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Old 25th November 2008, 09:28 AM   #1
gary
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Question Using software to aid language learning

Excel - you certainly do stuff the hard way!!!

I presume you roll in the snow and perform self flagellation with birch twigs too.

Maybe if you translated section by section and posted them folk would chip in and steer you in the right direction...

Last edited by gary; 25th November 2008 at 09:29 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 25th November 2008, 09:49 AM   #2
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Gary, Don't knock Excel till you try it. Looking things up in dictionaries is for brich twig fans. I have a lousy ear, but managed to get a phonetics diploma using Excel. It is great for studying most things.
If you make the font colour the same as the background "answers" disappear. If you have a column containing the formula =rand() in every cell, and sort on that column, the rows shuffle. You can also hyperlink to audio files. My web site www.kehr.co.uk (under development - the link bars are unreadable at the moment) has more details.

Ben has given me permission to use some Notes in Spanish material in my web site, so my next project is to update the web site, to include movies showing ExcelAt (my name for my method) in action.
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Old 25th November 2008, 09:51 AM   #3
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This is also true as far as grammar is concerned.....

oooh yes.... grammar
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Old 25th November 2008, 09:55 AM   #4
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oooh yes.... grammar
¡...El pretérito...!
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Old 25th November 2008, 09:42 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by natalie View Post
Gary, Don't knock Excel till you try it. Looking things up in dictionaries is for brich twig fans. I have a lousy ear, but managed to get a phonetics diploma using Excel. It is great for studying most things.
If you make the font colour the same as the background "answers" disappear. If you have a column containing the formula =rand() in every cell, and sort on that column, the rows shuffle. You can also hyperlink to audio files. My web site www.kehr.co.uk (under development - the link bars are unreadable at the moment) has more details.
.
Sounds like a clever technique to create your own electronic flashcard system. If you are up for a challenge, you could try writing Office macros to incorporate the Leitner system. And then you could build in scheduling for spaced repetition...
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Old 25th November 2008, 10:46 PM   #6
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Gary, Don't knock Excel till you try it...
I have a really great way to get kids to learn their tables, my kids call it Tables Thing <- this link gives a full explanation

I rewrote the thing so that it worked in php, which is not too difficult to learn from the php for dummies book.

See it here <- this link deploys the php script 'wot I wrote'.

The result is now well used cos teachers are happy to navigate to a web page on their interactive whiteboard and its simple and it works...

I did use the rand() function to shuffle 'invisible' columns of data when I originally wrote the utility in Excel, but it was difficult to distribute and chucked up a scary macro warning whenever anyone launched it - this, together with having to download it (another scary thing to do) meant that it was not too well used.

I know that anything is possible with Excel, I have worked for 10 years as an ICT consultant in Primary schools and have long purported that you can teach 95% of the Primary ICT curriculum using Word Powerpoint and Excel, and, indeed there is no real point in using anything else as they are real world apps.

What I am saying is that you wouldn't cut the lawn with scissors cos they arent the best tool for the job. (having said that my mum did cut our front lawn with scissors in the 60's)

I also have a Flash based millionaire type game, driven by an xml file which is a ball ache to add to. Php has enabled me to write a web based form that enables me to write questions in real English and then click a button to add the info and the correct text demarcation to the xml files online.

Take a look at php...

Last edited by gary; 25th November 2008 at 10:59 PM.
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Old 25th November 2008, 11:06 PM   #7
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I intentionally didn't include a link to further information about the Leitner system in my previous post. But since Gary has set a precedent, and in case anyone is interested, here it is.
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Old 25th November 2008, 11:30 PM   #8
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I wrote a longish reply comparing how I used ExcelAt and the Leitner system but managed to lose it before I could send it. I will rewrite it in Outlook, and then paste it into a proper reply. I am new to forums, so I am not sure what to do next but it looks like you and Gary and I are getting away from Intermediate Spanish, and my desire to have English translations, and into the very interesting field of software for learning. Should this discussion be moved to somewhere else - perhaps the Geek section?????
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Old 25th November 2008, 11:33 PM   #9
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VTrain looks like a very interesting prduct, thanks for the heads up Graham
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Old 25th November 2008, 11:37 PM   #10
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I wrote a longish reply comparing how I used ExcelAt and the Leitner system but managed to lose it before I could send it. I will rewrite it in Outlook, and then paste it into a proper reply. I am new to forums, so I am not sure what to do next but it looks like you and Gary and I are getting away from Intermediate Spanish, and my desire to have English translations, and into the very interesting field of software for learning. Should this discussion be moved to somewhere else - perhaps the Geek section?????
Youre probably right, I stand suitably admonished... good luck with your quest

PS - why Outlook?
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Old 26th November 2008, 12:06 AM   #11
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I use Outlook for "work in progress" because it gets automatically saved in Drafts every 10 minutes, and so doesn't get lost. If I use Word 2007, everytime I get a crash, the automatic recovery presents me with too many choices about which files I want to keep. I also always have Outlook open.

On a day when I have volunteered to give 1-1 tuition to a Somali who knows no English, has never been to school, and is possibly a slow learner, and also to a Nigerian who knows very little English but claims he is dyslexic, I didn't want to be told to learn php . I ain't got the time! But I notice that my work-partner's web site has been written in php, so perhaps I should take the plunge. I will put my pleas for php help in the Geek section.
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Old 26th November 2008, 08:57 AM   #12
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VTrain looks like a very interesting prduct, thanks for the heads up Graham


If you start searching for electronic flashcard based learning software, you just seem to get inundated with potential leads to follow. A while back I was looking for something very flexible and tried a few different downloadable programs. I discarded lots of them for not matching my particular criteria, and VTrain - although shareware rather than freeware (usually my #1 priority ) - seemed to fit the bill.

