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Teaching Law with Technology Prize 2020—Finalists announced

Kirsten Maslen

06 Mar 2020

We are delighted to announce the finalists for the Teaching Law with Technology Prize 2020. The prize celebrates innovation and creativity in bringing technology to the classroom. Thomson Reuters has been serving lawyers across the legal ecosystem for decades. In that time, technology has become increasingly central to how legal services are delivered and consumed.

Our finalists represent a cohort of legal educators enriching the legal learning experience and enabling their students to develop practical technological and skills alongside legal knowledge. We are grateful for the opportunity to celebrate their success in nurturing the next generation of legal talent.

We had many worthy entries and the judges had a difficult task whittling down the list to these three standout projects:

Linda Chadderton, University of Central Lancashire

“Legally Bound” is Linda’s legally themed escape room concept used gamification to build legal research skills, as well as teamwork and communication, while increasing student attendance and engagement.

Before entering the escape room, students were given a scenario. A client charged with a breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which required them to locate evidence against the clock using a virtual reality headset, chatbots, online quiz, jigsaws and mobile telecommunications. The escape room “tests, engages, and requires students to communicate, problem solve, research law, think in a lateral manner and immerse themselves in technology…to progress to the end and ‘exonerate their client’ and escape the room”.

The project led to an increase in attendance and engagement and overwhelmingly positive feedback from both staff and students.

The judges agreed that the concept was original and presented a varied and engaging digital learning experience.

Hugh McFaul, Open Justice Centre, The Open University

The Open University’s Justice in Action module makes use of education technologies to provide a bridge between the law school and the community and between students and the legal profession. Students can use their legal knowledge and skills by engaging in pro bono activities through providing free legal advice, education and guidance to members of the public. “Innovative applications of technology including VR are embedded into both the teaching and practical phases of the module”. The virtual law clinic enables students, supervisors and clients who are geographically dispersed to collaborate online through a secure web platform. Other initiatives within the Justice in Action module include public legal education projects and the Digital Justice project, which develops students’ employability and social entrepreneurship skills by challenging them to design and develop a smartphone app to deliver free legal advice.

Students have described the module as “intellectually challenging, innovative and joyful” and exposing them to thinking about “how combining legal AI, data science and software engineering together can impact on delivering legal services”.

The judges praised the excellent and imaginative ways the project allows online students to experience a clinic.

Imogen Moore, University of Bristol

Imogen Moore’s Law Padlet project at Bristol University uses freely available accessible technology to create a more responsive and empowering learning environment that is so difficult to achieve in a large lecture theatre. The project was introduced to four hundred final year students in their Trusts module. The technology enables students to ask questions anonymously in real time, and for the lecturer to address them immediately. Many students are often “unwilling or unable to ask questions in front of their peers” especially in large groups, due to anxiety or fear of being seen to have asked a “stupid” question. Other opportunities to check understanding are “insufficiently immediate (and) increase the risk of students feeling left behind and unable to participate”.

Students have asked for the practice to be repeated across other subjects. For lecturers, “it has highlighted previously unsuspected problem areas…including concepts critical to understanding”.

This project is a great example of simple, easily repeatable technology being used to empower and engage students. The judges noted how effective Imogen’s approach was in addressing the significant challenge of engagement in a large lecture hall setting.

The finalists will be presenting at the Association of Law Teachers (ALT) Annual Conference at Stirling University on 6th-7th April 2020 where the delegates will vote on the winner.

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