Community Cohesion 5: International Links
Combining IWB and video-conferencing equipment to support the teaching of English in Taiwan
A joint paper (UK and Taiwan) presented at the RITWIT International Conference Cambridge University, 2009
You can download this paper as a Word Document (Word 96KB)
Phase One: Exploration
Lawrence Williams, Assistant Head Teacher, The Holy Cross School, New Malden,
Surrey, and MirandaNet Senior Fellow in Work-Related Learning
Teresa (Shu-fen) Chang, Taichung First National High School, and National Taiwan Normal University
This paper outlines a developing international project, currently being undertaken between The Holy Cross School, a secondary girls’ school (11 – 18 years) in south London, and Taichung First National High School (TFNHS), in Taiwan. It follows on from the success of a previous international collaboration, “Science Through Arts” a cross-curricular project, integrating video-conferencing, email, and the web to develop an understanding of space science. The aim of this new English language project is to explore ways of combining IWB technology with cheaper, web-based video-conferencing equipment, in order to enhance the language-learning experience of secondary school students of English, in Taiwan. This model, when properly developed, can then be used to support on-line English Language teaching with many other countries, on a business footing. English teaching thus becomes an economic resource. It has enormous potential. The first phase of the project uses the ClickToMeet video-conferencing web site, and the interactive tools, including IWB, sharing documents, and sharing applications, that it supports. The second phase will explore the use of Promethean IWB, with the use of two classroom cameras (at the front and back of the classroom) which capture the whole experience of student interaction. The creative aspects of the project are being driven from London, and the project is being supported in its research aspects by Professor Hao-Jan Chen, English Department, National Taichung Normal University (NTNU), as part of an MA submission by co-writer Teresa (Shu-fen) Chang in Computer-Mediated Communication. The results, from the student and teacher reviews and questionnaires at the end of each phase of the work, will be submitted to NTNU, posted on the TFNHS STAR web site, and published on MirandaNet (Resources), so that other teachers can benefit from the experience of on-line English language teaching developed though this project. Teresa Chang’s methodology forms the second part of this paper. Both the project and the evaluation are on-going work.
Video-conferencing, IWB, international links, English teaching, cultural exchanges
The project began in mid-December 2006, when Mr. Jao-fu Wang, an experienced physics teacher at Taichung First National High School, had the opportunity to take part in a visit to London, which was hosted by the DCSF. At the Holy Cross School, south London, he was introduced to the Science Through Arts Project (STAR). This project was devised by Lawrence Williams and developed over a number of years with the active support of the NASA Glenn Learning Technologies Project, (LTP) Cleveland, Ohio, USA. STAR combines NASA space science data from the web, with creative writing, music, dance and drama. Students from across the USA, Japan and the UK were involved in the exploration of space science data through video-conferences organised by NASA’s educational consultant Ruth Petersen, and with on-line lectures and discussion sessions given by Joseph C. Kolecki, NASA Pathfinder scientist. Seeing the educational potential in this cross-curricular application of science, Jao-Fu created a web site immediately upon his return home to Taiwan. This web site was created in English and Mandarin, to support his school’s involvement in the project. It includes, on the introductory page, the names of the original NASA science team and within the site there is the space science data specially selected by Joseph C. Kolecki (download in Word format) from the myriad NASA web sites available.
On the left hand side of TFNHS web site, there are examples of the students’ learning outcomes from both countries (Taiwan and England), achieved using a powerful, though expensive, classroom-based video-conferencing unit. STAR lessons were planned by email, and students shared their learning outcomes during the video-conferences.
The next step was provided by Ms. Teresa Chang, an English teacher at Taichung FNHS, who also saw the potential of a video-conferencing link between the two schools. Accordingly, Teresa and I set out to explore the teaching of English language and literature using a variety of methods, as well as sharing cultural information about sport, social, and educational issues. This marked a considerable change of direction for the two schools. On each occasion, these conferences were filmed in Taiwan, and the resulting files have been posted on the same web site. In London, screen shots were taken, and sent to Taiwan to add to the project record. After discussion, we decided that we would not edit the filmed footage, as the material posted on the web site is intended to be a real-time and real-life record of the exploration of the educational possibilities of this new way of working.
