Not long ago, I put up a post asking for “best practices” commentary on using slideware (PowerPoint, etc.) in the law school classroom. The responses (read Tufte; look at Presentation Zen) were welcome, though to be honest, I read both a long time back. The problem is that Tufte, and PZ, and Tom Peters, and others (Seth Godin, for example), aren’t geared to classroom teaching, let alone to law teaching.
The longer I teach, the more I do absorb the Presentation Zen mantra: I don’t use slides at all unless they help me make a point that I can’t make as effectively otherwise, and when I do use them, I use less text, even zero text, and more image. I respect Tufte: information density can be valuable (and images alone can be information rich), but first of all the slide has to be legible. If I want students to read the statute or follow the hypothetical, I have them take out the book, or I distribute the hypo via email before class. As a rule, I don’t outline the class on screen; outlining is a skill that I want students to learn themselves, with my help.
But learning what not to do isn’t the same thing as learning what I should do. ‘Tis a puzzlement.
Here and there, in blogs and on email lists, I read pleas from law professors along the lines of “wouldn’t it be nice to have someplace that keeps track of conferences in our field?” The question creates a karmic moment (for those interested in giving without the prospect of immediate return), or perhaps a Six Million Dollar Man moment (for those of a certain age). There is an answer: The information can be shared! We can build it! We have the technology! Best of all, it costs a lot less than six million dollars.
This can be done field-by-field (see, for example, my calendar of intellectual property conferences at https://madisonian.net/conferences/), with some combination of blogging and calendaring software, or some generous institution could post a master calendar. Once the template goes online, conference organizers could populate it themselves, with posts tagged by subject area. Surely some geeky lawprof must have a couple of extra cycles to spare for this?
My law school is gearing up for a major website redesign. The best practices question arises again: In the field of “best law school website” (use any criteria you deem relevant), what schools are the big winners? The big losers? The noble tries that could be improved with a tweak here and there? How about university (or other academic institution) websites? Same questions. Thanks in advance for your comments.