When Faculty Developer Wen-Hua Teng from the Department of Asian Studies searched online for tools that could help her students practice Chinese on their own time, she found many resources but none that were exactly right for her students. “From a pedagogical point of view, they wouldn’t work with our curriculum. If there were only one or two vocabulary words used in these materials that the student didn’t yet know, they would easily get frustrated.”
Developed in the 2008-2009 faculty course development grant cycle, Chinese Take-In aims to help beginning students get through that critical first few weeks of class. Through a series of sequential units comprised of listening activities and self-exams, students can get more exposure to the vocabulary and tonal complexities of Mandarin Chinese. “If you watch the way babies learn, they learn by listening. They listen for a long time before they being to speak. It’s the same for many students,” says Wen-Hua, who will be testing this material with first and second semester students over the coming year.
Chinese Take-In was built in less than two months, from the beginning of production to a finished web site. Wen-Hua credits the professional staff of LAITS with this accomplishment, particularly her project manager, Michael Heidenreich. Many faculty members know Mike as a highly skilled audio engineer for LAITS, and audio makes up a substantial component of this instructional web site. Chinese Take-In includes more then 900 audio files, in addition to 30 quizzes and numerous photos from China. It was supported by design work by Suloni Robertson and Student Technology Assistants (STAs) Christine Wu and Kelli Gross, as well as staff programmer Ran An.
“When I first applied for a grant, I didn’t know what to expect,” says Wen-Hua. “But I talked to a colleague Naoko Suito,” (who oversees JOSHU, a Japanese language instructional web site supported by LAITS), “and was encouraged to apply.” Wen-Hua said that it took time to create and record the content, but that the support from the professional LAITS staff made it worth the effort. Wen-Hua has been teaching Chinese for 20 years, and is always looking for ways to improve. “E-learning has reached the point where it simply must be done. If I had known these resources were available here at the college, I would have applied years ago.”
STAs are available to work with faculty on a variety of smaller projects: editing course web sites, building class presentations, producing audio/visual works, scanning and color-correcting images and text documents, and generally helping instructors use technology to enhance their teaching. Walk-in hours for faculty in the STA Development lab (MEZ 2.116) are Monday through Thursday, 10:00am to 5:00pm, and Friday, 10:00am to 3:00pm.