Welcome to S|M| i |L|E


S|M| i |L|E (Social Media in Legal Education) is a collaborative project involving Australian legal academics. The project emerged out of discussions between four academics attending the Australasian Law Teachers Association annual conference at Bond University (Gold Coast, Queensland) during July 2014. Have a look around, read the posts, make a comment, or contact us if you have an idea for a new post.

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Is social media an antidote to academic futility?

Here’s an interesting discussion of the value of Academics using blogging and social media platforms. The author makes a good point about the ‘sort power’ that comes with academic blogging. I particularly liked the following reflective point:

Blogging is a great antidote to that feeling of anticlimax and futility that comes after you send off the paper or the book manuscript, and suddenly the true indifference of the universe becomes apparent. You can keep discussing and communicating with interesting people, and keep the existential crisis at bay.

Another important advantage is the increase in readership of your work and establishing your expertise and profile in your area. The post quotes World Bank research that concluded

Blogging about a paper causes a large increase in the number of abstract views and downloads in the same month

Kris Greaves demonstrates this in his experiment in promoting his scholarly article by consistently tweeting about the work 5 a day for a month. His article then rose to the 3rd most read/downloaded article in The Law Teacher for the previous 5 years! It’s an unusual experiment, but easy to replicate if you want to try.

Are you blogging or tweeting your research? Have you found it helps your scholarship and your scholarly identity? Or is it just too far out of your comfort zone?

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Can you Kahoot! in the Law classroom?

Guest Author: Kay Tucker @KayTLawLibnKahoot_full_logo_purple

Last year, our team of Monash Law librarians started using Kahoot! in the classroom with first year Monash Law students. We’d already tried Poll Everywhere in our legal research classes, and found this a great way to check understanding of early concepts and gauge understanding anonymously, but we wanted to try something new that would help energise the class. Kahoot! has colour, sound and a sense of fun, and it adds a competitive element – something that appeals to law students. There are lots of ways to use Kahoot!; as an ice-breaker, to test understanding of new concepts or pre-class activities, to revise topics, to gather opinions, and others described on the Kahoot! website.

In our Week 1, Semester 1 class, we use Kahoot! at the start of the class as both as an ice-breaker and to stimulate discussion about some elements of legal research. Using three multiple choice questions seems to be about right and sets up a competition to get to the final leader board where the top three receive a chocolate prize. Points are awarded based on both accuracy and speed.

In the second class in Week 2, we drop in a couple of Kahoot! questions in the middle of the class after we’ve discussed the concepts of law reporting and authorised reports. This topic confuses many a law student, so the activity helps us to see whether the students have got it, as well as providing a break between the discussion and the next application activity.Kahoot Image 2

This year, particularly, I found that many of the students were already familiar with Kahoot!, having used it at secondary school. Some students were excited about using it again (probably due to the chocolate prizes) while others seemed to view it as a bit juvenile. They certainly get inventive when choosing a nickname!

Kahoot! is easy to use. Sign up for free, and choose the type of question, Quiz, Jumble (new), Discussion or Survey. Add the question, set a time limit, and put in your answer options. You can also add an image or a video and credit the resources. Copy the link into your slides if you have them so that you can easily go to it in class.

Kahoot Image 1To play the game in the classroom, students can use any device – mobile phone, ipad, or laptop. They just need to go to kahoot.it

The teacher goes to the game link, selects Classic (you can also play in Team mode), then provides the game PIN to the students. They enter the PIN, then put in their name (or nickname) – I recently had a Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce in my class! When all the students are in, the teacher can start the game.


Using Kahoot! is best in the classroom, although the site suggests setting questions as homework or after class activity as well. Its benefits lie in the teacher quickly being able to see if the majority of students understand a concept and whether any further discussion is necessary. Asking students to create their own Kahoot! and then lead the class in playing it is something I’d like to try next when there’s more time.

Kay Tucker is the Law Library Manager, at Monash University.

Have you used Kahoot! or other similar applications in your law classes? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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Improving Visibility with Twitter

During my PhD research, I found that scholarly articles about legal education (particularly those in my area of interest – practice-based legal education) had few citations. For example, in studying the literature about Australian practical legal training published during 2006-2012 I found 10 articles listed on Google Scholar, World of Science, and Scopus, of which only 2 were cited in other literature. It seemed to me that this literature struggled for visibility in the field, let alone influence. In my thesis and elsewhere, I’ve argued that social media provides a means to improve the visibility and influence of legal education research and scholarship.

