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“textivate” Has Potential, But…..

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You can copy and paste any text up to 500 words into textivate and get, in return, multiple different exercises using that text, ranging from “scrambled sentences” to “Fill-in-the-blanks.” In fact, you can automatically try twenty-seven different variations. You can get a public url for it (it says you can also get an embed code, but it didn’t give me one). You can see what I did with it here.

It has the potential of being an incredible learning tool for both teachers to create online activities and for students to do the same (for their classmates to try). Creating all the exercises automatically is a great advantage, but it’s also it’s biggest disadvantage. It does everything automatically, and doesn’t let the creator use any kind of strategic thinking about, for example, where the sentences should be split-up so that there are clues to how it all fits together. Without being able to use that kind of metacognitive option, its potential as a learning tool is severely limited.

If, on the other hand, it kept all its automated features AND allowed creators to also make small changes in the activities that it generates (where some blanks go, etc., then it could be an extremely useful tool.

That’s what I like so much about LearnClick, the online cloze-making tool that I have used and my students have used to create clozes (fill-in-the gaps).

I’ll pass on this post to the textivate website, and hopefully they can add that feature at some point.

Thanks to Center for Applied Second Language Studies for the tip.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Larry,

    Many thanks for your review and for your message.

    The embed code appears on individual exercise screens when you click the share button. There’s no embed code for the front page or the menu screen as the contents of these screens do not automatically resize to fit the size of the window. See examples of embedded exercises on the textivate blog: http://textivate.posterous.com

    Textivate is a brand new project. It is based on some of the exercises that have been available as part of my Windows desktop product, TaskMagic, for ages. TaskMagic allows you to do things such as create “find the french” exercises and a variety of gap-fills in different formats. It also allows you to print worksheets based on these. See this page: http://www.mdlsoft.co.uk/mixandgap.htm for more details (Mix and Gap is one of the 8 parts which make up TaskMagic).

    My experience with using TaskMagic (it’s used by a couple of thousand UK secondary schools), is that teachers tend not to bother with the non-automatically-generated stuff. They seem content with the exercises that are generated automatically. The result is often that teachers will put a text into TaskMagic and won’t bother to make any of the gap-fill exercises. So I thought that with textivate I’d make an auto-gapfill exercise…

    The automatically generated gap-fill in textivate also has the following advantage: Each time you run / restart a gapfill exercise, it contains a completely different set of gaps. This means that the same text can be used over and over, and each time it will present a different challenge.

    The exercises such as “Initials” http://www.textivate.com/initials-plcjn1 and “No letters” http://www.textivate.com/empty-plcjn1 also present another form of gap-fill challenge, and here students can make the exercise more manageable by reducing the number of gapped words.

    Regarding the division of texts into chunks, this is done automatically, though the chunks should be slightly different each time (unless the number of words divided by the number of chunks leaves no remainder). One way of determining where the text is divided is to insert line breaks in the text (ie. press return) and then do the “Paragraph” activity, eg. http://www.textivate.com/horizpara-qlcjn1

    Currently, when you upload to textivate, a text file is created on the web server containing only the text itself. I don’t rule out the possibility that other features may be added (including some kind of vocab search option similar to ‘Find it!’ in TaskMagic), but it’s still early days.

    I really do appreciate your feedback.

    Many thanks,

    Martin Lapworth

  2. An “Extra gap-fill” button has now been added to the editor screen on textivate. This allows you to select words for an additional user-defined gap-fill. See an example here: http://www.textivate.com/udgapfill-aocjn1

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