Finally, then, am I finishing my reflections on my trip to Taiwan in October 2008, more than two months after I got back. I hope the wait was worth it ;). For me, the last day of school visits was probably the best of all, although it is difficult to say which school visit was my favorite; they were all that good! On the last day, we visited Chongming Elementary School in Tainan, a school with which I had worked online quite a bit in the APEC Cyber Academy. This school also has a very strong bilingual program, focusing on teaching English, which is one of the reasons why this school does very well in the ACA annual contests.
The visit at Chongming started with the usual welcome by students, accompanied by a display of some great student work:
This was followed by a few short speeches and the exchanging of gifts. After that, we took a brief tour of the school on the way to the library for a puppet-making workshop. We made lots of new friends here and the event even made the local paper!
Of course, the most fun part was actually using the puppets in a short play we did outside in a real puppet show!
Lunch was great, as usual, and students had practiced very hard to explain what all the dishes were made of. There was so much food there, I don’t even think I was able to try one of each!
Our final visit was a brief stop at Taichung Industrial Senior High School, the largest vocational school in Taiwan. While we did see one CAD lab there, I was somewhat surprised to see a lot of classrooms looking like this:
And that sort of leads me into some final reflections about my trip to Taiwan. After two months I’ve been able to distill the following:
- The hospitality and generosity of the Taiwanese people is unrivaled, at least in my experiences abroad. We were treated like royalty everywhere we went (and we took lots of group pictures…)
- Education is extremely important in Taiwan. Lots of money is being invested, teachers are very highly respected, students work hard and seem very motivated to succeed, and local PTAs are strong and very supportive of schools (including financially).
- I did not see as much educational technology as I thought I would, based on what we worked on in the APEC Cyber Academy. Most computers were located in labs, either for language instruction or typing classes. Not a lot of time and effort seemed to be spent on other things such as Internet research or multimedia. However, I think more of that is coming, and it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for Taiwan.
- In contrast, a lot of digital technologies are used in Taiwan, especially mobile phones. I saw kids as young as 8 or 9 with their own phones, using them for texting and voice calls. Email and IM are important too. Outside of school, kids seem to spend more time on the Internet than in school. Just like in the US, technology use in school and outside of school still seem pretty disconnected.
- Kids work very hard and there is a lot of pressure, many kids told us they go to cram school after their regular day is over, and spend a lot of time in extra-curricular activities such as music lessons or sports (swimming, for example). In fact, some of the kids told me that they did all of their ACA projects outside of the normal school day.
- Taiwan is extremely crowded and congested (seemed to be more so the case than when I visited Shanghai in 2006). There are people and scooters everywhere, as well as advertising (lots of visual overload).
So there you have it, my final post in a series of reflections on an absolutely amazing trip. The ACA Contest is scheduled to be held again in the Fall 2009, and I’m glad I’ll still be a part of it :). And finally, here are some of the people who made it all happen. I cannot thank them enough…
L to R: Yi Lung, Dr. Chi-Syan Lin, Chung Chi