Monday, November 19th, 2012

Flipped classrooms – are they working?

Teachers, instructors, and professors are experimenting with flipped classrooms.  They seem to be working – at least according to this high school teacher’s story – her flipped classroom was very successful.   The reporter telling the teacher’s story emphasized that experimenting with advanced technologies was essential:

There is a need for educators of the next generation to recognize that the world that our youth currently live in is different from what it was just 10 years ago. According to Triadic Reciprocal Determinism, when an environment is changed, there is a cognitive change within the individual that follows, which in turn results in an ultimate change in an individual’s behavior. If we insist on continuing to educate the youth of today with what is often called the ‘traditional model’ of education, not only will we be unsuccessful as we implement an outdated model, we will doing a dis-service to these students due to our failure to prepare them for the future (and the present) by not providing them with experiences that utilize technology in a functional manner. The main reason that approaches like flipping classrooms are showing extreme improvements in attitudes, motivation, grades and retention, is because it is a way of teaching that is relatable, familiar and compatible to the 21st century child/teenager.


Experiences like this suggest that our future law students are likely to be very familiar with flipped classrooms – something to keep in mind as we develop new ways of teaching over the next few years. In fact, our students are likely to expect them.

But will flipped classrooms work equally well in law school? From anecdotal evidence I’ve heard so far, it seems that the answer is yes.  Have any of you had luck – or even major problems – with flipped classrooms?  And does anyone know what Triadic Reciprocal Determinism is?

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

I Want MyEdTechNews

Looking for more ed tech news?  There are plenty of ed tech blogs to keep up on the latest innovations and trends.  Great examples include:

  • ProfHacker – Chronicle of Higher Education.  Ed tech from a faculty perspective.  It can be a great source for new tools for faculty teaching and scholarship.
  • Hack Education – If you were at CALI in June 2012, you’ll remember Audrey Watters’ talk about robots in the classroom.  Her blog discusses the biggest, most pressing questions facing ed tech today.  Prefer Twitter?  Follow her @audreywatters.
  • Ray Schroeder – Educational Technology Blog.  Not an original content blog, but great for discovering recent and interesting ed tech blog posts and news from all kinds of sources.
  • Tame the Web — Focuses on technology and libraries.  My favorite recent posts detail the latest high-tech spaces that libraries have built for users to create their own multimedia.
  • Ed Tech Digest — Tools, interviews, trends, and infographics.

Of course, there’s an Ed Tech Pinterest site.

Looking for more?  Check out 50 Must-Read Higher Education Technology Blogs.  What are your favorite ed tech news sources?

Monday, October 29th, 2012

2 weeks with a Mac

Wow!  Look how much time has gone by since my first post this month!  It’s been busy here – lots of projects to plan for, one of our librarians just had a new baby (yay!).  And, after working here for 10 years, I finally have a Mac at work.  So I’ve been busy running it through its paces.

With so many of our faculty and students showing up with Macs these days, I wanted to know more about how they adapt to our work environment.  I’ve used Macs at home since 1987, so I’m pretty familiar with the interface.  But I’ve always used a PC at work.  By switching to a Mac, I expect to be able to better understand how Macs can be used by law students, faculty, and staff as an ed tech tool.

The Good

  • It’s fast. My old PC was pretty decent, but the iMac is much faster.  I wasn’t expecting that.
  • It’s bright.  The screen is much nicer than my PC.  I’m enjoying the crisp colors.
  • It can do (almost) anything a PC can. The programs I use most often are Chrome, MS Office, Acrobat, MindManager, SnagIt, and Camtasia, all of which run on Macs.
  • With Parallels, it can do everything.  The only day-to-day program I can’t run on the Mac is our Voyager desktop software.  With Parallels, problem solved.
  • They aren’t (that much more) expensive.  When we research new computers, we usually find that while lower-grade PCs are often cheaper, PCs with similar specs are about the same as a Mac.
  • The Magic Mouse is magic.  Its trackpad surface is easy to use and works much like a scrolling mouse, with a few extras.

