How U.S. Legal Education Fits In K-12 eLearning Courses

How U.S. Legal Education Fits In K-12 eLearning Courses
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Summary: In the U.S. public education system, the subject of U.S. law rarely takes center stage. As a result, many high school students receive their diplomas without having a solid understanding of their civic rights and requirements. How can teachers resolve this?

The Importance Of U.S. Legal Education And How It Fits In K-12 eLearning Courses

When it comes to applying concepts in core K-12 subjects to real-world situations, instructors from different disciplines often choose to collaborate. Cross-curricular assignments and lectures can help students understand a variety of topics within a legal framework. This allows students to understand the significance of seemingly disparate topics and cohere them into one informed perspective.

Due to the decentralized nature of online learning, however, eLearning instructors are often not afforded the luxury of collaborating with their peers. While cloud-based learning has many benefits, it can complicate the process of helping their students become civic-minded learners.

Why is a legal education important? How can teachers blend law-related topics with core subjects in eLearning courses? What resources are available to help learners develop a deeper understanding of U.S. law? In this article, we’ll be taking a deeper look at these issues.

Why Is A Legal Education Important?

A core function of K-12 education is to prepare students for success in life. Imparting in students a foundational understanding of the law can further this objective. It can help students with completing and understanding the reasoning behind standard legal processes, such as licensing or taxation, as well as laws that affect their community, like antitrust laws for the sake of fair business practices or international economic sanctions.

This foundation will not only help them become informed citizens; it will help them become informed voters. Students will likely share a range of opinions about laws, and those evaluations may shape the way they engage in the world politically. Societal progress demands informed change, and helping learners understand the legal world is a great way of doing your part.

Finally, understanding the law can help students understand when they may require legal assistance in life. As noted by CEO, John Suh, access to quality legal help is a fundamental right. He argues that everyone needs "someone who can not only handle the unexpected but proactively help to protect the things people value the most". In an age when millions of Americans try to navigate U.S. courts without a lawyer, having an understanding of when you need help is just as essential as foundational legal knowledge.

Online Resources For K-12 Legal Education

Ready to try using a legal framework in your eLearning course? There are many online resources you can use to inform your teaching, as well as online activities students can complete in order to understand the real-world legal context for topics you’ll be covering:

  • Justice Teaching: Lesson Plans
    Justice Teaching, developed by the Florida Supreme Court, is an initiative designed to improve law-related education in Florida. The lesson plans and activities listed here, however, have applications for learners across the country. These can be adapted for use in your eLearning course for K-12 students of all ages.
  • Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government
    A product of the U.S. Government Publishing Office, this site allows students from the ages of 4-14 to read and engage in online activities to learn more about the basics of U.S. law. From learning more about the branches of government to the steps of the lawmaking process, eLearners can use this site to gain a fundamental understanding of legal basics.
  • Center for Civic Education: Resource Materials
    The Center for Civic Education is dedicated to "promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy in the United States and other countries". These resources will help eLearning instructors naturally integrate a legal framework to course material, as well as use interdisciplinary strategies.
  • Law for Kids
    Looking for ideas for specific legal topics to bring into your course? The Arizona Foundation for Legal Sources and Education created Law for Kids in order to provide learners with a wide range of articles, videos, and educational games, and further legal knowledge in K-12 schools. These assets can be great inclusions in online courses.
  • Famous Trials
    One of the best ways to teach law is to demonstrate the step-by-step processes behind famous legal disputes. Famous trials often lead to radical changes in law, and they also illuminate how society has changed over the years. This site includes insightful articles on the most famous trials in history, from the Nelson Mandela trial in the 1960s to the Leonard Peltier case in 1977, to the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2013. These cases can provide a meaningful context for course material.

When we, as instructors, introduce law and civic matters into core subjects, we prepare students of the next generation to become aware, informed citizens, as well as potential leaders. Doing so also provides learners with a motivating framework — real-world applications for concepts in your course. While discussing law in your course may seem like a deviation, it can actually be the best way to prepare students for their future.