Paul L. Caron

Thursday, April 29, 2004

NY Times Article on New Technology in Tax Teaching

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Forgive the shameless plug, but today's New York Times has a story (In Class, the Audience Weighs In; Instant Feedback with Wireless Keypads Keep Lectures Lively, at G1) about a new technology that I use in my tax classes. You can access the article on-line here (requires free registration). The New York Times reporter apparently came across an article that my colleage Rafael Gely and I wrote on the subject that is forthcoming in the Journal of Legal Education, Taking Back the Law School Classroom: Using Technology To Foster Active Student Learning. Here is the abstract:

Law schools (and indeed all of higher education) have witnessed an explosive growth in the use of technology in the classroom. Many law professors now deploy a wide array of technological bells and whistles, including PowerPoint slides, web-based course platforms, in-class Internet access, and the like. Students, in turn, increasingly come to class armed with laptop computers to harvest the fruits of the classroom experience. Yet in recent years there has been somewhat of a backlash, with various law professors arguing that this technology is interfering with, rather than improving, pedagogy in the classroom. According to the critics, this technology increases student passivity and thus interferes with the active learning that should be the hallmark of a law school classroom. In addition, the critics complain that laptops provide too much competition for the students' attention, enticing them to play computer games or DVDs and, with in-class Internet access, to read and send email (or instant messages), shop on-line, or check out the latest political, financial, or sports news. This Article opens a new chapter in this debate, explaining how law professors can use both old and new technologies to increase student engagement in the classroom.
We first lay out the pedagogical case for creating an active learning environment in the law school classroom and then examine the critics' charge that technology impedes these goals. The Article offers a competing vision of how technology can be harnessed to increase active student learning and, in the process, empower students to resist their laptop's siren song. In particular, we describe how in our tax and labor law courses we combine both old (substituting word processing text for PowerPoint slides) and new (using handheld wireless transmitters) technologies to inject more active learning into the classroom.

Unfortunately, the Journal of Legal Education does not allow authors to post articles on SSRN. If you would like a copy, please email me.

For some reactions in the blogosphere, see Larry Solum's Legal Theory Blog and Ann Althouse's Blog.

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Those interested in the "classroom clicker" technology are invited to read my commentary on the topic at

Posted by: Jim Maule | Apr 30, 2004 8:21:39 AM