Category Archives: Taiwan

Taiwan Trip, Day 6, Tainan, Taichung (Oct. 24, 2008), and Some Final Reflections

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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:

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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!

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Of course, the most fun part was actually using the puppets in a short play we did outside in a real puppet show!

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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:

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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…

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L to R: Yi Lung, Dr. Chi-Syan Lin, Chung Chi

Taiwan Trip, Day 4, Chia-yi (Oct. 22, 2008)

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As quickly as my trip to Taiwan went by, it’s taking me a long time to actually finish writing about it. Day 4 of the trip was Wednesday, and we spent most of the day in Chia-yi. First we visited Lantan Elementary School, where we received another very warm welcome by school officials, teachers, students, and even the deputy mayor! The interesting thing about Lantan is that it has a substantial astronomy program. In fact, the school has its own observatory as well as planetarium. We got to see both facilities, and I have to say that I was very impressed, especially with the fifth graders who showed us how to run the large telescope. Here are a few pictures of our visit:

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Following the tour of the school and various presentations by teachers and students, we spent some time with local teachers and students, mostly playing icebreaker types of games to learn each others’ names. It was actually a very pleasant part of the visit (and of course there was food!).

For lunch we took a quick ride over to one of the other schools in Chia-yi, Min Syong Elementary. Again, we got a tour of the campus, which was large and very well maintained, like all of the other schools we visited during the week. Saw some interesting stuff here, including kickball, and a separate classroom for Scouting!

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And after a delicious lunch (the same that the students ate there that day; much better than the American school lunches), off we were to Tainan!

Taiwan Trip, Day 3, Chia-yi via Beigang (Oct. 21, 2008)

 After we left Lugang we got on our way to Chia-yi, the site of our next school visit. We got there by way of Beigang, the site of a very large Matsu temple. It was too bad the entire temple was covered in corrugated sheet metal and construction materials, but nevertheless we got to see some beautiful stuff in there. A few pictures:

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Once in Chia-yi, we ate dinner in a local joint and walked around in some of the busier shopping streets. Even at night, Taiwanese towns are bustling with life, and definitely an overload on the senses that takes some getting used to:

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Taiwan Trip, Day 3, Lugang and Wenkai Elementary (Oct. 21, 2008)

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The day at Wenkai Elementary turned out to be an extremely busy one. We saw a brief presentation on digital technologies used at the school, and how Wenkai has done quite well with relatively little (Lugang is in a rural county, Changhua, and doesn’t have as many resources for education as some of the more urban areas like Taoyuan County or Tainan). The entire school has 41 computers in one lab, and one computer with Internet connection in each classroom. All of the equipment has been donated. Students in grades 3-6 have one computer class per week (40 minutes), which isn’t much, especially considering that a lot of time is used to teach typing skills, both in English and Chinese (and believe me, typing in Chinese is much more difficult, as individual characters are formed with multiple keystrokes. However, in addition, the school offers workshops for teachers as well as the community. For the latter it is offering basic computer literacy training, and parents are taking advantage of this. Since 1999, the school has won many awards for various contests, including the APEC Cyber Academy.

We saw several musical performances, starting outside at the school gate with a Lion Dance, then a puppet show, Taiwanese traditions (music, theater, calligraphy), learned some calligraphy, learned how to play with tops. Student performers came from five different local schools. We took lots of group pictures as the morning progressed. Then of course, there was lunch…

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Following lunch was a tour of the school, including a visit to the teachers’ office and the computer lab, where we saw a typing skills class. We ended our visit with tea in the principal’s office, and off we went …

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Teachers’ Office

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Taiwan Trip, Day 2, Arrival in Lugang and Wen Kai Elementary (Oct. 20, 2008)

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After leaving Taoyuan County we drove down towards Lugang. On the way we were supposed to stop at a glass museum, which was closed:

 

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Quick thinking by our tour guide had us instead going to an old sugar factory, now turned into a museum (well, part of it is more like your average tourist trap). We explored for a little while and saw some remnants of what used to be a thriving industry:

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After another hour or so on the bus, we arrived for dinner at Lugang Elementary School. According to our translator, we were going to have some Lugang snacks, which ended up being a full dinner consisting of a large rice dumpling (wrapped in a leaf, can’t remember what kind), shrimp ball soup, and noodles. It was simple, but very tasty.

