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Thu, Jun 03, 2010
my paper
Smartphones and online games new keys to better Chinese

By GWENDOLYN NG

HOUGANG Primary 6 pupil Celine Chia spends an hour every day gaming online and pretending to be a cat warrior - and neither her mother nor her teachers mind it at all.

In fact, her Chinese-language teachers are encouraging her to do so. That is because she is part of a school project called Hougang Primary Star Avatar. It is similar to MapleStory, a popular multi-player role-playing game, but adapted so that pupils can have fun learning the language.

About 800 of its Primary 3 to 6 pupils have assumed avatars, which tackle obstacles in the form of linguistic questions.

"Chinese-language learning has become so interesting and exciting for me, as I can learn and game simultaneously," Celine told my paper.

She added: "It is very thrilling to see my avatar as well as those of my friends appearing on the website, competing for the Star Avatar title."

Hougang Primary was among a few case studies presented at the 14th Global Chinese Conference on Computers in Education, held at Nanyang Technological University yesterday.

Mr Raymond Poon, 36, head of department for mother-tongue language, said that he has seen more interest in learning Chinese among pupils since the implementation of the game in February.

Over at Nan Chiau Primary School, 80 pupils from two Primary 5 classes are also going new media to learn Chinese.

They are using smartphones to pick up Chinese-language idioms via a groundbreaking project called Move, Idioms!.

Since last year, the children have been entrusted with the devices to capture photos of their surroundings which fit idioms they have learnt.

Amanda Or, a pupil who has been using a smartphone for four months, said: "Using the smartphone's camera to take pictures is an interesting way to learn idioms. I enjoy Chinese lessons."

She said that with her improved vocabulary, she has seen a marked improvement in her Chinese compositions and oral skills.

Ms Ho Peng, director-general of education at the Ministry of Education, said at the conference yesterday that info-communications technology (ICT) could be key to getting pupils interested in the Chinese language.

She said: "The potential is huge... Children connect very easily with ICT. So, in terms of teaching and learning in the classroom, we need to use ICT in order to engage the next generation."

nggwen@sph.com.sg


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