Liveblogging Law School

blogging.jpgThanks to Dan and the rest of the Concurring Opinion crew for hosting me here this month! I’ll be posting on such varied topics as juries, sentencing, legal history, teaching 1Ls, and–to steal a page from co-guest-blogger Jennifer Collins–celebrity malfeasance and misbehavior. It’s a great time to be a crim prof, that’s for sure.

But today I want to talk about student blogging, specifically law student blogs. I teach Criminal Law to first years, with all the excitement and agitas that can bring (plus side: excited, focused students. minus side: terrified rookies who’ve never read a case before). About three weeks or so into the semester, one of my students told me he had started a law school blog, and wanted to feature me as his first interview with a professor. Flattered, I obliged: here’s my interview.

All well and good. Then my student managed to snag Judge Posner as an interviewee, and this information, along with a link to the blog, was sent around the law school, including to all lawfaculty. By the time the link was circulated, however, my student had started his next project: liveblogging Torts. Here’s a sample of how it went.

When some of our faculty realized my student was liveblogging one of his classes, this sparked a discussion among students and faculty about the appropriateness of doing so. [I will note that the student only liveblogs when he has permission from the professor.] But that doesn’t really answer the host of interesting questions that are raised by this practice. For example, Should students be allowed to liveblog in class? Does posting your classmates’ comments on the blog for everyone to see negatively affect their learning experiences ? Will this make more students pay attention, because they are commenting on the blog during class, or does it distract? Is this a new and exciting way of teaching and learning for first-years? Or is it yet another way that the nefarious internet is taking over our lives?

It seems that my student will be continuing the live-blogging experiment for a while, so I’m curious to see what happens. I don’t think I’ll be changing my class rules forbidding in-class internet usage for ILs for the time being, however.

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4 Responses

  1. Anthony says:

    How is liveblogging a class any different than transcribing the class as part of your “notes” (stupid, but something a lot of 1Ls do)? Sounds like the same activity, just a different name. Yeah, the entire section may see the notes because they end up online, but that’s no different than when someone deposits their notes in one of the numerous publicly accessible outline banks.

  2. Frank says:

    Great to get your insightful posts on the blog, Laura!

    Having just attended a conference that was liveblogged, I think this is a tough issue. At the conference, the default was opt-out: presenters basically had to explicitly state that they did not want to be blogged, and if they did not, they could expect to have their presentations/comments reported.

    That was a good rule for that conference, because everyone’s relatively settled in their career.

    Things are a bit different in a classroom. You want to encourage spontaneous and creative thought on a topic, and sometimes that creativity will go in a demonstrably wrong direction. If there’s any lesson of Dan Solove’s work, it’s that the internet memorializes eternally any indiscretion or error.

    So I’d keep the classroom an explicitly blog-free zone, unless everyone affirmatively (and anonymously) opts in. In other words, a single anonymous hold-out should be able to block it, in my view. But on the other hand, such a policy is virtually impossible to enforce.

    (By the way, in the hundreds of blog posts I’ve written, I don’t recall ever mentioning a class discussion, in part because of this principle. There’s a lot that could be blogged about, but to me it’s essentially a private setting. Here’s an amplification of that idea:

  3. Ross says:

    Prof. Appleman –

    Thanks for posting this question about my liveblogging with the legal blogging world. I’m interested to hear what everyone thinks. Here are a few observations I made during the first experience.

    – I requested very specific behavior in an attempt to encourage maximum educational value and my fellow students rose to the occasion.

    – We had about 6 or 7 students post during the hour (the class has about 60 students)

    – I know of another dozen or so who just watched along as they took notes

    – The comments didn’t really discuss directly what the professor was talking about (answers to his questions, etc) but was more of a parallel discussion that worked out the concepts discussed

    – Feedback from everyone who participated was generally positive (the hour flew by and one female student said watching the blog helped to analyze the concepts during the class rather than just listen to them)

    – I’m continuing mostly at the request of others, we’ll see how it goes.

    I think this is really the only class liveblogging would be effective in. The other classes are small enough so that the professors can engage the entire class(or at least most of it) throughout the hour.

  4. Ashley says:

    I for one have been much more engaged in the classes that we live blogged. I think the experience has made our class more interactive without being disruptive, and it allows us students to help each other with the material as we are handling.

    Though I think in some classes it would be inappropriate, in the large lecture class where less than a handful of students are engaged in the class period, the live blog makes for an interactive classroom experience and I think that it has been very positive.