H2O: The Wave of the Future

By , July 14, 2011 12:51 pm

by Robyn Hagle

During library training, for our first group of summer associates, I was introduced to a new technology that is gaining traction in at least one law school. H2O is a product of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. At its core, H2O is basically a free online digital casebook.  But the concept could easily spread and gain acceptance and popularity outside of law schools as a more general legal wiki, for examples see Communications Decency Act or Remix Culture.

The cornerstone of H2O is the “playlist”. A playlist is a shared grouping of articles and other content on a particular topic, and is a primer or research guide of sorts. Other components of H2O are more specific to an academic or collaborative learning setting. The question tool allows users to submit questions or discussion points to be considered for conferences and classes and provides a more focused approach to connect speakers to audiences.  “Collage”, a tool recently added to H2O platform, provides a way to annotate a primary document (e.g. highlighting specific legal concepts at play in a case and hiding other non-essential text without changing the original document). “Rotisserie” is the discussion or message board component of H2O.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I would welcome an H2O-like product if I were in law school today. Who wouldn’t want to save a couple hundred bucks?  Furthermore, online access to reading materials just fits my lifestyle. I don’t like carrying around books and if it’s accessible on my iPhone, I’m far more likely to read it. It would be really exciting if this idea could be applied to undergraduate education to replace “course readings” notebooks.  However, unlike caselaw which is part of the public domain, you can imagine how copyright issues would limit this type of format, especially for free or low-cost.

Do you know of any similar tools being used in local law schools?

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