PD

Earlier this week my colleague and I here at the Dal Law Library played a large role in organizing and orchestrating Professional Development Day for the Faculty of Law this year. The theme this year was technology and it was our goal to expose our faculty to some of the tools that are emerging that they could utilize inside (and outside) the classroom. We didn’t do anything that would be revolutionary to Slaw-ers but when dealing with a group with diverse technological capabilities our goal was exposure. We covered video conferencing, podcasting, surveys of students technological wants and needs, search tools, classroom software, clickers and some novel internet tools. I don’t mind mentioning that some of my ideas for the day came from Slaw. By all accounts the day was a success. In the discussion at the end of the day an interesting point was raised, one which I do not necessarily agree with but that I want to post on Slaw in order to garner opinions. This is not just a question for the academics in the crowd but all those who are exposed to law students or recent graduates. The point that was raised was that in the opinion of this person, students actually want less, and not more information. My feeling is that students are not as interested in the volume of information but in the format that it is delivered in. But what do you think Slaw-ers? When it comes to the legal youth, do they want more information or less?

Comments

  1. Neither – they want information that they can use.
    One of the great surprises when the real world of practice is encountered is that clients want answers, they need to know how the mass of legal information applies to the task at hand.
    That requires that the young lawyer focuses and uses feedback to narrow down the information.
    It means reinforcing that updating is absolutely vital.
    It also means developing a working sense of precedent and a keener attention to the highest court and the courts of appeal, rather than finding a Queen’s Bench decision from thirty years ago that has facts similar to theirs. It means being more attentive to which courts – and which judges – are considered influential.
    It means exercising judgment in the handling of legal information. To the extent that online services bury them in marginally useful law, then they need to be more discerning in putting much of that law to one side.

  2. Further to Simon’s points, and with respect to the ‘filtering down’, I would say that good IT must also help expedite this process. And not just for students. Everyone should be intrigued by those technologies that save time and focus the final information received.

    A couple of topical tech examples:

    1) Blogs – A niche topic blogger can filter your reading down, if you trust that person. BUT, if you subscribe to 10 blogs that regurgitate similar news items, the duplication can be a huge time waster.

    2) RSS – Filtered feeds are focused and on topic. By comparison, taking a raw feed can be a dangerous time waster if you don’t know the publication frequency or how focused the topic matter is.

    It’s my personal belief that any technology can save time or waste time. This is why ‘content evaluation’ skills and our ability to put content in context are so important.

  3. My interpretation, and this goes along with what Simon is saying, is that students (and everyone else) want more focussed information. They just want to know what is specific to their interests or to accomplish the task at hand. This is why having a big sea of databases available is not necessarily helpful, and why Google is so popular.

    Sounds like your faculty is worried that all these new tools are just going to create more information; however, if the tools can help them get focussed and be more efficient, that might not be the case.

  4. I also don’t think it’s a question of volume. I’d come at it the other way: I gather it was a faculty member asking the question… so I’d pay solid attention to how faculty teaches and, perhaps surprising given my involvement in Slaw, in an ideal world I wouldn’t let anyone touch a piece of technology until they had a set of lesson plans that set out clearly what they wanted to achieve in each hour of the course, etc. Then and only then could we talk about how best to achieve that. Some aims might be furthered by technology, some might not.

    Legal research, of course, is intimately involved in technology, and so something of a different matter.