Let’s face it, the role that technology can play in the practice of law is becoming more evident – with predictive coding, eDiscovery, and companies like LexMachina that use legal analytics to, among other things, predict the outcome of patent litigation. But many in the legal academy still cannot conceive of how technology can change legal education. If you are in that camp or know others who are, let me suggest that we do not dismiss the potential for change in legal education without knowing more about the emerging field of edtech and the forces behind it. Want to learn more? Here are ten things you can do this year that might change your thinking about the role of technology in the future of legal education. The suggestions come from my article, which has other suggestions as well.
1. Catch up on some important reading. Read David Thomson, Law School 2.0: Legal Education for the Digital Age (2009). Also, read the work of Bill Henderson, including A Blueprint for Change, 40 Pepperdine L. Rev. 461 (2013) and Andrew P. Morriss & William D. Henderson, Measuring Outcomes: Post-Graduation Measures of Success in the U.S. News & World Report Law School Rankings, 83 Indiana L. J. 791 (2008). Read David Barnhizer’s article, Redesigning the American Law School, 2010 Mich. St. L. Rev. 249 (2010).
2. Read, too, assessments about how technology has impacted and will continue to impact higher education generally, works such as Disrupting College: How Disruptive Innovation Can Deliver Quality and Affordability to Postsecondary Education, and The Department of Education’s Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies.
3. Learn about the millennial generation who are “born digital” and how their more networked and connected lives affect the way they approach learning. A great book on this topic is by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser of Harvard Law’s Beckman Center on Internet and Society, Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (2008). Think about the implications of the fact that between 2000 and 2002, the largest group of first time internet users were between two and five years old, placing the oldest members of this group in college now – and in law school soon. Begin to understand how the emerging “participatory culture” is changing what one needs to learn to be fully prepared to function in the twenty-first century. You can do this by reading Henry Jenkins, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (MacArthur Foundation).
4. Begin to explore the potential for law schools to employ teaching methods that use technology to a greatly enhanced degree. For example, read about flipping the classroom, a teaching methodology that blends online lectures (which students view at their own pace as homework) with in-class instruction, as it is used in K-12 education, Jonathan Bergmann & Aaron Sams, Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day (ISTE/ASCD, 2012), or watch these videos on flipped learning in legal education. By migrating lectures to the web, flipped learning can free face-to-face classtime for active learning, including Socratic dialogues, drafting exercises, simulations and role plays.
5. Investigate innovations in adaptive learning, a technique using computer software first to assess what a student knows and then to adapt the content taught to the knowledge level of the student, thus providing a more personalized learning experience for each individual. Computer-based adaptive learning is already being used by the Kaplan test preparation company for college students planning to take the LSAT and GMAT; by Khan Academy for younger students; and by many companies, such as Knewton, for a wide range of users.
6. Consider the impact that gaming can have on education. Follow the work of Jeannette Eicks (Vermont) and Stephanie Kimbro (Stanford), both of whom are working on projects that involve gaming and law. Read James Gee, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (2003); James Gee, Good Video Games and Good Learning, at http://dmlcentral.net/sites/dmlcentral/files/resource_files/GoodVideoGamesLearning.pdf. Educational games are available for a variety of topics, including civics, see http://www.icivics.org/ (a game-based website started for former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor); climate change, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/hottopics/climatechange/climate_challenge/; national conflicts, see http://www.peacemakergame.com/game.php; and even algebra, see http://www.dragonboxapp.com.
7. Monitor the impact that recent decisions by law schools to develop online programs for non-JD degrees has on programs at other schools, such as the decision by graduate tax law programs at, among others, Alabama, Georgetown, NYU, Villanova, and Boston University to offer their programs online. Read Distance Learning in Legal Education: A Summary of Delivery Models, Regulatory issues and Recommended Practices. Attend a meeting of the Distance Learning in Legal Education Working Group, organized by Vermont Law School professors Rebecca Purdom and Oliver Goodenough. The group meets three times a year, once in the fall (which is in a few weeks at William Mitchell School of Law), once during the AALS Annual Meeting, and a third time in the spring.
8. Monitor the effectiveness and reaction of law graduates who take online bar preparation courses such as Themis.
9. Explore some of the new apps being developed for iPads and Androids to teach legal concepts. Law Stack is an Apple app for legal research loaded with various federal statutes. Law School Dojo, by Stanford Law’s Margaret Hagan, is an app with quizzes on legal concepts for a range of subject matters, including contracts, torts, civil procedure and international law.
10. Register for and attend the 2015 AALS Clinical Conference, May 4-7 in beautiful Rancho Mirage, CA. The theme of the conference is the “New Normal.” One of the three tracks for the conference is devoted to the future in the “new normal,” both for the practice of law and for legal education. As to law practice, we hope to address how professors can understand the rapid and profound technological change that could well remake law practice and how those changes can advance our work for social justice. We want to explore how changes in service delivery and structure of law practices can and should impact our teaching. And we hope to address how professors can better use technological advances and insights from learning sciences in their teaching.
The internet, the driver of all the changes and developments noted above, is a technology and a tool that, for the reach and extent of its often disruptive and its often liberating effects, can be compared only with the printing press. When writing of Gutenberg’s invention, Elizabeth Eisenstein, a careful and meticulous historian of immense reputation, wrote (favorably quoting Renaissance scholar Myron Gilmore) in her two-volume magnum opus, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, that “’[i]t opened new horizons in education and in the communication of ideas. Its effects were sooner or later felt in every department of human activity.’” As I explain in my recent article, I strongly believe that “[s]o too it is, or sooner or later shall be, with the internet.”
Are there things I am missing? Add them in the comments below.
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