SubTech conference, day one

by Paul Maharg on 30/06/2006

The conference opened with an introductory seminar hosted by John Mayer of CALI — Authoring Tools for Legal Instruction.  I missed the first 30 minutes or so, having boarded a train that stopped only at Oslo Central.  But I spent a pleasant time getting lost in the centre of Oslo, forming impressions as you do of an entirely new place, developing the cognitive map, etc.  A recent article in the Guardian described Norway as the richest country in Europe, thanks to its oil revenues.  I have to say I admire the way that, to a stranger, it wore its riches lightly.  What I saw of the infrastructure was impressive — the train services that would make a UK commuter weep, the information services for a non-Norwegian speaker, etc.

On paper, at three hours and more, John’s session looked daunting — it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable ICT seminars I’ve been to, not least because of John’s intelligent structuring (more of which below) and both his and Deb Quint’s superb facilitating styles.  I caught the end of the first section, which was a general discussion / analysis of issues around podcasting, and CALI experiences in supporting US law school staff in their use of the new technology. 

One of the issues arising was the pros & cons of audio-casting vs video-casting (or what in the GGSL we have in the past called webcasts). Peter Martin and I have exchanged views on the use of video, and I can appreciate the arguments for audio downloads (either streaming or .mp3 files — for my paper on this, click here).  Max Young
put the case for some students appreciating the social presence of the presenter, as did some of our students in the research project we carried out a few years ago; but equally, the argument for the flexibility of audio (listen to it at bus-stops, burn it onto CDs for in-car, etc) is powerful.  The discussion was varied, balanced, as it was throughout the seminar — John sparked off and facilitated discussion of experiences at all levels. 

One of the interesting issues was the difference between podcasting of actual f2f lectures, and summaries that were recorded by faculty later.  From a design point of view this was an interesting comparison.  I was surprised to hear that actual lectures were podcast.  In our early experiments with webcasting we filmed actual lectures, but quickly binned these because, quite apart from the poor quality of visuals, it was pretty clear to us that students watching the webcast wdn’t put up with convoy-pace of the f2f lecture, designed to allow students to take notes within the synchronous flow of the lecture.  In fact it was a strong indicator that, to misquote the physical design communities, form follows ideas, and educational ideas require strong design if they are to be implemented and used.  So the form of the 50-minute f2f lecture was no longer appropriate to a webcast or video ‘lecture’.  And by form I mean to describe not just the performance of the lecturer, but the way that information is disseminated and knowledge is created — which includes the distribution of information by handouts, or in digital form.  The form of the summary, as described by Bill Mitchell, seemed to me to be more appropriate to the medium of the podcast. 

Of course, these two genres are not the only ways to use podcasts educationally — Peter Martin quoted the use of podcasts in five-minute activities, updates, etc. I tend to agree with this — we should never limit the use of a medium in this way: students and faculty will always come up with different ways to use a technology that’s appropriate to local conditions.  But we should be designing our use of the medium, whatever that is, to fit other elements of our teaching — that’s part of the art of curriculum design. 

The next session was even more interactive — creating and editing a podcast.  John had organised 7 digital recorders, and we interviewed each other on learning & teaching successes & lessons learned.  Peter Martin and I interviewed each other; John then took the recording which he later uploaded to his blog, here.  Deb showed us how to edit the file using Audacity, and fade incidental music — cool.  John told us that Peter Martin has a tutorial on recording – see  The form of this session was great — in the UK we need more sessions like this.

The final session focused on what’s hot in legal education.  John summarised blogging, other aspects of podcasting, e-books, use of video and simulations.  Re blogging, he pointed out sites such as – useful resource for snagging photos.  CALI Author was demonstrated– 650+ lessons in the library, with most though not all faculty using them as supplementary to traditional teaching.  John also pointed to CALI’s initiative in the field of e-course materials, at — the tools to create individual syllabi from digital materials — for which hardware such as Sony’s ebook could be used.  There are of course many issues surrounding the use of such an approach — problem of DRM, and usability issues such as annotation — but given the focus on connected learning and personal learning there’s no doubt that CALI’s initiative is undoubtedly in the right direction. 

The final discussion on simulations was equally absorbing — NY Law School’s use of Democracy Island, for instance; use of proximate sound in There. 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Mayer July 5, 2006 at 22:31

The link in this post goes to my blog where I am posting the interviews that were recorded during the workshop at Subtech. Just in case, here’s the link …


2 Paul Maharg July 6, 2006 at 13:21

Thanks John — amended… Anyway a tour of your blog is to be highly recommended…


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