Project Report by: Tek-Wah King
Digitizing the audio cassettes that accompany A New Text for a Changing China (Irene Liu: 1994; Boton: Cheng and Tsui) adopted by Connecticut College's Upper Intermediate Chinese course and launching the digitized files onto the Digital Media Server on campus for conncoll.edu-domain delivery, as proposed to be the goal of Maria Montzolis and Tek-wah King's CTW Mellon small project last April, ended up taking them through a growing up process the outcome of which still lies beyond their imagination--the construction of a full-fledged Macromedia Director-based study enhancement program. But thanks for Director being such a powerful piece of authoring tool, the many hours spent in designing, developing, assessing and revising in detail an array of innovative pedagogical ideas did seem to pay off. On display in its still embryonic form, this project attracts attention for the excitement many budding instructional designs share--it is either going to make a splash in the field for its pedagogical and aesthetic values, or it will no longer make any sound for its enormous size can never be completely developed.
As uncertain as its fate looks, this piece of interactive, multi-media organism has no doubt been built within a solid framework with attractive features already popping up. With a view to catering to the needs of students enrolled in third-year Chinese language courses--those who have received training on sentence-based grammar and 1,500 or so vocabulary items (1,000 characters) but are not yet able to handle discourse-based, authentic materials such as literary works and newspapers, it conjures up the notion of compositional language learning in both the contextual and the acquisitional aspects to promote the proficiency level of its users. For example, Topics and Subjects as discourse connectors are selected as elements to highlight in one of the five different page layouts (the other four elements being lexical tones, glossary, sentence patterns, and no marking at all), and previously learned vocabulary items are defined not by its sound and meaning, but by which lesson of which textbook it first appears and the learner should refer to. The vertical page layout for texts written in traditional characters--never quite adopted outside of Taiwan and Hong Kong for its incompatibility with the horizontal desktop computing convention--has been revived to reflect visual authenticity. Still to be added include sessions such as Q&A exercises that allow students to record their topic-chain answers to a given question and compare them with the standard answer. Upon the linkage of the sound files to the text, spontaneous playback and comparison of words or sentences will also become possible.
Information Fellow Michael Westfort's advising and guidance as well as student assistant Gordon Wu's accurate implementation played the respective roles of antenna and feet that helped to sustain the slow-moving body of this constantly growing and transforming animal. But it is left upon the brains and wings of Maria and Tek to determine when and how it is ready to take off.
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