Saturday, October 29, 2011

A cool vintage typewriter app for your iPhone

Harking back to the days of carbon paper, Wite-Out and typewriter ribbons is this iPhone app from Doormouse Mfr.  It gives texting the look, feel and even sound (!) of typing on an old Remington. Available for only a limited time from the iTunes Apple Store here.


Hat tip to Cool Hunting.


October 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

President Obama’s Changes to the Federal Student Loan Program

Some of our students, loaded down with debt, may find some help with the changes that President Obama has made to the Federal Student Loan Program. Here is an explanation of the changes and their applicability by Ron Lieber, who writes the “Your Money” column for the New York Times. Please pass this information along.


October 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 28, 2011

How Not to Do PowerPoint

My own view is that when students confront a PowerPoint presentation, they are strongly tempted to tune out. I think that because of too many PowerPoint presentations, they expect more such presentations to bore them. 

 In any case, if you are a PowerPoint devotee and want to avoid the  pitfalls of bad  presentations, you may enjoy Don McMillan’s humorous youtube, “Life After  Death by  PowerPoint.” Learn about the many things you may be doing wrong.

(ljs) Thnx to Joe Dellapenna

October 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Skills faculty opening: U. Cincinnati seeks Director of Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic

The University of Cincinnati College of Law invites applications for the Director of its Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic, part of our new Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice. The position is a twelve-month, long-term contract position, with renewals for additional terms available.

Since 2005, students in the Clinic have represented over 500 victims of domestic violence, stalking,
sexual assault, and human trafficking in civil protection order hearings. The Clinic provides students
training on practicing law and the art of trial advocacy in the context of domestic violence. Taken in the third year, the semester‐long program includes extensive training and gives students hands-on
experience counseling and representing clients from the community. Students practice in the Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court and the Court of Common Pleas.

Qualifications: Candidates must have a distinguished academic record, including a J.D. from an
accredited law school, and must be licensed to practice law in Ohio (or have the ability to become
promptly licensed). Experience in public interest representation, including significant litigation
experience, experience involving domestic violence and family law, and/or clinical teaching or
supervisory experience is preferred. A successful applicant should have excellent lawyering, communication (oral and written), and interpersonal skills.

Salary: Competitive and commensurate with experience.

Starting Date: August 1, 2012.

Apply at for position #211UC1888. Attach a resume, cover letter, and contact
information for three references.

For more information, contact: Professor Tim Armstrong, Chair, Non-tenure Track Faculty Committee, University of Cincinnati College of Law, PO Box 210040. Cincinnati, OH 45221‐0040.

Application Deadline: Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Review of applications will begin on November 1, 2011.

The University of Cincinnati is an Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action employer. Applications are
especially encouraged from women, persons of color, and others whose background and experience
would contribute to the diversity of our faculty.


October 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Best cities for BigLaw associates ranked according to "buying power"

Wealth is a relative thing. A $160k starting salary for NYC BigLaw associates doesn't quite mean as much as you think (though no one can deny it's still a sweet deal by any measure) when you realize that the average monthly rent for a 1 bedroom apartment is $3500. To help make sense of it all comes this helpful guide from NALP that ranks cities based on salary purchasing power using the NYC BigLaw starting salary as a benchmark. Below is a chart that shows how cities nationwide stack-up:

Median Reported Private Practice Salaries in Selected Cities Ranked by Buying Power of the Salary-Class of 2010

