Monday, 23 February 2015

Chinese Language and the End of Worksheets

Times have changed, teachers have evolved, and we now have a new breed of learning technologists. The first changes began in the classroom itself – new technologies such as overhead projectors, interactive whiteboards, laptop computers and wireless internet have opened up the classroom to the outside world. Teachers who spent their lives managing with a textbook, a tape recorder and a blackboard are now adept at using Slideshows to present grammar, playing audio files to practise listening skills, capturing texts from the Internet to introduce reading skills and perhaps most ground-breaking of all – empowering students by giving them access to a wide range of web-based tools that allow them to publish work and engage with each other, online, in real time, anywhere, any place, and space.

At Dover campus I've been running 'Team Time' with our languages teachers for a couple of years now—meeting once a week as a team to share and develop language teaching practices by enhancing them with digital technology. Over time the group has developed a strong ethos of sharing innovative classroom practice, encouraging each other to experiment and feedback their findings for further discussion and reflection.

Clearly the 'multimodal affordances' of digital technology are especially powerful in language teaching, and gradually the old fashioned worksheet is becoming obsolete, its lack of interactivity, it's static inability to incorporate audio, both orally and aurally, are the death knells of the worksheet.

Now instead, increasingly the 'norm' is becoming interactive, multimedia activities that engage, and powerfully facilitate language learning. Not only can teachers see, but they can hear how their students pronounce, and can even model this pronunciation themselves. All the examples you see here have been shared courtesy of  Puay Kian Tan, one of our Chinese teachers in the Primary school, who is always enthusiastic in her embrace of ICT enhanced Chinese.

There are many ways this eRevolution is evident, but here are some our favourite activities that are wiping out worksheets:
  • Making traditional worksheets multimodal, but turning them into screencasts.
  • Using Presentation tools like Keynote and Google Slides to incorporate the student speech.
  • Interactive online fora where students can talk discuss and respond to prompts in the language they are learning.
  • Creating short films

If you're yearning for more examples, I've put together a portfolio of other screencasts, all courtesy of Puay Kian Tan.


Where this process of particularly powerful is how Puay Kian Tan is 'working smart'. Essentially the tools are evolving from Grade 2 through each grade level, become ing more sophisticated each time, but essentially remaining identical in terms of their pedagogical foundation. When I asked Puay Kian Tan if she felt that evolving her practise to make use of these tools worth really worth it, her response was more than a resounding yes, it was a through breakdown of exactly how, and why:

Overarching curricular goals:

-conduct comprehension checks to ensure understanding;

Speaking skill
 -enhance the ability to use Chinese language to express meaning;
 -elicit speaking that increases in fluency and accuracy;
 -to present orally in class, assisting and improving each students’ ability to interact orally in Chinese.

The reason for using screen recordings (QuickTime):
1. Better understanding of each child's speaking skill;​​​​
2. Allow greater opportunity to assess students' speaking skill through individual recordings, as there is rarely enough time to listen to each child properly during a normal classroom presentation.

The reason for using Mindmaps (MindMeister):
1. extract the keypoints from the passage;
2. using keypoint as guideline to learn the thinking in Chinese, as well as using Chinese language to express;
3. make use of the medium to present in class, to encourage the students' to speak fluently and confidently in front of their peers.