Following dinner we went on a walking tour of Lugang, visiting a variety of Matsu temples, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea to protect the sailors and fishermen. It was still warm and many people were outside. Here are some pictures of what we saw:

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All in all, this was a very busy day, although little did I know that the days to come would be even busier!

Image Credits: my camera

Taiwan Trip, Day 2, Taoyuan County, Hsing Fu Junior High School (Oct. 20, 2008)

Hsing Fu Junior High School (see also here) was the first school we visited on our tour through the western part of Taiwan. Hsing Fu is a relatively large school, and very new (I think it’s been open only about 5 years or so). The design of the school is very open and airy, besides the fact that there is a lot of building in not a whole lot of space. We were welcomed at the gate by the principal and several teachers and ushered into the building for an opening speech, followed by a coffee break and lots of food prepared by students in the hospitality program at one of the other local schools (as we were to find out very soon, we would be eating A LOT during the week).

The highlight of our visit to Hsing Fu were some classroom observations and a tour of the school. We were able to see three classes (two different English Language classes and an English Culture class). The first English class we saw was taught by a teacher using a laptop and projector as well as a voice amplifier, and included lots of practice and repetition. What really stood out was the fact that even though the class was large with around 30 students, not a second was wasted. There were really no discipline issues to speak of, and when several students were asked to come up to the front of the room to write down their answers to some questions, all of the other students used that time to practice their English reading skills as they read a passage from their workbook aloud to themselves.

    

The second English Language class we saw was taught by Ms. Wu in the language lab. Ms. Wu’s students were part of the APEC Cyber Academy’s ICT Cybercamp this year. Each student has access to his/her own workstation in the lab (with room for about 40 students or so. In addition, Ms. Wu showed me how she can follow what each student is doing from her workstation in the front of the room, and can group students using the same software. It was a nice set up. I actually recognized the room as students had used it earlier this year to video tape some of their interviews. It was nice to get to see it in person.

    

The last class we saw was the English Culture class, and it was very English, with tea and all. This classroom is set up somewhat like a restaurant/living room and is designed to give students a chance to practice their conversation skills. Local and visiting students participated in an activity together here, and we observed.

   

The tour of the school was interesting as well, including a walk through the vegetable garden and a scout skills class, which is part of the curriculum in many schools in Taiwan!

    

Our visit concluded with a great lunch and a group picture (the first of many, many group pictures), and we hopped back on the bus around 1 pm.

Image Credits: My camera (mostly)

Taiwan Trip, Day 1, Taipei (Oct. 19, 2008)

 

I’ll be starting a series of posts today, reflecting back on a 7-day trip I took to Taiwan last week (Oct. 18-26), to attend the APEC ACA 2008 Conference on ICT and Global Virtual Learning Communities. The trip itself was one of the best, if not the best, I’ve ever taken. As I will chronicle over the next few days, I learned a lot about the educational system in Taiwan as well as the country itself.

I arrived in Taiwan on Saturday night, October 18, after a very long trip. I had really been looking forward to this week, as I was finally going to meet some of the fantastic people I have been working with for the last two years on the APEC Cyber Academy. Of course we went out for a “snack” once we got to the hotel at 11 pm (this, btw, turned out to be a full meal, one of countless ones we would have over the next week).

Sunday was sort of our day off, as most people were arriving on this day. Four of us went into Taipei, where we visited the Nashan Fude Temple, which has the largest statue of the God of Earth in Taiwan and some fabulous art work and views of Taipei to boot. I’ll let my pictures do the talking here:

     

    

    

    

    

And my first taste of what a visual overload many cities in Taiwan are. Sometimes it makes your eyes hurt 😉

Image credits: my camera