On the old app, when “hide definition” and “hide reading” were selected, they would be shown once the answer is revealed. Can we continue to do this in the new app?
Big reason is that I use one type to test both, and it really slows down the process to have to tap to reveal, then tap again (in a rather small tap area) to unhide, and since the tap area is rather small, I also end up moving to the next card by mistake before I scored the card.
This is currently intended behavior for Skritter Mobile application and not a bug. I’m going to move this into the Skritter Mobile section so we can have more of a discussion.
@lechuan I know you’re using one type to test both things, but that is an edge case for usage and not the way the app was designed. That said, I’m still willing to have a discussing about the behavior.
We decided to try it out for a while based on my request. I feel strongly as an educator that the hide reading/definition modes have much more utility if they remain off until toggled on by the user manually. It is a challenge, but it is also the best way to really test individual card knowledge.
Chinese in the wild doesn’t come with pinyin or definitions, just characters. Hiding reading and definition (again, depending on card type) is the best way to simulate that in the app. So far we have gotten four or five requests to change back to the previous behavior, and I think the largest reason is due to previous versions of the app working the other way. You’re used to another behavior and this feels strange, which I totally get.
At this point, I’m on the fence and trying to balance between providing a better learning experience and providing a review experience that people are used to.
If you’re studying pinyin or definition cards and have hide reading and hide pronunciation enabled then you’re forced to actually focus on the card type at hand and answer correctly based on the character(s) for the particular item, not the outside information provided. It might be a struggle at first, but I actually think that long-term results of working this way will far surpass using the additional information as a crutch while studying on Skritter.
So, are you all willing to give this a shot for a bit longer and see if you actually retain more detailed information on the card level, or should we switch things back?
I agree with what you said, which is why I have “Hide Reading” and “Hide Definition” on by default. This request is only to show them both AFTER I have guessed and revealed the answer.
I see “工具”. Since hide reading and pronunciation is off, I only see the characters, and try to recall the meaning and pronunciation in my head.
I respond in one of the 2 ways.
I say to myself “gōngjù. Tool”. I reveal and confirm that I guessed the pronunciation and definition correctly and mark it correct.
I say to my self gōngjù but forgot “Tool”. Or vice versa. Or I forgot both, So I reveal the answer, verify what I got wrong, maybe look up some example sentences or look at the character breakdown, then mark it wrong and move on to the next one.
I use the tool exactly the way that @lechuan describes, and that is why I am having a hard time with this change as well. It feels like I am learning less because I can’t verify the other aspects of the character at the same time. But @SkritterJake, your feeling is that I’m actually learning more/better by having them not shown after I answer the card. I’m absolutely willing to consider that, and if that is the case I certainly would not want the change.
It would be helpful to learn a bit more about how you are thinking about this. First question: do you expect people to only test themselves on the asked-for information on a card? Eg in the example above, is it expected to focus only on the definition of 工具的 when asked and not on the pinyin and tone as well, and instead wait for the pinyin and tone cards before trying to recall those aspects? Whether those aspects are revealed certainly impacts how soon you would want to see the next card of that type, so that could be a consideration.
On the other hand, if it is expected that the user does try to recall the pinyin when answering a definition card, for example, then is it expected that they should manually check the answer by tapping to reveal? Perhaps here the idea is that you have to manually reveal because otherwise you are showing the answer to those who are not proactively trying to recall it themselves, which again could invalidate the next card of that type. And if that were the common (not edge) case, revealing the pinyin for all causes harm for most, even if it were better for those of us who are trying test themselves on that pinyin.
There is an issue there, though, because the spoken audio gives away the pronunciation once the card is answered. Is that also a problem? Or is this question perhaps only relevant to revealing definitions?
The one other concern I tentatively may have is that I’m not sure I can avoid thinking of a/the definition of a word when I practice the pronunciation of it, although that is probably just a habit. If, then, I recall the wrong definition and am not corrected by seeing the correct answer after I think of mine, the wrong definition could be reinforced. That seems like a possibly incorrect argument. On the other hand, I could see advocating for not showing English every time you practice the pronunciation of a Chinese word. I do agree that that could be a negative dependency - it is better to not translate everything in your mind. I could go as far as saying that it may be best to not even look at the pinyin answer on a pinyin card and just listen to the audio to check yourself. That reinforces the pronunciation of the word with the character, which are the important parts.
