Differences in ‘without a timer’ and ‘timed practice’ on Duolingo + Progress Two Weeks After Statue

Two weeks ago I got the Spanish Duolingo statue.duolingo_to_still_strong

Have been trying to get all of the skills to the highest level ‘still strong’.

The first two sections are at that level. A few have dropped down to three (out of four) bars and I have raised them back to four. Figure I will require myself to have everything previous at that level before working again on a new skill.

There are a couple ways to work on the skills:

Two options

1. Without a timer

2. Timed practice

Both help you practice, but there are a couple of differences.

Without a timer

For the option without a timer, it’s much like the lessons are normally. You have three hearts. So if you go past losing all the hearts, you don’t get credit.

An update includes the option to ‘fix’ small errors and regain half of a heart for each correction. At the end of the lesson when you complete it, the points are also rounded up for half hearts.

Maximum points for practice without a timer is 13. And if you lose zero hearts then you get a lingot.

Timed practice

The timed practice does not use hearts. There are more questions. You also have to think more quickly and finish things quickly. You don’t really want to spend time examining why you got something correct or not. And on timed practice I worry less about the accents on letters, since the program will point it out if they’re missing, but not mark things incorrect. Sometimes you just don’t really have enough time to include them.

To write one or two words isn’t bad. It’s a bit harder if you need to write a longer sentence or record something that is a bit longer.

Correct answers get you more time. And if you run out of time, as long as you have gotten at least one thing right, you will get credit for what you have done.

You can also get more points using the timed practice, seems like most times if I tend to get things right it’s 19 points. Perfect execution could get you a couple more points. Doesn’t seem like you get any lingots though.

Refreshing skills

If a skill is at a lower bar rating, one or two for example, you likely will not get to ‘still strong’ by practicing once. If you make mistakes sometimes, it can take three or more times to raise up the level.

Seems like a good setup since practice will help you strengthen skills and it’s often not immediate.

Stats

There are 63 skill areas in the tree.

I have 23 of them at ‘still strong’ (four bars)

3 are at three bars.

10 are at two bars.

27 are at one bar.

It’s going to take a little while to get all of them to ‘still strong’. My estimate would be three months give or take a month. Since I have approximately an equivalent to 35 at one bar and if I work on Spanish everyday (for a short while~20 minutes) I can get a one bar skill up to four bars in about two days.

(Kesten estimation problem style!)

 

Got the Spanish Owl Statue on Duolingo, New Goal is….

Once you complete all the lessons in a language on Duolingo you get an owl statue!

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 8.16.01 PM

It was cool to get that. But it doesn’t really mean you’re a master of the language. In the words of the program though, it says you have ‘conquered’ the language.

It’s a goal to reach, a step along the journey.

The statue became a bit harder to get when they expanded the lessons and I imagine that the lessons will be expanded more times. Though you probably keep the statue even if it expands.

Duolingo has a feature that seems very useful for reaching a higher level with the languages. It mimics how your memory works with the different skills in that if you haven’t practiced something for a while, it starts to fade.

There are four levels:

1. still strong
2. pretty good
3. time to practice
4. overdue

I liked how they set that up. The program keeps track of how well you do with different words and skills. So this system where the skills fade encourages you to review things, especially those things you had trouble with initially.

So my new goal is to get all of the skills in the tree to the fourth level (still strong). I’m curious how much I can get to before the first things that I got back to ‘still strong’ diminish down to ‘pretty good’.

After about a week of using the ‘practice this skill’ function, I have the first section of the tree at ‘still strong’.

duolingo_still_strong_7

Today I also ordered some tacos in Spanish and replied to a question a guy asked me. In both cases people assumed I could speak Spanish, which was interesting, but probably shouldn’t have been all that unexpected given the festival that I was at.

Seems like if you speak Spanish and it sounds at least okay, you will probably get a response in Spanish here.

When I was in Germany, your German had to sound fairly good to get a response in German. If it didn’t sound very good, I saw people getting responses in English even if they said something in German first.

I think my accent is decent in German, but my grammar is fairly weak, something I would like to work on some more.

Probably will work on German a bit more in Duolingo, but hopefully after I manage to get all the skills in Spanish to ‘still strong’.

Getting to 184,029 Points on Khan Academy

About two years ago, I signed up for the online program Khan Academy, created by Salman Khan.

The program has changed a bit since then, partially due to a sizable amount of donations from both Google and Bill Gates among others.

I have explored the program a bit and found it useful, therefore deciding to recommend it to others. Getting to the number of points that I have took a little time, so I feel like I have a pretty good idea of the interface and how things work inside it.

Last year I had my physics class all sign up for accounts since it seemed like a tool that could be useful for them. With videos on physics as well as exercises to review some mathematics.

More recently I had a student that I tutor in math sign up for an account to get more practice.

Strengths of the program, my thoughts

Khan Academy began with a set of tutorial videos that continues to grow and expanded with a bit of programming that gives game-like elements to the math exercises. (Similar in some ways to Duolingo). More recently they have added videos/exercises for computer programming.

Because of the emphasis on the mathematics and expanse of that section, the mathematics area seems to me to be the most useful part of the site. In a similar way, the programming section allows people to try out coding themselves.

