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Faculty Tech Fundamentals

Some time ago, Michael Froomkin posted a baseline list of technology tools for law teachers and scholars.  My recollection is of the post is that these were what every law professor ought to have at hand (and implicitly, ought to know something about).  (Sorry, Michael, if I’m mis-remembering.)

This summary of a recent law-teaching-tech program at Harvard prompts me to ask a related question:

What technologies — if any — should every law professor be expected to know and use competently in 2007?  The HLS program touched on some edge-technologies — Second Life, for example.  And “know” and “use” might be separated; law faculty might be expected to know something about e-discovery tools, but not expected to be able to use them.

Here’s a preliminary, incomplete list of possible candidates:

  • Reading/writing basics:  Office suite (MS Office, OpenOffice — pick one or some other) (text editor, slideware, spreadsheet, database, HTML editor)
  • Communications/publishing/group work basics:  Email, IM, blogware, groupware (such as Groove)
  • Scholarship tools:  Bibliographic software, statistics software
  • Virtual worlds technologies
  • Peer-to-peer tools

What belongs on the baseline list?  What’s a reach?


4 thoughts on “Faculty Tech Fundamentals”

  1. Law professors ought to know a little _about_ everything on that list. But use?

    Virtual worlds: no. And I say this as a virtual worlds scholar.

    IM: no. With whom?

    Statistics software: no. Very few professors need to run calculations too complicated to do by hand.

    Peer-to-peer tools: no. To obtain or share what?

    Add search engines and various other Internet navigational tools to the list.

  2. Based on the conversation we had at that panel and that I’ve had with many other individuals, the issue of what professors “should” know about technology is really more an issue of what professors should know about practice. As you mention, a professor of evidence or ethics really ought to have at least working knowledge of e-discovery, not just because e-discovery is changing the substance of the law (which is the traditional purview of professors) but also because they would have much more sensitivity to what is really important for future practitioners to master.

    I think one of the major points made during the panel was that technology follows pedagogical goals. Professors need to be clear about what they want students to learn. If, for example, teachers have purely philosophical goals, pencil and paper seem more than adequate as technological tools. (I pose the hypothetical extreme, of course!)

  3. If universities removed from their faculties all law professors lacking basic skills in the core technologies (word processing, spreadsheets for grading, powerpoint or something similar for presentation, student response pad software, internet searching, etc.) and all law professors lacking basic practice experience, there would be thousands of openings next fall. Unquestionably I agree with your suggestion, aside from quibbles on the list, but the only way it will be implemented is through the passage of time. Technology has been around for at least 15 years, and there still are law faculty who don’t open their email, use yellow pads, and photocopy cases from F.3d reporters. They have tenure. No one can compel them to change. Not the dean, not their colleagues, not the demand of students.

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