Anyway, I love the fact that the app is being built to be pedagogically sound, and I am looking forward to more of your thoughts here.
Note that the tone-prompts also give you the English (speaking of “outside information” and “Chinese in the wild doesn’t come with pinyin or definitions”). For exactly this reason I use the other prompts the same way as @rpetersn and @lechuan describe. Prompt one aspect - answer all. There is no other way to honestly test yourself on tone knowledge.
Another issue is that writing prompts keep coming back and back, but I find definition and pronunciation not to be tested as rigorously. Perhaps this is due to the order of the cards when they are initially prompted. When the writing card comes up I often mark them as wrong even if the characters pose no problem whatsoever - I am much more likely to have forgotten the word or the tones.
I don’t use the beta and thus can’t support/object to the request at hand - just stating that posters’ usage makes sense and might be quite common.
As @lechuan stated, this request is to show the data AFTER the big reveal, not before it. So, you still walk into the prompt blind.
As an app author and teacher, you are in the unenviable position of trying to optimize a single teaching solution across a large set of students. As a nearly 50-year-old lifelong learner with several graduate degrees, I know my own learning style and what works for me. So, it’s easy for me to say what I need, selfishly.
I get that, @SkritterJake, your experience as an educator makes you lean towards a particular pedagogy. So, I’m going to put on my R&D hat and, tongue-in-cheek, ask for the double-blind studies demonstrating the efficacy.
Do you see the point? It’s one individual’s “feelings” versus another’s “feelings” on the effectiveness, unless there is real, journaled, peer-reviewed research. Maybe there is, and I’m happy to take a look at it. But absent that, it’s feelings versus feelings; rather than verified data.
My feelings are that when I “flip over” the virtual flash card, I want to see all the info on the back. Making me go through extra clicks to see the full info will eventually make me gravitate to another tool that provides an experience that matches my needs as a learner.
This is a great discussion. I appreciate you all taking the time to reply and provide your thoughts. Since we’re talking learning and teaching a bit I think I should give you all some background on my Chinese language education and my teaching experience.
I took Chinese at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and graduated with something like 76 language credits and a minor in Chinese (they didn’t have a major at the time). I took every class I could and got an insane amount of those credits from my time in Taiwan. I studied in Taipei at Shida (NTNU) for 10-months as an undergraduate student in their Mandarin program. I also completed a semester at Beijing University. I have taught immersion Chinese at summer camps and as a lead teacher for the Advanced students at a weekend school for Taiwanese-Americans learning Chinese. This is stuff I did while an undergrad.
I have 10+ years of Chinese learning experience overall, and from 2011-2013 I studied in the Masters Program for Teaching Chinese as a Second Language from National Taiwan Normal University. I completed my coursework and returned to UW-Milwaukee to teach First year Chinese and a course I designed on learning characters. My research during graduate school was mosly focused on Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and on character acquisition theory. I never went back to defend my thesis in the end because I took a full-time job at Skritter as a manger and I’ve been around ever since (there were other factors, but having a job made the decision to stop much easier). I was learning the ropes and trying to deal with some pretty big projects and changes for a long time. I’ve talked to a lot of users and teachers over the years about ways to make Skritter better, but there have been lots of little bumps along the way that have kept us from making big changes. Honestly, it kinda feels like Skritter has reawakened with the release of this beta, and I hope you all are feeling the vibes
I mention the above for two reasons. One, I want you to understand my background on topics like this as a student. I have studied a lot of Chinese and tried a lot of apps along the way. Two, when I talk about educational theory, I’m doing so with some degree of background knowledge. Both theoretical and practical. I’m happy to discuss academic literature about Chinese learning, but most of the stuff I’m talking about is pretty internalized at this point, and it might take some time for me to find specific articles. Not to mention, I’ve got a lot of other stuff on my plate.