The Bad

  • Why can’t I print? Mountain Lion isn’t totally compatible with our network printer/copier/fax.  Our IT people had to work pretty hard to get it to connect.
  • Where is my network drive again?   I have to manually add our network drives when I want to access them (maybe there’s a work-around I’m missing?).
  • What just happened?  I love the mouse – except when I manage to somehow make a gesture that sends me to a random program or widget.  I think this issue is special to me because I have the same problem with my home laptop.  No one else I’ve talked to has this issue.

I’ve only just started to see how far I can push the Mac.  I still have to learn more about some of the latest features of Mountain Lion (how well does the dictation feature work, for example?).  Earlier versions of Parallels seemed slow to me.  So far, Version 8 seems fine, but I haven’t used it much.

We all have a list of technologies which would be great to explore hands-on, but are just too expensive to purchase or to integrate, even with the best justifications.  Yet, without direct experience with the technologies, it’s difficult for educational technologies to make informed recommendations.  Getting a Mac was of those rare opportunities to directly experience a technology I’d only been able to discuss in the abstract..  The other day, a faculty member asked if she should get a Mac – a question I’ve been asked fairly often.  Before I got my work Mac, I could discuss the benefits of the interface well enough, but I wasn’t as sure about what day-to-day issues she might experience trying to use a Mac in our law school.  Now that I have a Mac, I can give more informed answers.

That said, even hand-on experience only goes so far.  It turned out that not only did the faculty member want a Mac, but she wanted an MacBook Air.  To go to China.  I’m pretty sure the library budget won’t cover a new laptop and a trip to Beijing any time soon.

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

iPads, iPads, iPads

With over 84 million sold in 2 1/2 years, it’s hard to underestimate the impact iPads and other tablets have had on almost everything, including legal education and law practice. According to a recent ABA survey, 33% of lawyers now use tablets for their practice, and over 90% of those are iPads. Rich McCue’s recent survey of University of Victoria law students showed similar numbers of law students using mobile technologies.

In my experience, not many students use iPads for taking notes in class, but they are great devices for reading online articles and quick research. Faculty like them for organizing their research and accessing email. Recently, Teknoids held a great discussion about favorite iPad and Android tablet apps for legal education. It turns out, Teknoids contributors have created extensive resources recommending all kinds of apps:

Some of my own favorites are

  • Evernote – Access your notes anywhere. Great for meetings and taking notes on long-term projects.
  • GoodReader – Read and organize just about any document. Annotate PDFs. Great for meetings and reading articles.
  • Reeder – Access Google Reader anywhere
  • Chrome – Don’t like Safari? Try this alternative.
  • OyezToday and Pocket Justice -Multimedia and extensive information about the Supreme Court
  • DropBox – Access your files from anywhere
  • Skype – Instant video conferencing.
  • TeamViewer – Control your computer from your iPad.
  • Doceri – Use your iPad to control your computer and annotate the screen
  • Lili– Ok, this one’s just a first-person adventure game.  But the graphics are great and the story is fun.

Faculty particularly love GoodReader and DropBox. They are usually among the first apps I recommend for someone who has a new iPad.

As terrific as the iPad is, it’s now “so 2 years ago.” What’s next? Rumors about the iPad mini started almost as soon as the first was launched. Many expected an announcement in September, but Apple only announced the iPhone5. But now new rumors have started, and industry experts expect invitations to go out next week for an October 17 event. If the mini is in fact announced, who knows how much greater impact it will have on lawyers and law schools?

For more about iPads in law schools and in the law, see my CALI presentation from this year’s conference (video will be posted later).


Monday, October 1st, 2012

Mindmapping Software – Essential for Law School

A few years back my employer (California Western School of Law) contracted with Mindjet to give every student, faculty and staff member access to MindManager mind-mapping software.  I encouraged this collaboration as I felt the graphical qualities of  mind-maps were particularly well suited to breaking down complex legal concepts into more digestible components, something our students would find appealing in preparing class outlines or studying for the bar.


