Tech Bee

TechBuzz: Report on #CALIcon16 in Atlanta

What’s the buzz?  After a hiatus, Heidi Kuehl, Lyonette Louis-Jacques, and Therese Clarke Arado are excited to be returning to the regular column scene with the re-emergence of the CALL Bulletin TechBuzz column.  The return of the column brings you a wonderful re-cap of the CALI Conference for Law School Computing by guest columnist Margaret Schilt, Associate Law Librarian for User Services, D’Angelo Law Library, University of Chicago Law School. 

Future columns will cover numerous topics of interest to law librarians, including artificial intelligence, Westlaw answers, CARA, a look at past TechBuzz topics to see if the technology or service has stood the test of time, and much more. The responses to the CALL membership survey indicated an interest in more technology related topics.  Please feel free to contact one of us with ideas you would like to see covered in the column:  Heidi Kuehl, Lyonette Louis-Jacques, and Therese Clarke Arado.

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Margaret Schilt
Margaret Schilt

TechBuzz: Report on #CALIcon16 in Atlanta

Margaret Schilt, Associate Law Librarian for User Services, D’Angelo Law Library, University of Chicago Law School

I knew 2016 CALI Conference for Law School Computing: “The Year of Learning Dangerously” (#CALIcon16) was going to be different when the keynote presentation on the first day started. John Mayer, disguised as Indiana Jones, ran down the middle aisle of the courtroom and vaulted over a couple of tables. Approaching the podium carefully, he snatched a plaque off it, replacing it with a bottle of water, and presented it to one of the attendees. What a beginning!

I had never been to CALIcon before, but had heard from many that it was a great conference. All those people are right. I had a wonderful time, met and renewed acquaintance with lots of talented people, and learned an enormous amount. All of it was interesting, and much of it directly pertinent and useful to my work.

Not to mention the physical arrangements. The conference hotel was the Ritz-Carlton and the conference was held in Georgia State University School of Law’s year-old building in downtown Atlanta.  Tours of the building and the library were offered during the conference – the library is beautiful and offers both ideas and cautions if you’re designing new space. The terraces are great but the lack of shelving in the Rare Book Room is difficult to understand, at least from a librarian’s perspective.

But I digress. The best parts of the conference (as with most) were the people and the conversation, both during the sessions and outside of them. There was a substantial cohort of IT folks and law faculty, bringing different contexts and expertise to the discussions. The focus was technology – what’s new, what’s useful, what is the future going to look like? Ravel, CaseText, WeCite, WordRake, Lex Machina, Slack, Trello, Asana, Canvas, Digital Immigrants Teaching Digital Natives, open textbook platforms, BYOD (bring your own device) in law firms, how to teach software widely used in law practice, and much more.

A thought-provoking question from one of the keynote speakers, Michael Feldstein at MindWires Consulting: “To what extent is your institution a school, versus a filtering mechanism tied to a self-study center?” He notes that students who are very talented and have succeeded through 16 years of education are not very good at knowing when they need help, or asking for it when they do. But we all need teachers, even for things that we are already good at. The people who take Yo-Yo Ma’s master classes are all very good cellists, but they can learn more.

Also, the importance of getting better at thinking like a novice. Two of the speakers talked about the blindness of the expert and how that blindness gets in the way of effective instruction for the students who are new to the material. Michael Feldstein again: “I have never met a tone-deaf person, but I have met people who have never learned how to hear pitch.” They can be taught; you just have to start where they are.

I came back to Chicago with new ideas and new perspectives – the most you can ask for from any conference. Thanks, CALIcon!

[All #CALIcon16 sessions were recorded and are available via the CALI YouTube channel – Eds.]