City Reported Median Salary Salary Required to Yield New York City Buying Power* Buying Power Index
Dallas, TX $150,000 $67,870 2.210
Houston, TX 135,000 68,100 1.982
Atlanta, GA 135,000 70,610 1.912
Chicago, IL 145,000 86,360 1.679
Boston, MA 160,000 97,890 1.634
Los Angeles, CA 160,000 100,700 1.589
Birmingham, AL 105,000 67,135 1.564
Washington, DC 160,000 103,440 1.547
St. Louis, MO 100,000 66,840 1.496
Newport Beach, CA 160,000 108,100 1.480
Newark, NJ 135,000 95,820 1.409
Menlo Park, CA 160,000 115,340 1.387
Mountain View, CA 160,000 115,340 1.387
Palo Alto, CA 160,000 115,340 1.387
Kansas City, MO 100,000 72,240 1.384
Denver, CO 105,000 76,230 1.377
Phoenix, AZ 102,000 74,380 1.371
Nashville, TN 90,000 65,730 1.369
Detroit, MI 100,000 73,420 1.362
Cleveland, OH 100,000 74,680 1.339
Philadelphia, PA 125,000 93,460 1.337
Austin, TX 93,500 70,610 1.324
San Francisco, CA 160,000 121,110 1.321
Minneapolis, MN 108,000 82,000 1.317
Jackson, MS 93,750 71,645 1.308
Irvine, CA 140,000 108,100 1.295
Salt Lake City, UT 95,000 74,380 1.277
New Orleans, LA 90,000 71,645 1.256
Charlotte, NC 82,500 68,910 1.197
Milwaukee, WI 90,000 75,190 1.197
Rochester, NY 88,000 73,860 1.191
Omaha, NE 77,000 65,210 1.181
Fort Worth, TX 79,000 67,280 1.174
Seattle, WA 105,000 89,610 1.172
Pittsburgh, PA 78,000 67,650 1.153
Miami, FL 85,000 78,370 1.085
Memphis, TN 70,000 65,210 1.073
Las Vegas, NV 80,000 75,270 1.063
San Antonio, TX 75,000 70,680 1.061
Columbus, OH 72,000 67,950 1.060
Charleston, WV 72,000 68,470 1.052
New York, NY 160,000 160,000 1.000
Baltimore, MD 87,000 88,210 0.986
Alexandria, VA 100,000 103,440 0.967
Cincinnati, OH 65,000 69,350 0.937
Raleigh, NC 67,750 72,530 0.934
Hartford, CT 83,000 89,980 0.922
San Diego, CA 90,000 97,670 0.921
Dayton, OH 62,000 67,580 0.917
Des Moines, IA 60,000 67,210 0.893
Louisville, KY 57,500 64,770 0.888
Tulsa, OK 57,500 65,360 0.880
Tampa, FL 60,000 68,318 0.878
Columbia, SC 65,000 74,160 0.876
Sacramento, CA 75,000 85,840 0.874
Albuquerque, NM 60,000 70,240 0.854
Oakland, CA 87,500 102,700 0.852
Buffalo, NY 60,000 70,760 0.848
Richmond, VA 65,000 77,190 0.842
Portland, OR 67,000 82,220 0.815
Jacksonville, FL 55,000 68,690 0.801
Orlando, FL 57,500 72,240 0.796
Baton Rouge, LA 54,500 70,980 0.768
Little Rock, AR 54,000 71,275 0.753
Oklahoma City, OK 50,000 67,800 0.737
Fort Lauderdale, FL 62,000 85,470 0.725
Long Beach, CA 72,000 100,700 0.715
Southfield, MI 51,250 73,490 0.697
San Jose, CA 80,000 115,340 0.694
Charleston, SC 50,000 72,610 0.689
Albany, NY 50,000 79,850 0.626

*For ease of presentation, these figures have been rounded to the nearest $10.

Click here to get some additional analysis from NALP.

Hat tip to the National Law Journal.


October 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday Fun: If you're going to quit your job, at least do it with style

According to the CNBC story that accompanies this, the guy in the video is now doing well having landed another job.  His former employer, the Providence Renaissance Hotel? Given the 2 million hits this video has received, not so much.

Hat tip to Doreen.


October 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blawging: Advertising or Free Speech?

Today, many attorneys add to their websites “blawgs,” that is, blogs discussing legal issues. No doubt, the blawgs serve as a source of information for others and also as a marketing device. Horace Frazier Hunter, a Richmond, Virginia, lawyer found himself before the state disciplinary board charged with several ethical violations. Bar counsel argued that because Hunter discussed his cases on his website blawg, he was engaged in advertising and should have attached a disclaimer. The state ethics rule forbids conduct that: 

advertises specific or cumulative case results, without a disclaimer that (i) puts the case results in a context that is not misleading; (ii) states that case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case; and (iii) further states that case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case undertaken by the lawyer. The disclaimer shall precede the communication of the case results. When the communication is in writing, the disclaimer shall be in bold type face and uppercase letters in a font size that is at least as large as the largest text used to advertise the specific or cumulative case results and in the same color and against the same colored background as the text used to advertise the specific or cumulative case results.

