The Newest Digital Learning Tools are Helping Students and Small Town Life
When it comes to exams, usually it’s the students who are filled with anxiety. But imagine the pressure a teacher feels when there are hundreds — or even thousands! — of test papers that need to be graded. That’s precisely the challenge for Hongmei Yang, a dedicated teacher and director of academic affairs in Jiuzhaigou County, which is in a rural, mountainous area in Sichuan Province.
Hongmei has been looking for better ways to analyze test scores and identify students’ individual learning needs for more than 25 years. By utilizing some of the latest technologies, such as big data, her vision is closer than ever to reality.
Fresh out of normal education in 1995, Hongmei was assigned to an elementary school in Jiuzhaigou as a math teacher. She remembers the classrooms lined up like a row of bungalows, with resources so sparse that she hardly ever arranged a formal exam for her students throughout her first seven years on the job.
Now, two decades later, Hongmei’s school has improved teaching conditions and even hands out a laptop to each instructor. But, new challenges have cropped up instead, such as parents sending their students to school in the provincial capital of Chengdu or other large cities far away from the remote county of Jiuzhaigou. Some classes lost half of their students, including many of the more promising pupils.
Jiuzhaigou Nanping Middle School
Hongmei and her colleagues made it their mission to retain students by creating a unique learning environment, tailored to each student’s needs. Their plan revolved around information technology.
Nanping Middle School in Jiuzhaigou began to design courses specific to each pupil in 2011. Not long after that, students were able to attend online classes via livestream without needing to leave home.
As a result, children who left Jiuzhaigou and those who stayed behind were reunited by attending the same classes online. Hongmei and other local teachers took on the additional task of transforming and localizing the content, and started to record the livestream sessions so students could catch up when they had time. It also enabled them to pause the video and ask questions before resuming again.
Smart education entered the picture in 2017, following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in the county. That’s when Tencent formed a partnership to help Jiuzhaigou schools recover and rebuild.
A new, digital system was rolled out that enabled teachers and students in Jiuzhaigou to sign into a digital campus on their mobile phones, share updates during classes, listen to customized lectures in the e-classroom and improve overall learning efficiency. At the same time, teachers were able to intelligently mark and compose papers in real time. Hongmei and her fellow teachers were able to conduct data analysis and make decisions quickly based on a student’s individual understanding of the subject matter.
Hongmei uses Tencent Cloud Online Education Solutions to go through exam papers.
Hongmei was impressed with the new capabilities smart education brought to the table, even beginning to mark papers online during final exams. The teachers discovered that online marking was so convenient that they even marked papers with their mobile phones while on the bus!
Hongmei has become quite adept at using the smart education technology and is now able to compose test papers in about 10 minutes. The questions for each pupil are automatically selected based on the student’s previous test scores and greatest learning needs. The entire process, from the paper composition and exam taking to the marking and commenting, can be completed in just one day.
The enhanced learning has won accolades for the school. Jiuzhaigou Nanping Middle School achieved record results in this year’s high school exams, with 28 students scoring above 700 points. Hongmei is proud of the achievement, which she calls a massive victory.
After 25 years of searching, Hongmei has finally found the answer she has been seeking. Aside from enabling her to develop customized teaching materials to address each student’s needs, she’s also able to spend more time with her students and get to know each one better. She is convinced this will improve educational outcomes, encourage more students to forego the call of big cities and secure the future of family life in Jiuzhaigou County.