Friday, September 15, 2006

Law Students Helping Other Law Students

I am always very proud of my law students when they come to me with tips that they think might help other law students. Although I always encourage law students to share study "secrets" with others, I am concerned that they may get too involved in the competition for grades and share only with friends. My students have stopped by to tell me about some tech ideas for more efficient and effective studying.

In the same spirit of sharing, here are the recent tips that law students have shared with me that may be worthwhile for your own students:

Software for graphics:

If your visual learners have not discovered the Inspiration 8.0 software for making flowcharts, they want to check it out. A free 30-day trial is available either through downloading at the web site or ordering a trial CD-Rom. I used the 30-day trial option and was impressed with the software. The web site for Inspiration is www.inspiration.com (choose Inspiration 8).

Although designed for lower grades, the software is very useable for law students. Features include: various categories of shapes and pictures to use in graphics; shading or color options; capabilities to build flowcharts with linking lines with or without text as well as in-shape text; nifty click-of-a-button conversion of the flowchart into an outline; and much more. The software is easier to use than Power Point or other text-block or drawing softwares for graphics, in my opinion.

If you have trouble with the download or loading the CD-Rom, check with your IT department because it may need administrative access. Also, make sure you print out hard copies of any graphics designed during the trial period because you will not be able to read the files saved on your computer after the trial period is over.  (I assume if you purchase the software this may not be the case.)

Smart scanning pen:

QuickLink Pen Elite is a nifty mobile note-taker that acts like a highlighter. The pen from Wizcom Technologies scans text as it is "highlighted" and stores the text into its memory. You can transfer the text to a PC, PDA or smart phone.  There is a wireless or USB connection. My student ordered the pen through www.skymall.com (choose electronics and gadgets; language tools; Wizcom).

The pen has dictionary access. It can be used for English and Spanish (possibly other languages as well). It also has an audio read-back function. Although the pen takes some training to learn how to scan properly and text may need some editing for misunderstood letters, this gadget has real potential. I warned my student to avoid the potential "scan-and-transfer-without-brain-in-gear" phenomenon. I can see this gadget being especially useful for legal research as well as other study tasks.

Excel briefs:

One of my 2L students suggested that students with Excel experience may want to use the spreadsheet capabilities for briefing. He uses the beginning rows for his case name, court information, date, and topic-subtopic headings. He then titles the lettered columns "Item Number" (he numbers each "Category" he uses); "Category" (examples: Facts, Procedural History, etc.); "Brief" (using as many rows as needed for his text). This method is easier for some students than designing their own templates.

I encourage students to use a combination brief and class notes page. So, a twist on the Excel method could be to use another column for class notes on each of the categories. This method would allow a student to see more easily what is already in the brief and not repeat information in class notes. The method also allows the student to critique and edit the brief more easily. (alj)

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