 Hunter responded that his news and commentary enjoy  First Amendment protection. The bar committee rejected his argument and imposed a public admonition. Hunter plans an appeal. I would not be surprised to see this issue popping up around the country. 

I also wonder why the  bar counsel felt it appropriate to single out one attorney for disciplinary action instead of simply issuing an opinion directed at all Virginia attorneys. 

Here is a link to an article in the newsletter of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which, in turn, includes links to the bar  counsel’s charge and to a newspaper article on the case.


October 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Google Opens Internet Research Institute

A post in Bloomberg Business Week provides information on the new research institute funded by Google.  The institute, located in Germany, will “explore the impact of the digital age.”

This story in the Washington Post  adds that the institute will “tackle issues such as Internet privacy, freedom of expression and civil liberties.”

A post from the UK Register includes these quotes from Google:

"This is not a 'Google Institute'," the company stressed in a blog post. "It is an independent academic body. Google will not interfere with the research."

"Of course, Google is keenly interested in better understanding the interaction between the web, academia and society. But we need experts to help us all understand how the web is changing our world."


October 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Resume Tips – How to Get Past the Automated Applicant Tracking System

Most resumes and job applications are handled online.  I found this interesting post from the On Careers column in U.S. News that provides tips to help your resume, cover letter, and application stand out and make it through the automated system.

Here are some of the tips:

- Use keywords and phrases from the job description;
- Tailor your resume for the job and take out anything older than ten years;
- Make sure you follow all directions and use the format requested by the job posting; and
- Make sure you do not have any typos.

Hat tip Law Practice Mgmt (@LawPracticeTips)



October 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Attention law students; take a clinic to make yourself more marketable

This post from the Lawyerist blog offers advice to law students hoping to secure a job offer when exams did not go the way you would have liked. One piece of advice is to take some clinical courses to bolster your practical skills. 

Lots of people who get good grades do law review/journals and tend to become obsessed with their grades. Many of them are too busy to actually work as a law clerk somewhere. That is your chance to separate yourself from them.

Start networking and find an opportunity to do some real legal work. Depending on the employer, legal experience can be more important then law review. Another good option is to sign up for a law school clinic.

For advice on how to respond to those pesky job interview questions about those same less-than-stellar grades, click here.


October 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Legal sector lost 1300 jobs in September despite improved hiring in other sectors

From National Jurist Magazine:

The Legal Sector lost 1,300 jobs last month, according to the September Bureau of Labor Statistics Report. Hiring was down for the second month in a row, the report indicated. The Legal Sector has shed 3,500 jobs overall in the past year, since September 2010.

Fortunately, there is also some good news. While law lags behind, the economy in general seems to be picking up. Overall, the economy added 103,000 jobs. That figure was better than analysts’ had expected, according to the AmLaw Daily.

There are several growth areas listed in the BLS report. Employment in professional and business services increased by 48,000.  Healthcare also showed growth -- 44,000 of the jobs recently added were in the Healthcare sector.

The temporary help industry grew as well — in the past three months, this sector has added 53,000 jobs. Employment also increased in computer systems design and the construction industry.  Hopefully the legal sector will follow soon.


October 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Future of Legal Research

This is a white paper from the information technology consulting firm Cognizant. The full title is "The Future of Legal Research: Meeting Lawyer Requirements by Delivering More Contextually-Sensitive and Relevant Results." From the summary:

Research is one of the most vital and time-consuming activities in a lawyer’s workload. While the legal information industry has innovated by improving search efficiency, the effectiveness of search largely relies on the research expertise of lawyers, paralegals and law librarians. The vast growth of available data adds additional challenges to the task of identifying the most critical and relevant information to a case or client matter.
With access to activities and data that a lawyer manages — including client information, current matters and ongoing client development opportunities — next-generation search algorithms should be able to understand lawyer research requirements and automatically parse legal information databases to extract relevant resources. The vast search history and usage patterns available from information service players can be leveraged to build intelligent search systems that can largely automate much of the tedious research work and present relevant results directly, improving speed, accuracy and relevance.
This white paper explores a scenario for constructing an automated search engine that parses complex legal information and returns more contextually-sensitive and relevant results that can be easily integrated with a law firm’s existing knowledge management systems and workflows.

