Of Teaching and Computers

This entry is in two parts.  The first is for those who want to hear about my first efforts at teaching law here in Belgorod.  The second part relates to the three day effort to establish computer contact through the university computer system (which is the system I am using for this post).

There are about 70 students in my class.  They are somewhat far along in their five year course work as undergraduate law majors.  As they enter university from high school, they are a young group — perhaps 18 to 20.  I did not count specifically but there are many women, over half.

My lecture was filmed  — not sure why and no one asked me about it, but it is of course fine with me.  A law teacher translated as I went along, every sentence or two or three I would stop and the translator would repeat what I said, guided by a text I had sent over by email a month in advance for translation.

I have chosen to use the blackboard rather than powerpoint.  It allows me to write or draw lines of connection when I sense the students need help; some speak little English, some much English but no one I have met is what I would call fluent (English is required in High School).  My first blackboard graphic was a US map to locate information about me personally (where I was born, went to school, where my older kids worked, etc.).  Other graphics included a chart of our court system and information about separation of powers (the first lecture is an orientation in US law and government).

In future lectures I will talk about contracts,business entities, finance, the UCC, securities law, IP, real estate, and the ideal business law system.

I got two questions: the first was about independence of judges (are they named for life?  interest in independence of judges it seems)and the second was whether I thought that citizens in Russia should be a broadly allowed to have guns at home as the US Supreme Court recently held under the Second Amendment.  The student knew about the origin of the “militia” language in the second amendment and its origin in US history — pretty sophisticated I thought.

One final detail: it seems to be an honor to pick me up in my room, walk me to the lecture (3 minutes, next building) and then walk me home; an “honor guard” of several students seems assigned to this task.  I do hope that this practice gets transferred back to my lawfirm, as I enjoy being attended to by a retinue….


Seems it is a big deal to get on line through the university.  Please understand that everyone is totally polite and tries very hard to be helpful, but that doesn’t make it any easier.  The best way to get on  line is via WiFi in many nearby cafes, where faculty and those students with computers seem to congregate.  But how much coffee can you drink, and how much beer?  Also, it would be necessary in the long run to get on line in the dorm room; Matthew can read or sleep and I can work.

So there is a central registration for use of the university plug-in broad band.  (The library wifi is available only to students who have taken a full computer course.)  You must bring your computer to a central office where they program it for plug-in, check it for virus, inspect your unviersity ID, and collect 400 Euros for unlimited access for me and my wife Laura in our rooms (but only one of us at a time).  We leave our computers for a couple of hours at the office (during this time we visit the nearby museum dedicated to the massive tank battle of Kursk in the  Second World War, which liberated the area of Belgorod from the Nazis and turned back the German invasion, freeing the Town from occupation at the cost of about 830,000 Russian lives just in this one massive 1943 battle).

Back to the office with a Russian brochure about the museum (nothing in any other language), and we pick up our computers and two technicians who come back to our rooms with us, plug in the computers, test the connections, make sure we can log on, and we are now all set.  The total process took us about three days from the time we first inquired of the law faculty about internet, and were then told we could use the computers in the faculty of law offices which we tried without success.

Enough for now.  We have internet, we are registered with the local police, we have found the huge and very well stocked supermarket and the teaching has begun.  More later as our three weeks wear onward.

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