Tech for Teach

Google Docs: Multilingual, but…

Have you ever used Google Docs with your EFL students? If so, have you ever wondered why students never seem to spell check their documents? Or, why you are unable to properly use the spell check feature with documents they have shared with you? Well, this has been eating at me for the last week, and today I finally made a point of finding the solution to the problem.

Google Docs fails to see spelling errors

In the image above you can see how Google Docs claims to have “No spelling suggestions” for the error-filled sample sentence. Of course, this particular error was staged for effect, but not on purpose. After spending an afternoon going over student essays in Google Docs, and being continually frustrated by the numerous spelling errors and Google’s reticence to help me with the issue, I finally broke down and started digging for answers. In a moment of frustration, I typed the above-pictured sentence into a new document and was amazed to see that Google finally had some suggestions for me.

What made my documents different than my students’ documents? That was the question that led me to the rather simple solution…

Basically, the only visual difference between my Google Doc and the ones produced by my students was the Japanese language drop-down menu in the top right of the menu bar. This was the final clue I needed. Essentially, the issue was that the documents created by my students, while being composed completely in English, had defaulted to Japanese based on the language of the PC operating system. All I needed to do was change the document settings to English in order to enable Google’s spell check feature again.

(Click on the first image below to view the images as a slideshow of the process of updating the document language settings in order to turn spell check back on.)

So, the lesson here is that if you are having students submit documents in English, make sure that they know how to change the document language settings. Otherwise, they will miss out on the benefits of the built-in spell checking feature, and you will drive yourself to drink doing all the spell checking for them.

Now that Google knows the correct dictionary to use...
Now that Google knows the correct dictionary to use…
Tech for Teach

Depression and a Family Conference Call

HangoutsI was just nodding off, one of those rare afternoon naps. The phone rings. Daughter Nicole (Nick) calling from Portland. “Hangout,” she says. I know the drill. I hang up. Move to Google+ page, and select hangouts. We’d done one with the whole family last week, so I clicked on that one. Set off ringing at my wife’s computer (she was out shopping), and Nick’s older sister Julia, in Waikiki.

Turns out Nick has a research paper proposal due tomorrow for her college freshman writing class, and wants to brainstorm. Something about mental illness. Julia graduated last year and did a lot of work in sociology and cultural psychology, so they got started right away. Nick needed a research question, some description, some probable outcomes, and some resources for her proposal. Continue reading “Depression and a Family Conference Call”


How Cloud Computing should be Changing our Pedagogy


One of the most amazing technological advances in recent years, in my opinion, is cloud computing. However, as teachers we have only just begun to see its implications.

For those of us in homogeneous EFL environments, like Japan, getting students to communicate with each other spontaneously using the target language is one of the biggest challenges we face. And yet, we have opportunity to circumvent this obstacle using technology.

Imagine an ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) environment where students from different countries are being matched within a project group. Target language communication would be a must in this situation. Impossible?

Continue reading “How Cloud Computing should be Changing our Pedagogy”