CALHK visited Chiu Sheung School, Hong Kong and met School Principal Mr Chim Hon Ming to see how digital pens and digitally printed classroom materials are helping CAL students learn Chinese.
Students use the digi-pen to listen to audio read aloud from their textbooks and worksheets. Digital coding, which is barely visible to the human eye, is printed on the textbooks and worksheets. The children tap the pen on the icon of a loudspeaker and the audio is played through the pen.
The school curriculum, textbooks and other classroom materials used in P1 to P4 were developed by the school in conjunction with educators from The University of Hong Kong.
Chiu Sheung School has over 50% of students from non-Chinese speaking families. School Principal Mr Chim Hon Ming believes the digi-pen has an important role in supporting students whose parents are not Chinese-literate.
“It’s like having a teacher at home”, he says.
“Parents are very willing to buy the digi-pen. They find it useful and we get positive feedback from them”, he adds.
Teachers also record explanatory notes onto the digi-pen to clarify content that might have been forgotten by the time the children get home.
Classroom teachers record the audio content onto the pen themselves. School Principal Chim says students enjoy hearing their teacher’s voice. “There is familiarity when the students hear the voice of their own class teacher. The teachers record from their heart and the students feel the warmth and love,” he says.
Ivan Owyang, Director of Ting Co. Ltd. says over 95% of the schools using the TING, see it as a tool to support learning at home and around 5% use it as a teaching aid during class.
The digi-pen is small and light which means it can be easily tucked into a pencil case and carried between home and school. “We’ve even heard of children using the digi-pen on the MTR”, he says.
Technology has an important role to play in increasing a CAL student’s exposure to Chinese outside of the classroom. This has been highlighted during the suspension of face to face teaching which increased interest in the digi-pen.
“Since the outbreak of COVID, many schools found the TING pen to be a better alternative to Zoom classroom for kindergarten & lower primary students”, Ivan points out.
“It’s a relatively small investment for the school for a product that can easily last the student 3 to 4 years,” he adds.
Written Chinese is not phonetic, so the provision of audio is very helpful for children who don’t have a Chinese speaking parent at home.
It is possible for parents to buy their own digi-pen + story book sets from companies like Easy-Readbook.
Maggie, School principal Chim & Kelly
However, the digi-pen sets are not cheap, the range of books using traditional characters is quite limited and the website is hard to navigate for non-Chinese literate parents.
How much better for a school to buy into a digi-pen platform, add all their textbooks and other teaching materials onto the digi-pen and make this resource readily available to all students in the school.
Best Practice 🏆🥇!