Technology in Law Schools
When I first started university back in the early 2000s, bringing your laptop to university was a somewhat rare thing. PowerPoint was something lecturers only used occasionally, notes were still written on a whiteboard and overhead projectors were commonplace.
Now, as I return to university for another degree, everything has changed! You look out of place if you don’t have a laptop in front of you, many students now record their lectures and listen to them later (more time for playing on the computer in class) and the use of PowerPoint is the norm rather than the exception. But I must ask... is this a good thing?
In my other life (the one not dominated by my law studies), I teach undergraduate nurses. Laptops are common in my class and, just like law school, those who go for the pen and paper look out of place. However, I must admit I find the laptops somewhat annoying as a teacher. I spend the entire class with the feeling that while my students are typing furiously, what they’re typing has very little to do with my teaching. Facebook is a very powerful distraction.
Then again, trying to explain and draw the inner workings of the human body is so much easier with YouTube, and early morning classes can be livened up with a little bit of Glee piping through the speakers in class. Students have instant access to the library meaning there is no longer that easy class where the teacher sent you off to research in the library... which, let’s face it, very few of us actually did. Plus, I’m able to check the answers to tricky student questions, rather than wracking my brain hoping I’ve told them the right thing.
In law school I’ve noticed that the lecturers are slowly coming around to the idea of technology in class. Some have really embraced it and now give us fancy presentations using the best PowerPoint has to offer – graphics, cartoons and noises – to liven up a contract law class. Others appear to have shunned it... at least for now. Many of us find this difficult to manage; wanting everything broken down into the small, digestible pieces of information that PowerPoint offers.
Recording lectures is another hotly debated subject. Some lecturers allow it, others don’t. I used to record every lecture, promising myself that I would listen to them at some stage... and never did, so I’ve since stopped that.
Having the laptop in class with easy access to information and the ability to type your notes straight away (rather than frantically trying to decipher them two weeks before an exam) really makes life a lot easier. But having a laptop also takes a lot of self-control…
What’s your take on technology at law school – is it a hindrance or a help? And how has your uni embraced it?
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