For this series of lessons, we used a deck-top video-conferencing camera and microphone costing well under £100, as this reflects the more usual level of equipment available in schools. Connection problems are minimised by using the video-conferencing web site provided by the London Grid for Learning (LGfL). When using this external “ClicktoMeet” web site, security is provided by LGfL, and school to school firewall problems are therefore circumvented.
Through this series of conferences/English lessons, we set out to explore the use of all resources available through LGfL. These include:
- Presenting a document
- Touring the web
- Sharing applications
We have also tried to vary the presentation methods:
- The teacher in London talking directly to students in TaiwanStudent groups in London working with student groups in Taiwan
- Formal “lecture-style” sessions
- Informal discussion sessions
- Prepared and unprepared question and answer sessions
- A mixture of these strategies within each conference
The conferences, posted in order on the web site, have covered:
- Exploring the use of the equipment: genuine trial and error time!
- English language: some basic difficulties explained
- Food (recipes, including Taiwanese “coffin bread,” presented, illustrated, annotated remotely, and explained using the IWB)
- Sport in Taiwan (sharing PowerPoint and Word documents)
- Harry Potter (reading and discussion)
- Social and cultural discussions (the work-leisure balance in the two countries)
- Holy Cross students teaching “Hard Times” by Charles Dickens
We have been assisted greatly, at each conference, by the generously-given
time and expertise of Mr. Jao-Fu Wang, and we wish to record our gratitude
to him for sharing our vision of education, and for the practical assistance
he has unstintingly given.
Currently, there are 7 filmed conferences posted on Jao-Fu’s web site, each lasting about one hour. As this work is unedited, there is clearly a significant amount of raw data for further study.
As part of the reflective process, Teresa Chang is being supported in the research aspects of this project by Professor Hao-Jan Chen, English Department, National Taichung Normal University (NTNU), as part of an MA submission in Computer-Mediated Communication. The results, from the student and teacher reviews and questionnaires at the end of each phase of the work, will be submitted to NTNU, posted on the TFNHS web site, and published on MirandaNet (under Resources).
We have also been supported by the new Taichung Principal, Mr. Kuo Po-chia who writes on the web site:
The successful exchange between both schools should be attributed to the frequent correspondence between Mr. Lawrence Williams of Holy Cross School and Teresa Chang, English teacher of our school, and the continuous assistance from Jao-fu Wang, science teacher of our school. They have carefully planned every detail of the exchange procedure and instruction.
With basic forms of technology and equipment, teachers and students from both schools have managed to overcome the limitation of time and space and have thus successfully conducted rounds of conversations and learning sessions through the media of video-conference. In some cases, our students introduce to their counterparts in Holy Cross sports, food, and campus life in Taiwan; in other cases, Mr. Lawrence Williams offers lectures on English vocabulary and etymology, guides the students to read Charles Dickens’ ”Hard Times,” and explains writing skills in literary works, which makes it easier for them to appreciate the beauty of English literature.
Principal Kuo Po-chia
We are now building a teachers’ resource section on the same web site (“Teaching Materials” on the right hand side of the main page), so that teachers can see some of the methods we have used to develop the learning of the students. Though we are still in the exploratory mode, we both feel, as teachers of English, that the students in Taiwan have clearly gained considerably both in their confidence in using English, and in their speaking and listening skills. We will continue, in September 2009, to develop these lessons still further inn the second phase of this collaboration.
Teresa Chang’s methodological paper now follows. In it, she explores some of the shortcomings of attempting to sustain student interest by email only (e-paling), and explains the method of assessment currently being developed for the project as a whole.
EFL Senior High School Students’ Perceptions of CMC Activities between Taiwan and U.K.
