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Are your students surfing the Web or checking their e-mail during your class? Most law professors would answer this question with an exasperated “Yes!” and wonder what steps they can take to win the war against technology. Some professors have banned laptops and other wireless devices from their classrooms. But I believe this digital energy can be harnessed — not discouraged — in order to facilitate learning in law school. I have therefore taken a different tactic and joined the digital generation on their side of the laptops by creating an interactive, electronic casebook called TeachingLaw.com (Aspen Publishers, 2006). This e-book, which is being used in law schools from the District to California, combines nonlinear text, interactivity, immediate feedback, and multimedia with rich legal content into a convenient online package to meet the needs of the “digital students.” BRAVE NEW WORLD Digital students think and learn differently from previous generations. Most professors think (and therefore teach) linearly because they grew up in the “book age”; on the other hand, digital students think (and therefore learn) three-dimensionally by toggling and telescoping between multiple screens on multiple levels while they discover information. They prefer to interact with multimedia materials and receive immediate feedback — remember, this is the generation that grew up on video games. This digital learning process may seem chaotic or distracting to professors. The students, however, thrive in this environment: They are able to process the multitude of information seamlessly, usually while listening to music or instant-messaging their friends. In fact, they actually need to be “powered up” to learn. As a result, they are bored in our traditional law school world, where the typical lecture hall seems about as limited as a television with only three channels. Technological advances such as TeachingLaw.com illustrate the paradigm shift in legal education by providing interactive, online, multimedia materials instead of linear text for reading assignments. This tool, and others that will inevitably follow it, will integrate the students’ learning style into the classroom to make for a more exciting, inviting, and invigorating experience for the students and redefine the professors’ role in the learning process to allow for more creative pedagogical methods. The e-book integrates the students’ digital learning style into law school by replacing a traditional law school casebook with an online learning tool. Remember the back strain from lugging your oversized (and often underutilized) books around law school? With an electronic casebook, students do not purchase a traditional book. Instead, they access “readings” by logging onto TeachingLaw.com at any time from their laptops (which they carry around anyway). When an assignment is due, students do not need to find a printer; instead, they simply upload their documents directly into the e-book. These instant-access students appreciate this convenient, paperless environment. The e-book also takes advantage of the students’ abilities to multitask, telescope, and hyperlink so that they retain more information through active, discovery-based learning. Students explore while doing their “reading.” For example, instead of simply reading Supreme Court opinions, the students find materials directly on the Supreme Court Web site, listen to real oral arguments, and read about the Supreme Court decisions, all on different screens nestled inside other screens. In addition, a variety of multimedia engages the students and provides context and enriched text. Video clips of clients, judges, and peers bring legal problems to life. Quizzes and self-assessments provide students with immediate feedback, cumulative scores, and patterns of problems, as well as links to areas in the e-book to work on those problems. Sample documents contain annotations and highlighting keys so that students can focus on particular aspects of the document while they manipulate the text. The many layers of rich text and the interactive learning tap into the multitasking and telescoping needs of the students, as well as their constant demand for immediate feedback. PAPERLESS CLASSROOM These sorts of technological advances are changing the ways professors approach their teaching and their role in the classroom. Most practically, the paperless classroom is convenient from the professors’ viewpoint — they can avoid the copy machine, as well as the burdensome process of collecting papers; make last-minute changes to documents; and, with one click, discover whose paper is late or missing. TeachingLaw.com also provides a “bank” for professors to share materials so that all professors using the e-book have a resource containing assignments, syllabi, multimedia files, and other material at their fingertips. In short, technological tools help professors expedite class preparation, condense time spent on administrative matters, and foster collaborative working environments. More importantly, technological tools can transform the way professors teach in the classroom. TeachingLaw.com has changed the way I approach my class in a number of ways. First, my students are simply more prepared than they were when I used traditional textbook readings. The interactivity, immediate feedback, and engaging exercises in TeachingLaw.com allow students to manipulate and digest the material assigned for class so that when they come to the classroom, they are ready to discuss the subject in an in-depth, informed manner and at a higher level of understanding. They ask me insightful questions and force each other to think critically about the material. Because I receive reports through the self-assessment feature in the e-book, I can gauge the students’ level of understanding and focus the class on areas of the material where I know they are struggling. ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS My role in the classroom has also changed dramatically. While I still usually stand in the front of the class, I am no longer the focal point for the students. They do not want me to fill their heads with information that they can write down, memorize, and regurgitate back later; they find lectures boring and become easily distracted. Instead, I am a facilitator. The students learn from each other and through discovery-based learning. As a result, they become active participants in the classroom experience instead of passive learners in a traditional law school environment. I use a variety of pedagogical tools to facilitate this discovery-based learning. Some are very simple. For example, I like to move the furniture so that students can face each other to interact, instead of always facing me. Other techniques are more dramatic. I rarely lecture or use the Socratic method in the classroom. Most notably, I take advantage of the students’ desires to multitask and telescope. Throughout my class, I open multiple screens, which I project, and then toggle back and forth among them. Within each window, I often telescope three and four levels deep within one screen so that the students need to pay careful attention to understand the seamless integration of materials. The students follow along with me on their own screens, leaving little time for e-mailing or surfing the Web. At times, students have asked me to slow down or to open fewer screens at once so that they can keep up with the toggling. I also use multimedia so that the students are not learning just from me but also from others. At times, I play video clips of judges discussing particular issues. At other times, I play video testimonials of students talking to other students to give peer perspectives on an issue; the students are more likely to listen to another student’s experience than to my experiences, which they might consider outdated. These videos reiterate a point I have already made in class, reinforce a concept, or introduce a new perspective. As a result, the students need not rely on me as the all-knowing teacher; they can find other sources, listen to each other, and discover the answers for themselves. I also use exercises from TeachingLaw.com to create a collaborative environment. These exercises use multimedia or consist of simple text. Most of them require the students to be divided into groups to address an issue or make an argument from a particular assignment. For example, I might assign an exercise from the e-book as an out-of-class assignment. Students might read a number of case annotations and then synthesize a rule and bring it to class to discuss. In class, students discuss the assignment with each other. My role during part of these sessions is to facilitate insightful discussions within the peer groups; I spend most of my time walking around the class to ensure that students are learning from each other. They ask insightful questions that easily transfer to their own writing. At the end of the session, I bring the group together to answer specific questions and ensure that the students are focused and learning similar methods and concepts. Even when I stand in front of the classroom, the students are usually not focused on me; instead they focus on an interactive document projected on the screen or on their laptops. The annotated samples in TeachingLaw.com provide a useful device for this type of focused, collaborative learning. For example, I project an annotated document and ask the students to open that same document on their laptops through the e-book. I ask the students to manipulate the text or to outline the document. With one click of the mouse, we delete excess words or highlight a particular part of a document so that our discussion is focused. As we discuss the samples, the students learn from each other and from interacting with the online sample. The combination of discussion, collaboration, and interaction allows the students to become effective learners and critical thinkers. These unconventional pedagogical practices and the use of innovative electronic casebooks such as TeachingLaw.com illustrate the beginning of a shift in legal teaching. No longer will the traditional law school model be acceptable to law students. Lecture halls will be outdated and replaced by classrooms with movable furniture, wireless devices, and plenty of outlets to power the laptops. The inevitable wave of technology will actually be useful to teaching, not an impediment or distraction, and professors will no longer wage a war against laptops. Instead, when asked whether their students are surfing the Web or checking e-mail during class, professors will answer with an enthusiastic “Yes!” because the students are engaging with multimedia course materials, multitasking together in the classroom, and searching for information the professor has asked them to find in class. While this shift may be a struggle for professors today, it will not be a shift at all for the professors of tomorrow — who, of course, are the ones currently checking their e-mail during your lecture.
Diana R. Donahoe is a professor and chairwoman of legal research and writing at Georgetown University Law Center.

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