I decided to experiment with my recently published article. After the article was published online, I posted 4 tweets/day for two weeks, with a link to my article. I also posted 2 tweets/day to the whole issue of the journal in which my article appeared. Each tweet was slightly different, highlighting a specific issue in the article. After the first day, I used Buffer to automatically queue and send the same tweets. It is important to note that the publisher allowed me to share 50 free downloads via a special link – I distributed the special link in some tweets, and via sites such as LinkedIn, Academia.edu, and ResearchGate.

[See postscript below] The GIF below includes a chart that counts the number of online reads and downloads, and a chart for the altmetrics, for each article in the issue published online (8 articles). My article (shown as X) scored highest in both charts. The almetric score is a way of measuring social media visibility. The charts show that by Day 14, the read count for item X (at 253) was greater than all the other items combined (Day 15, however, saw a leap in the altmetric and read score for two other items). It is a rudimentary experiment, but I would argue that in this case, the visibility of my article was improved by social media interactions. Hopefully, improved visibility would lead to improved engagement and impact, too.



I kept plotting the number of reads/downloads for all the items for 30 days. The chart below shows the result in 5-day increments. By Day 25, Item X was in the top-10 most-read articles in journal since mid-2011, and by Day 30 it was the 7th most-read item.



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Qualitative Analysis of Social Media in #legaled

A limited number of free eprints are available for Kristoffer Greaves’ just-published article, ‘Computer-aided qualitative data analysis of social media for teachers and students in legal education’, in the latest issue of The Law Teacher—click on the image below to access, copy and paste this link into your browser: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/MTjbjkgF7t4Tps7Ch9ir/full

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Experimenting with i-books

This was originally posted in Katgallow.

A couple of weeks ago I self-published a free interactive i-book, Land Law & Sustainability. The book is available through itunes – though it can only be viewed by those with Apple devices, I’m sad to say.

Front cover

I received a small grant from James Cook University’s Division of Learning Teaching & Student Engagement for the project. I had already been looking into the possibility of publishing an e-book. I was looking for something to support student learning in law that was inexpensive (possibly free), accessible, able to be digitally manipulated by the user, and aligned with my own teaching interests. I therefore couldn’t resist playing with the technology to do this project.

So did I achieve these goals?

Book features

I used the Apple program iBooks Author to create the book. It was the easiest program I’ve ever used. It was intuitive, and took me only a few minutes to create something that actually looked like it might be a book. The layouts were easy to set up and the widgets were on the whole easy to install. I did not take advantage of all widgets – so there is no video or audio clips. I did however install interactive quizzes and slideshows. The entire book is hyperlinked.

Example of a quiz question, allowing the user to check the answer

Because I generally use PowerPoint to make my own slides (and share them on slideshare) I did have to convert them to Keynote to install in the book. The slideshows then have the same function as slideshare does – but embedded within the book itself.

I hyperlinked wherever possible to cases and legislation. My view is that I would rather students go to source than rely on excerpts. If it is easier to reach primary sources, then surely students are more likely to use them…

The content of the book is almost directly from the workbooks I provide students taking my subjects Land Law 1 and Land Law 2. Usually I provide word documents on a module by module basis. The book collects all of these together. In this format the workbooks include other resources that I normally post on the subject site, such as slides and quizzes. The book therefore becomes an integrated subject resource.

A panel opens to allow reader notes and highlighting

Readers of the book can highlight, annotate and share – it will be interesting to see how students engage with the book.


My only real issue with this platform of publication is that it is not universally accessible – it can be used only by those with an Apple device. It is possible to upload it as a PDF, making the content universally accessible, but it loses the lovely functionality that is the highlight of the interactive book.

My students seemed excited when I released the book – so I will see what they think about its utility in enhancing their learning before I pass the final verdict.

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Meme-alicious Law Teaching

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 2.03.12 pmWhile many frequent visitors to social media sites will be aware of (elaborate air quotes) memes, I suspect that their value as a teaching tool has not been recognised. This changed for me late in 2014, thanks to a student of mine whose use of memes in a journal assessment task illustrated very clearly the process of her learning. Let me elaborate.

