Linguistics Instruction - Use of Media Clips
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This summary is posted in response to an FYI announcement, LINGUIST issue
Several weeks ago I solicited responses to questions about the use of media
clips in teaching linguistics. I received many helpful responses from the
following LINGUIST members, to whom I am grateful:
Janet Bing, Stephanie Schlitz, Alexander Brock, Philippa Mungra, Kanjana
Thepboriruk, Wayne Cowart, Martin Paviour-Smith, Maria Gouskova, Harold
Schiffman, Jarek Weckwerth
Thanks to everyone who replied! I combined these comments with the few I
received from a similar request sent to the TEACH-LING list, and this
summary is the result (by question). If anyone has further thoughts please
feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org); we hope that the results of our
research on this topic will be of interest to the linguistics teaching
community at large.
Thanks and best,
PhD Candidate in Linguistics
University of Michigan
1.) Which courses do you tend to use mass media clips for?
Most people reported using clips for sociolinguistics-type classes
(especially varieties of English, language and gender/sexuality, language
and popular culture, language across cultures) and introductory classes (it
was mentioned several times that media material is an effective way to
reach students who aren't linguistics majors). People also mentioned using
clips for phonetics (for illustrating sounds, voice quality), morphology (for
illustrating word formation patterns), grammar/structure of English,
applied contexts (teaching pronunciation and pragmatics for language
learners), and field methods (showing videos of speakers of the language
being worked on or of elicitation techniques).
2.) What are your pedagogical goals in using this type of material? How
useful do you find the material in meeting these goals?
On the side of classroom strategies, the most common response was that
clips are used to increase student engagement, by making links between
linguistics and ''the real world'' and by making course content more lively.
Several people said that they use media clips for appealing to different
learning styles of their students, reinforcing important points with visual
material. Several also said that clips are a good ''alternative'' kind of
content to lectures or reading, which can help break up class periods, break
the focus on the lecturer, and keep students interested.
On the side of linguistics pedagogy, people primarily reported using clips
for three purposes: showing popular understandings of language (e.g. in
news broadcasts); showing language ideologies/language stereotypes (e.g.
in film characters); and demonstrating the use of a language variety,
linguistic features, or pragmatic phenomena (e.g. in documentaries or
interviews). A few people give students assignments based on the clips,
using the clips as data for the students to apply their knowledge to - for
instance, doing transcription practice or an analysis of language use.
Documentaries were also mentioned as a way to show students some
aspects of how to do linguistics or what linguists are interested in, and one
person reported using media clips of their own lectures to supplement in-
A few people gave caveats to using media clips: they work best when
students have some prior knowledge about the media being used (for
instance, they've seen the TV show before and know the characters); they
work best when students are given a clear idea of how the clips should be
tying into course content; students can often view the clips as ''just
entertainment'' so having a sound reason for using them in class is critical.
3.) How do you find that media clips relate to student engagement with
Most people said that students hearing more examples of linguistic
features - like unfamiliar dialects or sounds - effectively helps them
understand the phenomena, and this is accomplished well through media
examples. Several people also said that media clips lend credibility to
scholars' claims about language, especially language ideology, which
students can sometimes be resistant to. Most people said that students
really like media clips in class, and several people mentioned course
evaluations that show that students like the media clips.
4.) What is the format in which students typically interact with this material
(in class on a projector; posted online as homework; etc.)?
By far the most common reported use is in the classroom, as material to be
followed with class discussion. People use both audio (through speakers)
and audiovisual (through projector via computer). A few people also post
clips on the class discussion or Blackboard site; some give optional
postings online for students to respond to the clips. One person posts the
clips online that then are discussed in lecture the following class.
5.) How do you locate, collect, and/or store this material?
Searching/locating clips: have students suggest clips to be used; keyword
searches on YouTube; searches through YouTube to see if a specific show
has examples of the thing being looked for; see references in news, daily
papers, radio, journals, etc. (then find the corresponding media via internet
or other means); find them on the website of a TV show; store URLs on
Blackboard or course website, or embed into the syllabus or assignments
for the course.
Storing clips: Most common methods were DVD/CD storage, laptop hard
drive storage, and keeping a list of links on YouTube (including storing the
links in bookmarks or notebooks, storing them in a browser, or converting
the files and saving them to disk). Some people said they don't save the files
because they are too large.
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