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Second Life in Chinese language learning

Posted by Tommy Lu on April 20, 2012

I went to the First National Chinese Language Conference in 2008 and made a presentation about heritage community, “the hidden treasurer.” To my surprise, one of the sessions, “Learning Chinese Online: Program Models, Issues, and Resources”, was talking about developing an online language learning tools in second life. Dr. Youg Zhao, an expert in education psychology, developed this online learning tool based on MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) basically changed whole concept about language learning.

In this virtual world, a student may enter a door and into an airport at Beijing. He (or she) can walk around to do different things. He has to interactive with different situations. He will also get hungry or thirsty and if he does not eat something, his engery level will be reduced and he is shrunk. Students in this environment may experience different things in different level. The amazing thing is that learners can upload new stuff they created and enhance or change the environment. When student has reached a certain level, the learner may conduct a live chat with another learner online just like IM. Dr. Zhao’s idea does not stop here. According to his plan, when enough data is collected, he is going to regroup leaners by this virtual world and track their peogress. The site was launched today and started its beta testing. The site address is I registered tonight but have not got any confirmation yet.

Second Life has been considered for language learning. After I discussed this idea with my wife, we came up another idea for Chinese School. One of the problems Chinese school teachers are facing is that there is very few learning activities between weekends. What if we modify the third period and set up 12 “themes” in 12 classrooms. The theam could be bank, post office, super market, restaurant, school and so forth. Students can learn the words, phrases, etc. and practice them, using blog to exchange information about these themes with other students or teachers during the week and come to school to role play it. Students may enter one theme each week and teachers will only have to prepare for one theme for the entire year. Unfortunately this idea was shut down in the faculty meeting because there are just too much preparations and it is difficult to monitor student’s learning. The other point is that we will need more space to do this and that is at premium considering we have limited space.

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Democracy of Learning

Posted by Tommy Lu on April 20, 2012

Another term I learned at the First National Chinese Language Conference in 2008 is “democracy of learning.”  This is opposed to the “dictatorship of learning.” Dictatorship of learning means teachers dominate the teaching. They decide what to teach and how to teach the material. Democracy of learning says that students take their time to choose what to learn and how much they can take at a time. It may sound like democracy of learning is just like self-pace study but there is a subtle difference. Self-pace study still let teachers decide what to teach. The democracy of learning allows students to choose what they want to learn. It is probably close to what Dr. Hofstetter has been doing for his courses.

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Why students like MMORPG?

Posted by Tommy Lu on April 20, 2012

I was interested in the concept of using MMORPG to lead Chinese language learning at the conference. After browsed several sites about MMORPG, I made the connection that my son, who is 11 years old, has been playing this kind of games for quite some time and he would play these games online for hours. When ask him to do his Chinese school homwork, he was either tired immediately or begged to have some extra time to play before he can finish the current level. Tonight, I asked him to explain to me about those games and I was suprised that he already knows this term. In fact, he even explained to me the differences between RPG, ORPG, and MMORPG.

He showed me on of his favorite ORPG games, Mech Quest, and how he learned to play this game. He explained that he had to enter this “university” to learn how to use those weapons. He then uses what he has learned to this city called “Soluna.” The interesting part is that the site: keeps uploading new stuff and give him new instructions. He can earn “credits” to buy “stuff” he needs. He is never tired of playing and now I am watching what he is doing because I remember some parents warned me about these sites.

Anyway, if this kind of virtual environment can be created and continuously updated or added, students would be interested in learning because according to Dr. Zhao, this is how they would like to learn new things.

