Wednesday, December 11, 2013

iPads in Chinese Classrooms

We just finished with our second professional development with educators in China. This time it was an elementary school that would like to be part of our long term project. The plan was for 20-25 teachers that have been identified as leaders. Over 40 showed up. Every event like this is fraught with difficulty: bandwidth, technology on both sides but more than everything it is the physical and cultural distance. It is hard to get a read on a large crowd through distance and it is almost impossible to get the personal commitment that would drive change.

I started with a very short theoretical foundation. We then used Socrative as a demonstration of a way to engage participants.  Jason Wilmot proceeded to discuss the Flipped Classroom and Krista Barnhouse showed a few apps she uses in her classroom. It then turned into a mini app shootout. Overall it was a successful if stressful session with Ji at the helm producing the event, Dandi translating and Qizhen as a backup/ backchannel discussant. It is a fairly big team but it probably is the only way we can manage that.

This is an evaluation of the effort through our back channels (edited version so I take full responsibility):

         "There were a total of 43 teachers and two principals joined our conference physically. There were three teachers joined our conference online. According to the responses, teachers who participated in online felt more engaged than those who joined physically. This is because those teachers all had a one-on-one technology person sitting next to them solving the technical issues, such as installation and registration. All teachers love our apps introduction but some of them suggested to get rid of theory section because they all know the theories. Moreover, teachers asked us to bring real-time classroom instructions rather than only introduction. 

I talked with a couple teachers yesterday and they said they need the conference but they all indicated that Chinese teachers will never integrate technology into classroom unless principals force them to do so. A teacher stated that there is only five who want to learn among 100 teachers in similar trainings in China, meaning those teachers did not get engaged. The lack of quality of motivation, will hinder them to learn."

I do not share the morbid evaluation. At the heart of it, it seems that teachers in China are like teachers everywhere. They want to change but know it is hard and are afraid that it might not work. Change if any will be slow and will depend on our ability to deliver tailored information and on-going support. It is true with the schools we work with at LPS, it is true with pre-service teachers, and it si true when we work with Chinese educators. Heck based on a faculty meeting last friday, it is also true with our teacher education faculty.

Our Chinese experiment will continue!
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