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?

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