Tuesday, October 17, 2017
During the first week of class I asked my students if they had any lingering questions that weren't resolved during Orientation. Several students inquired, "Where is the student lounge?" Admittedly our student lounge is somewhat difficult to find, with the entrance tucked between two vending machine on the second floor. I gave them directions and then jokingly described the student lounge as a place that only appears to those law students who already know of its whereabouts—which incidentally helps keep the room secreted from non-law students looking for a cool new spot to relax. Students aptly pointed out that I had also inadvertently described a key aspect of the Room of Requirement, a magical all-purpose space that featured prominently in the latter-half of the Harry Potter series.
[Sidenote: For those non-magical folk who aren’t familiar with Harry Potter, the Room of Requirement “only appears when a person has real need of it – and always comes equipped for the seeker's purpose. Any purpose.” For example, the Room of Requirement took the form of a bathroom for the headmaster when he was most in need, a training facility for Harry and the other members of his Army, and a storage room for many other students wishing to hide certain nefarious objects.]
The Potterheads were right, but if I had to pick the real Room of Requirement within the law school, it would undoubtedly be the Academic Excellence Center, especially in October. We never know who is going to walk through our door or what issue, question, or request they might bring with them. Just last week we fielded questions about academic advising, studying for midterm exams, debriefing after midterm exams, outlining, time management, moot court, legal writing, seminar papers, mental health resources, financial aid, new attorney swearing-in ceremonies, and summer employment, just to name a few.
I believe that my colleagues, while supportive of the Center, really don’t comprehend the varied roles that academic support professors play in the law school at any one time. To better capture the ever evolving list of activities within the Center, we recently installed a Survey Kiosk. The kiosk is actually an i-pad mounted on a chest-high stand near the door to the Center. The i-pad is locked using Apple’s Guided Access feature so that visitors can only access one webpage, namely a survey link.
We then created a 15-second survey that heavily relies on the use of skip logic. We now ask everyone to complete the survey following their visit to the Center. We also posted the survey link to our Facebook page, just in case someone forgets to complete the questionnaire before leaving the Center. The survey allows us to quickly capture the following information about each visit:
- Visitor’s class year (prospective student, 1L, 2L, 3L, or graduate)
- Who they visited within the Center
- Whether the meeting was a walk-in or by appointment
- Nature of the visit, i.e. the topic that was discussed
- Overall usefulness of the meeting, rated on a Likert Scale; and
- Any additional comments
In just two months, we have received roughly 200 real-time responses. This data has already allowed us to track which days of the week and weeks within the semester generate increased foot traffic, how well the Dean’s Fellows and Peer Writing Consultants are connecting with their classmates, and the types of services being most utilized. Unsurprisingly, 1Ls continue to make-up the bulk of our client base. But, we anticipate a sharp increase in 3L foot traffic in the spring semester, when the 3Ls turn their attention to applying for and sitting for the bar exam.
This real-time kiosk system will replace our end-of-the-semester evaluation, which historically has suffered from low response rates. The data should also be immensely helpful when we are tasked with completing annual Faculty Activity Reports and Performance Reviews next summer. Previously, we relied on a much less empirical system, consisting primarily of fuzzy memories, email inbox search results, and painstaking calendar reviews.
All-in-all, the Survey Kiosk has been a successful experiment, thus far. If you’re interested in doing something similar at your institution, you can purchase a basic i-pad and stand for under $1,000.00—making this an ideal project to submit for a technology grant, especially in light of its relatively low cost and easy implementation. Finally, we are also happy to share our survey setup with you; just ask. Unfortunately, we can't post the survey link here for you to view, because all of your curiosity clicks will create false responses in the data. (Kirsha Trychta)
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
The short period after the bar exam ends, but before Orientation begins is a good time for a much needed recharge. If you are responsible for bar preparation at your school, then you are likely exhausted right now—and for good reason. I work at a school with roughly 100 graduating students. Between January and today (day 1 of the bar exam), those 100 students resulted in:
- 500+ bar exam related emails;
- 28 bar preparation classes;
- 360ish practice essays;
- 1 Bar Examiner’s presentation;
- 49 individual student appointments;
- 7 spring semester faculty lectures;
- 4 summer workshops, and
- countless drop-ins and phone calls.
I suspect that most bar support professors' schedules look quite similar. Needless to say, we have all earned a break. Much like our students plan post-bar exam adventures, we too should plan time to relax. Take a trip, finish that novel, spend a few computer free days on the couch with a furry friend, or—as in my case—go to a conference on the beach in Florida.