Most of the changes I’m proposing for Skritter are based on the educational theory I have studied over the years, and when I’m unsure of things I run them by Olle Linge, our lead content creator/manager and the owner of Hacking Chinese and also 馬老師. Who, in addition to working for Skritter now, was a former co-worker and holds a P.h.D in linguistics and has over 6 years of teaching experience at the university level. I consult with textbook writers and world class educators on a variety of teaching forums, and in personal corespondance and I’d like to think that my ideas are generally well founded.
While I’ve been working for Skritter since 2011, I was mostly doing blogging and institutional sales until 2013 when I started working full-time. I didn’t have much of a hand in the creation of the current iTunes Store iOS application, but I did a heck of a lot of beta testing on it at the time. I have always felt that Skritter can do a better job of being a teaching application, and a lot of the things we’re trying to build for the new Skritter Mobile app are based on creating a more powerful teaching tool, not on creating an updated version of iOS. We’ll try our best to pay homage where we can, but we’re looking forward with these apps.
I’m going to respond to some of the individual comments in this thread separately, but I wanted to write this first so you’re all clear where I’m coming from with my replies. I really do appreciate all of you taking the time to make this app better. Like it or not, Skritter has become a very robust tool that meets needs in specific ways. We understand that, and we’re trying to find the best path forward that balances new growth while also satisfying the people who have made Skritter what it is today—all of you!
I appreciate the detailed answer. I hadn’t conceptualized that you’d like to transform Skritter beyond a flash-card-like testing tool with drawing. I think what’s missing is the long-term vision of where the app is going. The release notes only specify “what” and not “why”.
My point of bringing up background wasn’t to generate a comparison, rather it was to clarify that I know my learning style and what works for me, based on academic, industry, and life experience.
That being said, I’m a not a gifted language student. My brain is solidly an Engineer’s brain that thinks in concept images and algorithms. To me, language is mushy, fluid, flexible, follows poorly defined rules, and is underpinnned with usage-as-precedent as its predominant mode of function. But that’s why I find it interesting—because it forces my brain to work in a mode that it never uses in my daily working-life.
What I dislike about the new Skritter behavior for revealing hidden information, is:
Pedagogy: I don’t see the pedagogical benefit of hiding this information AFTER the solution is revealed. If I’ve already attempted the problem, graded myself, and am now wanting to assess my solution, how is hiding information beneficial?
Availability & Workflow: When I want to access relevant data, it requires extra “work” to get it. If it takes a couple clicks to unhide multiple things, I’d rather just go to Pleco instead (which is still two-clicks away, but I’ll concede that I lost that argument. ). But it is frustrating/annoying that Skritter already has the data there, but makes it not show up when I want to use it.
Individuation: even after all the reasoning is discussed, if I, personally, need the data to form a coherent mental picture, even though 99.999999% of the other Skritter students don’t need it, it’ll still feel like Skritter is fighting against how I personally learn. I see an app as a personal-learning tool, akin to a tutor. If I had a tutor that told me, “I’m not going to teach you in this way”, I’d try it for a while, but if I were constantly searching for info that the tutor wasn’t providing when I wanted it, then it would be time to get a new tutor.
First, I think it is important to point out that the information being tested on the cards is being revealed. It sounds like a lot of you are in the habit of using one card to check multiple things, which is fine, but not generally the intention of offering four study modes for Chinese and three for Japanese. These are not standard flashcards that have all the info on them. We track stats for writing, reading, definition, and tone separate because people do struggle with these elements in different ways. So, if you have both hide buttons enabled, “What’s the Pinyin” tests and reveals the pronunciation of the character(s). “What’s the Definition” tests and reveals the definitions.
The pedagogical benefit is that by not revealing the additional information it keeps attention focused on the thing being tested–even after you’ve checked your answer. Generally speaking, split-attention principles suggest that putting too many things on a screen is a bad thing. Materials should, if possible, avoid things that force learners to mentally integrate multiple sources of information to complete a task. More info means increased cognitive load and, I quote, “extraneous cognitive load is likely to have a negative impact on learning compared with conditions where the information has been restructured to eliminate the need to split attention” (Ayres & Sweller, Chapter 8, The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning).
Honestly, we’re in a bit of a bind on this one. Beginner Chinese students generally need this info. It is why we show the pinyin or the definition (or both) for many of the cards, even though it goes against best practices. Since we’re not actually doing the teaching (we’re still mostly a review tool) we don’t know what learners know and what they don’t know already. Additionally, when starting to learn Chinese, pinyin is nearly always provided along with the characters, and often times definitions are provided as well, especially for new vocabulary being introduced.
