Reflecting on Digital English in Taiwan

Screen Shot from Peace's Video Project
Screen Shot from Peace’s Video Project

With a little bit of time in Tokyo’s Narita Airport, I figured I should try to capture some of my thinking about teaching my Digital English Learning course at Shih Chien University (USC) in Taipei, Taiwan. As expected, the three weeks have disappeared already, and we focused conversations and class activities on issues such as online privacy, creating a professional digital footprint, participatory culture, media literacy, and, of course, digital writing.

Because I was teaching a course for the Applied Foreign Languages Department, most of my students were studying English. Yet, as with all students we teach across all contexts, my students in this course came with differing levels of proficiency. As the mantra goes, “we teach the students who are in front of us,” and after a few days and some formative assessments, I was able to adjust my expectations and pacing as I learned from them and they from me.

Having never fully learned another language myself — and having little official training in teaching English as a second or other language — I adapted many of the reading and writing strategies that I have used across the years, from teaching middle school to graduate school, and our shared efforts — me teaching, them learning; me learning, them teaching — seemed to work quite well. They produced more and more writing as the weeks went on, and that led to more participation in class. In hindsight, I am sure that I could have scaffolded more interaction in class, and helped them get to know one another better, so if I had that portion of my teaching to do over again, I would focus more intently on community building in the first few days.

Still, I was able to work with them in class as well as through individual writing conferences with many students (on the weekend, no less), and I modeled the researching, thinking, and writing process for them with Google Docs, Citelighter, WriteLab, resources from the Purdue OWL. This also led to modeling and trying a variety of multimedia tools that they could use to create and share their final presentations. Last night, they shared their projects, with most creating work with Prezi and Powtoon.

Most of the projects were quite good, and a few really stood out. One student, TJ, created both a Prezi discussing the positives and negatives of using social media and, embedded within it, he also produced a short live-action film using WeVideo. Using the example of a friend who got in a fight with his girlfriend via social media, TJ demonstrates the ways that he can compose multiple forms of media and blend them together to create an effective argument.

https://prezi.com/embed/dwciewb6g42e/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=0&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0&PARENT_REQUEST_ID=e84402de13f4b43a#

Another student, Emma, took the idea of “remix” that we discussed in the class, and created a mash-up of news stories about Snapchat to complement her brief oral presentation.

As mentioned, many students used PowToon, and Banet’s was one of the most powerful examples. Combining critical media literacy skills with his knowledge of social media and fashion, he effectively blended images of fashion, his own voices, and elements from PowToon to create a compelling description of what the industry is doing — and could do better — with social media.

Finally, Peace found that he could not accomplish all his goals with WeVideo, so he turned to iMovie. Combining his own drawings with screencasting and other found images, Peace creates a thoughtful argument about the ways in which students can, and should, take responsibility for their use of technology in learning.

There are more projects than what I can reasonably feature here in a blog post, yet these four represent a great deal of thinking, writing, and learning that has happened in our brief three weeks together. I’ve enjoyed the experience teaching at Shih Chien, and I hope that you enjoy these students’ projects as much as I have enjoyed watching my students create them.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Teaching Digital English in Taiwan

Image of Shih Chien University's main entrance to campus (photo from Shih Chien University).
Image of Shih Chien University’s main entrance to campus (photo from Shih Chien University).

The beginning of a new month finds me in the the midst of the new teaching experience; for the first time ever, I am teaching a class overseas to students who are non-native English speakers. My course, dubbed Digital English Learning,  is a three-week, two-credit intensive course for undergraduates at Shih Chien University (USC) in Taipei, Taiwan.

In January, I was invited by the department chair of Applied Foreign Languages, Li-Te Li, to propose a course and make plans for a three-week adventure in Taipei. My journey so far has been both engaging and challenging, as I have only really travelled to France and England, with a very brief trip to Argentina when I was still in college. Additionally, I was allowed to bring my daughter on the trip, and this has made the trip all the more rewarding. While we miss everyone back home, the new places, foods, and events — including a student drama competition yesterday — have made our time here wonderful.

For the purposes of this blog post, my main interest is in thinking about how the course I have designed is working as both a course to introduce academic writing to non-native speakers as well as a course on digital literacy and media studies. I began the course last week with a survey to find out my students’ interests, questions, and concerns. Many noted their interest in the topic — digital English learning — and how they could learn to use their smartphones and the Internet more effectively. And, as I imagine I would be in a similar situation, many of them were concerned about their abilities to read and write in a second or other language. To that end, I have worked carefully to scaffold their writing through journals and, later this week, the rough draft of an essay.

Also, I am expecting them to create a media project of some sort or another. Building off the success that my students felt in my ENG 201H and ENG 514 courses this spring, I am trying to share many different media sites that my USC students can use for their own projects. So far, in the first week, we have only dipped into some initial ideas for composing multimedia work, though we will begin doing more of this work tonight as we look at ideas surrounding participatory culture.

Finally, I have been reading exit slips from last week’s class and working to figure out a variety of resources for students to use as they begin their essays both in terms of content (which seems to be focused on social media) and form (which I have loosely categorized as  problem/solution, compare/contrast, and cause/effect (ala the New York Times Room for Debate blog). This week, I am hoping that we can get into a computer lab so I can have them begin their drafts in earnest.

There will be more to report before the course is over, I am sure, and any ideas for teaching digital and media literacy to non-native speakers would be more than welcome!


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.