NLI 2010- Beijing, China

North Carolina State University sent a delegation from the College of Education to China last month to lead an educational institute, which resulted in an international partnership. 

“It is very exciting to explore with our Chinese partners fundamental changes in curriculum delivery through a new literacies lens,” stated Dean M. Jayne Fleener, College of Education. “Partnering with a K-12 school creates a unique opportunity to impact education at all levels through teacher professional development and student learning opportunities using 21st century learning tools.”

NLI delegation with educators at Beijing Royal School in Beijing, China

The visit began with the College of Education signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Beijing Royal School to promote student exchanges, teacher professional and leadership development, and research collaborations. Opportunities for College of Education student teachers to teach in China and for Beijing Royal School teachers’ to learn the latest web supported teaching strategies are goals of the professional partnership between the College of Education and the Beijing Royal School.

During the visit, in addition to signing the formal agreement, the Beijing Royal School hosted the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation’s (FI) New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute with 65 teachers attending the week-long training session. Activities included inquiry projects, design studios, panel discussions, web-2.0 sessions, featured speakers and just-in-time learning.

Dr. Spires, senior research fellow at the FI and professor in the College of Education, led the opening session by having participants engage in the Marshmallow Design Challenge, where the teachers collaborated to design and build a free standing structure using only raw spaghetti, tape, string and a marshmallow. Participants reflected on strategies they used for problem solving and collaboration.“The activity set the stage for the week-long immersion in “new literacies” that required participants to inquire, collaborate and create new instructional approaches for engaging their students,” said Dr. Spires.

Other sessions in the Institute included, Dr. Don Leu, the Neag Endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology at the University of Connecticut, who skyped with the group about online reading comprehension. Dr. John Lee, NC State associate professor of social studies and middle grades education, followed up by leading an activity on nuances of online searching and how to help students be critical consumers and creators of Web content. Dr. Carl Young, associate professor of English Language Arts and Middle Grades Education, and Bethany Smith, Assistant Director of Learning Technologies, conducted a session on project-based inquiry and how to engage students in creative projects that allow them to “learn by doing.” Jonathan List, doctoral student, led the group in a cultural diversity activity that required them to collaboratively create a video expressing different cultural perspectives.  Also, Dr. Yong Zhao, professor at Michigan State University, presented a session at the Institute on assessment practices in China and the US.

One of the Chinese teachers evaluated the Institute by saying, “It opened my mind and gave me great opportunities to share ideas and be creative with my teaching strategies.” Another teacher noted, “Although there are many differences in the American and Chinese educational system, we have learned a lot from Dr. Lee’s presentation ‘Thinking globally, acting locally.’”

Erin Krupa, FI research associate, taught the math sessions, “The Beijing Royal School teachers were really receptive to my sessions on using technology in mathematics classes and I was inspired by the lesson plans they made using different types of media.”

The first New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute was held at the FI with 50 teachers in 2009. The second Institute was held in Cambridge, MA with 120 teachers who were supported by the MA Department of Education. Each time the Institute is offered, a group NLI Lead Teachers are identified and serve the role of ongoing facilitators and coaches of the new literacies content and process with teachers.

The College of Education delegation included, Drs. M. Jayne Fleener, Hiller Spires, Grant Holley, John Lee, and Carl Young, and Bethany Smith, Erin Krupa, Jonathan List and Meixun Zheng. NC State University’s College of Education aims to be a globally engaged institution and is particularly proud of these new partnerships and exchanges with China.

“U.S. partnerships with Chinese teachers and students provide opportunities to share educational best practices as both countries strive to provide students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions for success in a rapidly changing world,” said Dr. John Lee.

–by CED Communications