Thursday, January 30, 2014

Using Technology to Implement the Reforms of Maccrate, Carnegie and Best Practices

Teaching for Tomorrow: Utilizing Technology to Implement the Reforms of Maccrate, Carnegie and Best Practices by Stephen M. Johnson.


More than a half century ago, John Dewey predicted that “if we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” While Dewey was not referring to legal education, his call for reform has been echoed for decades in the legal education community by academics, accrediting agencies, and think tanks. Major studies by the ABA, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the Clinical Legal Education Association conclude that law schools need to reform legal education to provide more focus on training students in professionalism and practical skills. The studies do not call for the elimination of the case method or Socratic method, but stress the need for integration of new methods of instruction and assessment, especially after the first year of law school.

Due to the nature of the students that are currently attending law school or planning to attend law school, and due to the economic realities of the modern practice of law and the legal job market, technology needs to play, and can play, a central role in the reform of legal education. The reformed law school classroom will likely look significantly different than the traditional 1L Langdellian classroom. Simulations and other instructional methods that focus on developing skills should become more prevalent and technology can significantly enhance them. Technology itself is an important skill that lawyers must master to effectively practice law, so there will be additional focus in law schools on training students in the technology that is central to practice. More formative assessment will likely be incorporated into courses and technology can facilitate that. Furthermore, new coursebooks and materials will be needed to facilitate the new instructional models, and technology will be key to the development of successful and effective materials to replace the traditional case books.

This article examines the central role that technology can and should play in implementing the reforms suggested by the ABA, Carnegie Foundation and Clinical Legal Education Association’s reports.

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