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On Being Pedagogical

It is a well-known fact that some of the most brilliant minds in any given field of human knowledge are not necessarily articulate and understandable when they try to explain the ins and outs of their work. This is particularly true in the world of software development.

I know a few Bible software developers. Most of them are excellent programmers. A handful are really geniuses. However, not all of them are able to offer clear explanations on how to use the software they develop in a truly pedagogical sense. That's why it is so important to have someone around who can write clear, extensive notes on the philosophy behind the software, as well as the different practical applications of it. This is one of those areas where, in my opinion, there is quite a bit of room for improvement.

I look at literally dozens of Bible software packages, and I am worried by the increasing decline in the pedagogical nature of their manuals. For one thing, many products lack a truly comprehensive user manual, which is very unfortunate. Speaking for myself, it would be a lot easier to review a program if I had a decent, updated, detailed manual to refer to. But in general terms, albeit with rare exceptions, all that is usually available is some sort of quick (read "rushed") setup guide. Now, this may be enough for someone who wants to shoot some nice pictures with a brand new digital camera, but it is far from adequate for people who buy Bible software in order to apply it to the study and exegesis of the Scriptures.

More information is needed (and, BTW, audiovisual helps are fine too!), but also more pedagogical information, tips, etc. The fact that some of the most sought-after threads in the various user forums have to do with the day-to-day "how-to's" clearly indicates that there is a need that is not currently being met by the average manuals.

The improvements in programming and content should be coupled with some serious enhancements in teaching how to use the software more effectively. Test cases, adapted to different levels of users, are always welcome. Admittedly, this takes time, and it is not usually appreciated as it should, but it is something that goes in everybody's interests. I mean, what's the use of a wonderful program if only its developers and a select few can really make the most out of it?

I learn more by reading some notes on what the developers think their software should do, and the approach they have followed in order to accomplish it, than by browsing hundreds of pages of mechanical steps that do not care to the needs or interests of Bible students. So here's my vote to have developers do some pedagogical work besides their programming, book building, and so on. And if you cannot do it yourselves for whatever reason, please find someone with the skills to do it for you. Your software and your users will be glad you did.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 9, 2005 12:53 PM.

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