Two Innovative Professors

The Law School Innovations Blog put out a request for Innovators and this is the email that I sent to Mark Osler:

For the past several years Albany Law School Professor Norman T. Deutsch has been experimenting with use of laptop computers as an integral part of classroom teaching in his Contracts and Constitutional law classes. The IT department at the law school set up a system whereby students with laptop computers can respond to Professor Deutsch’s questions during class. Two web pages have been posted, one for the professor and one for the students. Students fill out a form and submit their responses. The responses, along with the students’ names, appear on page that only the professor can view. He can then select one or more of these responses to be projected (anonymously) on a large screen for discussion and critique. This  system permits more students to actively participate, gives the professor the opportunity to provide feedback to more students, and requires students to respond in writing.  Professor Deutsch is able to acknowledge good answers, and pursue, through questioning, responses that demonstrate a misunderstanding of the assigned material or a lack of analytical skill.  This often results in a number of different points being discussed at once, but it does increase the number of students actively involved in the class and hopefully, as a result, help students reach the professor’s course goals of thinking analytically about the legal materials they have read and expressing these analyses and conclusions in coherent sentences and paragraphs. In fact, one student responded on survey: “The online form system has been a good way to answer questions in an efficient manner.  This, coupled with the projector, has been a great learning tool, not only for answering questions, but also for working out good, “exam-style” answers.”

Daniel Morarity, a veteran professor of 35 years at Albany Law School, experimented with the use of “clickers” as part of teaching his freshman Criminal law class this past semester. Several of the other professors who used the eInstruction’s CPS system (or “clickers”) first semester also use PowerPoint on a regular basis as part of their teaching and are fairly comfortable with technology. This was not the case with Professor Moriarty. He is extremely adept at uploading documents to his TWEN (The Westlaw Education Network) web site for his students.  But in the classroom, his technology use was minimal. So it was decided to abandon the idea of using eInstruction’s CPS with PowerPoint (which had worked for the other professors) and instead Professor Moriarty uploaded multiple choice or True/False questions for each class to his TWEN site and assigned them to students for homework.  This proved to be a less threatening way for Professor Moriarty to integrate a “new” technology into his classroom. As planned, Professor Moriarty began most of his classes by having the students use the “clickers” to record their responses to the questions (on the TWEN site) that they had answered for homework. Professor Moriarty used the CPS system in the verbal mode which simply meant that the students would use their response pad to key in their answer to each question. The professor would then project on the screen a graphical representation of the class’ responses and indicate the correct answer. A discussion always ensued following each question/answer. To make sure that the students took the CPS experience seriously, Professor Moriarty announced to the Criminal Law class that the number of correct answers that each student recorded would be totaled and at the end of the semester, this score would count for up to 10 points of each student’s grade.  In CPSOnline, students were able to log in and check their progress after each class. The CPS system actually encouraged more class discussion, prodding even shy students to get involved as responses were debated.  They cited their texts as sources for their answers. On a post course survey, one student remarked:” Since we started using them I really feel as though I’m learning a lot more.”

Here is Mark’s response:

Thanks for the great tip!  It sounds like you are doing good things at
Albany.  I know some people dislike the mailings that go out on conferences and such, but you should know that I do read what Albany sends out and it has improved my view of the school– it seems like a place where some great discussions are happening.

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2 Responses to Two Innovative Professors

  1. [...] the concepts and clears up misunderstandings before end of the semester summative assessment (see June 3, 2008 , October 16, 2007, May 19, 2008,  February 26, 2009 [...]

  2. [...] focused on  the value of frequent and summative assessment using “Clickers” (See  June 3, 2007 , October 16, 2007, May 19, 2008,  February 26, 2009, March 31, 2009, May 13 [...]

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