Congratulations to Dr Maria Tzanou (Keele University), who has been awarded the Routledge/ALT Teaching Law with Technology Prize 2018 for her innovative project New Technologies in the Classroom. Maria was presented with the prize at the Annual Association of Law Teachers Conference 2018 at Keele University, where she is a Lecturer in Law.
We spoke to Maria to find out more about the inspiration behind the project and her plans for the future.
Maria Tzanou's project draws upon the innovative methods employed to teach Year 3 module on ‘Law and New Technologies’. On this module, new technologies are approached in three ways: Firstly, they constitute the subject of the students’ learning- the module critically examines the ways in which new technologies permeate our everyday lives and critically reflects on the legal and ethical challenges that these pose on fundamental rights, such as data privacy, freedom of expression and human dignity. Secondly, new technologies are the object of students' research - students are asked to carry out data privacy audits of popular social media, websites and mobile apps and undertake a mock criminal trial using Skype to critically reflect on the advantages and shortcomings of virtual courtrooms. Thirdly, tools based on new technologies, such as Box of Broadcasts, Poll Everywhere, Mentimeter are used in various ways to influence and enhance learning and improve student engagement. The project shows that using innovative teaching methods and new technologies in a holistic approach in the classroom can be very beneficial for legal education.
It feels really amazing! I was overwhelmed with the positive comments I received from many colleagues at the ALT Conference and am very happy that all this took place at Keele University- my own institution. I’m sure my students will be very excited to learn about the prize. I have already received congratulating messages from some of them, but have not been yet able to announce it properly as we are now in the Easter break period. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my students for embracing the new Law and New Technologies module and for showing their interest and engagement throughout the module.
My own passion researching questions about data protection, privacy, new technologies, social media, the Internet of things, big data and surveillance was the initial inspiration for designing a module on these topics. I also have a general interest in new technologies, such as robotics and AI, that go beyond the questions that I deal with in my research and I wanted to incorporate these in my teaching using an active-learning approach. These topics raise so many questions that I thought students should be encouraged to critically reflect in a holistic way about the benefits but also the potential risks of new technologies and how the law can respond to these. My students’ enthusiasm is what encouraged me to enter the Routledge/ ALT Teaching Law with Technology competition to share this experience with colleagues across the country.
Technology and its different applications is already a fundamental part of everyday life. Using technology within teaching is absolutely crucial for any subject. New technologies are not only the future: they are also the present! We must constantly strive to fully equip our students to take advantage of the immense opportunities they create. My own research is on data protection law and now with the forthcoming GDPR this area has become particularly relevant for millions of companies worldwide. It’s really important that we equip future lawyers with the necessary skills to be able to advise clients on all these issues. New technologies are developing so rapidly that we should be always thinking about new ways of keeping our students’ learning ahead of these. Only in this way will we avoid digital illiteracy and be able to succeed as the lawyers of the future. New technologies are not only a very useful tool for enhancing student learning; they are - and should be - much more than that, and that is what my project was about.
Absolutely. I will continue to reflect about how new technologies can be incorporated in the Law School curriculum and how new innovative material and methods of teaching can be developed. For example, I’m already thinking about developing a game that prompts students to reflect on the ethical problems posed by driverless cars and how the law could approach these. I’d like also to establish collaborations with Computer Science and Engineering departments to see how we, as legal scholars, can contribute to the development of future ethical and law-complying risk-adverse technologies.
I think anybody encouraging students to think outside the box in relation to new technologies and the law should consider entering the Teaching Law with Technology Prize. It’s a great way to share your work with colleagues and get great feedback and further ideas on further developing such projects.
I’d once again like to thank Routledge for this Prize - it will enable me to do so many things on Law and New Technologies in the future. Many thanks!