Some highlights have been conveniently summarized here by Legal Research Plus:

Social media, crowdsourced data and other sources of information continue to generate volume and increase complexity.

Leveraging search history, information search providers can start analyzing how lawyers actually search to build artificial intelligence tools for constructing queries based on cases on which a lawyer is currently working.

Deriving context involves analyzing the pleadings to understand the legal issue.

Proactive search is an ideal opportunity to highlight the value of paid content.  By providing relevant free content and abstracts of paid content, the legal information industry can target upgrading of customers.

Better value propositions such as pay-per-result and assistance in discovery of relevant results can improve conversion rates.

Ideally, a single-sign-in, cloud-based solution that provides access to various tools and ensures maximum integration of research and case data with litigation tools will benefit lawyers the most and also help to attract users and keep them loyal to one platform.

Thanks to Stanford's LRP for the tip and summary.


October 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Carluccio’s Dirty Dozen

Judge Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio of the Montgomery County (PA) Court of Common Pleas tells me that when she hands out her Rules of Courtroom Decorum to the lawyers appearing before  her, the proceeding flow more civilly. 

  1. When addressing the Judge, always stand – it is a sign of respect for the process. 
  2. Always direct comments and arguments to the bench – a conversation should not occur in the Courtroom with the Judge being left out.
  3. Know when to stop arguing.  When a ruling or decision is made, accept it and move on to the next area of the case.
  4. During discussions and objections, don’t raise your voice in anger or objection to the Court or your opponent.  You can always alter the volume of your voice, but a Courtroom is not the place for yelling and screaming.
  5. Never point your finger at the Judge, interrupt her or tell her she is wrong.
  6. Never criticize your opponent personally.  Criticize the facts or evidence, but never your opponent or the Judge.
  7. Know the Rules of Evidence – if you argue them effectively, there will be no reason to have tantrums.
  8. The Court is not your secretary.  Come to trial with sufficient copies of pre-marked exhibits.
  9. Remember your ethical and moral responsibility to the Court of candor and honesty.
  10. Don’t react emotionally to a ruling as if it were personally directed to you.  If, for some reason, the case is indeed personal to you, you are too close to the issue to be the attorney for the client.
  11. Law is a profession, not a business.  Remember, what is best for your client, may not always be best for your pocketbook.
  12. Remember you are a professional. You will win and you will lose. This is our legal process.



October 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Faculty opening at Yale for Director of Media Law Clinic

Tenure Track Position: Clinical Professor of Law to direct Media Law Clinic at Yale Law School

Basic Description

Yale Law School invites applications for a clinical professor of law to run a clinic on First Amendment, Media Freedom and Information Access issues at Yale Law School.

The clinical professor will work with Yale's Information Society Project (ISP) on media and information policy issues.

The professorship will be a tenure-track position with the potential of clinical tenure.

Nature of Position

(1) The clinical professor will run the law school's Media Freedom and Information Access clinic.

The clinical professor will manage litigation, teach, and supervise students in the clinic. The clinical professor will also coordinate the clinic's relationships with supervising attorneys with whom students may cooperate. Yale's Media Freedom and Information Access clinic will accept cases on issues related to both old and new media, in areas including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of information, telecommunications, intellectual property, privacy, and Internet law. The clinical professor will be expected to develop and expand the clinic's work through important litigation that promotes media freedom and information access.  The clinical professor will be expected to establish and maintain the clinic's relationships with other organizations devoted to promoting media freedom and information access. 

(2) The clinical professor will be a faculty fellow of the Yale Information Society Project (ISP).  Founded in 1997, ISP is an interdisciplinary center that studies the implications of new information technologies for law and society, committed to the goals of democracy, development and civil liberties. As part of ISP, the clinical professor will work with ISP fellows on policy issues concerning Internet, telecommunications, and media law.  The clinical professor will publish scholarship and oversee scholarship by ISP fellows and students on these and related issues.  The clinical professor will also work with the fellows and students of the ISP in their amicus practice.

(3) In addition to directing the media freedom clinic, the clinical professor may also teach courses in the law school on media, Internet law, and related issues.

