Chinese Learning Application for Preschoolers 1

Chinese App for Tots

The opportunity exists to develop and test an e-learning solution for preschool Mandarin Chinese learners. The area I am living in has a lack of foreign language and culture exposure for preschoolers. Educators and parents feel this puts their children behind the learning of those in a more cosmopolitan area. Thus, they have asked for Chinese language and culture classes for preschool children.

I have been invited by a preschool to develop Chinese Language lessons for 4-5 year old learners. The goal for this class is to expose learners to another language and culture to prepare them for future language learning and develop their ability to interact and understand people from other cultures.

There is an interest in an e-learning solution because I only have two half hour sessions with the learners a week there is no time for review or preview of learning. In addition, the paper based learning materials are consumed in the teaching because I utilize active learning. Furthermore, the primary teacher does not have the knowledge of the language and culture to reinforce or teach the class. In addition, parents have shown interest in reinforcing the learning at home.

Although there are no deep, comprehensive studies of an e-learning suppliment for foreign language for preschoolers, there is evidence that it could be advantageous for Preschool children. A study of e-learning language showed a 7% increase of student learning (Toki & Prange, 2010). Meanwhile, a study of preschool e-learning for foreign language showed that mobile applications engage learners for a longer period of time, while parents and educators believe they are helpful in teaching (Ahmad, Petronas, Shaarani, & Afrizal, (2012) ). A third study shows that e-learning of Mandarin Chinese can enhance student learning and promote learning interaction (Shen & Huang, 2013).

Of course, potential pitfalls are to be expected, as in any e-learning solution. The first is identified by Clark and Mayer as “too much of a good thing”. This would be too strong of a focus on the elements to engage learners without enough learning content. I call this “edutainment”- where a learner is drawn into the multimedia world, but does not receive enough learning substance. An example of this is the Barney Application on the local library computer.

Besides other pitfalls pointed out by Clark and Mayer, such as not enough practice or interaction, assessment problems and discovery learning, there are contextual and modality problems. The first being the normal roadblocks to foreign language- student or parent motivation towards second language learning. To overcome this, the content will have to be attractive and interesting. Another potential pitfall is the ability of the childrens and parents as computer users. To overcome this, the user interface design will have to be intuitive and simple to use. A third problem is there is no computer in the classroom. This may be overcome with deploying to local area library computers or to a mobile applications that run on cellphones or pads.

I look forward to the challenges and learning this project will bring, but more to the opportunity to enrich the lives of the students, their families and benefit the local area.

References:

Ahmad, W.F.W., Petronas, T., Shaarani, A.R.S., & Afrizal, S. (2012) Mobile language translation game. Computer & Information Science (ICCIS), 2012 International Conference on  (Volume:2 ), pp. 1099 – 1104. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/login.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6297190&url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore.ieee.org%2Fxpls%2Fabs_all.jsp%3Farnumber%3D6297190

Shen, Y. B. & Huang, J. G. (2013). Design and application of Mandarin learning platform for preschool education college students based on Flex. Journal of Xuchang University, 2013, 02. http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-XCSZ201302021.htm

Toki, E. I., & Pange, J. (2010). E-learning activities for articulation in speech language therapy and learning for preschool children. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 2, 2010, Pages 4274–4278. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042810007184

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