Taking Back the Law School Classroom: Using Technology to Foster Active Student Learning

39 Pages Posted: 24 May 2004  

Paul L. Caron

Pepperdine University - School of Law

Rafael Gely

University of Missouri School of Law

Abstract

Law schools (and indeed all of higher education) have witnessed an explosive growth in the use of technology in the classroom. Many law professors now deploy a wide array of technological bells and whistles, including PowerPoint slides, web-based course platforms, in-class Internet access, and the like. Students, in turn, increasingly come to class armed with laptop computers to harvest the fruits of the classroom experience. Yet in recent years there has been somewhat of a backlash, with various law professors arguing that this technology is interfering with, rather than improving, pedagogy in the classroom. According to the critics, this technology increases student passivity and thus interferes with the active learning that should be the hallmark of a law school classroom. In addition, the critics complain that laptops provide too much competition for the students' attention, enticing them to play computer games or DVDs and, with in-class Internet access, to read and send email (or instant messages), shop on-line, or check out the latest political, financial, or sports news. This Article opens a new chapter in this debate, explaining how law professors can use both old and new technologies to increase student engagement in the classroom.

We first lay out the pedagogical case for creating an active learning environment in the law school classroom and then examine the critics' charge that technology impedes these goals. The Article offers a competing vision of how technology can be harnessed to increase active student learning and, in the process, empower students to resist their laptop's siren song. In particular, we describe how in our tax and labor law courses we combine both old (substituting word processing text for PowerPoint slides) and new (using handheld wireless transmitters) technologies to inject more active learning into the classroom.

Keywords: Teaching, Active Learning, Computers & the Law

JEL Classification: K49

Suggested Citation

Caron, Paul L. and Gely, Rafael, Taking Back the Law School Classroom: Using Technology to Foster Active Student Learning. Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 54, p. 551, 2004; Univ. of Cincinnati Public Law Research Paper No. 04-6. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=527522

Paul L. Caron (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States
310.506.4266 (Phone)

Rafael Gely

University of Missouri School of Law ( email )

Missouri Avenue & Conley Avenue
Columbia, MO 65211
United States

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