Basic Requirements

Applicants should have at least five years' experience in litigation concerning the First Amendment and media law-including both old and new media-and have broad experience in media and Internet-related issues including freedom of information, intellectual property, telecommunications and privacy.  Applicants should have outstanding legal writing skills, high ethical standards, sound judgment, and the ability to motivate and train law students and promote teamwork.

Additional Requirements

The Law School seeks applications with strong academic ambitions who can help lead a program in media law and information policy at Yale that contains both litigation and policy components.

Highly desirable attributes that the appointments committee will consider include:

(1) Prior law school teaching experience.
(2) A track record of previous publications in media law, information policy, intellectual property, telecommunications, and privacy and related fields, and a demonstrated commitment to scholarship.
(3) A working knowledge of first amendment, media law, journalism, Internet law, and information policy organizations with which the clinic and the ISP might partner.

Interested candidates should sent a cover letter and c.v. to Beth Barnes at

Michael J. Wishnie
Clinical Professor of Law
Yale Law School
(203) 436-4780


October 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Facebook Defense, Part II

Last week, I posted the story of a criminal defendant assertin that he didn’t really mean the threats that he had posted on Facebook. I repost that email below.  Update: The jury did not buy his argument and convicted him on four counts. Here is the story from

A federal jury on Thursday found a Facebook user guilty of four counts of threatening his estranged wife, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Berks County Sheriff's Department, a kindergarten class, and an FBI agent and not guilty of threatening patrons and employees of Dorney Park, where he used to work.

A federal prosecutor and a defense attorney took the same social networking posts made by Anthony D. Elonis in the autumn of 2010 and asked a federal jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to view them in very different ways.

To federal prosecutors, Elonis' posts on the site were the perfect way to make sure people in his life became fearful for their lives.But to defense counsel, Elonis' Facebook posts were a way to vent his anger as his life came unhinged when his home life fell apart and he lost his job.

Here is my earlier post:

From the Legal Intelligencer:

A man indicted for allegedly making violent threats on a social networking site toward his estranged wife, law enforcement officers, his former co-workers and to an unspecified kindergarten class was not committing a crime because his words were more like the lyrics of an artist who raps an intent to commit violent acts, his defense attorney argued in federal court Monday.

His lawyer argued that these postings were “rhyme settings” that enjoyed First Amendment protection.

The federal district judge evidently was not persuaded and declined to dismiss the charges. The jury will have to decide if the threats were “true threats” that violated a federal statute outlawing “any communication [in interstate or foreign commerce] containing any threat . . .. to injure the person of another.”


October 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Times Op-Ed: Are Law Schools and Bar Exams Necessary?

An op-ed in the New York Times by Clifford Winston suggests that the legal profession could be improved by getting rid of barriers to entry, such as law school and bar exams. The writer states, "The industry claims these requirements are essential quality-control measures because consumers do not have sufficient information to judge in advance whether a lawyer is competent and honest. In reality, though, occupational licensure has been costly and ineffective; it misleads consumers about the quality of licensed lawyers and the potential for non-lawyers to provide able assistance." The author charges that rather than protecting quality, these barriers protect lawyers from competition. He claims that if the barriers to entry were be eliminated, costs for legal services would come down, the poor would benefit from lower prices, lawyers would start their careers with less debt, and consumers would have more information. Finally, "if corporations — and not just law firms, now structured as partnerships — could provide legal representation, their technological sophistication and economies of scale could offer much more affordable services than established law firms do."

While this article sees real problems with the legal industry, it goes too far with its solutions. While I am not naive enough to think that lawyers don’t welcome the barriers to competition, the point that law school and the bar exam are needed to protect clients is an important one. Practicing law is not easy. While many people can write simple wills, those people cannot see the serious consequences that the will might have when the testator dies. Anyone can play chess, but only a chess master can see the long-term consequences of each individual move. I practiced law five years before going into teaching, and I can honestly say that I never had a simple case. I certainly do not want a doctor who did not go to medical school and pass the licensing exam to treat me. A few years ago, my father went to his doctor to have the wax cleaned out of his ears. The doctor found a heart value problem that was due to not having enough iron. He now takes iron everyday, and he is in good shape for an 88-year old.

