Wiki and Language


I’ve gotten heavily into wikifying my classroom (wiki-ing? Wikenifying? wikizing?) this year.  My department chair and middle school chair and school head are with me on this project, but I wish I’d been given a slightly more agile tool like MediaWiki than the Apple Server standard, which doesn’t have as many nuanced tools.

Anyway, I’ve been posting primary sources online, usually stuff from Roman history like Julius Caesar’s CIVIL WARS, and Pliny’s letters regarding the eruption of Vesuvius, and things like that.  The kids have been liking it so far, though the reading is clearly challenging for them.

What’s proving really difficult, though, is reaching the two Asian girls in the class.  One is from South Korea, the other from the People’s Republic of China.  Language is a significant barrier to both.  Reading a century-old English translation of a two-millennia old text is not cutting it.

So finally, in frustration, I used the wiki to make three pages, and linked from one paragraph of Julius Caesar’s CIVIL WARS, to each of these pages — and then I used Google Translate to make translations of paragraph 4 of Book 1.

Here’s the Chinese translation:

[1.4]所有这些建议被拒绝,并为他们所有的反对,在领事,西庇阿和卡托的发言。一个对凯撒和懊恼宿怨在驱动卡托失败。 Lentulus是造成了他的债务规模后,以及拥有一支军队和各省政府希望,和他的礼物这种预期,因王子应该得到罗马人民的朋友称号,并在他吹嘘朋友们, 他将是第二西拉谁的最高权力机构应返回。一个省和军队,他将与庞培分享关于他与他有关的帐户相同的希望,敦促西皮奥;而且[他的影响]的恐惧被称为审判, 而奉承和卖弄他自己和他的朋友在权力,谁当时曾在共和国很大的影响,以及司法法院。庞培本人,由凯撒的敌人煽动,因为他不愿任何人应承担的尊严平等的程 度,已完全脱离凯撒的友谊,著作等身,采购与他们共同的敌人和解;的人,他自己自找的最大部分恺撒在他与他的亲和力。同时,在他已经从他们的转化,通过亚 洲和叙利亚,这两个军团远征到[扩大招致的耻辱]自己的权力和权威懊恼,他急于把事项战争。

Now… Maybe it’s saying horrible things. I don’t know. But it’s got that word Lentulus in the middle of the second line, so it’s operating based on the original text, since the consul Lentulus is mentioned about that deep into the text.

So here’s the question.  Mom and Dad sent their girl to the US to learn English. Which is tricky, and hard if you’re used to working with a language that looks like this.  But, if you’re having difficulty understanding the material in the language you’re trying to learn, and it’s too hard… it it legitimate to acquire content in a subject area like history, by using Google Translate to make it available?

The parents of the Korean student asked for this specifically.  They wanted their daughter to have access to both the Korean and the English text.

Here’s the Korean:

[1.4] 이러한 모든 제안을 거절했다, 그리고 야당들을 모두 제출, 영사, 스키피오와 카토의 연설했다. 패배 카토 actuated에서 시저와 억울함에 대한 오래된 원한. Lentulus 자신의 부채 규모에 따라 쳐도었고, 군대와 지방 정부 않고 희망을, 그리고 그가 그런 왕자으로부터 로마 사람의 친구의 제목을 받게해야하는 것으로 제시함으로써, 그리고 그 사이에 자랑 친구, 그가 두 번째 삼당이 될 것이라고 누구를 최고의 권위를 반환해야합니다. 지방과 군대, 어떤 사람을 공유하는 폼페이 우스와 그와 함께 자신의 연결의 계정에 대한 기대와 마찬가지로 희망을, 스키피오를 촉구하며 게다가 [사람에 의해 영향을 받았다]의 두려움을 재판에 호출되고, 그리고 불행과 허세 부리는 표시 자신의 권력에있는 사람은 한 번에 공화국에 큰 영향을 미쳤습니다 자신의 친구, 및 사법부의 법원. 폼페이 스스로 황제의 원수에 의해 선동, 왜냐하면 그는 모든 사람의 존엄성과 동등 학위를 부담한다 꺼려했다, 전적으로 황제의 우정으로부터 자신을 소외했고 그들의 공통점이 원수와 화해 조달; 누구에게 가져 그는 자신이 있었는데, 가장 큰 부분을 카이사르 그의 친화력 중. 동시에, 그는 아시아와 시리아를 통해 자신의 원정대에서 [를 증가시키기 위해 두 개의 군단으로 변환에 의해 발생했다 망신] 자신의 능력과 권세를 분해, 그는 전쟁에 문제를 가지고 계십니다.

Again, I have no idea if this is an accurate reflection of the meaning of the “original” English text. But consider… in a traditional classroom, this wouldn’t even be an option.  It would be an unbelievable expense to buy English copies of the book for everyone in the class, and then have to special-order one copy in Chinese and another in Korean.  And there would have been a terrible accident when ordering the Spanish copies, because two would have to be in Spanish and one would have to be in Portuguese (we have a kid from Brazil that everyone thinks is Mexican. (Is Julius Caesar’s Commentary on the Civil Wars even available in Chinese? What about Korean? Spanish? Portuguese?)

