CLE conference, day two, session 3

by Paul Maharg on 17/06/2017

Third plenary, Craig Newbery-Jones, Plymouth University Law School, on ‘The courage to walk into the darkness, strength to return to the light.  Technological experimentation within legal education and legal practice’.  I’ve published Craig’s work in the past – he has a highly sophisticated view of digital technologies and their uses in legal education, well worth reading.

Courage and strength – key elements, he said, in developing digital innovation in legal education.  The quote comes from a MMORPG, and Craig observed how such games can be used for ethical purposes as well as entertainment.  There is, he said, huge scope for this, but it needs rethinking technology in legal education.  And it needs a move away from idiosyncratic efforts towards ‘implementation of programme-wide changes’ (quote from Graham Gibb).  Quoting Resnick, we need to ‘rethink our approaches to learning and eduction and our ideas of how new technologies can support them’. (Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age 2007).

Mixtures of approaches – do they work in legal education?  If the academic study of law is so disjointed from legal practice, isn’t this the time for us to radically rethink?  For there is a mismatch between technological literacy of law graduates and technology used in practice, he said.  So what then, is digital literacy in legal education?  It shouldn’t be just a support for learning but at the heart of a programme delivery.

He argued for: greater engagement between the profession and the academy, more dialogue between law schools, the founding of a Technology in Legal Education and Practice Observatory (TILEPO).  Students also needs spaces for experimentation (Ludwig Bull is an excellent example of this).

Reflections and lessons learned are essential, and he drew examples from his , own practice.  First relevant innovations are important, ones that are targeted to problems and interventions.  Eg his Ex-cel@Law, at Exeter – a transitional portal.  Engagement was good, it was a transmedia approach, accessible format as a blog, content-led and was a large undertaking, maintaining  constant and regular content to maintain engagement.

Second, engagement was essential.  Eg his project at Exeter, The Virtual Board Room (VRB), with virtual firms, stripped down client management software (with Sue Prince and others).  It was an autonomous and independent workspace, used ELGG to teach professional skills, tried to limit entropy to default platforms, eg the ubiquitous Facebook.  He advocated anyone to ‘kidnap a learning technologist’ – totally agree.

Third, don’t try to retrofit old programmes to new tech or new methods.  Not worth the effort, or it ends up a warped approach.  Eg at Plymouth their use of SANSSpace for video  feedback.  Fourth, the rationale must be learning, not tech.  We also make incorrect assumptions about tech savvy students.

Fifth, use innovation where justified, eg VR Law, Crime History and Crime Heritage initiative that uses gamification and VR, with 140 students engaging with a ‘real’ crime scene.  Badges etc motivate students beyond assessment, and there are narratives into learning.  We should signpost benefits for students, and we need more engagement with gamification in mobile apps, VR, AR, etc.

Great talk: stimulating for the future as well as analysing the recent past of digital technology and legal education.

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