Middle School Students Say Ni Hao
to Chinese Taught from China
A teacher in Shenzhen uses technology to appear in class at Corbett Prep for the school’s Chinese elective.
Nov. 1, 2013 (TAMPA, Fla.) – Twice a week in the morning, several students at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS travel to China — and still make it to their next class in Tampa in plenty of time.
Middle School students have the unique opportunity this year to take Chinese classes directly from the country they’re studying, thanks to technology that links them to their teacher overseas. When the elective meets, the students file into their classroom in Tampa where the desks face a large screen with a webcam off to the side. The camera projects their images to teacher Mark Xing as he Skypes to the class from the Second Foreign Languages School of Nanshan district of Shenzhen, China.
In many ways, it feels like he is right there in person. Xing writes phrases for students to review on a white board, and students follow, asking their questions and providing answers to his. The students’ behavior is the same as if Xing was before them in person rather than seen as a silhouette on the Smart Board screen. Together, the class and teacher navigate understanding characters, pronunciation and nuances of the Chinese language.
“This is a nice way to take advantage of the advanced technology,” says Xing, who is the director of teaching affairs in his school’s middle school section.
The distance does require some improvisation. Cindy Strickland, a Corbett Prep Middle School division leader, supervises the Chinese class and works with Xing to make sure students have the materials they need. He often sends lecture notes to her to print and distribute to students. He also prepares exercises and quizzes to pass out to students who review answers with him the next class.
Corbett Prep has offered Chinese as an elective class before, always with a teacher and student in the same classroom. This is the first year the school has had a chance to work with a teacher actually in China. The arrangement came about when Headmaster Dr. Joyce Burick Swarzman saw Xing at the International Leadership Fellows Institute held in Pasco County last summer. They had met previously in Beijing at the International School Connection’s 2007 Annual Global Summit for educators.
Language lessons are closely tied to a country’s culture, Xing says, and the stories behind Chinese characters are as important as the technical understanding of how to write them. Skype gives Xing an opportunity to share those stories across the oceans, an invaluable experience for Corbett Prep as well.