Social Media in a Multi-Dimensional SoTL of #legaled

My research interest is scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) in legal education and practical legal training. Here, I write about incorporating social media in a multi-dimensional model of SoTL,* for legal education.

SoTL is a problematic and non-exhaustively defined concept, you can read my discussion about this here. I’ve also identified at least 10 reasons why SoTL matters in #legaled. I’ve found that certain products of #legaled SoTL fly below the bibliometric radar, which denies them visibility and influence.

I think social media provides an alternative way to share #legaled scholarship, to develop visibility and influence, and to raise the status of SoTL. Trigwell et al’s multi-dimensional model of SoTL provides a way of conceptualising this:**

TrigwelletalMDMThe multi-dimensional model is comprised of four dimensions: informed; communication; reflection; and conceptualisation of teaching. The dimensions frame qualitatively distinguishable activities, eg, the communication dimension ranges from “none”, through intra-institutional and extra-institutional communications (e.g. peer-to-peer presentations; conferences), to “authors work… for peer-reviewed journals”.

You probably already see how social media activities can engage with each of these dimensions. Social media can be a place for information exchange, a place for communication and collaboration, unhindered by temporal or spatial constraints. Social media is also a dynamic place in which to engage in reflective, and I would add reflexive, practice. The way you conceptualise teaching and learning (teacher focused? learner focused? variations?) can inform your approach to social media, or be problematised by social media.

In the context of getting workplace credit for SoTL work in #legaled, or attracting support or resources to proposed SoTL work, social media provides a way to improve your visibility and influence. Given many legal education journals are not ranked in the proprietary journal ranking databases, and many legal education articles tend to have low citation counts, it can be difficult to use conventional bibliometrics to persuade decision-makers to credit you, or provide you with supports. Some savvy use of social media and altmetrics might redress the balance (I’ve discussed one tactic here), and you can use the multi-dimensional model to help frame your pitch to the decision-makers.

That said, I think there are inherent benefits of using social  media to engage with information, communication, reflection, and conceptualisation dimensions of SoTL in #legaled.

* The multi-dimensional model used here is adapted from Keith Trigwell et al, ‘Scholarship of teaching: a model’ (2000) 19(2) Higher Education Research and Development 155.

** Trigwell et al present the model in tabular or matrix format, which is useful for coding or analysing individuals’ engagement with SoTL. I’ve used a concept map to free up ways of approaching the model.

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10 Tips about Working with Online Discussions in #legaled

online discussionsOnline (computer-mediated) discussions seem to be increasingly adopted for learning interactions in legal education. The form and structure of these discussions vary widely, depending on the technology and the context adopted. The discussions can be synchronous or asynchronous, appear in relatively simple bulletin board style formats, or be embedded as part of more complex simulations. Synchronous discussions can provide “real time” flow, whereas asynchronous discussions provide flexibility for participants working in different time zones, or to different timeframes.

Social media offers learners a way of taking online discussions out of institutionally-based proprietary systems, and some legal educators use platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, for online discussions.

Most online discussions have in common the capacity to overcome distance between participants. Aside from flexibility, and assuming access to the necessary technology, this quality can  improve equity and parity of access to participants who might not otherwise be able to participate in a learning event, e.g. rural or regional learners, or hearing-impaired learners.

It seems to me that some institutions perceive online discussions as a way of saving costs. I believe that this is not necessarily so, when taking into account learner satisfaction, and achievement of learning outcomes. It is true that some online discussions seem to fire up of their own accord, and this is great when it happens. On the other hand, where online discussions are used regularly and consistently as a medium for teaching and learning, and given the variability of social interactions, appropriate preparation before using online discussions is advisable.

Here, I provide 10 tips drawn from my work in online discussions, and my masters research completed in 2011.* I have not included references, but citations are included in the article linked below.

1: It does not matter what platform or software you use for online discussions, provided that it is robust, safe, and easy for your learners to access and use. My research suggests that “bells and whistles” are not particularly valued by learners, and are distracting. In my experience, proprietary systems custom-built for institutions tend not to do as well as freely available platforms, familiar to most learners these days.

2: Learner motivation and engagement can depend on many things. The fundamentals are: learners can see the activity as important and relevant to their learning; and learners can see they have resources they need to undertake the activity. Plain language guidance about these, before beginning the activity, is essential.

3: Be explicit about what you are looking for in the discussions. The “community of inquiry” framework is one way of discussing this:

  • “Cognitive Presence”: learners’ participation made visible through engagement with questions and peers, reflective statements, discussions, and peer-to-peer feedback.
  • “Social Presence”: learners’ projection of their personal, social, and affective characteristics, in ways appropriate to the context.
  • “Teaching Presence”: made visible through the design and organisation of the activity, facilitation of the discussion, direct instruction (also timely stepping in to clear up errors or ambiguities), and linking insights to learning outcomes.

4: In my research, I found that learners value peer-to-peer discussions very highly, and are dissatisfied if they do not receive individual feedback from their peers, in addition to the teacher’s feedback.

5: Whilst learners highly value peer-to-peer interactions, they also value the teacher’s timely interjections when the group is struggling with something.

6: Learners expect to receive from the teacher, individual, relevant, and timely feedback. Learn about those who are in the group. Knowing about learners’ past experiences with discussions can be informative.

7: That said, learners are dissatisfied if the teacher dominates the discussion. So teachers need to get a sense of when to hold back, and give the learners a chance to develop their sense of community.

8: Like a good dinner party, learn when to clear the table, and bring out the next course (instructions, interjections, discussion topics, activities).

9: Assessment – this can motivate engagement, but is also a recipe for superficial participation, and group dissatisfaction. If you intend to grade participation in discussions, be very clear about how this is done, and if possible supply a rubric as a point of reference.

10: A light touch – sparingly feed in relevant and current materials, like blog posts and streaming videos – be clear about whether extrinsic material speaks to the learning objectives, and furthers understanding.


* Greaves, K & Lynch, J, 2012, ‘Is The Lecturer In The Room? A Study Of Student Satisfaction With Online Discussion Within Practical Legal Training’, Legal Education Review, vol. 22, no. 1&2, pp. 147-75. Available at SSRN:


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10 Reasons Why I Use LinkedIn

Many legal educators used LinkedIn, but several have told me they don’t see the point.
Managed appropriately, LinkedIn can be a useful social media tool within a community of practice. Click on the image to see my presentation on why I LinkedIn is a useful tool for legal educators. (Presentation made with the emaze tool)

emazelinkedinFind me on LinkedIn.

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Tumblr – an explainer

Screen shot 2014-08-11 at 7.47.27 PM There is a fair bit written about using Twitter and blogs in higher education, and in legal education. Less visible however is the easy-to use microblogging/social media hybrid, Tumblr. The question is, can Tumblr be used in an educational context? The answer is, yes it can – but its form means that it may not appeal to purists seeking an in-depth doctrinal analysis of complex areas of law.

In the words of the Tumblr website:

Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything.

Post text, photos, quotes, links, music and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, e-mail or wherever you happen to be. You can customize everything, from colors to your theme’s HTML.


To use Tumblr, you subscribe to accounts and you can view posts – often audio/visual, though also textual – as you scroll vertically through your feed. In this respect, the experience is somewhat like Twitter. The interactive part occurs via a ‘like’ or comment on a post, somewhat like Facebook. Accounts also have the option of ‘ask me anything’, inviting question and answer. These interactions then show up on the post, and will be viewable in the feed of all who subscribe to that account.

Additionally, once you have an account, you can upload simply and easily from your smartphone, computer or other device. You can upload thoughts (via text), images, videos, audio, web links…or combinations of these, according to your interests. Many posts use hashtags to represent key words, and these can be searched to find new accounts to follow, or to follow a ‘trending’ event.

There is a lot of introspection on tumblr, and it is a platform also known for pornographic images so users should be aware of this, particularly in an educational context. Despite these common uses, there are a lot of accounts that engage with contemporary justice issues and also of Australian law. Tumblr therefore has a variety of resources that may  be of interest to legal academics and their students. In particular, it is the variety in the posts that makes this a particularly engaging medium. See the image below, showing only a few of the variety of accounts and posts under ‘law’. (It shows a number of accounts along the top, with individual sample posts below.)

Tumblr search 'law'

There are a number of Tumblr accounts that deal with topics of relevance to Australian law students. While there are many human rights accounts (see screen shot below), check out Art and Human Rights. This is an excellent example of the use of Tumblr in that it integrates audio/visual and text-based approaches to human rights. This makes for a neat package of (popular) culture and law that integrates law and legal thinking into the reader’s own experiences. (Well, at least the reader’s experiences via popular culture.)

Screen shot 2014-08-11 at 7.08.01 PM

The Criminal Lawyer provides an ‘illustrated guide to criminal law’ and even answers (non-specific) questions about the criminal law. Again, it makes the most of the variety of media that can be uploaded onto Tumblr.

For a text-based Australian law account, take a look at Shitjudgessay. This pithy account captures brief quotes from Australian case law. Without necessarily proclaiming the ratio or important obiter from leading cases, it encapsulates ‘the vibe’ of the courtroom and the literate foundation of the law through its selections. It provides the student of law with a view of the law at odds with the all-too-serious approach of the law school curriculum.

My last example illustrates how a lecturer can use Tumblr as a medium of communication with students and other viewers. At Freedom to Dixer, legal academic Peter Black invites questions from readers. Some of these relate to his course administration and others are more personal. Either way, this account represents the way in which social media lies at the intersection of the somehow within and beyond the professional. It is an effective use of a social media tool to engage and communicate with students.

Because of the infinite ways in which the user can tailor Tumblr to their own interests, it can be used by the academic in a number of ways. Dissemination of information to support a course, links to current events, question and answer and diverse ‘artifacts’ to represent a path of thought about the law, Tumblr can do it all. For the course designer however, it’s important to remember that this is a tool designed by the user. So giving over control to the viewer is part of the challenge.

I suspect that Tumblr can also be used as a tool for students to capture (and post) their own thoughts and impressions of the law – but I’m not aware of how academics are presently using it deliberately as part of course design. Do you have any ideas?

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Recent additions to the Libraries (9 August 2014)

Some additions to the ‘Academics‘ and ‘Practitioners‘ libraries this week:

Julia E Rodriguez, ‘Social media use in higher education: Key areas to consider for educators‘ (2011).

Gráinne Conole and Panagiota Alevizou, ‘A literature review of the use of Web 2.0 tools in Higher Education‘ (2010)  A report commissioned by the Higher Education Academy.

Lenore Georgina Adeline Hamilton, ‘Social Media and the Tyranny of Distance-Pacific Access to Legal Information‘ (2013) 1(1) Journal of Open Access to Law.

Liesel Spencer and Elen Seymour, ‘Reading Law: Motivating Digital Natives to ‘Do the Reading’’

Carolyn Elefant, ‘Power of Social Media: Legal Issues & Best Practices for Utilities Engaging Social Media, The‘ (2011) 32 Energy LJ 1.

Eric Forcier, Dinesh Rathi and Lisa Given, ‘Tools of Engagement for Knowledge Management: Using Social Media to Capture Non-Profit Organizations’ Stories‘ (Paper presented at the Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, 2014).

Jan L Jacobowitz and Danielle Singer, ‘The Social Media Frontier: Exploring a New Mandate for Competence in the Practice of Law‘ (2014) 68 U. Miami L. Rev. 445.

Eric D Ragan et al, ‘Unregulated use of laptops over time in large lecture classes‘ (2014) 78 Computers & Education 78. (paywalled)


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A Digital Repository for #legaled Conferences?

figsharekgtizedIn an earlier post, I described using Twitter and Storify as a digital repository for events. I am especially thinking about the lack of a repository for legal education conferences in Australia.

Paul Maharg commented on this after the 2013 Australasian Law Teachers Association (ALTA) annual conference at ANU:

What happens to all the presentations after the event?  I didn’t see any process to capture slides & papers and organise this on the ALTA site.  As I argued in my keynote the archiving of papers, presentations, projects and much else is essential to the memory of the discipline, in which regulators should be taking a leading role; but until that happens, professional bodies such as ALTA need to do that for the academic profession, and a good place to start would be with the annual conference.