A mind-map is a visual representation of relationships between concepts, words and ideas (the graphic below is an example). Mind-mapping is not new: according to a  2007 Law Library Journal article, it was developed by researchers in the 1960s. 99 Law Libr. J. 175 (2007)  Software and the internet have made maps easy to create in both basic text and multimedia form, and as a result mind mapping has become quite popular.


Attorneys can use maps in a number of ways, including litigation and case management, as well as research tracking. Our program has been quite popular with students and faculty.  Some faculty have found it useful for teaching, either in class presentations or via handouts.  Others found it extremely helpful for outlining, drafting and organizing their scholarship.  (The iPad version of MindManager was used heavily by some faculty especially because they could transfer files back and forth between the full version of the software and the iPad app.)


Many students raved about the software.  It was quite a surprise when a student actually came up and thanked us for providing the program after a training presentation.  I’ve seen bar studiers thrilled with their discovery of mind-mapping as a study tool.   On the other hand, it is not for everyone.  A few students recoiled at the graphical qualities of mind-maps and favored ‘regular’ linear outlining.

I’m not sure why the reaction for and against mind-mapping can be so strong.  That sounds like a research project for an educational psychologist.  However, the benefits provided to those that do respond positively have made me conclude that it is definitely worth introducing in a law school environment.



Monday, August 15th, 2011

the impact of a skills-based legal education

NB:  I do not have a JD and other than sitting in on a few 1L courses, I have not taken part in much of the law school classroom environment.  What I do know is mostly from talking with students and from direct conversations with faculty.  I am fully aware that curriculum is not “hypothetical” and that actual cases are reviewed, and that skills are taught.  There is nothing “wrong” with today’s curriculum.  The difference between today’s curriculum design and one that is more skills-based is subtle yet important.  The value of understanding the subtle issues underlying and coming from a specific case is not at debate.  The usefulness of understanding how to build a case from scratch, how to file motions, and other practical, day-to-day activities is the basis of this post.

More and more, law firms are looking not just for graduating law students with the intelligence to make for good associates, but also ones that have the needed practical skills to start “producing” from day one.  This means familiarity with e-discovery systems, being able to dive deep in research while still being part of a team, and an understanding of concepts beyond just law – about how to be good professionals, with solid interpersonal skills and the self-awareness to succeed.

Accordingly, law schools either already have or should seriously consider a curriculum shift towards the development of these skills.  Obviously, the traditional foundation courses in Civil Procedure and Torts will never go away (though changes in the environment in which they are taught are another matter, and one addressed later in this post).  But clinics need to become part of the formal curriculum, rather than electives, and courses that show students how to put an actual case together, from cradle to grave, need to become a bigger part of a student’s educational experience.

This curriculum shift has no bearing on the importance of the traditional foundation courses nor does it give a long-term advantage to one student over another in the job market.   A student with experience on e-discovery tools will be very good at e-discovery, but will still need to work just as hard to master all of the other skills in order to succeed overall.  This might improve that student’s job prospects initially, but over even the short-to-mid-term an exceptional student will still rise to the top.  But perhaps an exceptional student that also has a solid grasp of operational skills will be that much more attractive to employers.

From an Ed Tech perspective, there is a bit of a chicken-egg issue, though one that also involves bold moves by deans and faculty.  Until a skills-based education is adopted as the foundation of pedagogical design, clinical work, cradle-to-grave building of cases and experience with the tools one will see at a firm will not gain prominence.  Until those types of programs and courses receive the full weight of the school’s support, a skills-based curriculum will not emerge.  And should that shift occur, it cannot be a slow transition – it must spring forth fully-formed, as did Athena if from Zeus’ brain, to provide an immediate and full impact on students.

But when this shift occurs – and in my opinion it will, or the school will become less and less relevant – Ed Tech folks need to be prepared.  Discussions about installing incredibly expensive e-discovery systems must be had, and consultations with faculty about different case-preparation tools will be critical.  Going paperless (or at least paper-light) comes into play on a massive scale.  Clinics will need tools that will make their processes more and more efficient, so that students spend less time worrying about where to put or how to access files and more time on filling out documents and going to proceedings and arguments.

