Law Profs Experiment with EdTech at New Event

On Thursday, August 24, the faculty members of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law sipped coffee and chatted with their colleagues about preparing their courses for the upcoming start of the semester. The Dean of the Law School, Daniel B. Rodriguez, welcomed the crowd to TEaCH LAW, a new event designed to encourage the use of technology tools to help increase engagement and understanding, assess student and class performance, and create a more collaborative environment reflective of today’s legal practice. He encouraged the faculty to be open-minded and consider integrating technology into their courses for the upcoming semester.

Check out our slideshow of photos from the day: 
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The day was built around demonstrations of and about education technology led by the law school faculty for their colleagues. Alyson Carrel, in her new role of Assistant Dean of Law and Technology Initiatives, organized the event and gave the first talk of the day, Legal Ed Tech 101. In the talk, she unraveled the upsides and downsides of several ways legal educators have engaged with technology, from using Poll Everywhere to keep students in the conversation to banning laptops altogether. Carrel wanted to highlight three pivotal motivators to innovating and integrating technology in law pedagogy: the increased use of technology by clients, the push for efficiency, and the potential for social justice.

When asked about the inspiration for TEaCH LAW, Carrel said, “Technology innovation is changing the practice of law and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law is committed to graduating students with the skills, attitudes, and knowledge to adapt to and influence those changes. We organized the TEaCH LAW event to highlight our faculty who are successfully using technology to enhance their teaching, increase student engagement, and better reflect the important skills of practice in the future of legal services.”

One of the highlights of the day was faculty presenting to their colleagues in Savner Hall, a new classroom designed specially for blended and active learning techniques. Instructors and selected technical experts from Pritzker and Northwestern IT also demonstrated technologies including the Lightboard, Canvas and several of its more engaging features such as audio and video feedback, peer review, and learning analytics, as well as learning apps that enhance Canvas course sites, such as Arc, Panopto, and YellowDig. Other interactive platforms that work outside the course ecosystem of Canvas were also shown, including Poll Everywhere, Nearpod, Solstice, Spark, and Webex.

Alyson Carrel explained the emphasis on tech and tool demonstrations, “Law schools don’t have a reputation for being particularly innovative in their teaching methods, but at Northwestern we have a number of faculty who are using technology in particularly engaging and inventive ways.”

Additionally, the fair highlighted the opportunity to partner with a learning design consultant from Northwestern IT, both individually and through faculty fellowships, to think through how to incorporate the showcased educational technologies in a way that best facilitates student learning. This partnership was emphasized during lunch, when the Master of Science in Law (MSL) program introduced Alyssa Dyar, the new learning engineer hired to facilitate creating an online option for the MSL degree, a position created in collaboration with Northwestern IT. The panel, Blended and Distance Learning: Present and Future, also focused on the blended learning initiatives of the MSL faculty in their face-to-face courses.

The day concluded with another panel, Incorporating Technology in the Classroom, chaired by Dean Rodriguez and featuring thoughtful faculty reactions from the day.

“The challenge as I see it is to think about incorporating technology in ways that foster a vibrant intellectual community and encourage active engagement with the materials,” said Deborah Tuerkheimer, the Class of 1940 Research Professor of Law, and one of the participants in the end-of-day reflection panel. “TEaCH LAW generated a number of concrete ideas in this regard, while sparking a larger conversation—interesting and valuable in its own right—about how we can best serve our students.”