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Law School Podcasts:
The California Western School of Law in San Diego recently started a series of short podcasts on legal developments, Law in 10. As explained in an article in the San Diego Business Journal, a major goal of the podcasts is to appeal to today's college-age students:
David Bowers, Cal Western's assistant dean for external affairs, said although a handful of other law schools use podcasts for lectures and speaking events, it is one of the first law schools to offer a weekly news commentary.

The college anticipates appealing to a new generation of prospective students who are fully immersed in technology and to "news junkie" legal professionals at the national and international levels.

"Our purpose in launching this effort is to introduce our faculty members to 'Gen iPod,' the 19- to 24-year-old college student with an interest in legal issues," said Bowers. "We believe others will develop an interest as well."
Can any 19- to 24-year-old students who are members of "Gen iPod" comment on whether something like this is indeed appealing? I suspect more schools are going to offer services like this, and it would be interesting to know how receptive the intended audience is.

  Hat tip: JD2B.
Kovarsky (mail):
I'm 29, but I hope I can comment even though I'm outside the specified demographic.

Podcasts are an incredibly efficent means of acquiring information. Every morning on the way to work and at the gym I get my fill of the new york times, bbc, fox "news," etc. All I do is specify the desired subscription and itunes loads the latest episodes every morning.

I've wondered how long it would take educational institutions to catch up to the more profit-minded music industry, with the latter maniacally focused on increased convenience. BarBri finally started distributing ipods containing the lectures this year. That's not quite using a podcast, but that's just because BarBri exercises freakish control over the ability to transfer those files, because if an unauthorized copy got out, they'd lose their absolutely preposterous monopoly on bar preparation courses. But the point is that, absent such a concern, they too would be using pod-casts.

I assume that the beta program allows students to specify their classes on some software platform, and then upload the designated lectures each time a new one is available. It is a dramatic improvement portability, even over programs that had posted lectures on the internet for PC download.

There are two negatives I can think of. First, it exacerbates what many professors consider a troublesome trend, which is that with increased internet accessibility to classroom material, fewer students will come to class. Although with my experience, 90% of law students are surfing the net or on instant messanger during class anyways. Second, and more seriously troublesome, I think, is that the program seems to privilege students that can afford ipods.
10.17.2006 2:09am
tag (mail):
As a former teacher and current law student, I dont know if I could tollerate a new generation of post-teens discussing legal issues. they have enough trouble talking about general academic subjects.

I am not questioning their intelligence or presentation of the material, but my former students and many of the people I run across folks of all ages that cannot even talk about the social and political issues of the last century, let alone today's, without being able to seperate themselves.

But, it is one of the great things about the US. You can live your whole life - never reading a paper, voting, fearing for much, working and playing in a safe environment, etc - and not knowing or being aware of these things will impact your life.

Can you imagine what the student law reivew will be like? Will the networks pick up on the new source of legal experts to have on news shows? or Will XM radio have a podcast channel?

In the end, I remember that we all were teenagers once and that day when we all said the thing that some adult in your childhood used to say all the time. "ya'no, people these days..."
10.17.2006 2:22am
Nobody Special:
"Second, and more seriously troublesome, I think, is that the program seems to privilege students that can afford ipods."

For the love of christ, if people are dropping $150,000 on a legal education, we have to be whining about the privileges accorded to students who can fork over $99 for an ipod shuffle?

Besides, they're just mp3 files, you can play them anywhere you can find a computer.
10.17.2006 3:48am
Kovarsky (mail):
Nobody Special,

For the love of christ, if people are dropping $150,000 on a legal education, we have to be whining about the privileges accorded to students who can fork over $99 for an ipod shuffle?

Let's start with the obvious. A lot of people are on loans. A lot of people have scholarships.

