How to teach the smartphone generation?

May 8th, 2013

Shailini George has an interesting pedagogical piece in the Maine Law Review about teaching the smartphone generation, titled, “Teaching the Smartphone Generation: How Cognitive Science Can Improve Learning in Law School.” Here is the abstract:

Today’s law student enters law school as a digital native, constantly “plugged in” and accessing information at a moment’s notice, often during class time itself. Yet scholars agree that these students are entering law school with weaker reading and reasoning skills than prior generations, due in large part to the way students multitask through life. This article aims to address the problems caused by the intersection of these two issues by applying cognitive learning theory to the law school environment. Part One examines the characteristics of our current students by describing their skills and learning styles upon arriving at law school. Part Two examines cognitive learning theory insofar as it can inform our teaching andragogy: specifically, how do today’s students learn, how can we help our students learn better, and what effect does their multitasking have on learning? The final section suggests ways for students and educators to better translate the information offered in class into knowledge. Ultimately, this article suggests teaching students about metacognition and effective study techniques while also encouraging professors to design and plan their courses by adopting cognitive learning theories and using more visual aids, visual exercises, and assessments to help students better learn the material.

As I’ve discussed at some length, today’s students learn differently than in previous generations. The students who are raised today on iPads will be in law schools in the very near future. Trying to teach these students (not too different from me) in the way students have been taught for a century won’t work. Rather than turning off this plugged-in nature, professors should learn to tailor lessons, and accomodate these attributes.

In my first year of teaching–which I just finished this past week!–I have experimented with a number of tools. I will blog about my experiences, and teaching evaluations, at some length after the semester is over (yes, I intentionally did not blog about my fall evaluations because I wanted a full year to receive feedback).

H/T ABA Journal (with a lengthy comment thread)