Meet Paige Webb (metaphorically speaking) now a third year law student. I taught Paige last year in Land Law (1 and 2). I was teaching in block mode – each subject consisted of a six-week block – and to keep students on track, I set a 20% preparation and participation assessment. Students would be graded based on weekly contribution in class, but also on a weekly learning journal. In the journal students would identify how they went about their learning in that week, issues they had and how they resolved them. Students were asked to upload an ‘artefact’ of their learning to demonstrate how they had gone about their learning. I would respond to each journal entry within 24 hours. (This is possible for me with a small cohort.) In the past I have had students upload poems, images of handwritten notes, images of whiteboard scribblings and so on. But Paige was the first to upload memes. Here they are:


Socially awkward penguin


Matrix Morpheus


Futurama Fry/Not sure if

What struck me about the memes was that they encapsulated the uncertainty students experience in encountering these concepts for the first time. The ambiguity or opacity of legal concepts can be invisible to those familiar with the law. But in these memes I was reminded of the challenge of navigating these concepts for the first time. They assisted Paige in explaining to me the process of her own learning, and they helped me to identify where my students may have been grappling with these key concepts.

Since then I have started to use memes in my teaching. It’s not really an indicator of my burning desire to be in with the cool kids… The meme itself tells a story in a single glance. By superimposing text relevant to what is being taught, the underlying visuals enhance the conceptual message.

How to make a meme

There are meme generators, for free, available online. It is so easy, anyone can do it. Just select your meme, insert text and presto! If you are interested in the origins of memes, you can find information here. What’s more, I’m discovering ready-made memes via Google image search, that are relevant to my teaching. Or, well, maybe not…but fun nonetheless! Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 2.09.10 pm

Thanks to Paige Webb for permission to use her memes, and to discuss her experience here.

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Polling during Presentations: a walk-through

In a previous post I describe the use of Twitter and text polling for interactive presentations. I recently had a go at this in my presentation on presentations for a group of academics at Warrnambool, and it worked really well.

My audience posted anonymous questions and comments during the presentation, and I allowed 15 minutes near the end to review and discuss these. The polling provided a way to have discussions, without the audience needing to “out” themselves by asking a question in public. Later, I followed up with some written responses to include links to further information.

A few people asked me about how to set up and use the polling service. I’ve made a short walk-through SlideShare:


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A little bit meta – meta events, peripheral participation and data

StorifyThere’s an event going on – you really wanted to attend, but you couldn’t make it. This time you’re in luck – some thoughtful  people are live blogging and live tweeting the event. You can follow their reports – and if you want to know more, you look up the presenters, key terms and concepts. Maybe the event itself is a research moment – planned or serendipitous? In this situation the tweets and the blogs might be useful data – how might you capture and analyse these?

To use a recent example, the good people at the Wellness Network for Law held a forum at the Australian National University in Canberra during 5-6 February 2015. Regrettably I could not attend – I’m working on the end phase of my PhD candidature – but I was able to follow the forum on Twitter, by following the #wellnessforlaw hashtag, and reading Paul Maharg’s live blog posts.

Because savvy people at the forum took care to include the hashtag in their tweets, I was able to compile a comprehensive Storify of tweets from the Forum. This gathered all the hashtagged tweets in one place, and made it possible to view them as a slide show (along with attached images). It is a bit like attending a meta version of the event! It is also an easy way to archive this version of the event for future reference.

So the forum provided a great opportunity for individuals and organisations to network and share information and ideas around the theme of wellbeing in law. It seems to me, however, that the event as an event, was significant and could be studied. The focus on lawyers and law students’ wellbeing is a relatively recent phenomenon in Australian legal history. Might it be fruitful to study the event itself – consider the concepts and themes emerging from it, and ways in which they align, complement or conflict. What underlying beliefs or discursive operations might be rendered visible. Could we use the hashtagged tweets as one data source in this context?

I was able to capture the tweets for analysis by using NVivo10 computer-aided qualitative software and the NCapture add-on. In precis, I searched for tweets with the hashtag #wellnessforlaw, then used the NCapture tool (it works as an add-on in your internet browser) to capture the tweets as a dataset. Then I imported the dataset into NVivo10 – it saved the tweets together with the meta-data, such as tweet identifier, twitter user name, location, date and time, and whether  the tweet was a retweet. The dataset can be exported out of NVivo as a spreadsheet, and used in other software. Here’s an example of the dataset:

Dataset TableIt is possible to “code” rows, columns, and cells to a “node” as a case, concept, or theme. A node works like a bucket to hold all the items coded to that concept or theme. For example, I selected the dataset column “Tweet” and coded all the items contained in the column to the node, “Tweeted Text”.

Code Tweeted TextI could then open the “Tweeted Text” node to read through the tweets and then “code on” for concepts and themes discerned within the tweets.

