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Digital Collaboration: 21st Century Tools for Revitalization
Daniel W. Hieber
Associate Researcher, Rosetta Stone
What’s it for? How can I use it in my project? Limitations
Calling and video conferencing over the Internet
Sharing your screen with others
Calling landlines and cell phones (extremely cheap)
Instant text messaging from computer to computer
Train team members on using software (using the screen share
Conduct long-distance linguistic elicitation.
Hold regular meetings, conferences, etc.
Multi-person video requires paid account
Calling landlines and cellphones is cheap but costs money
Recording Skype conversations
Record elicitation sessions, stories, etc.
Record of meeting notes.
Create archive-friendly .wav files.
Audio quality and formats good but limited
Taking full or partial pictures of your computer screen
Recording videos of your computer screen while you’re performing
actions or tasks
Create training videos or documents for team members.
Video capture limited to 5 minutes
Storing and backing up to any kind of file
Immediate synchronization of files across computers
Sending files that are too large to e-mail
Maintain an up-to-date lexical database across computers.
Store all project files in a central location.
2 GB limit without a paid account ($9/mo. for 50 GB)
Requires a (free) Dropbox account to retrieve files
Sending files that are too large to e-mail
Receiving files without having to set up an account
Send files to team members who would have difficulty using or
installing other tools.
Save files you frequently send to people.
2 GB limit without a paid account
Creating, collaborating on, sharing, and editing documents online
Collaborating in real-time—can instantly see changes
Managing different revisions of a document
Create online forms for conducting community surveys.
Maintain a spreadsheet of photos that need to be taken, or words
that need to be elicited.
Web interface only
Lacks some of the features of MS Office and iWork
Creating and editing any type of Microsoft document online
Allow team members to create documents even if they don’t have
the latest version of MS Office.
Requires latest MS Office suite to take advantage of syncing
Organizing and tagging photos on your computer
Quickly uploading and sharing photos online
Adding metadata to your photos
Maintain a shared web album of photos for a visual dictionary.
Back up, edit, and share your fieldwork and anthropological photos.
Few collaborative features
1 GB storage limit without a paid account
Uploading and sharing photos and videos
Ensuring multiple backups of your important photos
Adding metadata to your photos
Share fieldwork photos with consultants after returning home.
Back up videos to the web.
300 MB limit without a paid account
Easily creating notes, outlines, clippings of websites, collections of
images, and more
Sharing and collaborating of notebooks
Mobile, web, and desktop access to notes and research
Outline collaborative presentations.
Maintain a shared repository for research and project notes.
Maintain a digital field journal.
($80) if purchased individually, although cheaper if
bundled with MS Office
Limited features in web interface
A CASE STUDY: DROPBOX
•Dropbox folder. The program creates a Dropbox folder on your computer
where you can keep all your project files.
•Linked computers. You can link multiple computers to one account.
Anything saved on one computer automatically appears on the others.
•Automatic backup. Anything you save in the Dropbox folder is
automatically backed up online and to other computers.
•Shared folders. You choose which folders to share, and you get extra
storage space each time someone signs up!
•Automatic updating. Each time you save a file, it gets updated in all
•Streamlined collaboration. Collaborate with team members on the same
dictionary database file.
•File transmission. Send extremely large audio, video, or PDF files.
•Safe backup. Ensure safe backup on multiple hard drives.
The advent of digital collaboration technologies is
making teamwork for language revitalization projects
cheaper and easier than ever before. Today numerous
technologies exist to facilitate long-distance
collaboration on any aspect of a team project, requiring
nothing more than a computer and an Internet
connection. In the past, these technologies could be
prohibitively expensive for many communities, or they
had steep learning curves, especially for those
community elders who are uncomfortable with
technology. Today many of the best tools are not only
easy to use, but also entirely free. Such tools facilitate
group tasks like collaborative writing and editing, file
sharing and version tracking, voice calling, audio
recording, photo capture and sharing, and
conferencing—all via the Internet.
In this poster I detail and compare a number of
collaborative tools for language teams, focusing on tools
that are both inexpensive and easy to use. Drawing on
experiences from Rosetta Stone’s Endangered Language
Program, which has worked remotely with communities
across the continent, I outline the merits and demerits
of each tool, along with practical advice for integrating
these technologies into revitalization projects.
Advantages of Digital
•Assist in capacity-
•Reduce costs and
•Allow for easy digital
Good, Jeff. 2011. Valuing technology: Finding the linguist’s
place in a new technological universe. In Lenore A.
Grenoble & N. Louanna Furbee (eds.), Language
documentation: Practice and values, 111-131.
Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Grenoble, Lenore A. & Lindsay J. Whaley. 2002. What does
digital technology have to do with Yaghan? Linguistic
Holton, Gary. 2010. The role of information technology in
supporting minority and endangered languages. In
Peter K. Austin & Julia Sallabank (eds.), The Cambridge
Handbook of Endangered Languages, 371-400.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rau, D. Victoria & Meng-Chien Yang. 2008. E-learning in
endangered language documentation and
revitalization. In D. Victoria Rau & Margaret Florey
(eds.), Documenting and Revitalizing Austronesian
Languages, 111-133. University of Hawai'i Press.
Villa, Daniel J. 2002. Integrating technology into minority
language preservation and teaching efforts: An inside
job. Language Learning & Technology 6(2). 92-101.
Ideal Criteria for Digital
•Free or extremely
•Easy to learn and use
•Built-in or easy-to-
•Don’t depend on
THE PROBLEM & BACKGROUND
Common Difficulties Faced by Revitalization Projects
•Transferring large digital files
•Slow Internet speeds
•Keeping databases synchronized and up to date
•Extremely large distances between collaborators
•Difficulty getting entire language team in one place
•Cost of transportation, phone calls, or mailing
•Travel in region is difficult, costly, time consuming,
or even dangerous
•Language consultants unfamiliar or uncomfortable
Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program
•Based in Harrisonburg, VA, with projects across
•Large collaborative team of language consultants
and stakeholders for each project, each in different
•Thousands of lines of text for each project, each
with accompanying high-quality audio and photo
•(Program is currently dormant.)
DIGITAL TOOLS FOR COLLABORATION