Ying-Ming Junior High School
Electronic Whiteboards Open 'Anywhere Door'
Electronic whiteboards have made classes at Kaohsiung's Ying-Ming Junior High more lively and interactive, transporting students back in history, over mountains and across seas, as if stepping through Doraemon's "Anywhere Door."
Electronic Whiteboards Open 'Anywhere Door'By Yueh-lin Ma
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 460 )
Most Taiwanese teachers and students would not deny that a vast gulf exists between the "happy learning" of elementary school and the intense pressure of junior high school. As the Junior High Basic Academic Achievement Examinations loom in the offing, teachers and students alike find themselves trapped in a cycle of endless coursework and relentless study.
"That's why when you look at those schools that have done the best job in innovative education through application of information technology, they're nearly all elementary schools," even Ho Rong-gui, director of the Ministry of Education's Computer Center, cannot help but confess.
Kaohsiung Municipal Ying-Ming Junior High School is an exception to that rule.
From Chinese language and literature, English, geography and history classes to counseling programs, Ying-Ming Junior High has a core cadre of female faculty, led by the full support of the school's female principal, that offer their students the chance to experience their lively teaching methods through adept use of electronic whiteboards during the course of the students' hectic class schedules.
On the Spot in History, Geography
During a ninth-grade lesson on European history, teacher Wu Buo-re shows students images of British royalty on the electronic whiteboard, before switching to images of Muslims and Christians. The pace of Wu's lecture is perfectly synched with the changing images on the electronic whiteboard, presenting the teaching materials in an orderly sequence and giving students a keener understanding and more lasting impression as to the causes and effects of historical events.
Chinese language and literature teacher Wu Chia-yi uses animation and film clips to introduce authors while geography teacher Fang Meng-chen puts Google Earth to use, directly taking students to see glaciers and on tours of Rome. Their preparation time for classes is about twice the norm, but they wouldn't have it any other way.
"It used to be necessary to sketch out maps and describe the various places around the world orally. Now that I can use Internet multimedia up on the whiteboard, Google Earth is just like Doraemon's 'Anywhere Door,' and I can directly take students to the site to experience it for themselves," Fang enthuses with a laugh.
As head of the school's IT Section, Fang spares no effort in promoting the introduction of information technology into the classroom.
"The prices of these whiteboards are getting cheaper every year, and if teachers can all become familiar with how they are used, they may be the technological tool with the greatest potential to develop the 'school of the future,'" Fang says.
Consequently, Fang and other interested teachers are constantly discussing how to present interactive teaching applications, and they have become one of only two groups of junior high school teachers in Taiwan designated by the Ministry of Education as "Models of Technological Innovation in Education."
The biggest challenge in interactive electronic whiteboard teaching lies in the lesson planning, as Taiwan's textbook publishers are currently the main drivers behind the development of teaching content and, for those driven teachers out there, they are not quite keeping pace. To come up with suitable electronic teaching materials, English teacher Chiu Chung-wen turns to U.K. and American educational websites.
"Some American state governments have set up websites specializing in providing lesson plans, and the U.K. also has a number of educational websites offering free downloads of materials specifically designed for electronic whiteboard teaching in a variety of subjects. But Taiwan has only just gotten started in this area," she says.
History teachers, who require a large amount of portraits of historical figures and historical archive materials, must also confront numerous copyright obstacles, even when they meticulously assemble their teaching materials themselves.
"It can only be used in the classroom setting and cannot be shared outside. And that's a shame. If this problem isn't resolved, it won't be easy to speed up progress in the design of educational materials," Wu Buo-re says. Even when teachers possess the electronic tools, the software content may not necessarily be available to match the hardware.
More Focused Participation from Students
Aside from academic courses, special counseling programs held in the school's computer lab are yet another Ying-Ming specialty. Last semester, counselor Chang Yuan-mei adapted a well-known American personality test, incorporating love stories popular with young people. Using electronic whiteboards and Intel Teach software tools, she presented stories in different gender-specific versions, allowing students to engage in role-play, identify values and make value judgments about the stories' characters.
During class, students animatedly debated gender role stereotypes, and the copious notes and diagrams scrawled across their class handouts were further testimony to everybody's motivation and interest in this class. This semester Chang used a similar lesson design to explore themes of sexual harassment, with each study group using a desktop computer to transmit the results of their discussions onto the whiteboard.
"Because of the recording and sharing functions, not only could the students observe the results of their classmates, but their level of focus and willingness to express an opinion also markedly increased," Chang says.
Impeded by the obsession with testing into high school, few junior high teachers are actually willing to actively employ electronic whiteboards and other information technology equipment in the classroom.
"I feel that junior high education is too rigid. Students get nothing but lectures and examination booklets. And the onslaught of exam subjects is unstoppable, so teachers only worry about not finishing the curriculum," Ying-Ming principal Lu Shu-Yuan, formerly an elementary school principal for a decade, sighs with regret.
Consequently, Lu stands 100 percent behind those teachers willing to try a more diversified educational approach.
"And we should really take a look at lending a hand in environmental studies," Lu jokes, saying she didn't seem to recall any "outstanding" application of information education by teachers of that subject. Knowing the innovative teaching team at Yang-Ming Junior High, it likely won't be long before their shadow is cast over the environmental studies department.
Translated from the Chinese by Brian Kennedy