Gaming in the Law School Classroom
Lately I’ve been thinking, not just about game theory (one passion of mine), but also about using games in the law school classroom. (And, no, not the usual “mindgames” ;). My research on work and labor & employment law in cyberspace is increasingly looking at the blurring line between work and leisure. As described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, we do better work when we enter “flow” states, in which we are totally absorbed by what we are doing, and improve our concentration in the process. If work is meaningless, or unfocused, it can become drudgery. Turn it into a contest, and those same tasks that were earlier a drag can become downright fun. We all inherently know this; we’ve had situations in which the right frame of mind came make even the most boring task enjoyable.
Helping a class review for an exam or paper is no different. Jennifer Martin (Louisville) has set up a wonderful jeopardy template in powerpoint, which she demonstrated at the contracts conference two years ago to great effect. The game is fun and I’ve adapted it for successful use in my contracts class, too. The students enjoy getting into teams and competing for the right answer, meanwhile getting a great end of the semester review. Paul Caron (UC) and Rafael Gely (Mizzou) have written an article about the “clicker technology,” which enables you to poll the class on different multiple choice questions. I was at first hesitant to try this (I wouldn’t have liked a pop quiz every day when I was a student), but when my-then colleague at Cumberland, Ed Martin, convinced me that the students actually liked having concrete and instantaneous feedback, I decided to give it a try. What’s great about the clickers is that it forces the students to engage; they must become active participants in the learning process. My legal writing colleague, Ed Telfeyan, started a “grammar bee” to correct some of those little writing hobgoblins that 1Ls (heck, all of us!) could do better with. I have some other learning games up my sleeve, too, and am curious to see which ones you use (if at all) to spice up your classroom experience.