I agree. As someone researching practical legal training practitioners’ engagement with scholarship of teaching and learning, I have encountered huge gaps in archived material for professional legal education in Australia. There seems to be no central repository for materials presented at the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council (APLEC) annual conferences either.  A key concept in scholarship of teaching and learning is sharing work, to extend knowledge, and for critical scrutiny. I contend a good repository will further this work.

It is true that some (not all) conference papers become available through publication in scholarly journals, in time. Some presenters take time to share presentations via their personal blogs, or on sites such as, ResearchGate, and SSRN. There seems to be no centralised “event” repository, however.

Further, it is possible to conceptualise legal education scholarship as a ‘multi-dimensional’ body of activities (Trigwell et al, 2000). Those dimensions include “information”, “reflection”, “communication”, and the “conceptual”. Publication in scholarly journals is a fragment within those dimensions. In the context of social media in legal education, we see new modes of communication, new ways of working with information, and new platforms for reflection in action. All of which further problematise ways we conceptualise teaching and learning.

So a centralised event repository should ideally have the capacity to encompass all of these, be robust, and be easy to set up and use.

I think there are many possible solutions, but here I will suggest one example. Over the last few days I have trialled figshare.  It took just a few minutes to set up the account. It takes longer to upload the materials, but figshare supply a desktop uploader, which allows  batched uploads.

Uploaded materials can be classified, eg, “presentation”, “paper”, “dataset”, etc. Each item can be tagged, eg, “online forums”, “community of inquiry”, “professional responsibility”, to produce metadata. Best of all, each item is given a digital object identifier (DOI), which means it is easy to cite, and to track using altmetrics. It would be possible to include datasets and data visualisations from social media outputs connected to the event.

This seems to me to be a simple durable way to set up a digital repository for legal education conferences and other events. It seems that figshare contemplates the use of institutional accounts for data management, data dissemination, and reporting. Perhaps each conference could have its own repository, or perhaps organisations such as ALTA and APLEC could set up institutional accounts? I’ve used figshare as an example, but there might be other appropriate resources.

To have a durable, searchable, trackable, centralised, taggable, digital repository for all dimensions of legal education scholarship would be an excellent resource.

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Using Powtoon for short presentations

Kate Galloway, in her recent series of posts on legal education in a digital context, invited us all to take some step to try something, anything, to digitally enhance our legal teaching practice, whether we were at entry level, consolidation or mastery of our skills.

We always talk about getting away from reliance on powerpoint slides, so I decided to try Powtoon, a free animated video editing site, that allows you to make short presentations that can be accessed online by everybody. You can also upload the link they give you to a you-tube channel, embed it in your learning management platform, or into your presentation slides.

Setting up an account was easy (email address, password, username etc) and you can get started on a presentation quickly. There are templates, or you can design your own from their ‘drag and drop’ collection of icons, characters and backgrounds. I deliberately used every font and animation I could (defying all edicts of visual communication and design) so I could see what’s available. Some fancier gizmos, backgrounds and music can be purchased with an ‘upgrade’, but click through for a sample of what a novice can do in 2 hours for no cost:

Melissa’s Powtoon on Social Media for Law Students.

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 5.30.24 PM

Melissa’s sample Powtoon presentation

I found the ‘drag and drop’ process quicker and easier than Prezi, and much more fun than powerpoint; the end product, the videos, are engaging. It could be used by law lecturers for introducing a topic, for conveying the relationship between parties or facts of cases, or for student presentations. It would be suitable for ‘flipped’ learning. What do you think of Powtoon? Have you used any alternatives to prezi or powerpoint recently?

I would love your feedback via comments below.

Melissa Castan teaches law at Monash University, and maintains the Amicae Curiae Blog. She tweets as @MsCastan.

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Using Storify and Twitter as an Event Repository

storifytized Storify is an online aggregating tool. It provides a way of curating social media and web content, which can be represented in “narrative” form.

I confess that my use of Storify probably does not realise its full potential. I contend, however, that even my basic use of Storify has some powerful advantages. I use Storify to help solve two problems:

1) most legal education conferences I’ve attended do not seem to maintain a centralised digital repository about the event, or the knowledge shared at the event; and

2) there are lots of excellent events I do not get to attend, in which I would like to participate peripherally, and record for later use.

One solution is to partner Storify with Twitter. These days many events are “live tweeted” by a number of attendees, i.e. people tweet snippets of presentations, and their own observations from within the audience at the event. If the event is well-planned, the organisers will nominate a #hashtag for the event, in anticipation of it being live-tweeted, e.g. #FutureEd.

Using Storify, it is possible to collect all the tweets with that #hashtag together as a timeline. You can edit the timeline to remove duplicates and to improve its narrative quality. Other social media (e.g. Google+, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram) can be added to the Storify. When you’ve created the Storify, you can publish it, then share it via social media or email.

I’ve used this process for conferences, lectures, seminars, and Twitter discussions. Legal educators could also use Storify to aggregate subject content, or as a medium for group work. You can view a recent effort based on ANU’s “Blow up the Lecture” event.


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Working with Pinterest

lawschoolpinteresttizedPinterest has not been in my social media inventory until now. So in this post, I am approaching it as an interested newbie. I’ve posted some brief comments about this at PleagleTrainer Blog, and expand on those comments here.

When we set up S|M| i |L|E, with the purpose of engaging with and supporting social media in legal education, we discussed how Pinterest should be included. None of us, however, had really used the platform in our legal education work. We are keeping an eye open for relevant resources, so if you know of any, please share with us!

I decided I would set up my Pinterest account and start using it, to learn more about it. Setting up is fairly easy, and you can link to your existing Twitter or Facebook account, if you choose. I also installed the “Pin it” bookmarklet in my browser, to expedite “pinning” of web content to my “boards”. The initial setup plus pinning some of my online materials took less than an hour.

So, yes, it is virtual pin board, which you can organise top-specific boards. You have the option of looking at all your pins at once (pretty!), or focus on a topic specific board. You can add individual “pins” to a board. Pins can be files from your computer (pictures usually) or web addresses for web pages,  audio visual streams, tweets, blog posts, etc. Pins and boards can be shared, or set up as private (“secret”).

I am particularly interested in how Pinterest could be used for research (my research involves scholarship of teaching and learning in legal education). This useful post by the Social Media Collective Research blog provides tips on “how to use it”,  “what you get”, and “why we like it”.

For an account of using Pinterest as a teaching and learning tool in higher education, see Kirsten Hansen, Gillian Nowlan and Christina Winter, ‘Pinterest as a tool: Applications in academic libraries and higher education’ (2012) 7(2) Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research.

When I searched for scholarly articles about using Pinterest in education, I noticed several articles appeared in the academic libraries literature. If you are thinking about using Pinterest as part of your legal education work, it might be prudent to discuss this with your liaison librarian, they are likely able to quickly tap into available resources.

I envisage that Pinterest could be used in legal education in multiple ways – academic/teacher profiles, subject-specific class projects, student small group work, specific legal issues, workshop/tutorial brain-storming activities, documenting field trips, etc.

As with any technology in education, it needs to be robust, accessible, cross-platform friendly, a modest learning curve to get started, and be capable of being shared into other formats. Pinterest tends to the mostly visual, so consideration needs to given to sight-impaired participants.

It would be good to have some accounts from legal educators about their experiences in using Pinterest.

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Bonnie Stewart: academic influence on Twitter

Bonnie Stewart (@bonstewart) is researching ‘how networked scholars ‘read’ each others’ credibility and influence’.  Click on the image to read Bonnie’s 4,000 word report:academic-influence-on-twitterLove the sub-headings in Bonnie’s post, eg,  ” “She sure has a following” – Metrics matter, but not that much“; ““A rolling stone gathering moss”- Identity at scale“; ““Status baubles” – The intersection of network influence with academic prestige”, and more.

It is a good read, and the kind of qualitative research that yields useful insights about intersections between emergent practices and traditions.

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