This is a trend that, to me, is not only already happening at some schools but should be seriously considered at all.  For Ed Tech departments, we should be at least advocating for the analysis of business processes that supports the implementation of a skills-based education.  We should look at how clinics get their work done, how we can make those processes better, and put those solutions into play.  This will position ourselves most effectively for changes.

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Tapping into In-Class Online Conversations (Backchannel)

Here at Boston College Law we’ve been getting a lot of chatter about backchannels and how they can be integrated into classes. While many of the examples that people are using focus on Twitter, the common concerns about privacy, anonymity, and moderation are always present as roadblocks.

So, we’ve been exploring a few different tools that we’d like to pilot over the next year. So far we’ve got two possible test subjects, and we’re hoping to get more. Below is our workshop flyer we’ve been shopping around to try and drum up some new business.

Remember when you passed a note to the person next to you? You may have even been caught by the teacher in the front of the room and now have an embarrassing memory.

Instead of pieces of paper, students are now passing emails, texts, and instant messages back and forth during class. There is actually a name for this, and it’s not distraction, rather its backchannel. New technologies have created ways for you to interact with your students through this communication channel and could create positive participation during your lectures.

We’ve been experimenting with a few of these services and found several that are easy to setup, use, and might be a perfect fit to tap into the backchannel in your classes – large or small. We’re offering a workshop in the Law Library to provide some hands-on time to try them out and discuss how these tools can help create more participation.

Backchannels can add to discussion in real time, punctuate section breaks to confirm understanding, be moderated by a TA, generate review questions, encourage collaboration between students, or even carry the discussion beyond the classroom. The possibilities are endless. For your reading pleasure we’ve attached chapter one from a book entitled The Backchannel: Why are you calling me a #@*% on Twitter?

In our workshop we’ll do some hands-on testing with Google Moderator, Today’s Meet, and H2O Question Tool a Berkman Center tool (similar to from MIT). All free, all easy to use, and all available to you anytime.

Many times we find that when we want to introduce a new tool to our faculty, workshops work best. Hopefully this will be the case with backchannel tools.

So far we’ve thought of many different ways to use them for inside and outside the classroom. The voting tools like H20 Question Tool is great to get a class pulse on what the most important topics are and can allow for the discussion to continue outside of the classroom.

What I’d like to know is if you’ve been playing around with any of these tools (or others), and have any stories to share?

Friday, July 8th, 2011

The Law School Educational Technologist Survey – 2 Years Later

We all had a great time at CALI!  If you are unable to attend the conference (or just our session) you can watch the video on the CALI conference website.  While you’re there, be sure to check out some of the other great CALI sessions, too.

We all used Prezi for our session.  Here are our slides:

Barbara’s slides (The Law School Ed Tech Survey)
Lindsay’s slides (Supporting ed tech technologies)
Chester’s and Alex’s slides (Training and promotion)
Debbie’s slides (What has changed in 2 years)

Thanks to Barbara, Lindsay, Chester, and Alex for a great presentation!  See you all next year in San Diego.


Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Tools for CALI

We’re getting ready for our CALI presentation next week.  Five of us – Debbie Ginsberg, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Barbara Glennan, California Western School of Law, Chester Kozikowski, Boston College Law School, Lindsay Matts, William Mitchell College of Law,  and Alex Berrio Matamoros, Boston College Law School – will be presenting the results of the Law School Educational Technologist Survey.

While getting ready for CALI, we’ve been playing with some fun presentation tools:


Wordle is a tool that lets you create word cloud – or visual map – showing how frequent a word is used in a given text.  Lindsay Matts created one from a series of conference Tweets in her recent post.  It’s great for spotting common themes in text, such as survey results.

Prezi is kind of combination between a mind map and a presentation application.  It allows users to create presentations which both present the big picture as well as allow the presenter to zoom in on important details.  You can sign up for a Prezi account to get started and Prezi will show you a brief interactive tutorial that explains how everything works.  Be sure to check out the “Learn Prezi” videos and the manual.  There’s also a lot of useful Prezi advice around  including:



Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Thank you!

Thank you for taking our law school educational technologist survey.  You provided us with a lot of great information and we can’t wait to share the results with you at CALI.

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