Future of Legal Education and Law Practice: Convergence Will Stay Ahead of Content

This the second in a series that riffs off Rob Reynolds insightful post at Xplanazine titled "Five Laws of Product Development for Education in the 21st Century. Here is Part One: We No Longer Know How They Want To Know.

student carrying heavy books

2. Convergence Will Stay Ahead of Content

Here’s a quote from the Reynold’s post…

"…Every aspect of a course or textbook should be able to map to thetechnological convergence present via a cell phone or advanced iPod andshould do so in such a way that allows the user to control theexperience… "

Let me riff on this in two ways.

"… user to control the experience …"

In education, there are two users. The faculty who are constructing the environment that will most efficaciously allow students to learn it and the student who takes what they are presented and try to make sense of it for their own personal learning goals.

This is Rip, Mix, Learn from both the faculty and the student viewpoints (and incidently, the theme of this year’s Conference for Law School Computing).

Traditionally, the tools and materials that were available to faculty to construct the learning experience were rather blunt. In legal education, it is primarily the lecture and the casebook.

Faculty can do whatever they want in the lecture – that’s their creative domain, but they are often constrained by the need to ‘cover the material’ and this limits their opportunities for deep or more relfective discussion before the class time us used up.

Faculty typically parse the casebook by creating a playlist of sorts that points to the casebook and the lectures telling the student what to read, when to read it and when it will be covered in class.

So a syllabus – which is essentially a time-based outline – also maps nicely onto a hyperlinked model of a table of contents – which maps nicely onto an outline that is hyperlinked into the chapters of the book. Since it is all time-based, this maps nicely onto the blog/feed/RSS model of delivery of legal education. I see why edubloggers are so excited. about the use of blogs to transform education.

But back to convergence.

Before we can put things together the way we want to – in other words – before instructors can construct the educational environment in the way that is best for the students, they have to have the pieces to do the construction. The Mix part of Rip, Mix, Learn is so much easier if the ingredients can be mixed together.

In the digital realm, this means that the pieces have to be disaggregated or at least disaggregatable. It is hard to disaggregate a paper textbook. What faculty need is a digital textbook where the chapters, sections and paragraphs can be re-used or re-purposed or re-placed or re-sequenced without a lot of stress, work or intellectual property rigamarole.

Next, instructors need tools to construct the course from the pieces. The final product has to be updatable (when you teach the next semester) and deliverable in different media (like websites, RSS, PDF for printing, etc.). This is where the converge part of convergence starts to happen in education.

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