Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology in China's Schools

I have not posted anything for a while because I have been traveling in China - serving as a U.S. representative on a delegation for the International Reading Association.  The purpose of the delegation was to foster goodwill and the exchange of ideas between the Chinese educators and our own – 22 educators from all over the U.S.  This was planned to fall several weeks prior to Obama’s visit.

The tour began in Beijing, moved to X’ian, and ended in Shanghai.  The delegation visited schools, met with educators in various roles, and exchanged ideas with teachers.

  As we all know, China is a leader in technology.  Consequently, I went, expecting to see technology embedded in all of the schools.  However, that was not my experience.  Contrary to our plans, we were allowed on only three schools campuses.  On those three, we observed the use of technology in one school, in Shanghai.  Most of the use of technology here was by the teachers in their presentation to the class - LCD projectors, laptops, powerpoint, etc.  Our national guide explained that Shanghai is way ahead of the rest of China in many ways - including education.

Reflecting on this situation, I have tried to view this from an American educators' point of view.

  1. The level of poverty and lower income in general I observed as we traveled throughout China, would in itself prohibit the purchase of computers for home use.  
  2. The government has tight control of the social networks available on the internet in China.  Facebook is outlawed as well as access to several other resources.  I experienced this myself as I traveled around China.  To read more on the topic, here is a link: 

   3.  The government has tight control over what is allowed on the internet.   
         Information available to U.S. citizens on the internet is not always 
        available to Chinese citizens.
   This situation limits the use of certain forms of technology in the classrooms.  Here in the U.S. we make a great deal of using laptops in our classrooms - especially in Maine for our 6-12 students.  We view it as a way to connect up with the rest of the world and have access to global information.  

We do this with the belief that, "Being able to read and write multiple forms of media and integrate them into a meaningful whole is the new hallmark of literacy." Jason Ohler, Orchestrating the Media Collage taken from Educational Leadership, March 2009.  

And - there is a belief that as educators we want to prepare our students for life - in the 21st century.

The comparison between the two systems raises some important questions for us as educators, especially within the context of the 21st century and the strategies required.  

Please post some comments and let us know what you think.

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