Text Analysis of Affordances of Writing Technology in Second Language Teaching – A Digital Literature Review


Jing Zhao


This project serves as a precursor to the following question: what are some of the affordances of collaborative writing technology that second language instructors use to teach Chinese writing skills in U.S. colleges?


As a Chinese language instructor at Hunter College, I am curious about how writing skills are taught in other U.S. higher education institutions because although I received tremendous training in how to teach speaking and listening to college students in the U.S., I learned how to teach writing skills on the fly. Writing pedagogy of Chinese as a second language,has always been a mysterious area to me. I was wondering if there are more effective pedagogical approaches other than writing and revising students essays, and then ask them to memorize by heart and speak out their repeatedly revised Chinese essays .


Since my introduction to collaborative writing in ITP, I have been wondering how collaborative writing works in Chinese second language teaching in U.S. higher education institutions because the writing assignments of students I taught over the years have all been individual works and I have not implemented it in my classes yet. I learned how technology can enable and improve collaborative writing in ITP 1 through a collaborative Wikipedia editing assignment, but I have very limited knowledge about what writing technologies are used in teaching Chinese to U.S. college students and what affordances are in those technologies that may help teach and facilitate the collaborative writing process. Therefore I formed my research question for my future academic endeavors: what are some of the affordances of collaborative writing technology that second language instructors use to teach Chinese writing skills in U.S. colleges?


Before I start to study the question mentioned above, a literature review needs to be conducted. This review will be implemented with digital tools. Traditional literature review requires that the researcher read a large number of papers, which is time-consuming and may cover only a very limited number of materials. Through “distant reading” with digital tools, a larger number of materials will be covered, and the results of different data visualizations may provide perspectives and angles that may not be able to be acquired through linear reading. Therefore I decided to use digital tools to analyze the readings and base my literature review on the results of such distant reading.


Delivery of the project : A literature review for study of the affordances of collaborative writing technology that second language instructors use to teach Chinese writing skills in U.S. colleges based on distant reading results of relevant academic papers


Data set: All the data will be academic papers selected through relevant online academic journals. Through an initial online search of the CUNY Graduate Center library database, the following sources for getting papers on related topics are identified:


Technology and Language Teaching

Educational Technology Research and Development

Journal of Second Language Writing


The three journals may cover different aspects of the research question. Through a google search, the following two journals were identified as relevant to the research topic:


Chinese as a Second Language. The journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, USA

Journal of Chinese Language Teaching Methodology and Technology (CLTMT)


Journal of Chinese Language Teaching Methodology and Technology (CLTMT) was first published in 2017. Therefore it may not have sufficient papers on such topics. It is expected to collect 50 papers on such topics for the project and more journals will be added if there are not sufficient articles on relevant topics.


Tools: Voyant Tools and Gephi. Both tools contain a variety of text analysis tools that  can be implemented for analyzing academic papers selected from the journals.




First, relevant academic papers from the above-mentioned journals will be selected manually. Then the papers will be downloaded as pdf files and converted to txt files, which will then be cleaned either manually or automatically to be processed by voyant tools and/or gephi for text analysis. The tools for data analysis include: word frequency, word collocations, topic modeling, and data visualization. Word frequency will be utilized to identify words of writing technology in the academic papers, and then the identified word list will be transcribed into Excel for cleaning and ranking. The result of this process will then be categorized to see the distribution of technology categories in teaching Chinese second language collaborative writing in U.S. higher education institutions. Then the question is what are the affordances of those technologies for teaching with such purposes? To research on this question with distant reading, I will first investigate the collocations and correlations of the words on the list, and generate a list of words and data visualizations; then I will use topic modeling to see the words that are in relation to the words of technologies. Finally, I will interpret the results, including word lists and data visualizations, to form a literature review of the research question.


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