Wednesday, May 14, 2008

co-opting the laptop

Laptopclass Over the summer, I plan to pull together a series of short lessons that will make active use of the ubiquitous laptops in my classroom. I don't want to ban them (although my school's policy would let me make that individual decision), but I want to help students find ways to use them productively. While I haven't conducted the kind of survey that Sherry Colb did, I suspect that even in my small-section legal writing classes, some students are surreptitiously using their laptops unwisely.

To me, productive use means far more than just finding ways to keep them from web-surfing or instant-messaging or shopping online. I also want to find ways to co-opt the classroom "court reporters," those who aggressively seek to type every word that I or one of their classmates says. And more than anything, I want to help them better learn how to use these important technological tools that will be an important part of their law practices one day.

One lesson I have already planned is to teach them more effective ways to use a spellchecker (and also to teach them what a spellchecker will not do). I am drafting a fairly short Discussion section for an office memorandum which will be replete with the kinds of errors that spellcheckers can catch, as well as the kinds of errors that spellcheckers typically do not catch (e.g., references to the trail court).

One rich and inspiring source I plan to utilize is the bibliography prepared by Jill Ramsfield (Hawaii) and K.K. DuVivier (Denver) in their 2006 Legal Writing Institute conference presentation, "Teaching to Eyebrows."

What kinds of activities have you incorporated into your teaching in order to co-opt the laptop?

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