As I have stated several times on this blog, we do need greater legal services for the poor. However, the poor do not need poorly-trained lawyers who will get them into greater trouble.

The writer is also correct that professionalism rules do prevent corporations from offering legal services, and that this is a barrier to entry. However, doctors lack this protection, and medical costs have gone up, not down. Adding businessmen to the provision of legal services creates another group of people who will want to be paid.

While I disagree with his draconian proposals, I do agree with the writer that significant changes need to be made in the legal profession. As we have stated many times on this blog, legal education needs to be reformed so that law school graduates are practice ready. Similarly, the bar exam needs to be reformed so that it tests better for practical skills. One can pass the bar exam without being able to write a will or a contract. Also, as I have argued several times before, there needs to be better legal services for those who have trouble paying for it. Moreover, as I have also mentioned before, something needs to be done about the student debt problem.  Finally, consumers do need more information about lawyers.


Clifford Winston, an economist and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is the co-author of “First Thing We Do, Let’s Deregulate All the Lawyers.”

October 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

(lawyer + computer) > (lawyer v. computer)

(lawyer + computer) > (lawyer v. computer)

In a sort-of book review in yesterday’s New York Times, technology writer Steve Lohr highlights a forthcoming e-book — Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy — on the impact of technology innovation on job growth in what Paul Krugman has dubbed the “Lesser Depression.” With computerized technology rapidly working its way into domains (including law) formerly regarded as the exclusive provinces of human skills, one of the authors declares that “the key to winning the race is not to compete against machines but to compete with machines.” (Until, of course, the machines decide they’d rather compete against humans instead of with them.)

From the New York Times article:

      A faltering economy explains much of the job shortage in America, but advancing technology has sharply magnified the effect, more so than is generally understood, according to two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
      . . . .
      Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist and director of the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business, and Andrew P. McAfee, associate director and principal research scientist at the center, are two of the nation’s leading experts on technology and productivity. The tone of alarm in their book is a departure for the pair, whose previous research has focused mainly on the benefits of advancing technology.
      . . . .
      Technology has always displaced some work and jobs. Over the years, many experts have warned — mistakenly — that machines were gaining the upper hand. In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes warned of a “new disease” that he termed “technological unemployment,” the inability of the economy to create new jobs faster than jobs were lost to automation.
      But Mr. Brynjolfsson and Mr. McAfee argue that the pace of automation has picked up in recent years because of a combination of technologies including robotics, numerically controlled machines, computerized inventory control, voice recognition and online commerce.
      Faster, cheaper computers and increasingly clever software, the authors say, are giving machines capabilities that were once thought to be distinctively human, like understanding speech, translating from one language to another and recognizing patterns. So automation is rapidly moving beyond factories to jobs in call centers, marketing and sales — parts of the services sector, which provides most jobs in the economy.
      . . . .
      The skills of machines, the authors write, will only improve. In 2004, two leading economists, Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane, published “The New Division of Labor,” which analyzed the capabilities of computers and human workers. Truck driving was cited as an example of the kind of work computers could not handle, recognizing and reacting to moving objects in real time.
      But last fall, Google announced that its robot-driven cars had logged thousands of miles on American roads with only an occasional assist from human back-seat drivers. The Google cars, Mr. Brynjolfsson said, are but one sign of the times.
      . . . .
      “This technology can do things now that only a few years ago were thought to be beyond the reach of computers,” Mr. Brynjolfsson said.
      Yet computers, the authors say, tend to be narrow and literal-minded, good at assigned tasks but at a loss when a solution requires intuition and creativity — human traits. A partnership, they assert, is the path to job creation in the future.
      “In medicine, law, finance, retailing, manufacturing and even scientific discovery,” they write, “the key to winning the race is not to compete against machines but to compete with machines.”

Steve Lohr, “More Jobs Predicted for Machines, Not People,” N.Y. Times, October 24, 2011, p. B3 (national edition).


October 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The corrosive effect of distracted students on everything we teachers do

Electronic distractions like laptops that cause students to disengage during class can be demoralizing to the teacher who gets most of his professional satisfaction and fulfillment by connecting with students. And that may lead to lower morale and less enthusiasm for other parts of the job such as scholarship and service. At least that's a theory suggested  by this Chronicle of Higher Ed in this article titled "Ill-Mannered Students Can Wreck More Than Your Lecture."

