Using Social Networking in the Law School Classroom

November 15th, 2010

All students use Twitter and Facebook in law school classes, but the Professors don’t. What if the Professor engaged the students with social media during the class experience? While some professors (imprudently in my opinion) are banning the use of laptops in classroom, I am inclined to take my class in a different direction.

First, this story from the Chronicle of Higher Education titled Tweeting Students Earn Higher Grades Than Others in Classroom Experiment:

Students chatting on Twitter both inside and outside the classroom got higher grades than their nontweeting peers in a recent experiment conducted at a medium-size public institution in the Midwest.

At the end of the semester, the tweeters had grade-point averages half a point higher, on average, than did their nontweeting counterparts. And students who tweeted were more engaged. Twitter users scored higher than those who didn’t use the tool on a 19-question student-engagement survey over the course of the semester—using parameters like how frequently students contributed to classroom discussion, and how often they interacted with their instructor about course material.

This does not surprise me. Anyone who can multitask and keep up with a facebook or twitter flame war should be a pro at any socratic dialog.

More from the article:

He suggested that Twitter may be able to improve grades because it incorporates a feature into academic study that many students already use in their everyday lives—the “status update” that’s a part of Facebook. He said this familiarity may make students more comfortable in both continuing class discussions outside the classroom, and responding to class material. At the peak of the experiment, occurring three weeks before the end of the semester, the 70 students produced 612 tweets within a single week.

“I think more could be done to understand the range of ways that the Twitter design can work better in class assignments and collaborative note-taking,” Mr. Parry said. “But the fact that there is a new communication channel for talking with students is always useful and increases the number of students we reach.”

So here is what I have in mind for my class next semester.

Take a look at This tool provides a way to create a backchannel where students can chat amongst themselves, send messages to the teachers, and engage other students. (H/T to Erin Olson, who uses this class in her HS AP Literature Class).

Take a look at this test room I created. Here is a mock transcript

  • This would be an awesome tool to participate in class
  • Imagine if you are raising your hand, and the prof won’t call on you. Now you can submit your question here.
  • If the question is decent, the prof can answer it. If not, the prof can ignore it.
  • Or, if you want to comment on what another student is saying, tweet it here.
  • In addition to a blase powerpoint on the screen, the teacher should keep this backchannel up.
  • All students are ADD anyway. May as well play to this.
  • Class could turn into something of a Jim Cramer-esque Mad Money session.
  • Definitely worth an experiment.

The possibilities are really endless. With the right educator, and if it is properly executed, this could really make law school classes so much more effective and inefficient.

Granted there are students that are not able to keep up and tweet during class, and–gasp–some students refuse to bring a laptop to class. They would benefit by looking up at the backchannel on the project, or not at all. Their call. But for quiet students, who don’t like raising their hand, this could provide a new and innovative way to participate.

Luddite professors, who do not appreciate how different students learn, can ban laptops in class, or they can embrace the change.

I have now taught two classes. The first was a seminar with 10 students. The second was a lecture with 60 students. In both classes, students were allowed to use computers. I recognized that all of those students had their eyes peeled on the screen. Rather than trying to get rid of the screens, I’d rather that they stare at my content on the screen.

I’ll let you know how it works.

Update: Check out this article for a discussion of the use of twitter in the classroom.