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Assessment – Revisit the Topic

Posted by Tommy Lu on April 20, 2012

Several presenters at the First National Chinese Language Conference in 2008 brought up the issue of assessment. They claimed that assessment should be “enjoyable” and “effective.” At one of the sessions, “Assessment for Learning: Considerations for the Profession”, the presenter (Greg Duncan) mentioned several assessment tools that are being used in different levels. I am only familiar with STAMP (Standards-Based Assessment of Proficiency,, and OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview). However, based on the responses from the audiences, there are more assessment tools such as MOPI (Modified OPI). There are even assessment tools for K-2 levels as well as 3-6 grade levels. One assessment tool, I just could not remember the name of it. is used to assess language proficiency for the K-2 grade levels where assessment was conducted by an informal interview with students. Students are not aware that they are being assessed and it was conducted in a way that is enjoyable (no pressure) and more effective. Does anyone know the name of this assessment?

After the session, it made me think about assessment again. Are we truly assessing what students have learned? The so called standardized test really a fair and accurate assessment tool? Deborah Meier, in her “In Schools We Trust”, argued that the traditional standardized test, which was based on IQ test, is biased against black students, is not a good and effective assessment tool. In language assessment, most Chinese school teachers as well as public school Chinese language teachers are perhaps also using the out-of-date assessment. For example, many teachers still test students with fragment sentences. From the College Board AP Chinese training I have attended in 2006, the assessmenet should be authentic and in communicative mode. That perhaps is why all my three daughers learned Spanish from 7th grade but still could not conduct a short conversation in Spanish or still could not understand anything from the Spanish channel after years of Spanish learning despite they got As in their Spanish courses.

It looks like there is a need to assess the assessment itself before those assessments can be used and analyzed. Maybe that’s why ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, only classify students’ proficiency level into novice, intermediate, advanced, and superior levels instead of grade levels.

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What is curriculum?

Posted by Tommy Lu on April 20, 2012

We all know the term “curriculum” and we probably can explain what we think the curriculum is and should be. When we see a bad one, we can also identify it. However, exactly what is curriculum? Interestingly enough, this is the most difficult term to define.

My take of curriculum is that a curriculum is a theory or a concept. All other things or objects we have associated with curriculum such as syllabus, schedules, text books, teaching plans, teaching methods, content delivery, and so on are the “products” of curriculum. To me, the most important question to ask or the most important “thing” to design is “what do we want our students to do or perform after they finished their learning?”

Based on the above, I think curriculum design should be outcome based, formative, and focus on application. I am not just talking about teachers at Chinese School of Delaware, many teachers from other schools (whether they are elementary, middle, high, or even college professors) often focus the learning outcome on the tests. Even worse, the so called tests are merely a repeatition of what teachers said or what appeared on the text books. That’s why many of our students could not be a critical thinkers or problem solvers.

So what is this “concept” about curriculum? In my mind, this “concept” is what I have mentioned in the beginning of this post. This “concept” is what we want our students to be able to do? Therefore, a curriculum can be as high level as K-16 education or as low level as individual courses in each grade. In this blog and the wiki for our school, I think we need to address each level in its own space. However, the high level curriculum concept should drive the low level curriculum concepts. All viewers are welcome to voice their ideas of this concept but allow me to address mine here first.

My curriculum concept for the entire school is that students, after complete 12 years of learning, should be able to meet intermediate-low to intermediate-mid proficiency level for heritage students and novice-high to intermediate-low for non-heritage students. These proficiency levels come from ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) standards. You might wonder how many levels are there and what are these levels. Well, ACTFL divide language proficiency into novice, intermediate, advanced, and superior levels. Each level can be sub divided into low, mid, and high. Novice level is achieved by single character recognition, simple and common phrases, be able to construct simple but not necessarily connected sentences, be able to identify basic objects (colors, shapes, weekdays, month names, and so on), and can conduct simple conversation. Intermediate level is achieved by more character and phrase recognitions, can describe own feelings and past experiences using simple sentences, be able to give simple directions, relay messages, and can solve simple and basic problems such as asking for directions and placing orders. Advanced level is achieved by applying characters and phrases to express a complete idea, be able to compare both couture and context differences, can engage an argument or serious discussion or even lead a discussion, can write well connected sentences into paragraphs and linked those related paragrpahs into an article. Superior level is achieved by understanding language, culture, and literature and can transfer the knowledge to others (AKA teach).

After the “concept” is formulated, syllabus is next followed by teaching plan, content knowledge, teaching activities, teaching methods, content delivery, and finally assessment.

Syllabus contains topics covered, schedule, sequence, and evaluation methods Teaching plan contains breadth, depth, how to…, and assessment plans Content knowledge contains what to teach Teaching activities includes different in-class and out-of-class type activities for both teachers and students Teaching methods refer to the way how teachers teach and how students learn Content delivery refers to methods teachers and students can use to achieve their learning objectives

One thing I would like to stress is that we need to focus on learning, not teaching. Can you see the difference?

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Classroom Shortage

Posted by Tommy Lu on February 12, 2009

Dear CACC Board Members:

Chinese School of Delaware has been facing the class room shortage starting 9/2008. The CSD school board had come up with a two year plan trying to resolve the class room shortage issue by combining the two pre-K classes (PK-A and PK-B) for one of the period during the school hours since the beginning of school year 9/2008. We have recently received feed back from teachers and parents that this arrangement has caused difficulty in classroom management for the teachers and also comprimised the effectiveness and quality of students’ learning experiences. The school is proposing to move the starting time of incoming pre-K and K classes to 1:oo pm starting in fall 2009, the rest of the classes remain starting at 1:30pm. The school will remain ending at 4:00pm on sundays.

On behalf of the Chinese School of Delaware, the CSD school board is requesting the approval from CACC Board members for the usages of 3 class rooms, starting from 1pm ( which is 30 minutes earlier then the current schedule) , while the rest of the class rooms will start from 1:30pm-4pm on sundays when the Chinese School is in session, starting this fall, 2009. We hope to hear from the CACC board’s decision by mid March, so we can communicate the new schedule to the parents at the general parents’ meeting on April 5.

If you have any questions regarding this request, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Tsuey-chen Long

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Chinese New Year Presentation

Posted by Tommy Lu on January 24, 2009

Follwoing is the story how Bill present Chinese New Year to his children’s classes.


Dear Teachers,

First, I would like to wish everybody a early Happy Chinese New Year!

As Chinese educators, I know we are all very passionate about the Chinese culture, so I want to share something that we do in our kids’ (Katelyn and Brandon) classrooms that you may find interesting.

Each year around this time, we would book a short period of time (usually around 30 minutes) in each of our children’s class to talk about Chinese New Year. This can be done during “mystery reader”, “special guest”, or any other time slots reserved for outside visitors.

As preparation, we order a few small items from Oriental Trading that includes a red envelope and a couple of small Chinese toys for each student in Brandon and Katelyn’s classrooms. We would translate each student’s English name into Chinese and use a PowerPoint template (attached, PowerPoint 2007) to print out a customized Chinese New Year pamphlet for each student. The pamphlets would go into the red envelopes. We also buy big bags of individually wrapped fortune cookies from Chinatown. Our budget is approximately $1.50 for each student (2 classes, 50 students & teachers = $50-70 a year, but you can of course scale up or down as you wish).

For the visit, I use a display board to discuss various aspects  of Chinese New Year: traditions, food, firecrackers, lion and dragon dance, special clothing, and of course red envelopes. We would take questions and facilitate discussions about similarities and differences between Chinese New Year and other western holidays. After that we hand the gifts (red envelope with their Chinese name, the Chinese toys, and a fortune cookie) to each student. If time permits, I would show a short, 5-minute video of Lion Dance by our CSD students.

We have been doing this for the past 4 years, and the reception has been phenomenal. Students, from 3 to 9 years old, were very interested in all areas of Chinese culture and we had some very lively discussions. They also loved their Chinese names and other gifts. Each year we get numerous thank-you notes and class projects thanking us for the wonderful experience. We even had a parent telling us that her daughter slept with her red envelope and the toys at night for a week!

I encourage you to get engaged in this type of activities. If you are interested to learn more, please let me know. I posted a few pictures at the following gallery:

Chinese New Year template


Posted in Chinese New Year | 2 Comments »

一片金秋 – 一封來自蔣海瓊的電郵

Posted by Tommy Lu on December 2, 2008


2007年年初, 我發現右腳無力,走路困難。經過十個月的檢查,醫生診斷我得了漸凍人症。這兩年來,我從右腳帶著護踝、配著支架,到拄拐杖、助行器(walker)、使用電動輪椅。現在,又出現雙臂無力,甚至有吞嚥和說話困難的情形。在這樣急速發展的病情之下,我還能獻上感恩嗎?是的:

* 我感謝女兒、女婿的貼心愛護
* 我感謝有最好的醫療團隊照顧我
* 我感謝有幾十個家庭輪流為我提供飲食
* 我感謝上帝為我預備了一間一層樓的房子,居住較為安全
* 我感謝搬家期間有幾十個人幫忙打包、搬運、油漆、開箱、整理...
* 我感謝上帝仍然賜給我教書、講道的機會
* 我感謝溪水旁關懷單親家庭協會在美國和台灣兩地都如常舉行成長營、專題講座...等活動
* 我感謝在病中仍能透過電腦Skype向北美、台灣的學員教學
* 我感謝上帝賜給我好的胃口和甜美的睡眠
* 我感謝上帝賜給我正面積極的態度面對每一天的挑戰
* 我感謝海內外朋友的關心、支持、和代禱
* 我感謝.....

親愛的朋友,請為北美賓州十二月五日至七日的溪水旁單親成長營禱告,願神賜下好的天氣,願聖靈透過講員的信息改變參與者的生命。也請為我明年一、二月份回台灣領會的行程禱告。感謝神,一位曾經擔任助理護士和宣教士的朋友安媚爾女士(Imelda Fadullo Andricks) 將全程照顧我。



Ps. 歡迎上網 點一下Fall Leaves 一片金秋,再點一下 Start slideshow,就可以看到我拍的秋葉,音樂也很美,曲名就是「秋葉」(Autumn Leaves)。ㄧ定要上去看,怡情養性喲!

Love in Christ,

蔣 海 瓊
Pauline Chiang, D. Min.
President, By Streams of Water, Inc.
理事長, 溪水旁關懷單親家庭協會

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in
season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

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Posted by Tommy Lu on December 1, 2008




















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No More “Old School”

Posted by tiffanylu on October 10, 2008

It’s not sufficient for students to simply memorize concepts and regurgitate it on tests, which was often the “old school” method of teaching.  Thinking back, how many of you can say that you truly understood the underlying reasons for many of the concepts?  Given that Chinese is not a conceptual subject, “old school” teaching methods and execution are still applied; but is it something that we want to continue to use?  Chinese school sessions typically run like this: the teacher stands in front of the classroom and lectures, while the students are expected to attentively absorb the information; there’s no room for hands-on activities or student collaboration.  These elements are crucial in a classroom, because even the attention span of adults is limited.  Speaking as someone who attended Chinese school for ten years, it is the teachers that incorporated lessons into games and activities that stick in my mind.  Successful activities require a knowlegde of the students’ psychological and physical developements.  Teachers should implement activities that are developmentally appropriate; meaning, activities that are challenging, but not too difficult or too easy.  It’s also an “old school” mentality to mandate students to sit quietly and attentively at their seats.  How do you define a “good” student?  Is it one who sits quietly, does all his/her work, and get good grades?  Is a student “bad” if he/she talks frequently and rarely does work?  A teacher needs to look beyond these actions to even begin to judge a student.  Maybe the student talks a lot because he/she is curious, or chooses not to do work because he/she lacks intrinsic motivation.  The goal of a teacher should be to spark an interest to learning, not to create zombies.  What do you think?

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