While Dr. Hong Zhan was taking a teaching course at Nanjing University this past Summer, she stumbled upon an interesting opportunity. Along with several other teachers, staff members of the United Nations were also present at the university. A representative from a company named [Ninhao.com] presented a new type of learning device to the UN members. The device was a tablet with the purpose of facilitating the learning of new languages. The representative demonstrated the technology and let the UN staff use it as well.
After using it herself, Dr. Zhan was very impressed. “I thought it was so cool,” Dr. Zhan said. She then had the idea of approaching the company to test the devices in a real classroom setting. After many talks, [Ninhao.com] agreed to let Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Chinese program be the first university to test their new product.
Currently, Dr. Zhan’s LCH 203 courses, a total of no more than 20 students, have their hands on the devices. Named the “MyPad”, the tablet runs on an Android operating system and has a screen size of approximately eight inches.
The MyPads have many different apps pre-installed, each geared toward helping students make learning Chinese easier. Included is the entire textbook used in class. With the MyPad, the students can hear dialogues, practice speaking, read texts, and do many other activities. Some apps focus on Chinese culture, exploring Chinese music and art.
Dr. Zhan’s plan is for the MyPads to stay with the current students. “We want to see how much the students can learn from using the MyPads over the duration of their college careers,” she said. “We hope to use it more often. The goal is to not only practice what the students already know, but to explore more of the language.”
After moving to the United States, Dr. Zhan attended Northern Arizona University where she got her doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Education Technology. She deeply believes that welcoming technology into the classroom will only improve the student’s ability to learn. Dr. Zhan will continue to push for a greater use of technology in her future courses.
This month, the same class that is using the MyPad will begin to have Skype sessions with Taiwanese students. This partnership between the two groups will help boost current students’ exposure to the language through discussions with people of different backgrounds.