Basically, the attention needs to be split. At least for a little while. Characters are new, and if a learner is still struggling with acquiring characters, the other info should be provided. Most beginner textbooks do exactly this. Often times, the first textbook in a series, one that targets beginners anyway, will provide pinyin above or below the characters, or at a minimum, the tone marks. However, as time progresses, and language level advances, these things go away. They’re still provided in the textbook somewhere, but the content writers and teachers know exactly what they’ve taught before. So, they use less pinyin and less English (or whatever language) for the things already covered in previous lessons, or in previous classroom time. And eventually, textbooks will eliminate both of these bits of information where ever they can. Circumlocution is a very powerful thing for language learners… and if a textbook can use the target language to describe something else in the target language that is generally understood by the student, they should.
Since we’ve built an app for all language levels, we’ve gotta make it flexible. That’s why we have “hide” options. I figure that you either want the extra info on the card or you don’t. As you advance in your studies, you have the option to restrict some of the “unnecessary” information, unless you really, really need to make sure (tap to show it).
The other thing that I’m taking into consideration with the suggestion of having reading or definition remain hidden even after completion is based on eye-tracking theory and research. Basically, adult-learners (especially) are drawn to English (or pinyin) if it appears on the screen. We can’t help it. Our brains have been trained for a very, very long time to seek out English first, and then worry about the other stuff. I’ve read loads about this in the past, but here is a quick excerpt from an article in CALICO Journal, titled “Eye movements of online Chinese learners”
Our findings show that during reading tasks, when Pinyin transcriptions as well
as Chinese characters were presented, all beginner and lower intermediate participants
focused to some degree on the Pinyin. In the interactive task learners’ gaze was
drawn to elements of the screen that were not immediately necessary for technical or
linguistic reasons but that could be interpreted as containing social presence information,
e.g. names listed and emoticons employed by other users. (Ursula Stickler and Lijing Shi)
There are tons of similar articles, and they all basically reach the same conclusions, they’re just testing in different ways. Learners’ gaze is drawn to non-characters. Even after you’ve graded the prompt, it is nice to take a moment to review things before moving forward. If we provide English on the screen, most learners are going to look at the English, not the characters. So again, we provide a “hide” option for those who want to ensure that they’re gaze is only focusing on the answer and the characters and making mental links between the two.
I hope this makes sense and gives you a bit more insight into my thought process!
It’s still just a tap away, and it gives you option of not checking it 100% of the time because you probably don’t actually need the info unless you really, really have to make sure.
I hear ya. And I’m in the same boat. If resource I’m using isn’t helping me personally with my needs, I’m finding something else. After our team meeting yesterday, our conclusion was that we’ll make it so that the auto-reveal is an option that can be toggled on and off for further customization. We recognize that Skritter has too many use cases and users to suggest a single golden path for everyone. It simply won’t work the way we intend.
I’m not sure when we’ll deploy the changes, but we’ll be sure that some setting is in the app before we do anything crazy
It’s true. Right now we’re still dealing with wrangling all the data and making it work as intended. I think a new topic will be in order to really discuss some of the “why” and the “how.” Generally speaking though here are some of the things we’re going after
Offical level appropriate example sentences for HSK 1-6 vocabulary (and all future Skritter content lists we’re currently working on).
Custom example sentences so users can display whatever they want on the app (no worries about copyright violations because user sentences will no longer be shared publicly in the app)
Better character breakdowns (again, starting with HSK 1-6 vocabulary)
A Chinese character learning course to cover 500 critical characters and key vocabulary that uses the characters
Meta lessons on character acquisition theory in the context of Skritter
Improved teaching mode that previews new vocabulary, and then teaches writing, reading, tone, and definition. New characters will be traced once, then written again using active recall (with a skip button for if you know it already and just want it in the SRS queue)
Linear study modes for list sections (or single-section lists) that ignores SRS and only focuses on preview/review
Jumbled study mode for list sections (or single-section lists) that ignores SRS and concentrates just on preview/review
Time attack challenges and other “game” modes to make studying more fun
Basically, we’ve spent the last few years putting together a crew of people that know quite a lot about teaching Chinese and learning Chinese and we’re trying to leverage those resources to build a better character acquisition tool. One that can evolve with the times, is flexible for individual student needs, and also (at its core) is pedagogically sound.
