Phase 2: Finding Helpful Resources
Finding the right terms to research is really important because it is the difference between actually finding good information and not. I will start with basic kewords and then, go for something more detailed.
I would start with basic keywords that would give me some background information first, so I would use words such as:
- Education System in China
- School Systems in China
- Impact of Technology in School
- Technology in the Chinese School System
After I develop some background information, I would likely go for a more detailed search, such as:
- Education System in Yunnan Province
- Education System in Dali
- Education System in Xizhou (I'm highly doubtful whether this will bring up results, but just in case!)
- Technology in Rural Chinese Schools
Knowing the information is valid is really important as well, because some sources aren't reliable and have false information. Below I've written how I will know the validity of the information:
The validity of the information depends on the website, and I think that all of the websites that I used for background information are reliable for different reasons. For example, I know brittanica.com is a reliable website, because the Encyclopedia series are very good resources, and also, our librarian has told us that it's a good, reliable and accurate source for information. Clicking on the "About Us" pages or "Contact Us" pages is helpful as well, because you can read about the publisher and figure out whether they seem like a reliable person or not. Often times, you can tell by looking at the URL itself. If it ends with an .gov or .edu, it's most likely a good source.
In knowing the validity of the information, knowing the producer and publisher can help, because if you look them up, you can tell who's a good source and who's not, and below I've written some ways to find out who exactly produces and publishes the information:
You can find out who is responsible for producing/publishing that information, usually by the "Contact Us" or "About Us" pages on a website. Also, if you use the search engine, "Google Scholar," the person or organization that published the information is cited right below the title of the article, so you can check there. It's really important to know this because you can't tell whether the information is completely reliable or not if you don't know who published/produced it!
To get some more knowledge and background information about my topic, I researched and selected 3 experts on the topic who I feel will help my topic develop and get better. Below, I've written the name of my 3 experts, their contact information and why I chose each of them. I've also pasted a sample email that I wrote to them below.
Dr. Yong Zhao: A internationally famous scholar, author and speaker. He's also a Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Educataion in the College of Education, at the University of Oregon
David Warlick: In the past, has been a teacher for 35 years, a district administrator and has also created the website "The Citation Machine". Last, but not least, has also written 4 books about instructional technology.
Diane Geng: Founder of the Rural China Education Foundation (RCEF). RCEF is a non-profit organization that promotes education in rural China and trains educators to empower children to improve their lives in the future.
My name is Aakshi, and I am a student at Shanghai American School (SAS), an international school in Shanghai. Our school has launched a program to send 16 8th Graders to Xizhou, a small town in Yunnan Province,which is a South Western province in China. I am a participant in this program. During our trip, we are going to be researching a specific topic, and my topic is education in rural China. I will be comparing the basic tools (pencils, pens, paper) they use in the classroom to the technology (laptops, iPads, kindles) that we use and how it affects learning in general. I am contacting you because I thought you might be interested in looking at the work I've already done and following my research throughout our trip. Our website is www.sasmicrocampus.org. Below are the 10 questions I'm looking to answer at the moment from my trip.
- What type of tools or technology do the kids in Xizhou use?
- How does the technology affect their learning?
- Are the 8th graders there ahead of us?
- Do the students like working with pencil and paper?
- How many students are in one class?
- Do the students have to go and work after school?
- Are there any computers in the school? (One, maybe?)
- Do the students like coming to school?
- How qualified are the teachers?
- Do all children of Xizhou go to the same school
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that two of my experts did reply, and quite quickly too! Dr. Yong Zhao, replied and stated that he was interested in my project and had a specific question about one of my questions. Mr. David Warlick, gave me his perspective on the situation, about why instructional technology is good. He was interested in my project, but he is also semi-retired, so probably will not be following it. Overall, I think finding these experts will really help my final product!
It's been 3 days since we've been in Xizhou now, and it's time for me to get to know the local people, and answer some of my questions from my inquiry project. Since, part of our inquiry project is going to 3 - 5 people, and talk to them for 3 - 5 minutes, I thought that going to them now would be a great opportunity to get to know the people better and get to know my topic better.
I wanted to pick 3 - 5 people to go and talk to for 3 - 5 minutes and see what they know, and so I've made a small list just below of possible people I could go and interview:
- Xiaotang: I picked Xiaotang because she's the manager of the Yang Zhuo Ren, and has been here for a while. She also knows a lot of people and could redirect me or recommend people I could talk to.
- School teacher: This would be very helpful, because I bet a school teacher would know all about the schools, the education system, the necessity to attend school and also would be aware of the students liking of the school.
- Mr. Tafel: Mr. Tafel would be helpful because he's been to Xizhou a lot of times and probably has a lot of knowledge about the local school system and about possible people I could contact for more information.
- Mr. Linden: Mr. Linden has been living in Xizhou for a while, and I bet he knows a lot of people that I could go and talk to and also possible books that I could check out from his library for more information.
- Mr. Zhao: Mr. Zhao is 94 years old, and as Mr. Tafel says, he remembers everything that has been going on his life. I'm sure he would know about the school system and also tell me about how his school experience was, and I could compare it to the schools in this generation.
So after I made my list of people, I decided to go ahead and talk to them! The people that I chose to talk to were Xiaotang, Mrs. Yang and
The first person I talked to was Xiaotang, the manager of the Yang Zhuo Ren, the compound we stay in. She was very helpful and recommended a lot of people who I could talk to, such as Mr. Li's son, who's a student in Grade 9, and also a small girl in Grade 2, who was kicked out of school due to the fact that she was very naughty. She's being home-schooled at the time. She also gave me a contact to go and talk to at the school, which I'm sure will be very informative!
The second person I talked to was Mrs. Yang, and she was extremely helpful, since she's a teacher at the local elementary school. She gave lots of information, such as the number of kids in each class (37 atleast, 47 at most) and also that there are 2 teachers for each class. Each grade has 4 classrooms, so on average, there are about 168 students in each grade, rather like 8th grade in SAS Pudong. The school day stretches from 7:50 in the morning to 11:00, where they have an hour's rest. After that, they come back to school at 1:00 and stay till 4:00. She also told me that the school has been open for 19 years, and that there are 13 schools in Xizhou! This was very suprising to me, as I thought there would only be one or max two. She also told me that most students like going to school.
The third person I talked to was Mr. Yang, one of the security guards at the Linden Centre. He was helpful as well, and I learnt more about him. He has two kids, and both of them have graduated. This shows that many students go beyond the 9 years of education that are necessary because of Chinese law. I got different perceptives on the school though, because he said there were only 3 schools in Xizhou, one middle school, one high school and one elementary school, which is very different answthan Mrs. Yang. He also gave me directions to the schools, which was helpful, because I really want to visit them!
Books are really important and are a great source for background information and other information. I hear the Linden Centre library has a good selection of books about China, so below I've just written down some topics of books that would be helpful in research
- Technology Education
- Media Education
- Education in Rural China
- Happiness in Schools
- Cultures in Schools
- Xizhou Schools
- Yunnan Schools