Teresa (Shu-fen) Chang
National Taiwan Normal University
Chapter One: Introduction
1.1 Background of the Study
Computer-mediated-communication (CMC) has changed the course of language learning since its emergence. As best described by Chin-Lung Wei (2007) in his introductory chapter, there are the following reasons for the integration of information technology into TESOL:
- to facilitate communicative language teaching
- to catch up with the age of information technology
- to promote acculturation
- to stimulate learning motivation
- to facilitate flexibility
- to increase the students’ exposure to the target language
- to facilitate collaborative instruction
- to support lifelong learning
- to enhance global views.
With the overwhelming effects CMC has on language teaching and learning, to incorporate the information technology into the classroom is not only an innovative alternative but also an indispensable necessity for language teachers.
Communicative language teaching places the focus on the cultivation of learners’ communicative competence, and has generally been accepted as a norm in the field of TESOL. As can be observed in the educational environment in Taiwan, the Communicative Language Teaching Approach has gained its due recognition and popularity among K-12 language instructors during the past decades. With the extensive implement and application of the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach in most pre-school language institutions as well as elementary schools, the students can enjoy a relatively more pleasant experience in learning English. However, the situation changes drastically once they enter junior high schools. Partly due to the pressure from the Basic Competence Test, and partly due to the teachers’ limited English proficiency and the lack of ideal teaching and learning contexts, many local English teachers (mostly non-native speakers of English) find it difficult to apply CLT techniques in their own classes, which can probably explain the prevalence of the traditional Grammar-Translation Approach and/or Audio-lingual Method in most local high schools. These English teachers are compelled to put greater emphasis on reading and writing skills as a compromise. They compress the class hours originally meant for communicative activities and replace them with monotonous drill practices and endless written tests. The test-oriented teaching methods have entirely spoiled the students’ appetite for learning English.
The situation goes from bad to worse when the students enter senior high schools. Despite the fact that most language instructors are aware of the significance and effectiveness of adopting the CLT approach in language courses, the traditional Grammar-Translation Method is not only widely in use but also takes up a considerable proportion of the class hours. To ensure that the students can do better in the College Entrance Examination, teachers are keen to fill the class periods with supplementary reading materials and simulation tests. As a consequence, it’s not uncommon to find students with little motivation in learning English, for they are fed up with the boring lectures and tests. To respond to the students’ demand for a greater variety in learning activities in English courses, an increasing number of English teachers in senior high schools are taking action to provide the students with as many opportunities as possible for them to engage in communication activities.
On the other hand, the emergence of the Internet is changing the way that people learn and teach. With the World Wide Web, students can have access to an amazing variety of resources to facilitate them in learning, especially in language learning. Students of the present generation are getting used to the e-learning environment and acquiring their knowledge via the Internet. Being a passive listener, sitting at the desks, and listening to the Grammar-Translation lectures can by no means meet the students’ expectations of English classes in the Internet Age. To motivate the students in learning English, teachers need to satisfy their desire for more web-based activities in the classes first. With this in mind, English teachers need to take the initiative in incorporating CMC activities into the curriculum.
As far as TESOL is concerned, Collaborative Learning (CL) has been regarded as both beneficial for developing interactional language skills. Being a practical teaching strategy for facilitating learner-centred, whole-language learning CL proves to be an ideal alternative for ESL/EFL teachers who want to actualize CLT. (Wei, 2007) What’s more, when it comes to effective measures to ease learners’ anxiety and promote their learning motivation, collaborative learning has also been one of the most frequently mentioned solutions recently. With its close relation to CMC learning activities in the language classroom, collaborative learning has actually been enlisted “among the most useful ways in which learners acquire language at the computer.” (Beatty, 2003). When learners discuss the process and content in the target language at a computer, they are involving themselves in scaffolded learning, helping each other improve their language. As Warschauer (1997) points out, the distinctive features of on-line communication provides impressive new ways to link learners and encourage them to collaborate, for it is text-based and computer-mediated, many-to-many, time- and space-independent, usable across long distances, and distributed via hypermedia. What’s more, these features make online learning a potentially useful tool for collaborative language learning. And this is especially true when they are put in the context of socio-cultural learning theory, which emphasized the educational value of creating cross cultural communities of practice and critical inquiry. Considering all the above positive effects of collaborative learning, the study also intentionally include this significant element into the design of the CMC activities, with the hope to better facilitate students’ learning through the collaboration program.
