Hacking the Casebook
In the past I’ve pimped MIT course ware and other free offerings from major universities and this is an exciting development for those types of courses. Universities are becoming more expensive, but at the same time less valuable — many of the transcendent and breaking technologies can’t be found there yet, and when they can they can be out of date, limited, and sometimes inflexible in meeting new adaptations. If Universities want to improve their cost / benefit structure for students they will improve their currency while also adding “lifetime subscriptions” with that diploma.
Traditional law school casebooks are expensive, bulky and stagnant. With the support of the HLS Library, Berkman has been updating our suite of classroom tools, H2O, to create an online alternative to casebooks that are free, online and remixable. H2O includes our new tool Collage for editing down and annotating cases, Playlists for aggregating materials, the Question Tool for in-classroom back channel, and the Rotisserie for out-of-class discussion. In this lunch we’ll demo some of the tools (all still in alpha) and show how Jonathan Zittrain’s Torts class is using them this term.
H2O is an open source, educational exchange platform that explores powerful ways to connect professors, students, and researchers online. There are four tools within the H2O platform: the Question tool, the Rotisserie, Playlists and Collage.
The question tool is an organized backchannel for conferences and classes that allows participants to submit, answer, and vote on questions. It’s an effective way to keep feedback focused, direct speakers to audience interests, and potentially prevent the mic from being hijacked by that weirdo.
Rotisserie discussions represent an innovative approach to online discussion that encourages measured, thoughtful discourse in a way that that traditional threaded messaging systems do not, in the process solving some of the universal complaints about online discussion boards: that the substance of discussions is poor, that participants post quickly rather than thoughtfully, that participation is uneven (most people lurk, and a few posters dominate the rest), and that discussion forums are segregated into balkanized communities of people with similar thoughts and beliefs.
An H2O playlist is a shared list of readings (links to books and articles) and other content about a topic of intellectual interest. It is a simple yet powerful way to group and exchange useful links to information — online and offline. It can be used as a syllabus or reading list for a class. The playlist items can then be remixed by other authors, lending influence to the items themselves and their original contributors.
Finally, Collage is the newest tool being added to the H2O platform. Collage is an annotation engine for online materials. It allows for tagging text, annotating it, and hiding portions of text without changing the original document.