By Stephanie Doorack ’10
William Woods University students are teaching children on the other side of the world to speak English.
Dr. Roger Wen, assistant professor of education and business at WWU, is giving his students hands-on teaching experience in the class, Educational Technology. WWU has partnered with the Jian Sing Primary School, in southern Taiwan. Kuo, Chun-Lin (Brian), one of the teachers there, received his master of education degree (M.Ed.) from William Woods in 2008.
Woods students are teaching a class of fifth-grade Taiwanese students to read and speak English. According to Wen, the program challenges WWU students by breaking traditional cultural and language barriers. It also incorporates the use of a webcam and other technological equipment, preparing the students for any possible teaching environment with technology.
The project is a semester-long program, with 40-minute classes at William Woods every Monday and Wednesday night, which is Tuesday and Thursday morning in Taiwan.
Using video conferencing, 17 Woods students, the majority of whom are education majors, each teach a lesson to the class. The video is live, permitting students to receive instant feedback. This allows the WWU students to know whether they are going too fast for the language barrier and whether the children are understanding the material.
Communicating through the webcam, college students present consecutive lessons from a textbook. While they teach, Wen is on hand to assist with any educational or technological difficulties.
The program is unique, and this is the first time WWU has participated in this type of distance teaching. Wen said his students were initially not familiar with the concept, but the more they talked about the possibilities, the more excited they became.
“They were hesitant but positive, and once they did it, they thought it was a beneficial and fun experience,” he said.
“I thought it was amazing that you could basically be two places at once,” said Caitlin Steiner, a senior from New Bloomfield, Mo. “I have never had the opportunity to teach in a setting like that, and it will be an experience that I will never forget.”
She added, “The students were so excited and eager to learn. . . I felt nervous and excited to be teaching, but once I got started, the students’ enthusiasm rubbed off on me.”
“I really enjoyed the distance learning activity,” Kelley Martin, a senior from Columbia, Mo., said. “It’s cool that I’m teaching English to children on the other side of the world. Seeing the kids on the screen is really neat. . .it makes you feel like you’re there, and you can see their response to how you’re doing in their facial expressions and body language. I really think the kids had fun and that’s an awesome feeling, I would love to do this project again. I feel like I learned so much!”
As the college students teach English, they are learning skills that will transfer into any classroom setting.
“It is important to talk slowly, enunciate your words and keep their attention focused on you,” said Catherine Dziadula, a senior from McHenry, Ill. “You could see the Taiwanese students were excited to learn a new language.”
Jenny Hewitt, a senior from Nichols, Wis., who taught the introductory lesson, found it beneficial to call the children up one at a time, ask them a question and engage them in a conversation.
“This allows them to communicate and use the language they are learning,” she said.
Kuo commented, “The William Woods students have done a wonderful job conducting those lessons. Each of them gave the students plenty of time to practice their English. A successful lesson is a lesson which makes students use the knowledge they learned in the class and actually apply that in real life. They did just that.”
He also noted that the experience was going well for his students and that they benefitted by learning English from a native speaker.
Zheng, Yu-Xuan, one of the fifth-graders, said, “I think that video conference allows me to learn more English. It feels like I was talking with the teacher through a window. I was able to correct my pronunciation by looking at the shape of the teacher’s mouth. It makes me feel that learning English is easy and fun. I can hardly wait to go to the next class.”
Another Taiwanese youngster, Huang, Guan-Hua, said, “It is a great opportunity for us to learn English with real Americans. Even though it is through video conference, I feel so much fun in the lessons . . . they use pictures and songs to help us remember new words.”
Perhaps the comment that pleased the American students most was the one from Huang, Xiang-Jin, who said, “I want to say thank you to all the teachers in the video conference. They teach us many different English words. They sometimes make us laugh. I wish you all