Tapping on technology

Education | Trista Yeung 7 Mar 2017

Many primary students find it hard to memorize English vocabulary - but what if it could be learned through a mobile game?

Given the high accessibility of technology today, there is no shortage of websites or mobile applications offering online English tutorials, resources and content to speed up the learning process.

Paul Sze, a professional consultant at the department of curriculum and instruction in Chinese University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Education, said the prevalence of e-learning tools and online resources has provided many innovative ways for students to learn English in the classroom.

"Today, many teachers use game- based learning platforms to raise students' interest in English. One example is Kahoot, which enables teachers to create quizzes, surveys and discussions in minutes. The quiz can be shown in pictures or YouTube videos to catch the eye of young students," Sze said. "The questions are displayed on the teacher's screen and students use their devices to key in the answers.

"Real-time results can be obtained to instantly analyze each student's performance. It helps deepen the learning experience for them."

Other free online platforms - such as Quizlet, Socrative, iSolution and Go Formative - make marking easier for teachers. The real-time formative assessments also encourage a higher level of competitiveness, motivation and engagement among students as they can test each other's knowledge in a casual learning environment.

"These e-learning tools can be used for different subjects. It depends on what learning goals the teachers want to achieve during class," Sze added.

The Education Bureau launched the Support Scheme for e-Learning in Schools in 2015. Funding is provided to about 900 public schools to enhance their wi-fi infrastructure. Schools can also request mobile computing devices, which facilitate the use of e-learning in class.

However, even with this provision, many teachers still refuse to tap into online resources in class.

"They have doubts that [e-learning] can replace traditional teaching materials. While it is true that an overreliance on technological devices may affect a student's handwriting skills, we are not asking teachers to entirely alter their current practice," Sze said.

"We want to encourage them to keep on searching for more efficient and practical teaching methods."

To promote the adoption of e-learning in the classroom and build a support network to share e-learning teaching strategies among local primary schools, Oxford University Press has partnered with the University of Hong Kong's e-learning Development Laboratory to hold the Oxford Primary English Outstanding e-learning Awards 2016-17.

It is calling for applications until March 24 from English teachers who use e-learning technology in primary schools. Participants must submit a 300- to 1,000-word proposal on how to maximize learning. Video and other multimedia materials are welcome.

Award winners will get the opportunity to go on an exchange tour to Oxford University and attend a two- week summer course. Oxford University Press general manager Ng Mei-mei said the awards aim to promote the adoption of e-learning in classrooms and build a sustainable support network among schools.

"This is a great opportunity for teachers to share their creativity and practices to benefit the larger community. English is one of the core subjects that can leverage the benefits brought by e-learning," Ng said.

"One example is our new courseware, iSolution, an all-in-one e-learning platform for teachers to design assessments and course activity.

"It increases class flexibility as students can continue their learning experience at home."

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