Technology helps international students improve EnglishJan 26, 2010
Lin Yuan, known as Peter to his friends and professors at Miami University, was extremely homesick when he first arrived on the Oxford campus. The freshman finance major from Suzhou, China, missed his family, his language and his native food.
Yuan’s experience as an international student is not unique. But Yuan and several of his peers have taken part in a multimedia class at Miami that is helping make the adjustments a little easier.
Through Miami’s redesigned English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, first-year international students are combining traditional essay writing with multimedia elements such as video, audio and the spoken word. The projects enable the students to improve their English skills, and at the same time, share their personal stories with classmates and the larger Miami community.
Felice Marcus, an English instructor who teaches the ESL classes and Heidi McKee, coordinator of the Digital Writing Collaborative, came up with ways to allow students to use the elements of storytelling – narrative, voice, drama, emotion – to practice their written and oral English by writing a script and rehearsing it over and over.
“I wanted my students to learn how to harness the power of technology to share their ideas,” Marcus said. “Digital stories seemed perfect. Students could use photos from home and from their new lives at Miami to share their experiences and perspectives. Furthermore, they could share their creations with family and friends back home and all over the world through YouTube, as well as with peers at Miami.”
Yuan’s video, “My Father, My Hero,” not only helped Yuan improve his English and overcome being homesick, it was an opportunity to honor his father for the sacrifices he made so his children could have better lives. His video is filled with poignant messages and photos depicting his father’s struggles and their life in China.
“In other way(s) it improved my logical thinking skills, because when doing a movie I need to think what's the correct sequence of my story,” Yuan said. “And I need to spend time on finding pictures music and make them combine with each other with the story. I have adopted the life here. Miami’s students here are nice, which help(ed) me.”
Forty-five students in three ESL classes have done similar projects.
“I was so impressed with their work, dedication and with their personal journeys to Miami,” Marcus said. “They are very special students, and many really went above and beyond on this project.”
To see Yuan’s video, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j37dfkKJjA. For more information, contact Felice Marcus at 529-5221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.