Now lets go to the technical details. Nobody buys ipod shuffles, they're a complete rip-off, and they don't sequence audio files in a way that's particularly conducive to these sorts of things. Memory will also be an issue, because you're talking about multiple 1 hour lectures, not 3 minutes songs. Barbri, for example, cannot use the ipod shuffle, and I assure you that they've sought the cheapest means of providing the bar lectures.

And I don't know whether you've checked the favored i-pod compatible file format, but apple does everything to convert everything to a specialized file format that is NOT compatible with much mp3 software platforms or playback devices.

I don't think it's that big of a deal, and the remark hardly warranted the response. On the whole I think it's a good idea, but I was doing my best to identify both the positives and the negatives of the pilot program.

I was hardly whining. Lighten up, dude.
10.17.2006 4:56am
Ambrose (mail):
This is unrelated to the post, but I have waited in vain for a comment on the passing over of Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift for promotion. You might at least give him an atta boy.
10.17.2006 8:25am
poster child (mail):
I suspect that the 19 to 24 year olds who would be interested in listening to law-related podcasts are not from among the same group that would end up applying to and enrolling at California Western. Other than that, it sounds like a great idea.
10.17.2006 9:56am
jtierney (mail):
I'm a grad student, but within their target age cohort, so I guess I count. I'd agree with Kovarsky that the podcast format is an incredibly effective tool for getting quick bursts of information (or even longer streams) when you have a period of time when you don't need to be focusing your aural attention elsewhere--a fifteen minute walk to class, at the gym, buying groceries, etc. Get a car adapter for your iPod, and you can listen to podcasts on your car radio when you drive to work (although, why not just listen to NPR?). For longer periods, I load up my iPod with entire hourlong radio shows, like Radio Open Source, which is meshing the podcast/radio dichotomy in interesting ways.

Maybe my excitement here is based upon the fact that I was born in the early '80s, but contra Tag's post, I would argue that this kind of development would probably make students more aware of legal developments--if you could get them (us?) to listen to the podcasts in the first place. Despite what the other posters have written, both at my undergrad and grad institutions, everyone walks around with iPods outside of class--the law students in particular. Cost clearly is less of an issue than the posters are suggesting when ~56 million have been sold (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod).
10.17.2006 10:07am
Peter (www):
I still can't get the downloads from the Oyez Project to work, so don't look at me.
10.17.2006 10:09am
Chris Bell (mail):
Eugene:

It's a great idea. Before I came to law school I searched on the internet for material that I might find interesting, which gave me this blog and several podcasts that I listen to regularly. U of Chicago podcasts some of their stuff, the CATO podcasts are very good, and I interviewed with Akin Gump/Mayer Brown because of their work with SCOTUSBlog/Oyez.org.

So I would say, yes, it does work. At least it did for me.

Kovarsky:

I have an ipod shuffle and I think it is great. It holds several hours of stuff, and it's rare that I listen for several hours so the limit doesn't bother me.

Podcasts are mp3s. Itunes does convert them to a different format, but you can turn that feature off (or just don't use itunes to download the podcasts).
10.17.2006 10:10am
Chris Bell (mail):
Eugene = Orin

Sorry, seemed like a Eugene question.
10.17.2006 10:11am
Chris Bell (mail):
On this topic, can anyone suggest any good legal/political podcasts? (Besides news programs) I already suggested:

University of Chicago Law
CATO (short and long)
OYEZ (the Supreme Court arguments)
10.17.2006 11:30am
j (mail):
I was able to get the video ipod using Westlaw points so cost shouldn't even be an issue.
10.17.2006 12:46pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Chris,

Can you turn that feature off for the ipod as well as itunes? i was saying that you couldn't do the former.
10.17.2006 1:39pm
Chris Bell (mail):
Kovarsky:

Well, you can download the file as an mp3. As an mp3, you can play it in most any mp3 player. Your ipod only plays Apple files. ITunes will convert mp3s to Apple files so that you can play them on your ipod.

So if you don't have an ipod, you can listen to the files as an mp3 on your mp3 player.

