TAN Yuh-Huann, TEO Eng-Hui, AW Wai-Lin Alice, LIM Wei-Ying: Portfolio Building in Chinese Language Learning Using Blogs
The four members came together to form a project team to experiment blogging in the classroom. Mr Tan and Ms Teo are both Chinese Language teachers in secondary schools (Grade 7-10). They enjoy exploring the use of emerging technologies in the teaching and learning of Chinese Language; Ms Aw is a Master teacher who provides advice and guidance to teachers within a cluster of schools; Ms Lim is a research associate with the National Institute of Education with particular interest in epistemic beliefs of teachers and the sustainability of innovations in schools.
TAN Yuh-Huann, TEO Eng-Hui, AW Wai-Lin Alice & LIM Wei-Ying:
According to the Singapore Census of Population 2000 conducted by the Singapore Department of Statistics, the ethnic distribution of Singapore’s 4 million population stands at 76.8% Chinese, 13.9% Malays, 7.9% Indians and 1.4% Other races (4).
The Mother-Tongue languages, as spoken by the three major ethnic groups, are namely the Chinese language, the Malay language and the Tamil language. Together with the English language (EL), they form the four official languages of Singapore. To maintain racial harmony and communication and yet allow the ethnic races to preserve their cultural roots and values, the Singapore Government has adopted a bilingual policy in all government schools since 1966. This means that all Singapore students learn both EL and their mother tongue. EL is important as the language of commerce and access to information technology and it facilitates inter-ethnic communication. The mother language is necessary to retain our cultural identity and values.
Primarily, Chinese Language (CL) is acquired through use of the language at home and formal lessons in schools. However in their report, the Chinese Language Curriculum and Pedagogy Review Committee (CLCPRC) quoted a survey conducted by the Singapore’s Ministry of Education in 2004 (MOE Survey 2004), which indicated that 25.7% of Primary 2 students had parents who speak only English to them at home (52). The CLCPRC also reported
that that the number of Primary 1 Chinese students who spoke predominantly EL at home had risen from 36% in 1994 to 50% in 2004 (3).
Listening, speaking, reading and writing are the four main aspects of language learning. Of these four, according to a survey by the local Chinese Newspaper Lianhe Zaobao, with regards to Chinese, Singapore students are least confident in reading and writing (1). We believe reasons for this are firstly, reading and writing usually require a higher mastery of a language and secondly, for most students, reading and writing Chinese is very often limited to the classroom.
Extensive reading and writing are essential to the improvement of a person’s language ability. As such, in general most schools have put in place reading programmes for their students. Such programmes require students to read a certain number of books each term and, either to keep a record of the titles or to write a stipulated number of book reviews. The concept of building a reading portfolio is covered extensively by Zhu Xin Hua. The reasons for advocating students to build their own portfolios include engaging students in reflective practice, encouraging students to keep track and take responsibility for their own development and learning (2-5).
On a separate note, the Ministry of Education (MOE) launched a Master plan II for IT in Education (mp2) for the integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into school learning in 2002. With the completion of the first Master plan for IT in Education which focused on infrastructure setup, teachers’ skills and knowledge in ICT integration, mp2 focused on ICT-enabled pedagogy. One of the goals of mp2 is to facilitate the use of ICT through inquiry-based, problem-solving type of pedagogy enabling deep learning. It is in the hope that through ICT-enabled pedagogy, students become self-directed, independent learners, dispositions necessary for the new economy.
Integrating the above 2 tenets, a project requiring students to build their reading portfolios online using blogs was conceptualised. Harnessing the potential of blogs, this project aims to encourage our students to read, to share and comment through their reflections and in the process take charge of their own learning. [Read the full paper (.pdf)]