It seemed to work very well for my daughter, who has dyslexia, when we created a couple of card decks for her to revise for some tests. But perhaps there was a novelty aspect in that (don't think she has used it since - but then again I shouldn't imagine revision ever figures highly in your typical teenage girl's list of priorities). You can compose the card using rich text and you can also include images and sound files, which, I think, can make it very effective.

I also started using it myself for Spanish vocabulary. Sadly though I never seem to be able to find the time to use it regularly. More discipline required. I guess...
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Old 26th November 2008, 12:08 PM   #13
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Just out of curiosity, has anyone tried using Mindjet or any of the other mind mapping applications as an instructional tool?
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Old 26th November 2008, 01:26 PM   #14
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I have used mind mapping as a technique with pencil and paper...
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Old 26th November 2008, 06:12 PM   #15
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Just out of curiosity, has anyone tried using Mindjet or any of the other mind mapping applications as an instructional tool?

Can you share more?

Sounds interesting.
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Old 26th November 2008, 06:21 PM   #16
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I originally developed my ExcelAt method because I wanted help with bird recognition, especially sounds, and originally started writing a couple of applications. I gave up on the applications for several reasons:-
· I felt I had better things to do than debug the code which setup a toolbar on launch and removed it when the application closed.
· There is no nice way of dealing with the warnings about macros.
· I didn’t feel like spending time developing pretty interfaces for stuff which I am giving away, (rather than selling).
· Applications are restrictive. Every time I use ExcelAt I use it in a different way, and even when learning a single subject the way I use my data changes over time.

I therefore won’t be taking up Graham’s challenge to incorporate the Leitner system. In real life I do do something similar.

When dealing with large quizzes I add a Count column which keeps a count of the number of times I get the wrong answer in each row. At the end of each pass I sort-descending on the Count column and insert a couple of empty rows to separate what I know from what I don’t yet know. When I have eventually answered every question correctly I note the date and my total score. It then takes only a few seconds to remove the blank lines and reset the quiz, and I can start all over again.

The disadvantages of ExcelAt are:-
· It is not suitable for small children – they need a well designed interface.
· It requires a proper spreadsheet application. It worked with the Lotus product (Does that still exist?), but it is a pain to use in Microsoft Works or Open Office.
· Setting up data can be a bore. Having said that, the only Spanish material I have deliberately studied is the beginners material on soy/estoy. While setting up the Beginners material in Excel I have absorbed enough to get the gist of the Intermediate podcasts. Some of the setting-up time is productive.

It would be nice if people could share worksheets, but there are usually copyright problems. I would willingly send my Notes in Spanish Excel stuff to people who could prove that they have bought the worksheets, but Ben is not happy with that idea. Some of my phonetics material was financed by public grants so I could probably get permissision to distribute that, but the copyright holders of the other material probably would not extend my permission to use it from personal use to general distribution.


(Some of) the advantages of ExcelAt are:-
· It does not take long to learn the Excel options which it uses - how to manipulate the font colour and set up a column with =rand(), and how to sort.
· It is FLEXIBLE.
· The learner has complete control over the data. (The Rocket folks, and other people with quiz engines, don’t realise that when they randomly select x items from y items, there is no guarantee that a particular item will ever appear in a quiz. It is also usually impossible to discover what is in other people’s master data sets.)
· I learn best by writing/typing, and it is easy to create a column for my answers, and also easy to compare my try with the model answer.
· It can be used with difficult fonts. I have used phonetic fonts and Hebrew, and I know that it has been used to learn Chinese.
· If you have Excel, it is free.
· The learner can be flexible in deciding whether a “wrong” answer is a typing error or is really incorrect,
· Any data sets in table form can normally be quickly adapted into ExcelAt Master data sets.

When learning phonetics and German here are some of the different ways I used it.
· I found speech tunes extremely difficult to learn, so with those I kept the model answers visible.
· Small quizzes are good for initial learning but are not good for testing because one knows that each answer occurs only once. However with a few pastes one can turn a small data set into such a large one that it is impossible to remember how often each answer has occurred. I used this technique with the vowels and the /r/ sounds. In some quizzes I included some lines more than once.
· I continually expanded individual worksheets. German nouns started off with English, German, and gender columns but landed up with plurals, and all the different cases.
· When a data sheet contains irregular nouns or verbs, I can use the normal Find to identify strange word forms.

My 2009 New Year’s resolution will be to redo my web site, and enhance it with short movies which will demonstrate the techniques.

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Old 26th November 2008, 08:04 PM   #17
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Interesting...

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Originally Posted by natalie View Post
It worked with the Lotus product (Does that still exist?)
Ha! That bring back memories - Lotus 123 under DOS (well actually I used to use AsEasyAs, the 123 clone). Those were the days, eh? None of this new fangled pointy clicky draggy droppy stuff.

Last edited by gastephen; 26th November 2008 at 10:11 PM.
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Old 26th November 2008, 09:47 PM   #18
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Lotus Notes does. I hated it!
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Old 26th November 2008, 09:51 PM   #19
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Can you share more?

Sounds interesting.
It's sort of like the product of a marriage between Visio and MS Project. Look here.
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Old 26th November 2008, 10:12 PM   #20
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It's sort of like the product of a marriage between Visio and MS Project. Look here.
The two MS products I hate the most!

Actually that's a lie, Word 2007 can rot in hell too.
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