Faculty Experiences - Russell Schuh

Russell Schuh - photoRUSSELL SCHUH


Interview Topics

What matters most to you in your teaching?

How are you using technology as a tool to achieve your teaching goals?

How have your students responded to your use of technology?

What new goals do you have for using technology in teaching?

How could the University better facilitate the use of technology in instruction?


Information literacy


Multimedia Web Sites
PowerPoint (software)

Teaching Students General Principles for Organizng Thoughts

I’d like students to be able to think in an organized way, to take a bunch of language data that has no organization to it and follow some systematic ways of looking at that data to come to some organizational principles. In linguistics we’d like to think that the principles we use to organize data may be applied to other fields as well.

What matters most to me in my teaching is that students find the field of linguistics as interesting as I think it is and as much fun. Essentially, I’m getting paid to do my hobby! In addition to the specific things we teach in linguistics classes, the goal is to teach students general principles for organizing thoughts.
In my Linguistics 1 class, an undergraduate general education class with 300-400 students, the challenge is to engage such a large group sitting in this vast auditorium. I give all my Linguistics 1 lectures using PowerPoint. I treat the lectures like a movie, and I become part of the movie with the PowerPoint presentation up on the screen. Recently, we had a memorial service for Dr. Peter Ladefoged, a long-time distinguished professor of the UCLA Linguistics department. We paid tribute to him during this service. Someone mentioned a favorite principle of Dr. Ladefoged’s, that one can never incorporate too many technological bells and whistles into a presentation. I had never heard anyone else say this, but it’s exactly how I feel.

Because language is about talking, I try to incorporate various representations of speech into my courses, including English language speakers, speakers of other languages, and even sufferers of aphasia. I use cartoons a lot during my lectures because many jokes in cartoons are based on language, and PowerPoint gives you the opportunity to project cartoons on the screen. In Linguistics 1, I also provide an online lab. I use the tool that the Center for Digital Humanities provides for the humanities departments. I put up something that parallels the weekly written assignment with pictures and audio incorporated into the online lab. Students answer questions that parallel those in their weekly assignments, but in a different environment. I also teach an honors seminar in which I show students how to create Multimedia Web Sites for a language of their choice. We meet in a multimedia classroom and we build a demo web site with sounds and graphics. Students then create their own web site that tells where the language is spoken, how many people speak the language, sounds of the language, examples of sentence structure, and things associated with that language’s culture. Sounds incorporated into the web site can include talking, songs in the language, etc.

The Hausa class I teach is video-based, and I have placed all of the course materials online. I’ve digitized all of the videos which are made up of 2-3 minute vignettes of Nigerian Hausa speakers in natural situations. These video clips are now available on cds along with supporting files that include paper exercises, mp3 files of Hausa speakers telling folk tales, transcripts, etc. One goal for the Hausa class is to get the entire course online or on cd in an interactive mode. I have a Hausa website that receives a lot of inquiries, even though Hausa is a language that is not very widely taught. If I have something that can allow a certain amount of self-instruction, it would help people who don’t have access to Hausa classes.

I would like to develop more interactive materials for all of my classes and also find a way to incorporate technology more into my upper division classes. Most of the technology I use now is to present things to students. I would like things where students can work online on linguistic and Hausa assignments. Then I can receive feedback while they are working and have the things they are working on lead them to find answers. I look forward to the day when a computer and a projector are in “one box,” and you can seamlessly move between blackboard and computer, showing something on the projector so that all the resources are available when you need it, and you can move back and forth. At the moment when you use a computer and a projector in the classroom, it becomes all-consuming and you can’t do anything else besides work with those.

I think UCLA is doing a great job in supporting technology in the classroom—I have no complaints at all! We have the Office of Instructional Development and the Center for Digital Humanities, which is the center that I use. I find them very supportive and very helpful with everything that I’ve wanted to do.

Oral Interview, February 2006