Teaching with Google

This year, I’m teaching two introductory translation courses at Glendon: one in the fall and another in the winter. Since the same group of students (for the most part) are in both courses, I’ve been thinking of how I can make the content and teaching methods a little different each term so 1) there is clearly some progress from one course to the next and 2) I can experiment with collaborative translation, which I have been thinking about for some time now.

At first, I wanted to incorporate wikis into the class so that students could work on their translations together and I could easily track the changes each student had made. I thought it might work well as an experiment in group translation and I hoped to discover whether it worked well in a classroom setting. I looked into xwiki, but realized that students would have to download, install and set up software to use the wiki. There’s also a bit of a learning curve for the software, so I would I’d have to spend class time going over the application and answering questions about xwiki even though it’s a tool students would be unlikely to work with as professional translators.

Then, I remembered reading a blog entry about two translators using a Google Docs spreadsheet to share and update their terminology as they worked on a joint project. I’ve used Google Docs on several occasions to share documents and collaborate on spreadsheets, and found it very easy to use. So I’ve decided to incorporate Google Documents into my Winter 2010 course as a way to get students to collaborate on a longer translation project while using an online tool that could actually be incorporated into their translation practice once they’ve graduated. Plus, students won’t have to spend much time learning to use the application, because the Google word processing and spreadsheet programs are similar to the ones in Microsoft Office or OpenOffice, which most of the students are already using. I’ll post more about my collaborative translation project experiment as the academic year advances. I’m planning to ask students for feedback at the end of the Winter term, so I’ll post some of their comments here, in case any other professors are thinking of incorporating Google Docs into their courses.

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