19 April 2014

What on earth is Chalkle?

11/07/2012 11:24:00 a.m.

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Learn the words you need in the place you need them.

Learn the words you need in the place you need them.

Alison Herbert studied French for twelve years in school, but still wouldn’t be able to converse very well with a Parisian. She doesn’t want to make the same mistake with Chinese.

“The idea is to put us in the situation that we’d be in if we were in China,” says Herbert, about Chalkle, a new way of social networking that matches people who want to learn something with others who can teach – as long as it’s not in a classroom.

In this case, Herbert joined the teacher, a native Chinese speaker named Lori, and five other keen people at the train station in Wellington, but, “We were on an imaginary journey from Beijing train station,” she says. Not only did they learn the necessary terms for traveling by train, but Lori went over all the ways a train station in China differs from one in New Zealand, such as the ticket office being outside the station. “We covered probably 10 key words, but we learned loads more so I kept interested for the whole time,” says Herbert. “If I’d been in a classroom for an hour and a half I would have drifted off.”

Chalkle is a website where people can browse through about 300 courses and classes, from specifics like “how to start a café” and “special effects: how to make an exploding head” to more traditional activities like crochet, wine tasting, and tap dancing.

Some are free, others have a small fee, and interested people can sign up online. If enough do, the class is born. Others who are interested in teaching can arrange to have a potential class vetted by organisers and offered to the masses. The idea is to create community through learning, and also provide a place where more obscure skills can be accessed.

“Sitting around a table in a classroom has its benefits but we’re trying to do something different,” says Silvia Zuur, who founded Chalkle with Linc Gasking about a week after they met over coffee and hashed out the initial idea.

Zuur has a background in education and Gasking is one of the founders of Adventure Wellington, a popular Meetup group that organises outdoor activities with a twist, such as the recent Ghouls and Goblins walk and the upcoming Quad Biking and Archery Adventure. He’d been receiving a lot of requests for activities that didn’t meet Adventure Wellington’s criteria – like learning ukulele – and wondered if there was a way to apply the same twist of fun and socializing to learning a skill or hobby.

Zuur points to letterbox making class which will involve using tools and the “zombie survival courses” as examples of old skills made fresh. “Collecting water, fishing, a lot of skills that our parents or grandparents used to teach us that are being lost, we’re making fun to learn by involving zombies,” she says.

Herbert, who regularly attends Adventure Wellington events, is hoping to travel to China someday and plans to continue with the class, which meets over ten weeks, next at a café to go over dining vocabulary, while enjoying a good meal. “I’m not a big social networking person at all, but the fact that Chalkle allows you to actually meet people and do something is different and better than chatting on Facebook.”

Go learn something new at http://www.chalkle.com
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