Innovating the Traditional Classroom: Lessons Learned from Online Instruction
Plenary One of the 2021 Virtual National Chinese Language Conference
The opening plenary of the 2021 Virtual National Chinese Language Conference addressed the past year — one like no other in recent U.S. history, in which we faced a global health pandemic, and inequities and social injustices brought to the fore. Each of the plenary panelists have been leveraging digital technologies for teaching and learning long before now, and brought both wisdom and practical advice to to the discussion.
Ping Wu, a Chinese teacher at Columbus School for Girls, reminded the audience that human connection outweighs content and technology. She makes time for reflection on what’s working (and what’s not) in her online class, and has landed on four “magical ingredients to cook a delicious Chinese lesson:” personalization, high-quality language input, information gap, and movement.
Karen Yixiu Zhou, the founder of @ChillingChinese, is interested in how different social media platforms may be utilized for teaching. She notes that students today have more options to explore when, where, and how they want to learn — meaning that students with different learning styles can try out different platforms and figure out which works best for them. Teachers can even create their own “brand” on social media, as another way of connecting with students.
Mary Ann Durso, a Mandarin Chinese teacher & technology coordinator at Mitchell Elementary School, has a vision for the future and it lies in both tech and society. There will continue to be virtual field trips, and online inquiry-based learning. In a shift to hybrid learning, new schedules will give students a choice in what ways they want to attend class and learn. Students could become money-earners, tutoring each other on YouTube. She also recognizes that equity will continue to be a concern, so it is important to regularly asses where students are.
The future is bright, according to Jihua Song, a professor at the School of Artificial Intelligence at Beijing Normal University, and Director of the Language and Literacy Resources Research Center at BNU. Professor Song pictures a possible future with artificial intelligence being widely applied to the language education field. AI technology would introduce more resources to support the learning experience, shape more platforms to improve the education management process, and produce more AI tools to increase and improve teaching quality and efficiency. This technology will also greatly improve personalized learning experiences based on an individual learner’s needs.
After reflecting on the past year, as teachers and students have been compelled to problem-solve like never before, Pamela Delfosse, World Language and International Education Consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction asks: Will the changes in education happen to us, or do we harness the changes and have them happen through us? Let’s continue to explore ways to innovate, improve our practice of teaching, and its role in our communities.
Click above to watch the Plenary One panel discussion in full