The mathematics section also has a ‘pretest’ to somewhat skip a student past a few things they may have mastered quite some time ago.

And there are ‘mastery challenges’ available that will move you through the sections a bit more quickly if you feel you want to move into harder sections for the mathematics.

(Mastery Challenge example, click to see larger image)

khan_mastery_challenge

The tutorial videos can be helpful as well and span over a much greater range of topics than mathematics though.

Here is my status as of right now:

neal_khan_academy_2013-09-27

Explanation of the dashboard

The character/avatar in the top left is something you get to choose. You have more options if you have more points.

Below the words ‘The World of Math’ it shows the numbers 256 on a gray bar and 150 on a dark blue bar with shades of blue in between.

These numbers represent the mathematical topics you have practiced exercises on (gray) and those you have mastered (dark blue). In between are intermediate levels between ‘practiced’ and ‘mastery’.

To the right, there is a large grid of small squares. Each square represents a skill. It shows the same information as that to the left of it, but in more detail. It also shows what is unpracticed. You can hover over those small squares to see what they represent and click on them to go to the lessons and exercises.

The top left square is the most basic and the bottom right is the most advanced, getting into calculus in the later squares.

Above the grid, there are six ‘badges’ with numbers. The badge on the right is the easiest to attain. And the badge second from the left is the hardest to attain, the ‘black hole badges’. Some of the problems refer to these badges, with the ‘earth badges’, ‘moon badges’, etc.

And to the right of the badges is the total number of points. These increase with everything you do- watching videos, working on exercises, etc.

Will it help you?

The math exercises will help act as a supplement to get more practice, for students K-12 up to the early parts of calculus. Practicing problems is an essential part of learning mathematics.

You get instant feedback about whether you have done the problem correctly and can ask for ‘hints’ which will be provided one at a time.

That doesn’t mean it replaces a teacher/tutor since it is limited in the explanations provided. There is a mechanism for allowing users to ask question and provide feedback which does iteratively improves the site.

Sometimes there are mistakes and/or strange ways of setting up problems. You can provide feedback on these things and the people working at Khan Academy have responded to at least one of my suggestions.

If you are past high school, but want to have a more solid foundation in mathematics, I think the program can also help you. It can be a good review/refresher.

Good for more advanced students?

The videos on different topics may be useful for more advanced students. The mathematics section is not designed with a more advanced student in mind though. The math ‘pretest’ will skip past a few things, but not everything you might wish it to, so therefore a more advanced student doing the math problems may find themselves working on things that are fairly basic, even if mostly sticking to ‘mastery challenges’.

The ‘mastery challenges’ take five problems that range in difficulty. At least one should be quite easy and one should be harder, with a range between them.

The program requires a certain amount of time to pass (something like 16 hours) before continuing work on some sections. That is helpful for the K-12 students since the material is more new for them and it’s better not to rush through things too much.

Computer Programming

I’m starting to get farther into this section and have liked what I have seen so far. You learn ideas of javascript for drawing and animation. Exercises and video lessons are mixed together in a sequence.

Seems like a good introduction to this sort of programming.

 

Trying the Chineasy Characters – Concept by ShaoLan Hsueh

Saw a cool project that seems a brilliant method of teaching Chinese characters by ShaoLan Hsueh, Chineasy.

Link goes to the Kickstarter page, which has 14 days left.

The Chinese language can seem somewhat intimidating to say the least. The four tones in the spoken language change the meaning completely often times.

And I thought that I would probably never learn the characters.

But then I saw this project and it seemed much more approachable to learn some of them.

By starting with a base of characters with visual representations built upon them.

Since I have been drawing a little over the last few months, thought I would try some of her examples.

Here are a few:

 

What I Learned from Using Duolingo for a Year

duolingo_all_unlockedHeard about a tool called ‘Duolingo‘ in a video from the guy who invented Captcha, Luis von Ahn.

Thought it sounded like a cool idea.

So I tried it out for a bit. And liked what I saw, but then my momentum slowed down. Didn’t work on it much for about a month.

Seemed like it would be more fun if more people I knew used it as well, so I invited some friends to try it out. And a few did.

That got my momentum rolling again.

Duolingo also got some funding and publicity that allowed them to expand and add new features, some of which made it more fun. And it also encouraged competition a little bit.

So friends would pass me in the number of points I had and I would be notified, sometimes I would pass other people.

And the program kept track of the number of consecutive days I worked on the language.

Working on language a little each day is very helpful, much like with learning other skills like music and dance.

More so than large amounts spread out sporadically.

Mostly I worked on Spanish- currently at level 14. Did a little German- up to level 5 and tried the Portuguese.

My background with language is that I took three years of Spanish in high school and a few years of German in college, including spending two summers in Germany.

Conversationally, I can speak better German, but my grammar and knowledge of the written language is better in Spanish.

Also, in California, I’m around Spanish a lot more, especially with the salsa scene.

Here’s the video I saw that came out in 2011 about the program if you would like to check it out.

And I would recommend spending a little time on it each day, possibly on the phone app in your downtime.

It can teach you quite a bit and is constantly being improved, both by the team and by user feedback.