After the mental batteries are recharged, use the remaining time to eliminate a potential long-term stressor before the school year begins. Start by identifying one specific thing that sucks up more time or energy than it should during the school year. Then devise a plan to fix it. The time spent now removing the annoyance will pay dividends indefinitely into the future.
For example, I used to complain about how much time it would take to establish a mutually convenient time to meet a student or a colleague … all the back-and-forth emailing. So, last summer I committed a whole day to eliminating this one problem. I started my quest like any good scholar: by watching a You Tube video. I learned how to make my Outlook calendar visible, in real time, to anyone. After a few simple key strokes, I successfully published my very own calendar webpage. I then posted a hyperlink to the webpage calendar on my TWEN page, in all my course syllabi, and in my formal email signature line. I also drafted a special second “signature” in Outlook that read: “You can view my calendar here. Just let me know what day/time works for you.” Between the widely available calendar links and the quick-insert response language, I rarely engage in the tedious scheduling-based-email-exchange anymore. This one simple fix not only saved me time during the year, but also reduced my inbox clutter.
When I get back from my conference in a few days, I plan to find a way to reliably track long-term bar passage data that does not involve a bunch of Excel spreadsheets, a filing cabinet stuffed full of state bar examiners’ letters, random LinkedIn searches, and a pot of coffee. If anyone has any suggestions, please send me an email. I’d love to hear it! (Kirsha Trychta)
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Hat tip to Steve Black, my colleague here at Texas Tech School of Law, for telling me about Ankiweb to make flashcards. You can build flashcards on your computer and share them with your other devices. The link to the website is Ankiweb. (The phone app is also available through the Google Play Store for Android phones.) (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, November 20, 2016
This semester I decided to add Facebook and Twitter to our outreach efforts with law students to provide information about study and life skills as well as announcements. I try to write two or three Facebook posts each week that are a bit "meaty" but not too long. We always tweet a quote of the week and study tip on Twitter as well as links to the Facebook posts. I could not have tried this new marketing method without the able assistance of my Sr. Business Assistant, Emily Rapp, who takes care of all the technical aspects.
Please visit us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TexasTechLawAcademicSuccess) and Twitter ( https://twitter.com/TTULawOASP). I would welcome suggestions from those of you who have been using these tools for longer! (Amy Jarmon)
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Much has been said about the positives of banning laptops in the classroom. Proponents of the ban position have pointed to studies that support handwriting over typing notes.
The Chronicle of Higher Education contained an article this week that does not buy in to the studies and takes a more moderate approach: No, Banning Laptops Is Not the Answer.
In that article is a link to a May blog post on The Tatooed Prof that also supports a different approach to classroom technology: Let's Ban the Classroom Technology Ban.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
In a recent conversation with a student, she commented that she wished knew more than just how to type on a word processor. She was disappointed with her first year advocacy brief’s appearance. She spent many frustrating hours reformatting and page numbering which took away from precious writing time. With the current generation’s use of mobile devices, texting, tweeting and blogging, the fine art of word processing seems to be on the downward slide. Having worked in a law office many years ago using onion skin paper and carbon, I was struck by this difference. Brief writing can be made much easier by using simple tools available in the basic Word program. For example, the use of styles enables students to automatically format the table of contents and table of authorities. The problem becomes how to find the resources and time to learn to use this tool. Check to see if your University has any continuing education or distance education resource for learning Word. At our law school we are very fortunate to have members of the IT team who are expert word processors and available for workshops and individual assistance. Each fall, I coordinate with the IT department to present a workshop on basic word processing for law students. There are many online tools available as well. For example Lynda.com provides tutorials for a low cost subscription. The time invested in learning to use these tools can be paid back many times over as students go through law school and eventually into the practice. (Bonnie Stepleton)
Thursday, July 18, 2013
The following e-mail from Louis Schulze (Chair) appeared on the Academic Support Section listserv for AALS to update ASP'ers on the status of LSASP and some assistance that is needed to update the website:
As you may know, the law school academic success project website is maintained by the AALS Section
on Academic Support. A few weeks ago, some questions arose on the ASP
listserv regarding how to gain access to that website. After some
troubleshooting, it now appears that those matters have been resolved, and we
are moving forward with continued improvements to the website.
As Chair of the Section, I’m happy to report that OJ Salinas, of UNC Law, has agreed to serve as Senior Editor of the website and Chair of the Section’s Website committee. You will be noticing some changes to the website in the near future, and I write today to ask for your assistance with some of these changes:
(1) Any person who recently requested access to the website should now have access. You should have received an email approving your request. If you recently requested access and have not
been approved, please contact OJ at email@example.com.
(2) We need assistance with the “Contacts” section of the website. Could you please check your information and your school’s information for accuracy and report any changes to OJ? Also, if you were recently granted access to the website and would like to be added to the
contacts section of our website, please forward to OJ at firstname.lastname@example.org your school;
title; telephone number; and email. If you have one available, a photograph would be helpful (head shot is best for the website). If you have an updated photograph that you would like added to the website, please forward it to OJ, as well.
(3) We would like to update the portion of the website dealing with conferences. If you know of an upcoming ASP conference, could you please report it to OJ? If you recently presented at a
conference and would be willing to share your materials, could you email OJ? We want to continue to use the website as an ASP resource, and conference materials are valuable resources.
Additional changes are on the horizon for the website, and we look forward to rolling those out in the near future. In the meantime, I’m sure I speak for our community when I thank Jon McClanahan of UNC Law for chairing the website committee for several years now and doing a wonderful
job. Thanks also go to OJ Salinas for his recent work and for agreeing to chair the committee in the future. Finally, our entire community owes a huge debt of gratitude to Ruth Ann McKinney for the hours upon hours of work she invested in creating the LSASP website, which is an incredible
Louis N. Schulze, Jr.
Professor of Law & Director of Academic Support
NEW ENGLAND LAW
Friday, April 13, 2012
About five or six years ago, messages about laptop use in the classroom hit both the ASP list-serve and the Teaching Methods list-serve within a few weeks of one another. Even though the distress signals have calmed, “laptops-in-the-classroom,” as a usual suspect for student disengagement and distraction, still pops up at my law school. Responses vary from embracing, to tolerating, to banning the machines. How to manage the machines is the challenge. And it's going to be a challenge for our graduates as well. What is a diversion for students while in law school can become a monster of a taskmaster in law practice.
Law school classrooms have changed dramatically in the last twenty years or so. Up until about 1980, the biggest observable change was from black boards to white boards. Since then, the changes have been rapid, often with little attention to pedagogical detail, but more to being able to brag that a school was the most wired. Even just fifteen years ago, only a few students brought a lap top to class, and it certainly wasn't an Apple. Now the view from the podium is a sea of laptop lids, and eyes down.
The problem is not so much that students and lawyers are bathed in technology. The challenge is to determine how best to use that technology. Various practitioners’ journals include reviews and advice about the latest in software and hardware that make the lawyer’s workday efficient. The reviews are tempting, but each new machine and program has to be managed, requiring time and effort. Those who write about the virtual world have coined some interesting buzz words in the last several months: cognitive surplus, neural plasticity, digital alarmists—that last term might apply to me.
However, even those whose professional lives have embraced the technical world wonder about the effects of the machines and the Internet on our daily lives. Chip-maker Intel felt the pressure a few years ago. In 2007, Intel gave its employees the option of “email-free Fridays” in an effort to promote more direct communication within the company. Just last year, Caitlin Roper, managing editor of the Paris Review, in reviewing two books about the tech world for the Los Angeles Times, wrote that she felt “faster, but more distracted than I used to be. I don't know anyone who doesn't struggle . . . with the issue of how much to let technology aid, or encroach, on daily life.”
Roper's words define that daily effect: the demon that technology and the Internet can become unless it's leashed. A few years ago, a GPSolo article told the story of the young associate's attempts at a vacation with her family, while leashed to her office via her smart phone. It wasn't a pretty picture. It's the classic concern about whether the owner is leashed to the dog, or whether it's the other way around.
I've noticed a subtle unleashing trend at my law school. Southwestern's Bullocks Wilshire is a wonderful marriage of the building's Art Deco style with an LA coolness. In the open spaces you get a Michael-Jackson-Billy-Jean-MTV effect when the ceiling lights fire up as you pass by. It's lively but subdued. Faculty offices have light sensors, but several of us turn off the sensor so that the office is illuminated by window light only. Subdued.
I occasionally go one step further: my computer is off as well. Deep thought. And the notebook I'm using is yellow, with horizontal lines. My office is quiet in spite of the hubbub of Wilshire Boulevard outside my window, perfect for thinking and as close as I can get to an imaginary walk in the wilderness while in the heart of Los Angeles. Nothing to distract me from my distraction.
Is this a lesson for my wired students? As academic support professionals we can develop strategies for effective and efficient use of the new beast, and learn to cage it when we need to. I know I need help with this.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Hat tip to the Law Librarian Blog for information on Brian Cowan's article on November 6, 2011 in The Chronicle of Higher Education on digital natives and their learning. Although the article is about university students in general, it is relevant to law school students. The article can be found here (subscription required): 'Digital Natives' Aren't Necessarily Digital Learners. (Amy Jarmon)