The conversations in the classroom still have to be in English, of course. But this is amazing to me.  There’s a chance here to provide trilingual support in the classroom, and here’s the best part: isn’t blocked by our school’s filters.  So students can upload English text to the translator, and then download Chinese to our wiki as part of their homework. They’re empowering themselves to learn this way.  And their successor students get an education in how to work these tools to learn whatever they want, from whereever on the globe it may be found.

That’s a classroom wiki for you.


  1. Sorry to hear that this neat use of translation programs was shot down.

    On the issue of youtube and other outside sources, that’s a single simple switch in the Wiki controls – basically creating a new file of “allowed” tags and including .

    Wiki Server 2 is just 10.6 Server instead of 10.5, although I’m not sure the best way to tell them apart from the end-user interface. In either case, Youtube is very much possible for the tech. Getting it approved for your school is, unfortunately, a separate fight.

    Moving the content out of Apple’s Wiki looks possible but in that 80/20 split we’re all to familiar with. East to get 80%, but the 20% of connective tissue that gives the work meaning will be a big struggle. This mainly comes down to how to handle inter-page links when moving from one system to another.

    Our school is finally pushing our use of the Wiki a little more. Again, if you ever need a tech/teacher brain to bounce ideas off, just shout!

    • And it’s true that our ed/tech folks have enabled YouTube and Slideshare embeds in our Wiki, which is good.

      What’s bad is that the filter blocks them from student use, while showing me that they’re up and running fine.

      • That….that is not a problem I can fix with Wiki settings.

        The filtering issues of boarding schools are just staggering. I can’t imagine the tiny swath of the web that’s left if you try to render it obscenity/pr0n/warez free.

        • Essentially, I have no idea what I can and can’t recommend to our students, ever. I look over their shoulders at their screens and find them playing all sorts of web-based games, which are clearly not blocked; and yet I find all sorts of museum and educational websites which are blocked. It’s utterly maddening.

  2. Wiki Server 2 is the formal name for the 10.6 Wiki system. So if you’re running Leopard it’s Wiki Server, Snow Leopard is Wiki Server 2.

    The primary benefit of 10.6 (for me) was the ability to break up posting and admin rights using users and groups pulled from our Active Directory server. This makes creating new wikis pretty trivial, and easy to (say) give the Instructional Tech staff admin rights on every wiki.

    I’m working with a group of English teachers to move a Wikispaces/WetPaint wiki they maintained last year over to the Apple Wiki and it’s been a huge hassle to change the design principles. Where they want to have a full tree of pages associated with a particular student – something that there’s no obvious way to do in Apple’s product.

    I’ve been playing with lots of design-based workarounds for features like that. If you’re fighting with something specific, please share it!

    The plus side is that exporting the data out of Wiki Server is a reasonably straight forward process.

    • Well, one of the things I’d love to be able to do is break up a page into several headers, and be able to have multiple people editing different parts of the same page simultaneously.

      I’d also like the ability to create and include templates of certain kinds of pages automatically. I don’t see how to do that in Wiki Server, or WikiServer 2.

  3. “..I wish I’d been given a slightly more agile tool like MediaWiki than the Apple Server standard, which doesn’t have as many nuanced tools.”

    I’ve been fighting against Wiki Server 2 for much of this year. Maybe I don’t understand the office intranet that I think it’s pitched at, but every time I lose a day pouring through forums for something that should be trivial (like enabling links in tables, or user-editable sidebars) , I wonder if the Ed market is really that different.

    I certainly love building wiki access into a student’s existing OD/AD credentials, but I’m wondering if finding a MediaWiki plugin for that might be easier than shoehorning full-featured editing into Wiki Server 2.

    • I definitely would have preferred MediaWiki, or Wikispaces, or something other than I got. I wonder how easy it will be to port the work my students have already done over to a different underlying technology? I wish I knew. I don’t like the tools I have, but It’s what I’ve got… yet if it turns out that I can’t port over to a new tech when I get it… then what?

      What’s the difference between what I have as a wiki, and WikiServer 2? Is what I have WikiServer 2?

    • I think the educational market sees wikipedia and wants to produce that. I know that my class wiki is a big, sprawling thing that defies easy description or usefulness, really. But I do like having a lot of student papers to go to town on for teaching editing and revision.

      I also wish the tools for including images and tables were more agile or controllable or predictable. And especially I wish I could embed YouTube videos or other off-site content. Partly that’s a filtering problem, but it’s also partly a policy problem, and so not relevant to the tech part of the discussion.

  4. This is a great use of technology in a classroom! You can support students from many countries in their original tongue. I think this is appropriate and is really helping these students.

    Imagine the cost of hiring an interpreter.

    • Following up on this, the school pretty much shot it down. It’s not that it’s an inappropriate use of the tech; it’s just that the international students are here explicitly to learn English, and teaching them a quick bypass of that skill development kind of defeats the purpose of going to the expense of sending them here in the first place.

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