While working in China, I stumbled across some sample questions from the English section of the 高考 (gaokao) college entrance exam. As someone who is not an native speaker, but considered fluent in English, I could only score around 60% of the grammar questions. I contrast this with the fact that although most of my Chinese colleagues have passed the exam with the difficult grammar, they are not able to communicate using spoken English.
This was such a good example of how only studying for exams generate useless learning. As a response, I wanted to bring the opportunity (and nurture the genuine curiosity) to speak with foreigners into Chinese schools. The purpose of this project was to inspire my colleagues, who are working with designing makerspaces, and show how learning environments can be made interactive, instead of the classical classroom setting.
For this project, I used 3 headphones, one microphone, a 21,5 inch iMac and a wooden box (made to resemble a window, with questionable success). The box was place inside the makerspace of the High School Affiliated with Peking University, while the other partnering school in Sweden, Stockholm International Montessori School, placed a similar computer setup inside their school. The computers were left on and eventually some students turned up to have a conversation with each other.
As much as I think this is a fantastic way for children to develop their sense of global citizenship, it is difficult to run the project in a smooth manner due to time differences and the fact that students in traditional schools have such planned out days in terms of schedules, leaving the students little room to explore installations like these. For a version 2.0, asynchronous communication might be more suitable by sending short videos to many different schools around the world with a simple interface (think of a physical Snap Chat booth).
The video was shot and edited by me.
Jonathan Nylander © 2020