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Move Over Socratic Method, ‘Clicker’ Offers Law Profs New Option to Monitor Student Progress

Posted Nov 17, 2010 10:00 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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As some law profs and law school administrators bemoan or ban the electronic devices that make it easy for today's students to sit in the back row and text and e-mail during class, a growing number of educational innovators are adding new wireless technology to their arsenal of teaching tools and monitoring devices.

As the New York Times details, so-called clickers distributed to over 500,000 college students can be used to make sure not only that they are in class but to see if they can answer questions correctly throughout the session.

And some law schools are trying the clicker technology, too: Among the innovators is professor Daniel Morarity of Albany Law School, who used clickers in a criminal law class to see if students had done (and understood) their homework assignment, reports Albany Law School on an Instructional Technology Web page.

Answers to Moriarty's quiz were tabulated and projected onscreen as a basis for classroom discussion, encouraging even shy students to participate in the debate, the article says, noting that students could cite their texts to support their answers. Correct answers were also tallied for each student and accounted for as much as 10 points of the final grade for the course.

“They can be very reluctant to speak when they think they’re in the minority,” professor Bill White of Northwestern University tells the Times. “Once they see they’re not the only ones, they speak up more.”

A problem with the Socratic method, says law school instructional technologist Darlene Cardillo, in a Law Teacher article on clicker use in the Moriarty's classroom, is that it engages only one student at a time. And even if students are using laptops for the desirable purpose of taking notes instead of surfing the net or e-mailing friends, that still means they're not engaging with the professor and each other in class discussion.

"The use of 'clickers' has the ability to overcome these obstacles," she writes. "It allows more students to actively participate during class and gives the professor the opportunity to evaluate all the students' comprehension of the material."

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "More Law Profs Ban Laptop Use in Class"

ABAJournal.com: "Law Prof’s ‘Market Solution’ to Laptop Ban: Auction Right to Surf From Back Row of Class"

New York Times: "Students Click, and a Quiz Becomes a Game "

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