Should Social Media Be Taught In Law School?

For many Millenials, building a social presence is a norm. Whether it’s through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or blogs, an online presence is how many stay relevant. But how does social media and blogging play into learning, and specifically a law education?

Kevin O’Keefe is the CEO and founder of LexBlog, a company that “empowers lawyers to build a name for themselves and expand their legal practice through legal blogging.” O’Keefe recently wrote an article at Above The Law describing how law schools aren’t doing enough to implement social learning into the classroom setting.

Social learning, O’Keefe writes, is “the use of digital platforms and social networks to bring together communities.”

COMMUNITY FOSTERS LEARNING

“No one is expecting every dean and professor to start rampant blogging and social networking,” O’Keefe writes. “But an acknowledgement that the stuff is legit and represents a learning opportunity for students is key.”

Dion Hinchcliffe is an industry commentator and writer for ZDNet, an IT news publication. Hinchcliffe says technology plays an important factor in how we learn, but that social media has taken learning to new heights.

“The rise of social networking technology has allowed people with similar learning interests to come together as a group to share knowledge on a subject and, perhaps even more significantly, to express their passion for an area of learning,” Hinchcliffe says. “This can create deeper, more intense, and more immersive educational experiences within a community of like-minded learners.”

SELF-PROMOTION NOT THE GOAL

So how does social learning factor into the law classroom? O’Keefe writes that the first step is to realize that social learning isn’t for everyone and that people learn and teach in different ways. It’s important, he writes, for both students and teachers to use social media that are “readily available and already being used, en masse, by the public.”

O’Keefe recommends that law curricula include a first-year course on the use of social media and blogging, similar to how legal writing and research courses are taught.

“Social media, in addition to building a name, enables students to learn from a nationwide network of students, law professors, and practicing lawyers,” he writes. “Make sure the professor or teacher — maybe they come from tech or the law library — are credible users of social media and have had personal success in social learning.”

It’s also important, O’Keefe writes, that teachers and students understand what social media and blogging are all about. “Listening, engaging, relationships, sharing insight, building a network — not search rankings, self-promotion, noise, and followers,” he writes.

A MEANS TO STAY RELEVANT

According to research by EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, a higher education technology association, many students report integrating social media into academic learning — breaking down the specific social media tools they use for coursework-related collaboration:

  • 7% of wiki use
  • 4% of SNS use
  • 4% of video-sharing use
  • 6% of blog use
  • 2% of micro-blog use
  • 5% of social bookmarking use

O’Keefe writes that law schools need to implement a foundation for social learning. “In the case of law schools, a foundation means creating a positive environment for social media and blogging,” he writes. “Do professors and the dean use social media? Are they demonstrating, by example, that social is important for learning and networking?”

Social media has already found its place in the lives of many students. Now, it’s time for law institutions to begin implementing it into how students learn. Hinchcliffe calls social learning a “vital trend” for organizations that wish to “maintain their institutional knowledge” and stay relevant.

“Social learning now appears to be positioned as a major component of the future of workplace education,” he says. “In other words, the digital learning organization will be the sustainable digital organization.”

Sources: Above The Law, ZDNet, EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research