If you do have an ipod, then itunes will turn the podcast into an Apple file so that you can listen to it on your ipod.

All I'm saying is that you can listen to a podcast no matter what player you have.
10.17.2006 1:47pm
Rich Egan (mail):
I am a professor at NJIT, which is a public university in New Jersey. We have for many years had courses which are totally online, or a combination of online/F2F.

Most of our lectures upto this point were voice over Powerpoints broken up into 20 minute segments with demo's and the like done as separate video files. Our media services Unit takes the files and orginally made them into avi files which could be downloaded or purchased on a CD.

Lately we have gotten our own Real server and are putting everything into real format on the server.

We have talked and are in the process of working it out to make them available as MP3 files but much of what we have involves video and we do not want to lose that. This is part of what is being worked out. Just listening leaves something to be desired.

But we do not want just talking heads either, so it becomes an exercise is how to change the instructors delivery and putting it into the best format.

I will be teaching a course using an interactive TV room for students on campus and others in South Jersey. Have not done that before but one of the things they are talking about is taping it so it can be used in a distance learning setup.

Any experiences, suggestions or whatever email me
10.17.2006 2:38pm
Nathan Jones (mail):
Let's start with the obvious. A lot of people are on loans. A lot of people have scholarships. Now lets go to the technical details. Nobody buys ipod shuffles, they're a complete rip-off...

Kovarsky you miss the point...

Fine so a $100 iPod won't do the trick? A $300 one probably will...

The point is that, relative to the $150,000 "investment" that is law school, the marginal additional "burden" of a few hundred dollars for some computer equipment is insignificant. The "downside" you identified isn't severe enough to warrant noting.

-nj
10.17.2006 2:57pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Nathan,

What's your malfunction dude? Believe me I understand your point. You amortize your "150K" loans over the course of 50 years. you generally don't do that with ipods, for which apple generally requires up front payment.

Not everyone can afford a 300 dollar ipod. I don't think its an overwhelming negative, but it's not so insignificant that it doesn't warrant discussion, if for no other reason than perhaps the school should consider subsidizing it. I never suggested it should derail the program.

I apologize for the .3 seconds of your precious intellectual capital that you deem needlessly spent on reading that sentence. Go yell at a wall or something.
10.17.2006 3:54pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Rich,

The latest generation of ipods is video-equipped. You should just be able to convert the video file to an .mpeg, or maybe another compressed video format, and it will play on most of the new devices.
10.17.2006 3:57pm
BobVDV (mail):
Since these podcasts are being marketed to prospective students (undergrads), costs of access are important to note. I teach undergrads and surveyed my classes this semester about perhaps podcasting some lectures. Only about half had iPods or MP3 players. All had internet access but for many of the students on our primarily commuter campus the internet connections were dial-up, which makes long audio files impractical.
10.17.2006 3:57pm
KR:
UC Berkeley has started Podcasting some of their classes. All the ones i have seen have been at the undergraduate level. I can't really tell if they are aiming at students or the general public (they are all listed on ITunes). I have downloaded a few of them and enjoyed the classes. As someone who has recently graduated from college, its been a unique way of learning a little bit about subjects that i didn't have time to take classes on while i was in school.
10.17.2006 4:23pm
Avatar (mail):
Criminy, it doesn't HAVE to be an iPod. There are plenty of off-brand players out there, some under $50. We're talking about lectures, so you don't need symphonic audio quality, either, so space really isn't an issue.
10.17.2006 7:24pm
John Mayer (mail) (www):
I have just posted some of the 100+ comments we received from law students who were in classes taught by law professors who created podcasts for their courses in the Spring of 2006 for the CALI Legal Education Podcasting Project. The post can be found at caliopolis.classcaster.org.

Admittedly, these are different than the Law 101 podcasts, but there is much relevant feedback from law students in these comments.
10.20.2006 2:11am