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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Rethinking technology in the classroom

Notice  I did not say "laptops." I am thinking about tablets and book readers, which are becoming increasingly popular as a way to read papers, cases, briefs, etc. At the Junior Fed Courts Workshop last weekend, several participants were reading everything off an iPad or Kindle. And I read an article recently that said Justices Scalia and Kagan both use Kindles for reading briefs and carry them onto the Bench.

Students may increasingly want to do the same for things like supplemental materials (I assign sample pleadings, for example) or additional cases not contained in the casebook or for statutes and rules assigned outside any book. In fact, I entirely forego a casebook in one class, simply having students print out and read raw cases. I am sure many would want to have the materials with them in electronic rather than paper form. I confess to having a bias in favor of reading on paper and being able to underline and make notes and comments in the margin. That is especially so in code classes; I still believe it is easier to jump around from rule to rule or statute to statute on paper than on an iPad. And there still were many at last weekend's conference, like me, with tabbed loose-leaf binders of marked-up paper. But we may be a dying breed.

Accepting (as I do) that the ban on laptops for notetaking is pedagogically beneficial, the question is how to incorporate two distinct issues. My objection to laptops always been more about preventing stenographic notetaking and ensuring more-active participation than preventing surfing, so perhaps I don't lose anything if students have their materials in electronic form but are not taking verbatim notes. On the other hand, there is a disconnect and potential unfairness if I permit students to use some electronic formats for their class reading (iPads, Kindles, etc.) but not laptops. But I don't see how it would be possible to allow students to use laptops in class for the reading without them also taking notes on them. And that reintroduces the notetaking problem that I am trying to avoid.


Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 7, 2012 at 10:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


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My school issues iPads to all incoming 1Ls with a Barbri subscription. Everyone has a tablet in class. It is a superb supplement to the casebook. For studying, there are apps for creating flashcards (or download MBE questions directly), you can store outlines "in the cloud" to simplify notetaking in class, there are apps for marking up (underlining and highlighting) documents, one can look up opinions on-the-fly during class. I could not imagine going to law school without the tablet. I have far more information and capability with the tablet than I would in a briefcase full of texts, highlighters, outlines and legal pads.

Posted by: Phil Candreva | Feb 9, 2012 11:40:27 AM

I have one student who just learned that one cannot functionally read and understand UCC 9-203 when reading from a phone.

The student missed my first day of class in which I lay out what statutes they *must* have with them, the extent to which I give them a choice about *how* to "have" the statute, and my recommendations for how to minimize costs without sacrificing hard copy you can flip through or write notes on.

While it is a shame the student did not hear my first day of class suggestions, I think the student learned a valuable lesson about the nature of the UCC & about relying on smartphones for statutes in future professional settings.

I think it might help students starting out in some courses to be provided with a walk-through of what it looks like to try to have and use different media or technological options. It seems like they often have to make choices before they really get a chance to appreciate the differences, and my own suggestions or experiences may not reflect the preferences of any one student.

Posted by: Shawn Markus Crincoli | Feb 7, 2012 12:39:41 PM

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