom Teaching & Learning: How do we know it’s working?
Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 2pm, EST

This University Business web seminar is free to attend but pre-registration required. For more information and to register, please visit

-- Joe Hodnicki

November 13, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 09, 2007

Laptops Again

The ABA Journal reports that "more law schools are banning [laptops] as a distraction." 

The tiered seating arrangement of most law school lecture rooms allows students to easily see what others are doing. “Laptops are pedagogical nuisances,” [Suffolk Prof. Kate Nace Day] says.

The article quotes our very own Doug Berman, who supports students rights to use laptops in class.  Ironically, however, the quotes themselves suggest the problem--as they show that Doug himself can be distracted by basketball scores on a laptop screen!

Ohio State University law professor Douglas A. Berman isn’t bothered by what his students do in class. If students want to play poker or watch porn during class, so be it, he says, though he knows his opinion is out of the mainstream.

“I have students who don’t come to class. I have students who are paying attention and say dumb things. But so be it,” Berman says.

Berman’s only concern is when one student’s behavior distracts another’s learning experience. It is a lesson he learned all too well when sitting in on a colleague’s evidence lecture during the March NCAA basketball tournament.

“I noticed a student’s laptop with the basketball scores on the screen,” he says. “I got distracted looking at the scores.”

I suspect that more professors will encourage students to rethink their use of laptops.

Anupam Chander

November 9, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 19, 2007

Should law schools support/cultivate an on-line notes archive?

In this post at the Conglomerate, Lisa Fairfax talks about a company that sells "professional typed notes for daily class lectures" to undergraduates.  Lisa (and commentors) explores whether a similar market could develop for law schools student notes.

The post has me thinking about whether law schools ought to formally and officially support and cultivate an on-line notes archive for its students.  Such an archive could provide helpful (and needed?) assistance to students who get sick or otherwise end up missing multiple classes.  moreover, law schools developing a notes archive could urge students to use the archive as a supplement, rather than a substitute, to robust class participation.  And schools could stress that these archives would provide a better study aid than expensive commercial products that cannot be professor-specific.

My sense is that there is always an informal note sharing network that students help create (and regularly tap into) in various ways.  But these informal networks cannot provide nearly the assistance or quality control that could exist in an archive formally and officially supported by a law school.

Finally, I think the creation of such an official archive could help justify a professor's decision to ban laptops from the classroom.  If students have ready access to an effective notes archive, it seems a lot less problematic to bar students from using a computer to take notes in class.

Posted by DAB

October 19, 2007 in Teaching -- pedagogy, Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 11, 2007

Creating a Classroom for the Twenty-First Century

Groundbreaking for the new UC Davis Law School expansion occurred earlier this month. The new building will add many classrooms and much needed space for student group work.

Like many law schools, we are thinking hard about what kind of technology should go into the classroom. We propose, for example, to build in video conferencing into our rooms.

What kind of equipment do you like--either as a professor or a student? What do you dislike?

What kind of equipment has your law school just installed? And has it been a success?

What does your ideal classroom podium look like? Do you like microphones at each student chair?

Anupam Chander

October 11, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 02, 2007

Is a paperless classroom inevitable ... desirable?

A new piece from Legal Times (available here from has me wondering whether the traditional casebook is on the way to extinction and whether that would be a good or bad reality.  This piece is entitled, "Skilled E-Scholars Click Their Way Up: An interactive electronic casebook brings digital learning to law classes," and it is authored by Prof. Diana Donahoe of Georgetown.  Here is how it begins:

Are your students surfing the Web or checking their e-mail during your class?  Most law professors would answer this question with an exasperated "Yes!" and wonder what steps they can take to win the war against technology.

Some professors have banned laptops and other wireless devices from their classrooms. But I believe this digital energy can be harnessed -- not discouraged -- in order to facilitate learning in law school. I have therefore taken a different tactic and joined the digital generation on their side of the laptops by creating an interactive, electronic casebook called (Aspen Publishers, 2006).

This e-book, which is being used in law schools from the District to California, combines nonlinear text, interactivity, immediate feedback and multimedia with rich legal content into a convenient online package to meet the needs of the "digital students."

September 2, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack