Three’s a Charm for Teaching Chinese through Blended Learning
At Dublin (Ohio) City Schools, Chinese teacher Dun Zhang teaches class in three different high school buildings—at the same time. With a shrinking budget and a desire to keep the foreign language program, the district moved to a blended model this year, with a combination of in-person, online, and video conference classes, to save money while reaching as many students as possible.
Keeping the course without having to hire more teachers saved the district money, says Tracey Miller, director of secondary education at Dublin City Schools. Next year, Zhang will also teach blended Chinese II.
Miller recommends ensuring that teachers are comfortable in a digital environment before making the switch to blended classes, and constantly communicating with students and parents. This online model in high school will also be helpful for students later, he adds: “After high school, it’s almost guaranteed that students will be taking some digital or blended college classes, and this prepares them for that,” he says.
On Mondays and Fridays, Zhang teaches 19 students (including some eighth graders) in the three high school classrooms via video conference from the district’s technology center. The video conference is interactive, and all participants can see and talk with one another, with a different teacher in each of the three rooms facilitating. Tuesdays through Thursdays, Zhang rotates between the schools in person, visiting one class per day, while the other two classes spend two days doing coursework online.
During video conferences, Zhang can broadcast PowerPoint presentations or online material to all three classes at once. Chinese I is heavily focused on speaking and listening, she says, and involves student participation, even over video conference. Zhang says she can still see and call on students, and checks in with them frequently to ensure they can hear and see her.
Though students have adapted to the blended model, they do say they want more time with their teacher face to face, Zhang says. “Students need to be more disciplined and responsible for their learning in this blended learning program,” she adds. “They tend to be more on task and respectful—they don’t see me every day, but every time I see them they are eager to work with me.”