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Conference Review: CALIcon 2018

From June 7-8, 2018, thanks to the generosity of the CALL Grants and Chapter Awards Committee, I attended CALIcon 18 at American University Washington College of Law, in Washington, D.C.

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In addition to attending several excellent sessions presented by librarians, IT professionals, and law professors, I also presented a session of my own, entitled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bot.” In this column, I will highlight a few observations and experiences from my time at the conference.

I arrived in Washington, D.C. on the evening of Wednesday, June 6 and checked into the conference hotel: the Omni Shoreham. While exploring the hotel, I learned that it had played host to several inaugural presidential galas and that numerous musical legends, including the Beatles and Frank Sinatra, had spent time at the hotel.

After getting settled, I made my way to a local coffeehouse, Tryst, located a short walk away in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Over dinner and an iced latte, I put the finishing touches on the slides for my session, then made my way back to the hotel in search of a good night’s sleep.

Opening CALIcon18

The conference kicked off Thursday morning with introductory remarks by John Mayer, CALI’s Executive Director, delivered while dressed up in a Tyrannosaurus Rex costume. As anyone who has attended CALI in the past knows, it is a conference tradition that Mayer dresses up for his introductory remarks, and this year did not disappoint.

After welcoming attendees and thanking the conference sponsors, Mayer turned the stage over to Camille Nelson, the Dean of the law school, who also welcomed attendees and offered her thoughts on technology and legal education.

At this point, Mayer introduced Katherine Alteneder, the Executive Director at the Self-Represented Litigation Network, who delivered a keynote address focusing on technology’s role in delivering access to justice. Ms. Alteneder’s talk was thoughtful and engaging and was well-received by the audience. Once Ms. Alteneder concluded, it was time to begin the educational programming.

Favorite Session

Although I enjoyed each session I attended on Thursday, my favorite was “Sparking Innovation in the Classroom: How to Introduce Faculty to Instructional Technology,” presented by Clare Willis, Past President of CALL, along with Alyson Carrel, the Assistant Dean of Law & Technology Initiatives at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

In this session, Clare and Alyson relayed their experience of organizing TEaCH Law, a day-long educational technology conference for Northwestern’s law school faculty. They also encouraged attendees to identify educational technology initiatives they have already attempted, or would like to attempt, at their own institutions, and they provided guidance on seeing projects through to completion.

In addition to the content of the session being well-received, Clare and Alyson also fielded several enthusiastic questions relating to their presentation tool, Nearpod, which allowed for extensive interactivity with audience members.

Presenting at CALIcon18

The next morning, I nervously awoke knowing that my session was only a few hours away. However, once I began presenting, I was immediately put at ease by a kind and receptive audience. During my session, I relayed my experience of attempting to build a chatbot for the Pritzker Legal Research Center. I spent the first part of my talk describing the history of chatbots, as well as what led me to attempt to create my own.

Then, I asked audience members to spend some time testing out my chatbot, after which I spent the remainder of my session showing how the software I used to build the chatbot operates on the back-end. Audience members seemed engaged and intrigued by the idea and provided extremely useful feedback, which I plan to incorporate as I continue to work on the chatbot this summer.

60 Tips in 60 Minutes

Feeling both relieved and exhausted after my presentation, I attended a fantastic session in the afternoon called “60 Tips in 60 Minutes for Law School Techies — The CALI Edition,” presented by CALL members Emily Barney and Debbie Ginsberg.

As is always the case, Emily and Debbie brought energy and creativity to their talk and I walked away from their session eager to incorporate several new tools into my instruction and marketing efforts. Following the session, I returned to my hotel, grabbed my bag, and headed to the airport for my flight home.

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As I mentioned in the introduction, I would not have been able to attend CALIcon 18 were it not for the generosity of the CALL Grants and Chapter Awards Committee. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity, as attending this conference enabled me to make new contacts within the academic community, further develop my presentation skills, and gain valuable feedback for a project I plan to continue working on this summer.

I wholly encourage CALL members interested in the intersection between legal education and technology to attend a future CALIcon.

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