To provide the students in the senior high school in discussion with a virtual learning context where they can interact with other competent language users and carry on real-situation communication, an e-learning partnership was created between Taiwanese and British students in 2007. Web-based activities such as e-paling, on-line discussions and videoconferencing are conducted for the students on both sides to develop their language skills as well as to enhance their understanding about the other culture. They collaborated on reading literary works and sharing and exchanging cultural information as well as working together on science projects. Furthermore, a website was set up for them so as to facilitate them in sharing and exchanging related information and the outcome of their language production via the Internet. After establishing the partnership for a year, the students took great interest in participating in such interactive communication activities. Most of them held positive attitude toward the on-line learning experience and express appreciation of the collaboration program. The teachers are also encouraged by the students’ strong motivation in learning English and their active participation in the activities. So far, the program proves to be a very promising alternative in English courses in senior high school.
During the year of collaboration, in spite of the students’ and teachers’ positive reactions to the on-line partnership, several limitations were identified in conducting this project. First, technical problem existed, the videoconferencing session in particular. Second, the e-paling correspondence didn’t last long, for the students found that they soon ran out of suitable topics to talk about in the e-mail. They also felt it awkward to discuss personal affairs through the e-mail correspondence. Third, engaging in the exchange activities proved time-consuming for the students. To prepare for sufficient information to exchange, students on both sides need to do preliminary assignments before they had another round of videoconferencing. Some of them even felt reluctance to work on the extra assignments. Finally, corresponding with a distant partner for the purpose of conducting learning activities in the language courses also proved to be time-consuming for the school faculty. Besides, coordination among the students, the teachers, the technician staff on both side created a heavy burden and extra workload for the teachers. Last but not the least, the nature of international collaboration also adds to the difficulty in managing the exchange program. For instance, the time difference between Taiwan and U.K. greatly limited the possibility to hold videoconference with a higher frequency. Moreover, to overcome the differences in the length of the semesters in both countries and the school schedules, the connection can only be established for three month at most in each semester. These limitations are all the main issues that the present study intends to deal with.
Chapter Two: Literature Review
2.1 Previous Studies
This section reviews a number of studies that focus on the effectiveness of CMC via cross-cultural links to enhance students’ language learning. The four types of the specific CMC activities included in the studies serve as the organizing framework of this section: (a) e-mailing, (b) on-line discussion, (c) videoconferencing and (d) Internet website.
Vinagre (2005) points out in her review of literature that “ previous research suggest that email can facilitate communication(Cooper & Selfe, 1990), reduce anxiety (Kern, 1995; Sullivan, 1993), increase oral discussion (Pratt & Sullivan, 1994), enhance student motivation (Warchauer, 1996a; Ushioda, 2000), facilitate social learning (Barker & Kemp, 1990) and improve writing skills.” (Warchauer, 1996b). In addition, Vinagre (2005) also states that the use of email offers students opportunities for authentic and cross-cultural communication, helps enhance their development of reading, writing, and speaking skills in language learning, and provides them with the opportunity to re-examine the messages of their own as well their partners’, which facilitates reflective learning and fostering awareness. The results of Williams’ (2004) study suggest that exchanging emails with native speakers of the target language can have great benefits to the students, “such as using the target language for an authentic use, making new friends, and learning about their culture.” Similarly, the subjects of Lin’s (2003) study express a strong preference toward the e-paling activity to the other two web-based activities (on-line forum and videoconferencing). All of these studies suggest that “the integrating of email as a support to other language teaching and learning activities represents without doubt significant added value both for the learners and instructors.” (Absalom & Marden, 2004)
2.1.2 On-line discussion
Compared with the other web-based activities, on-line discussion or text-chat seems to be a less demanding task in terms of the load of second language communication. In this type of communication, students do not “need to concentrate on listening to the partners’ utterances, but can understand others’ utterances by reading the text message.” (Yamada & Akahori, 2007) Since the students tend to concentrate more on the text message displayed in the screen, rather than the partner’s physical image or voice, they are allow more time and attention to form an opinion and construct a sentence with greater grammatical and lexical accuracy.
