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A ‘white box’ digital transition model for education

by moneylab
Students learn in their classroom at a primary school in Zibo, Shandong province, in August. [Photo/China Daily]

Liu Xinsheng, a junior high school student in Zibo, Shandong province, has been learning English through a small terminal every day, as his school is situated in a rural area with limited English teaching resources.

The textbook-sized smart terminal, nicknamed “white box”, has become the most important tool for improving Liu’s English-speaking skills.

“Technology empowers education and effectively bridges the gap in educational resources between rural and urban areas. Students in our school can not only correct their pronunciation through the smart terminal, but also receive real-time feedback. Additionally, they can submit assignments through the device and immediately receive corrections for certain tasks,” said Zhang Qiang, a teacher at Linzi Qiling Middle School in Zibo.

“Moreover, teachers can access a vast amount of teaching resources shared by different regions and teachers through the device, better preparing for teaching content. They can also utilize the platform to conduct classroom or post-class tests, upload data on students’ learning progress for analysis, and personalize assignment content,” he added.

The AI-enabled rural education in Linzi district is just an example of how Zibo is vigorously promoting a digital transition in its education sector.

By last year, 97 percent of primary and secondary schools in Zibo had completed the digital transformation, with 295 schools establishing smart campuses equipped with multimedia classrooms.

Moreover, Zibo has built a service platform for online educational content sharing, on which users share 1.487 million cloud courseware and 11,000 on-demand video resources related to teaching content.

Courseware is a course software developed according to the requirements of the curriculum outline, after determining teaching objectives, analyzing teaching content and tasks, and designing the structure and interface of teaching activities.

The city has also established a smart education big data center, aggregating teaching and learning data from over 7,000 classrooms and more than 40,000 teachers across the city, providing education administrators with firsthand data for decision-making and precise management.

Several applications

Tech-embedded education has developed many application scenarios.

For instance, teachers can use virtual reality, augmented reality, and other technologies to create scenes from the textbook, allowing students to have a more vivid understanding of content.

On the “Run Across Shandong “app, students engage in physical activities they enjoy and virtually reach a city to unlock the next challenge, as if leveling up in a game. Such a “game challenge” format was designed to motivate students to exercise and improve their physical fitness.

“Visualizing content from the textbook has made somewhat boring class-learning into something fun and attractive, and helped us better understand and gain knowledge,” said Liu.

Addressing the issue of differences between educational resources in urban and rural areas, Zibo has launched synchronous online classes through a digital education interaction platform that allows teachers from various areas to teach online, either in real-time or recorded. This platform has helped students from rural areas attend classes and ask questions to teachers from some of the city’s top schools.

“Some parents in the rural areas are incapable of helping their children with homework; some rural schools lack well-trained teachers comparable with other areas …these reasons make the digital platform important for students in rural areas to access a wider range of knowledge and a variety of teaching styles,” Zhang said.

School-home communication is another challenge that matters to students’ development.

To facilitate smoother communication between teachers and parents, Zibo has established a new system for school-home cooperation, creating online parent schools for parental education, a cloud platform for instant school-home communication, and an online communication group of parent committees for online discussions.

Sun Yingtao, head of the Zibo Bureau of Education, said that ensuring children enjoy equitable and high-quality education is the original intention of promoting digital education.

“Digital education in Zibo has just begun and still faces many unprecedented new situations, problems and challenges. In the future, we will accelerate the innovation of digital education application scenarios, and make every effort to strengthen and optimize the city’s digital education ecosystem,” Sun said.

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