Sure, there's the old saw that goes "if students are distracted, it's probably because you're a boring teacher." Teachers always have to look close and hard at their role in creating uninterested, disengaged students. On the other hand, even the most engaging teacher will have trouble competing with Facebook, video games, porn, shopping and other online attractions that our brain is programmed to seek out.

Enthusiasm for teaching is hard to sustain when students seldom make eye contact because their heads are bent over their iPhones, believe they can follow the class discussion while updating their Facebook pages, and habitually arrive late, leave early, or don't show up at all, confident that the day's material will be posted online and available "on demand." If the six million results yielded by a quick Google search of "digital distractions in the postsecondary classroom" is anything to go by, these are common occurrences. And they can undermine the enthusiasm of any professor.
. . . .
Being demoralized and offended, however, never propelled anyone further along the path of creative productivity. Instead, it digs us deeper and deeper into a rut of self-fulfilling prophecy. By berating ourselves for being poor classroom teachers, we become poor teachers. By criticizing our students' classroom behavior, we constantly find evidence to substantiate our claims. It becomes perversely gratifying to be proved right over and over again.

But it also becomes stale and self-defeating because the negative emotions associated with this state—indignation, self pity, cynicism, and apathy—block our ability to assume a consistently logical, objective perspective. And insofar as the best scholarly work is logical and objective, our ability to produce sound scholarly work is undermined. We become "stuck in a moment" of a limited, disheartening perspective. And there's no traction to be had there.

There's also no joy. Thus we lose an additional element necessary for a productive scholarly output: the self direction—and confidence—that comes from liking what we do. The different aspects of our jobs can't be neatly compartmentalized. An aversion to teaching (which constitutes a significant part of most faculty workloads) because we perceive our students to be disrespectful is bound to leach into, and undermine, other areas of work, including our research.

Continue reading here.


October 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Emoticons enter the business world

Are emoticons an effective way to communicate "tone" in a medium where it's easy to misunderstand the author's intent or do they instead reflect a general degradation of writing skills?  It depends who you talk to.

Once the shortcut lingo of teenagers, emoticons are becoming more commonplace in the business world although serious writers abhor them according to this article from the New York Times:

Students of digital communication see the emerging acceptance of whimsical signifiers as inevitable, if not always desirable. “They’re part of the degradation of writing skills — grammar, syntax, sentence structure, even penmanship — that come with digital technology,” said Bill Lancaster, a lecturer in communications at Northeastern University in Boston. “Certainly I understand the need for clarity. But language, used properly, is clear on its own.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that writers and teachers of writing are among the last emoticon holdouts. “I am deeply offended by them,” said Maria McErlane, a British journalist, actress and radio personality on BBC Radio 2. “If anybody on Facebook sends me a message with a little smiley-frowny face or a little sunshine with glasses on them, I will de-friend them. I also de-friend for OMG and LOL. They get no second chance. I find it lazy. Are your words not enough? To use a little picture with sunglasses on it to let you know how you’re feeling is beyond ridiculous.”

Another harsh critic is Michele Farinet, a parent coordinator in an elementary school in Manhattan who spends much of her days answering and responding to e-mails of the (largely professional) body of parents. The whole subject touches a raw nerve.

“To me, it’s like bad moviemaking, where as soon as Dad grabs the puppy, the shot immediately goes to Junior’s teary face — like the director does not trust the audience to have an appropriately developed emotion by itself,” Ms. Farinet wrote in an e-mail. “That’s what emoticons do. PLEASE don’t ‘show’ me that I should be happy-faced or sad-faced or that you are sad-faced or happy-faced.

Continue reading here.


October 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Will Twitter its Rulings

The electronic era continues apace:

 The specially designated site will provide instant notification of the online posting of most Supreme Court information, such as orders, new rules, opinions and concurring and dissenting statements written by the justices, according to a press release from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

Anyone can sign-up to receive alerts from the court’s Twitter page, which can be accessed at “Follow Us On Twitter” links also will appear on the state court system’s Web site to take interested parties directly to the page.

 Here is an  article from The  Reporter online.


October 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)