ANHLL Invites LLNE Members: Monday, October 16th in NH

Interested in hearing from the people behind the editorial enhancements in Westlaw?  The Association of New Hampshire Law Librarians is having a meeting on Monday, October 16th at 2:00pm at McLane Middleton in Manchester and invites LLNE members to join them. Their speakers (via videoconference) are from Westlaw: Bob Smits for KeyCite questions, plus someone from the headnote writing group and the classification group.

If you are an LLNE member interested in attending, please contact Mary Searles at .

Theory into Practice: Teaching with Social Media

By Brian Flaherty

Back in July I blogged about using social media as a tool to teach legal research – the post was a review of a “deep dive” program I went to at the AALL Annual Meeting.  Going into the program I was incredibly skeptical.  I was imagining spending a good deal of time “getting up to speed” with different media and platforms, only to be met with the same eye-roll from students that I get from my kids when I give them advice on especially nifty IPhone Apps.   Nevertheless, I came away from the program with some ideas for using social media in teaching – or at least turning over some of the control to the students.

One of the ideas that came out of the program was incorporating Instagram in teaching research: have students take pictures of things they think are or should be regulated, and upload them  for others to work with.  In (or before) class, we could have students look for applicable laws and regulations – teasing out the differences between things that are dealt with in the statutes vs. things that are dealt with through administrative regulation.  Also, given the number of research exercises we have our students do, I imagined this as an opportunity to have them create some of the research exercises rather than us.

I decided to try this idea – ironically, minus the traditional “social media” aspect.  I had students take pictures and send them to me – and I used them to create a classroom presentation and exercises.  But honestly, the idea of creating an Instagram site for our class, and having everyone log into it (or subscribe to it, or follow it, or whatever one does to Instagram) was daunting.  I realized, though, that in terms of this being a “social media” exercise, I realized that we didn’t have to use one of the major platforms (Instagram) for it to be “social media.”   Having them take pictures, send them to me, and then share them with the class was a social media based exercise.

The whole thing worked out as well as I could have imagined.  I gave students two weeks to take and send pictures (I sent out the assignment the week before spring break).  In addition, I told them to spend a bit of time – no more than a half hour – looking up whatever laws and regulations they could find on their subject.  Send the photo and the regulating authority to me by email.  I created a powerpoint of most of the photographs, which we cycled through in class, researching each thing in turn.  It took a good deal of preparation on our part to know where we wanted to guide the discussion for each – but to be honest, this preparation was more enjoyable than struggling to come up with interesting topics to research.

We got a huge variety of photographs to work with – from pictures of homeless people (laws against vagrants, vagabonds and tramps, panhandling ordinances), to pictures of overflowing trash in Boston (Sanitary code, Boston City Ordinances), to a picture of a hot chocolate vending machine (Rhode Island: milk product dispensed from a vending machine).  One person took a picture of his bedroom ceiling and wrote “why is there no light on my ceiling?”  (Sanitary code: light and electric outlets in habitable rooms).  In doing these exercises in class students had do some involved searching – they had to use statutory and regulatory schemes, they had to find city ordinances, and we had them track down enabling legislation.

We will absolutely do this kind of exercise again next year.  Student were actively engaged, it got us working with unfamiliar topics, and we would up talking about why different things are governed by different types of authority, i.e. statutes vs. regulations vs. ordinances.   From here, I’m going back to my AALL notes to figure out: what other cool things are my colleagues doing that I can adapt?

Teaching legal research… with social media?

Early on I went to one of the “Deep Dives” – the longer programs towards the beginning of the conference.  “Inventing the new classroom.”  Now I will admit a certain skepticism going in; at this point I’ve been to about 127 “Flipping the classroom” presentations, and while I try to remain receptive to new ideas, the ideas just don’t seem that new anymore.

I was wrong.

The presenters were fantastic, the way they presented was interactive, fun, and peppered with concrete examples and suggestions (I love going away with material I can implement in upcoming classes).  I’m duty bound at this point to write an article for the ALL-SIS newsletter on this, but I wanted to share a few of the ideas that came out of the program:

One of the speakers talked about using Social Media as a teaching tool – playing into my skepticism.  “Social media” says I, “I cannot imagine such a thing in the class – and frankly, students don’t want you in their social media teaching research.”  But a few folks had some really cool suggestions, that I’m going to try to implement:

  • Take pictures  – or better yet, have students take pictures – of things that you think are (or ought to be) subject to regulation.  Upload them to instagram, and then divvy them up in class, trying to find the relevant regulation(s) or statute(s).   This is a great opportunity to talk about what kinds of things are regulated vs. what kinds of things are subject to statutory control.
  • Again use instagram, but have students upload photos of signs where a controlling statute or regulation is actually noted on the sign.
  • Create a blog, and have students do blog posts, and most importantly: have them create tags for these posts.  Great way to teach about indexing, controlled vocabulary, subject access – you know: headnotes.  I suppose the blog posts could be related to just about anything….
  • Have students create checklists or flowcharts for a legal research process (e.g. “researching something controlled by regulations.”).  Have them give this flowchart to another student to follow to precisely  & see how accurately they’ve described the research process.  This recalls challenges of my youth: “write step-by-step instructions for making a fluffernutter – now give it to someone and have them follow it precisely” (which always ended with fluff and peanut butter covering everything, and no sandwich).  PS: if you’re going to do this, you cannot have shown them the appendix to Amy Sloan’s research books, which include such charts.

OK, so this last one isn’t exactly social media – but it does sound kind of cool, right?  There is more to come on this “Deep Dive,” but I wanted to whet the appetites of our abundant readership.