Ramirez’s (1998) finds in her study the following positive aspects of using videoconferencing in language learning.
- Tt is an innovative, hands-on approach to practicing conversation.
- It provides students with an opportunity to converse and exchange ideas with students from other cultures, thus facilitating intercultural understanding.
To the subjects in Jones & Sorenson’s (2001) study, the videoconference between students in America and France gives them “access to the way their foreign peers perceive political issues; such interpersonal exposure is not so readily available by other means.” And they further point out that the videoconference, as compared with e-mail and website exchanges, occurs in real time and personal views are expressed extemporaneously. For them, this kind of authentic exchange would not have been possible if it were not for the face-to-face opportunity provided by the videoconference. In both Pei-shuang Lin (2003) and Chih-cheng Lin’s (2007) studies, the participants have given positive responses to the videoconferencing activity. Most students perceive their improvements in language learning as well as in cultural understanding. With all the provided evidences, videoconferencing proves to be a promising alternative in CMC activities.
2.1.4 Internet website
According to Wei (, 2007), unlike a traditional book, which may be found in the shelf of a library, a website is like a collaborative book on the internet that allows a variety of elements such as texts, graphics, sound, video, to be linked together. It can either function as a digital bulletin board, a platform for displaying course schedules, supplementary materials, and even students’ performances and productions or serve as a virtual classroom, where students, the partners, and the teachers can communicate with each other to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of language learning activities. Since a majority of CMC activities are conducted through the World Wide Web, a well-designed website seems a must for the application of web-based courses.
on These Studies
Since most of the previous studies suggest positive feedback from the participants for the CMC activities through a cross-cultural link with students in a foreign country, they give insights into the significance of the incorporation of these activities into the language curriculum. However, despite the effectiveness of the construction of a website on web-based instruction, few studies have addressed the importance and necessity of constructing a website for the CMC activities in language learning. Even in the limited studies which did include a website into the curriculum, little attention is paid to its interactive functions. This has led the researcher to place greater focus on enhancing students’ learning improvement through an active use of the website. In addition, in these studies, most participants are of university levels, with only a small number of them having students of senior high school level as subjects. Therefore, further studies with participants of a senior high school level need to be conducted.
2.2 The Present Study
As Warschauer (,2000, 2005) points out, since language learning is a complex social and cultural phenomenon, short-term quantitative studies may fail to account for the complex interaction of social, cultural, and individual factors that shape the language learning experience. It is even more so when the process of language learning involves new technologies that connect the classroom to the world. In response to the call for more interpretative approaches to adopt when conducting research in this field, the present study aims to investigate the students’ response to the CMC activities and how these activities change their attitudes toward language leaning and help enhance their confidence through a mixture of quantitative and qualitative research. The research questions of this study are as follows:
- What are the students’ perceptions of the activities?
- Which of the CMC activities may enhance ESL senior high school learners’ confidence in using in English as a foreign language?
- Which of the CMC activities may promote multicultural understanding?
Chapter Three: Methodology
The participants of the study will include forty–two freshmen students (all males) in one of the most prestigious senior high schools in central Taiwan. Their English proficiency level is intermediate-high with an average score of X in the BCT English test. They will be in the second semester of the two-semester freshman year. The objective of the program is to provide the students with opportunities to communicate with native speakers of English by fully exerting their English skills through the CMC activities between their school on Taiwan and the High school in U.K.
The partners in U.K. are thirty students in a girls’ high school in Surrey, London. The two schools had started a partnership since 2007. For the past two years, the students in both schools have been engaged in the exchange of both science and literature projects through a variety of CMC activities. Since the partners are native speakers of English, their proficiency level is relatively higher than that of the students on the Taiwan side. Their interest in the exchange program has been in promoting the cultural understanding between students in both countries.
3.3.1 CMC Activity Attitude Questionnaire
There will be a pre-test and pro-test of a CMC activity attitude questionnaire before and after the exchange program. The questionnaire is intended to gather information about the students’ attitudes toward the activities, their responses to the exchange program and whether they perceive an improvement in their English skills. To achieve this goal, the items in the questionnaire will be categorized into the following sections: 1) their general attitudes toward the program. 2) their perceived improvement in the four language skills respectively. 3) the enhancement of their understanding of both cultures. 4) their evaluation and comments of the activities respectively and 5) the effects of the activities on their English learning motivation and attitudes.
3.3.2 Post-activity Written Feedback
To generate sufficient specific details about the participants’ perceptions about the CMC activities, they will be required to keep record of their reflections by leaving text massages in the guestbook on the Website at least five times during the period and finish a self-report after each videoconference sessions. The focus of their written feedback will be centred on the descriptions of their personal opinions about a specific activity in the program, such as the pleasure they have derived from their participation in the project or the difficulty they have encountered during the exchange experiences.
3.3.3 Semi-constructed Interview
A semi-conducted interview will be conducted after the three month of exchange program, transcribed and then analyzed. The interview will be directed under the theme of the five categories listed in the questionnaire so as to ensure its function as data for triangulation.
The participants will participate in a wide variety of CMC activities with the British partners through a group-based team work. During the three month period, the participants will engage in the following activities: 1) e-mailing for building up group-to group communication relationship 2) participating in the exchange projects on science and literature 3) video-conferencing sessions and 4) exchanging and sharing their products of language learning by posting group works on the website. They will be divided into 6 groups and matched with the student groups from the school in U.K. The members of each group will correspond to those in another group from the other side by e-mailing as teamwork for six weeks. The correspondence will be separated into two sessions, each of which will last for 3 weeks. During the first session, they are advised to communicate with each other mainly about the assigned topic while corresponding to each other. Then, they will be encouraged to choose the topic to their own interest during the following correspondence session for the purpose of building a sound communication relationship. In addition, each student will be required to give their ideas, responses, or personal thoughts by leaving text massages in the guest book in the web-site for five times at least. Finally, each group will choose a desired reading material and do the reading within limited time period. And each group has to produce a Power Point file to present the main ideas of the reading material and their comment and reflections. The content has to include the following items: brief introduction, summary, personal reflections, and questions for discussion. The groups on the other side will do likewise. Finally, they will post their group work on the web-site and exchange views on the reading material first. Then, they will be ready for a series of videoconferencing.
After the collaboration project, the subjects will be asked to write a report on the participation of this project and answer a questionnaire about taking part in this project. Next, the researcher will collect relevant data and student responses and do quantitative and qualitative analysis. Finally, the researcher will further summarize and discuss the findings of the study.
3.5 Data Analysis
The attitudinal questionnaires will be administered before and after the videoconferencing sessions and then collected for further analysis (T-test) by using S.S.P.S. The data collected from the students’ written feedback and the semi-structured interviews will also be organized, summarized and analyzed for triangulation.
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We have sub-headed this paper “Phase One: Exploration” due to its on-going nature. Following an inevitable summer lull in activity, the project will begin again in September 2009, when we will look at “Phase Two: Assessment”. This will draw together the results of the above assessment methodology, and will continue our creative developments using Promethean IWB as well as different recording methods for the various conferences.
Lawrence Williams, London, UK:
Teresa Chang, Taichung, Taiwan: