A Student’s Perspective on Technology in the Classroom

I have been a student at two law schools now: one is the well-established Albany Law and the other is a new law school in Tennessee that just graduated its first class in May, the Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law. There are, of course, vast differences between the two schools, but my post today is intended to talk about the relative approaches to legal instruction in relation to technology in the classroom. Of course, each professor has his or her own methods for teaching any given class; however, there are stark differences between the over-arching practices of each school. While Duncan may not have the longest history as an institution, the school was able to develop innovative techniques regarding the  use of technology and progressive teaching methodology without being burdened by “tradition” or resistance to change.

Priding itself on its technology in the classroom, Duncan professors made prevalent use of audio-visual presentations (charts, power point slides, etc.) and computer-aided instructional techniques. Among the practices supplementing traditional instruction methods were daily “turning point quizzes.” At the beginning of each class, students were electronically asked a series of questions regarding the materials covered in the previous class; some classes graded these quizzes, others were merely for instructional purposes. The students would respond (usually by answering MBE-style multiple choice questions), and their answers would be displayed in poll-results format. Based on the results, the instructor was able to spot where the students lacked a complete understanding of the material and was better able to proceed with the day’s class–building on previous understanding towards a more complete instruction method. These “turning point” quizzes are similar to “Clicker” quizzes, except that the turning point quizzes could also have varied answer formats (such as short answer and essay responses).

The instruction style at Albany Law seems to be more traditional, that is, the instructor usually uses a modified Socratic method. I have been in classes that have taken a more practical approach, even including simulated cases–this is a somewhat recent addition presumably brought about by our Best Practices efforts. Of course, once the class period is over, there is typically little “looking back.” While material certainly built upon previous topics, the process is sometimes less clear. During the previous year (my first year at Albany Law), I found myself missing the constant feedback of the “turning point” quizzes and the ability to go back and review slides to revisit lectures if I needed clarification of some topic that was covered. I do not intend to say that my education was somehow better at my previous school than it is now–I have had teachers so glued to the textbook and their powerpoint presentations that they barely took time to actually teach–but the use of technology in the classroom to further outcome-based learning techniques was a crucial instrument to my learning process.

Of course, Duncan is in its relative infancy. The students did not have access to the clinical and practical experiences available to students at a more developed school with a more extensive network of connections. I would suggest a blending of the two styles: student-oriented outcome-based learning (perhaps through the use of reviewable technology and turning point quizzes to supplement the more doctrinal courses) and clinical/practical experiences.

If anyone can think of some practical ways to incorporate the use of technology in a class to further outcome-based techniques, please share your ideas in the comments.

Flipped Learning for Legal Education

Hi Everyone! Mary just invited me to join this blogging community. Glad to be here.

For my first post, I’d like to think about how flipped or blended learning could be used in legal education. Flipped learning blends online and in-class instruction and has been used of late in lots of educational settings, including K-12 and undergrad. I think there is a place for it in legal education too.

The way I see it, flipping the classroom can take a lot of different forms.  I envision them along a spectrum, something like this –

At one end of the spectrum, it can be used to

1. Reinforce learning after class — professors can assign online videos for students to watch after class, to help clarify and/or reinforce the doctrinal concepts that were taught in class, and help to build students’ doctrinal knowledge.

2. Lay a foundation – professors could require students to watch videos that cover basic, foundational concepts – so classtime can start further along the learning process.

3. Supplement with different perspectives — Professors may also assign online videos (prepared by other professors) to supplement their own lectures, so that their students can hear different voices or perspectives on a particular topic or to have students hear from experts on topics beyond the professor’s own field of expertise.

4. Facilitate higher level Socratic dialogue – when professors assign videos for students to watch before class, students have time to think about and reflect on the lesson before arriving in the classroom. That way the videos may reinforce the concepts in the assigned reading and when students come into class – having heard the lesson on the reading before class — they will be ready and able to engage in a higher level of Socratic dialogue and discussion of assigned hypothetical and in-class problems.

5. Integrate essential lawyering skills — when online videos are assigned as homework, as a substitute for a professor’s own lecture — class time is freed up for more active learning exercises that incorporate some essential lawyering competencies.

6. Professor as Facilitators/Guides — Some professors may decide to use videos to help integrate practical lawyering skills in doctrinal courses. Students could be required to review videos on substantive law and on practical lawyering skills out of class. Then, classtime can be devoted to simulations or role plays in which the students use the material they learned on video to engage in essential lawyering skills – such as negotiations, interviews, or oral arguments.

In this way, the professor is moving from a position at the front of the class, to a coach who works one on one with students, or with small groups of students, during assigned classtimes. And it promotes collaboration and team building among students.

This last category would be at the other end of the spectrum and allow professors to bring more training in practical lawyering skills into each course.

What do you think?  Let me know if I’m missing something.  I am speaking about how to use technology in our teaching at the AALS Clinical Conference next week.  I’d love to hear your reaction to these ideas before then.

The Future of Legal Education: Ted Talks, Kahn Academy and LegalED Web

http://albanylawtech.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/live-blogging-from-the-celt-workshop/

Live Blogging from the CELT Workshop

pistone

On April 17, 2013, Michelle Pistone, Professor of Law and Director, Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES) at Villanova University School of Law, spoke to the Albany Law School faculty on the topic of How Emerging Innovations Will Disrupt Legal Education:

Her engaging presentation began with a clip from 1994 of Bryant Gumble and Katie Couric from the Today Show debating the pronunciation of a mysterious keyboard symbol, the”@” symbol. From there and Bob Dylan (“The Times They Are A Changin”), she reminisced about buying books and records at neighborhood stores, seeing movies in the theaters, and when TV shows only played once a week, and if you missed them, you had to hope they’d be rerun during the summer.

Yes, this has all changed. Books and newspapers are now digital. TV shows and movies can be watched at anytime and on computers and phones. These changes are result of innovations which have created a new world.

However, this is the only world that our students know!! They were born digital.

As a result, our students are visual, connected, relate to one another through technology, have an abundance of information that is available at any time from any place. They are used to convenience, speed, multi-tasking, immediate feedback and working together on projects, collaborating, sharing, and creating.

So the important question that Prof. Pistone raised was: In light of these changes, have law schools changed enough?

And her answer was: “Law schools have not changed much in the last 100 years.”

K-16 education has been changing. We have the addition of MOOCS (massive open online courses); Khan Academy which offers videos and quizzes that can being used alone or to flip the classroom. TED ED which makes videos for use in high school – students watch videos online for homework and then can come into class ready to do active problem based learning (thus “flipping the classroom”).

Prof. Pistone recommended reading the book Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clay Christensen. In it, he introduces the key concepts of sustaining technologies (those that improve the performance of established products) and disruptive technologies. Although “disruptive technologies” result in worse product performance in the short term, they are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use (Skype being an example.) So we need to adapt to them.

A study conducted by the Department of Education found that blended learning (a combination of online and face-to-face instruction) obtained better results for students and than either face-to-face or completely online learning. This is something to keep in mind.

So what is next for law schools?

Prof. Pistone recommends focusing on:

  • What we teach – in light of our changing, globalizing, interdisciplinary world
  • How we teach — to cover a wide range of competencies and reach different learning styles
  • How we assess what students are learning – supplementing the final summative exam with formative assessment
  • How we signal to others a student’s competencies

legaled

Lastly, Prof. Pistone introduced her new project called LegalED. LegalED is a web-based platform that will host teaching materials for legal education. The materials will include:

  • short videos made for internet viewing
  • problems and exercises
  • assessment tools

This online platform of teaching materials (esp. the short videos) can be used to supplement law school and to “flip” the classroom.

legaled1

Prof. Pistone’s presentation concluded with a lively discussion by faculty on law school competencies that cannot be taught online (such as empathy), mapping competencies to the teaching process, mastery/adaptive learning, bar exam…


Effective Use of Video Cards in a Course

Sometimes technological options exceed our immediate or obvious teaching needs, and we have to consider whether (or not) there are ways to effectively make use of the technology. For example, it is now easy for schools to make camcorders and small, inexpensive memory cards available for use in coursework.

Providing these tools directly to professors and students on a self-service basis eliminates some administrative costs that would otherwise be involved if they remained solely in the hands of staff. It also allows for nearly limitless flexibility regarding where, when, and how the cards are put to use. All students in a course can be required to check them out and use them for specific purposes connected to the individual course.

So we’ve got the ability to make, store, edit, and show videos – of student presentations, guest speakers, simulated lawyering events, and whatever else we can envision. What are some specific ways to truly take advantage of these options in our teaching?

Faculty Share Best Practices

On November 3, 2010, the topic of the weekly lunchtime Faculty Teaching/Scholarship workshop at Albany Law School was “Technology” and, specifically, how TWEN can add a new dimension to law school learning. Instead of providing a “how-to” workshop by me, the Instructional Technologist, we decided that it would be more useful for the faculty to hear from their peers.

I began the session sharing the results of a pre-semester survey which asked the faculty: Which Westlaw TWEN options do you use to enhance student learning? and Which options would you like to learn more about?

The responses to the 1st question indicated a preponderance of static content and a lack of opportunity for interactivity by students. The 2nd question pointed to an interest by faculty in hearing about discussions, wikis and embedding digital content.

During the next part of the workshop, six faculty members discussed their experiences using the following interactive TWEN tools:

  1. (Discussion) Forums
  2. Customized Polling (Surveys)
  3. Wikis

They focused on the advantages they saw in using that tool and shared lessons learned. The presentation with notes added (in red) is posted below:

All in all, the workshop was very well received. A survey has been posted to TWEN to solicit additional feedback.

More technology workshops of this type are planned.

 The next one  is scheduled for Feb. 2, 2011. The topic will be Digital Student Recording & Assessment.

 

Harvard Law School’s New “Casebook” for the Digital Age

The casebook began with Langdell at Harvard Law School, and so it is reimagined by another Harvard Law School professor.  Jonathan Zittrain and other developers, introduced a new electronic “casebook” today at a luncheon held at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. 

The goal of the new system is not simply to provide students with a digital casebook, but a new suite of tools to help students and professors collaberate.  The suite is called H2O and includes a syllabus (called a “playlist”), a question tool, casebook creation tool, and a “rotisserie” discussion tool “which enables a structured discussion. Users respond to a question, then are assigned discussion partners, who critique their responses.”  The professor can also mark up the text using a resource called “collage” which “allows for tagging text, annotating it, and hiding portions of text without changing the original document.”

One key benefit to the system is to promote student discussion. “Students can outline and mark up cases they’re assigned to study and share them with a study group.”  Another benefit is that it could help create new course structures. “‘I like contracts, I like torts, I’m not going to teach contorts because there’s no book for it. but if I can easily do my own bespoke syllabus drawing on the work of others, I could.'”

There is a playlist currently available to view (click Playlist and scroll to Chapter 2: Battery).  The professor is able to give a brief overview of what is being covered and how the cases fit together.  Click on a case, and you will see how the professor has highlighted important aspects.

You can read more about it in a blog post at The Atlantic and in a blog post by Ethan Zuckerman.

The real question is: will this new method of teaching catch on?

Integrating Internet-Based and Teleconferencing Resources into On-Line Teaching

Note: This is a continuing weblog describing my experiences teaching an on-line course in government ethics.

The on-line government ethics course this semester has already benefitted from a number of internet-based resources as well as teleconferencing.  With one of my early organizing goals to keep the “virtual class” as interactive as possible through the use of discussion boards and wikis available on TWEN, I also looked to see what other resources might be available on the Internet. To my surprise, there were a number of opportunities to integrate interactive ethics training into the course. 

For example, most state ethics agencies now offer on-line training for covered employees.  I contacted the NYS Commission on Public Integrity and they were agreeable to providing each of the students in the course with a user ID and password to enable students to take the Commission’s on-line training based on the ethics laws in New York.  This training was a wonderful introduction for the students to the types of issues typically covered in an ethics regulatory regime.  Another aspect of this on-line training was that at the end of each topical interval there was a quiz for participants to complete.  The entire training could take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours to complete, depending upon whether users go straight through the course, or take the opportunity to click on links to actual statutes, regulations and opinions that go into further detail on the particular subject matter being discussed.  I asked the students to evaluate this training experience when they concluded the program. Their reactions were interesting.  Almost everyone commented that the training was beneficial and a good introduction for government employees about the law.  Many students commented that they thought this on-line training was too basic, yet, a number of these students also admitted that they were surprised to have gotten a lot of the quiz questions wrong.  From this, several students observed how nuanced government ethics laws really are, and that the appropriate course of action when it comes to ethics is not always so obvious. This was an excellent teaching opportunity to point out how even people who are “trained” in the law can make mistakes, how individuals may not fully understand the application of the law to their actions, and why it is important to carefully read the statutes and regulations and to critically analyze the facts and the law. 

Early in the semester we studied the difficulties surrounding the question of attorney-client privilege in the government context.  As luck would have it, ALI-ABA was promoting a one-hour practitioner-oriented teleconference on the attorney-client privilege.  Although this was not focused exclusively on government law practice, I thought it would be a good opportunity for the students to get a fuller understanding of the practical issues involved in application of the privilege.  Perhaps because I frequently volunteer to teach ALI-ABA courses, I asked and was given permission for my students to participate in the course at no charge.  ALI-ABA sent each student a password to access the lunch-time program.  While many students commented that they wished the program had focused on the privilege in the government context, a lot of students wrote in their program evaluation to me that the course was interesting and they reflected on how it related to both what we studied in government ethics and what they discussed in their professional responsibility and evidence classes.  This proved to be another good experience and opportunity to weave together ethics and professionalism and evidence along the continuum of the overall law school educational experience. It was practice oriented and it also covered doctrinal subject matter tested on the bar exam.

Lastly, for fun, the federal Office of Government Ethics (OGE) offers interactive games to reinforce serious ethics subject matter.  I provided students a link in the weekly course materials folders to two of OGE’s interactive crossword puzzles where users can test their knowledge of federal ethics laws. While I didn’t specifically require the students to complete the crossword puzzles, I used it as an optional and alternative on-line teaching tool.

The above are just some of the examples of the various tools available to supplement a virtual classroom learning experience.  Although I have not used them yet, there are government ethics training videos available on You-Tube and other web-based sources, and a number of states post on-line the oral arguments before their high court, providing yet another great resource for many different subject areas.

Patty Salkin, Albany Law School

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