Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Learning Chinese Using Google Doc Collaboration

Just a little technology aside, about something that we are doing in my class - perhaps if you are also having face-to-face lessons you might find the same dynamic useful.

In the classroom everyone takes their own notes. There are a number of problems with this:
  1. The inevitable mistakes we make are never corrected (and practice makes permanent, not perfect).
  2. The work of taking notes is divided, duplicated but never shared. We all pick up on the things that we find interesting, but while these are intersecting sets, there are always things that one person will have taken note of that will have gone over another's head.
Enter Google Docs. I've already pointed out that I'm a nerd, but Google Docs is very usable by anyone who can use a computer. You can create and edit documents in the same way that you might do so for a Word document, but of course it's saved on Google's servers, not your own machine. The magic begins when you start to share the document with others. You can either make your document readable by others, or indeed editable by others.

My class's use of Google Docs has evolved to the point that we take notes directly onto our laptops - and directly into a Google document if we have connectivity. Typically we take pinyin notes and add the hanzi afterwards, before adding our classmates and teacher as editors.

The result is what one might expect from the Wisdom of Crowds - the documents get checked by teacher (and corrected where necessary) and the contents are shared amongst classmates so each can pick up what the other has missed.

As a result, the Google Doc notes become another online resource for the class to use.


Chris said...

They get funkier than that....
My mandarin_slices (addmitedly not growing as fast as I would like, but I will get round to publishing more more) is published directly from google docs of (often) shared material.
See also http://mandarin-slices.blogspot.com/2007/01/chinese-joke-mandarinstudent-brain_20.html
as a particular example of a document a Chinese friend collaborated on.

Also all the English translations on my Chinese only blog
are just links straight through to webpublished google docs.

The future is bright, the future is Mandarin....

Chris said...

ohh the link to the joke got truncated, ohh well not hard to find there is only one on there at the moment.

Brendan Lawlor said...

Very intellesting. I didn't see that one of the publishing options was to one's blog. Very nice.

I'll take a look at that joke later. I do agree that learning jokes is a great way of sweetening the memory pill. I had a laugh in the car on the way home from work today, listening to the Elementary lesson on housework. Ken could barely contain himself.

If you are at all interested I'd be happy to give you direct access to my Chinese-related Google documents. I don't plan to publish them - I prefer the circle-of-friends idea of sharing and including edit rights. A private wiki of sorts.

liulianxiaoyu said...

Hi Brendan, It is a good idea using Google Doc. :) I am stupid and did not figure out how to use it (I tried once.)......

In addition, everyday I listen to some English comedic shows like "Everybody Loves Remond" and "Desperate Housewives". I feel it is very helpful and my spoken English improves rapidly, although I still can not speak very well by now. Maybe, it is useful for Chinese learning?

Brendan Lawlor said...

Hiya liulianxiaoyu,
I don't believe for a second that you're stupid (and I hope neither do you). If you need any tips about Google docs, just give me a shout.

I like the soap opera idea. In fact there is a soap on CCTV (can't remember whether it's 4 or 9) that I catch by chance occasionally. It's a much better opportunity to learn than the documentaries or news. Every now and then I grab a phrase or two (有人哭有人笑 was the last one :-) - at least I think!

liulianxiaoyu said...

Brendan, I do not think I am stupid. However, it did not work.... I just tried once because I did not have a plan to use Google Doc then. Maybe, I will try again next time.

I watched several Chinese soup operas. 《都市男女》is a good one for Mandarin listening because they always speak excellent Mandarin. 《我爱我家》and 《东北一家人》are also good, however, they speak Mandarin with accent of the northeast of China. 《炊事班的故事》is another good one, however, they speak Mandarin with different accents.