I don’t think it is a problem. Chinese characters consist of three parts:
We use Pinyin/Zhuyin to represent the pronunciation of a Chinese character, but there are other ways of doing it (International Phonetic Alphabet or Wade-Giles romanization, to name two examples). Even if the pinyin is not provided, it is generally a good idea to provide model pronunciation along with the characters. If “hide reading” is on we still don’t want you to miss an opportunity to hear the correct pronunciation since that pronunciation still exists even if Pinyin was suddenly not supported by the Chinese government.
It feels that way from this end as well, for sure. And it’s awesome.
Possibly part of the confusion is that, by default, they do have all the information on them, because it isn’t hidden by default. It is only in this optional mode that they don’t. So there is some level of assumption on the user end that seeing that info on the card at some point is a good thing. However I understand that the defaults are for beginners as you say later on.
I wonder if it makes sense to have a section of preferences that are explicitly labeled as for advanced learners? That way it is clear that they are off for beginners but good for when the learner is ready for them. That would make it clear conceptually why there are so many settings, and also help organize the settings.
So, so, so true.
So, I took your challenge and spent a few days not revealing any of the hidden data. I also went through one test type at the same time (e.g. all the pinyin, then all the definitions, etc). And… I think you are right. Initially I had a level of anxiety when I saw a pinyin card for a character that I couldn’t remember the meaning of, and I had to force myself to just respond with the pinyin (which I knew) and move on without looking at the definition. That anxiety, I think, is what was causing the feature request.
However, after doing this for 100 cards or so, I got used to it and it didn’t bother me anymore. I would still want to see a definition occasionally, but much less often. Moreover, my reviews of the pinyin cards went much faster when I left definitions for later.
Given this, I’m happy with the way things are. I personally withdraw my feature request. Dammit, @SkritterJake, you win this time!! shakes fist
This is the thing that most excites me about Skritter. There are so many, to be frank, half-assed Chinese tools out there, and there is a chance for something really great here with your team. This is why we spend the time to hound you with feature requests.
One more minor point: speaking of keeping the attention focused on the thing being tested on, when in definition and reading hidden mode, the current design at times can be a little overwhelming with all the boxes of hidden information. For example:
I really like that answer, thank you for taking the time to put all that in.
With that mindset, how does Skritter view the Tone prompts as compared to the Pinyin prompts? I’ve always graded myself as failed when I don’t know the tone of the Pinyin, but it does make the standalone Tone prompts seem redundant.
Could we do something like “reveal_all = parts.reading ^ parts.writing”
(where the ^ is for XOR).
ie. Only reveal all if the user has only one of the parts enabled. If the user has both parts enabled, then it won’t reveal everything.
I turned off tones years ago on my personal account. I don’t see the value anymore, but I think that there is utility in the tone prompts as an exercise for beginner, early-intermediate students because of the fact Chinese is a tonal language. It takes time be able process Mandarin sounds and just know that it is a 1st tone, 2nd tone, etc. So, I think taking the time to draw them over the characters is a good thing. At least when you’re getting started.
When I was doing some tutoring in the past, one of the things I would have students do is draw the tones over passages of text as homework. Ideally without looking up the correct pronunciation along the way. Then, during the next class session we would go over the tones and make sure they were correct on a character by character level. If someone can’t say a word perfectly out of the context of a sentence, it’ll be really hard to have it sound natural in context.
I hope that makes sense
After that, I would have them read the passage, paying attention to the tones, and any time they made a mistake, they would have to start over from the start of the sentence in which the error occurred. I was brutally honest in the feedback and I’m sure it was stressful, but after a few sessions I could already notice improvements in speaking and reading aloud. And after a while, we didn’t have to do the homework anymore. They just got it. I think that is because eventually the tones and pinyin become so ingrained in the process of learning that you don’t need to separate them anymore, but it takes a bit of time to get there.