From the “Tweeted Text” node, I could generate a quick visualisation of the most frequent words used in the tweets:

Word Freq Word CloudI could pick out words of interest from the visualisation, run a word search on the dataset, then code on from those search results.

Going back to the dataset – I can generate some interesting visualisations that might highlight avenues of inquiry. Here is a dendogram produced by cluster analysis for word similarity between usernames’ tweets:

Cluster Analysis copy

Here, the image is deliberately blurred to obscure twitter names save for mine (PleagleTrainer) and those associated with the forum. The cluster analysis compared all the tweets by username using the Pearson’s R correlation coefficient to generate a table of pairs. A complete linkage algorithm is used to create the dendogram above. The items that are paired are the most highly correlated in a cluster. Other items in a cluster are also correlated, to a lesser degree of similarity. The same applies to items in other clusters.

Such analysis proves nothing by itself – but it might prompt me to return to the tweets associated with paired and clustered usernames, to read them and discern whether they share concepts or themes, and how these might compare with items in other clusters. This might lead to further reflection and analysis before writing up conclusions.

I wasn’t able to attend the event, but I was able to participate in the meta-event, and if I chose, I could use that meta-event as data to learn more about the forum’s subject matter, but also the forum as an incident of social action in legal education.

I think we can plan to be a bit meta, plan for reflexivity, when organising and participating in social action in legal education.




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‘Flipping’ a law classroom

How I learned to stop worrying and love the video:

Law, Flipped, blended learning, media,

Flipped law class project – Monash University

In 2014 my colleague Ross Hyams and I developed a series of 12 short videos for use in the Monash Law 1st year law program. We were fortunate enough to secure a small pilot project grant, which helped us pay for a technical and production assistant, Sam Blashki. The three of us worked together to put the series together, with the aim of attempting a partial ‘flip’ of the 1st year introductory unit, Foundations of Law.

The university then asked us to give a staff seminar, which was captured on video. At the time we delivered the staff seminar, we had not quite anticipated that the video would ultimately be up for public viewing, but now it is available all to see! I only mention this, because it is a very ‘rough’ presentation, we were unscripted and we talk over each other a bit. It is over 50 minutes, I think the interesting part is from 4.10 to about 17 minutes, that’s enough to get the idea!

So yes, I had to overcome my fears and appear on video, and guess what? It wasn’t too bad.

If the video is a bit long for you, here are the key points:

Ross and I are not all that technically competent, but we are happy to try new things, and can use a video camera, we learnt to do basic editing on imovie, and Camtasia (which we did not end up using). Sam actually did the filming and editing, sourced the images, got permissions, edited the images into the videos etc and even uploaded to youtube on a private channel for us. We embeded the youtube links into to the unit Moodle page, and placed them along side the information about the week’s readings.

We worked with existing lecture notes, we selected basic parts of the lectures which needed to be taught, but were basic and not always interestingly conveyed in class (what are the parts of parliament, how are statutes made, the reception of British law etc).  We use the time released from lecturing, to engage in more discussion, activities, case studies, and group work. We also designed little quizzes that can be used on the unit page, or in class, for students to check their comprehension of the content.

We filmed with a normal video camera, on a little tripod, in the same place, with the same background, and same intro and conclusion (‘Hi, today we will be talking about …’ and ‘so today we talked about x, y and z. see you next time’). Each video is around 10 minutes.

There is no explicit link between each episode, so they do not have to be watched in order. If the reading guide/class timetable changes, the order of the videos can be swapped around. We refrained from mentioning page numbers or specific books, in case new editions come out, or lecturers change texts. Those details are on the reading guide and added onto the unit page.

Here is the 13th video, the short introduction to the project.

Monash wrote up  a little piece on the project; Flipping the Classroom Law Style.

If you are interested in exploring the ‘flipped’ or ‘blended learning’ approach to law classes, check out the great materials at LegalEd Web or look at Can “Flip Teaching” Happen in Law School?. I found just googling flipped law class gives plenty of ideas.

I also audited UNSW’s Mooc Learning To Teach Online. I recommend it to anyone thinking about using videos to support blended learning (but you don’t have to wait for it, I’m not sure when they are running it again).

If you want to do a sample video, to see how it works, just take a short video on your phone, or tablet, and edit it. Or don’t even edit it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, after all we are all imperfect in the lecture theatre.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with podcasts and videos that support classroom teaching, please leave your comments below.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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