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I'm teaching a course that introduces linguistic field methods. We have fewer lectures than a typical 3-credit course, but the students have ‘lab’ sessions eliciting data from speakers, and they're expected to work a lot on their own.

Analyzing the data requires the use of specific linguistics software. The software doesn't teach concepts; it's just helpful for analysis. In the past, some instructors have taken lecture time to introduce this software, but that has always rubbed me the wrong way:

  1. I found such demonstrations tedious to watch as a student, and tedious to teach as an instructor.
  2. Most students seem to be able to figure it out on their own; for the others, there are succinct instructional videos, and there are office hours.
  3. Teaching students how to use software just doesn't feel like university education to me. I would much prefer to talk about bigger picture issues—e.g., database technology or data portability in general, rather than how to use one particular piece of software.

Computer work has always been easy for me, and I recognize that I may underestimate how difficult it is to learn new software. I wonder if anyone has a sense of how much computer competence we can expect of the ‘average’ student.

I am also curious whether my intuition about the content of university education is appropriate. This is a practicum, after all.

1 Answer 1

"Modern Approach": I would suggest creating a video demonstrating how to use the software. Free software like CamStudio makes this easy to do. There might even be a video already online.

The video would allow students that need the assistance to view the video outside of class or follow along in class. This puts the freedom in the students hands and would also free up your time to focus on the subject matter. This could save time for future classes as you integrate it into your class structure.