Day 2, session 2, UNSW legal education research conference

by Paul Maharg on 05/12/2017

This session is called ‘Face to face or online?’.  First up, Christina Do and Leigh Smith (Curtin U), on ‘The importance of f2f teaching’.  They started by noting how digital literacy was becoming more important.  Colbran’s research was cited, and points to the increasing development of online courses.   Is this a good thing, they ask?  There are three methods, they argue, f2f, online, blended.  Garrison’s approach to the Community of Inquiry was cited: social presence, cognitive presence, teaching presence.  Smith & Do argue that tech has broken down relationships.  Christina summarised their research project, analysing student responses to f2f lectures vs online lectures only.  I had a few reservations about their method.  The results of the method showed (and I summarise broadly) that students acknowledged they learn differently, students like f2f, and will sometimes ‘slack-off’ if only working from online lectures; and thirdly the online lectures cheapened their course experience.  They advocated for a blended model, with both online and f2f.

I would argue that much depends on the detail, but also the definition of the context – see eg Sian Baynes on distance learning and intimate learning.  I’d also argue, as I did on chapter 9 in Transforming, that the model of the taped in-person lecture is maybe not the best model: the speaker’s gaze should be direct to viewer, thus taking the viewer into account and becomes much more intimate as a result.  Much more of that in the paper Patricia McKellar and I wrote in The Law Teacher on webcasts, and chapter 9 of Transforming Legal Education gives a lot more of the research literature.

Next, Simon Kozlina (WSU), ‘Technology-enabled learning and critical pedagogy’.  He first explored critical pedagogy – where everything is contested, which emphasises critical reflexivity, understanding the connection between power and knowledge, extending democratic rights and identities by using the resources of history (citing Giroux, Critical Pedagogy and the Postmodern).  He focuses on his use of photos in Tumblr, first.  Students take up a Tumblr registration.  Students first posted selfies.  The activities established the connections between self-life and university-life.  The students become the unit of study: they are the unit.   They are the subject and object of the study.  Next activity is photos of their world, where students explain the law relevant to the photo.  Makes students look anew at the world, how much of the world is made by law, and how much of the world and their lives are not perfected by law.  The photos are the bridge between common everydayness and theory.  Second example, policy cycle posters.  Critiques the concept of a policy cycle – a student example: mobility access issues: public buildings (transport).  This activity shows students emulating and modelling and critiquing.   Student work can be judged and understood much more effectively.  Peer learning is powerful and, much more, each person can become their own assessment regime.  Conclusions were powerfully analytical.  Excellent paper.

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