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Building Digital BRIDGEs between Australia and China

by Emeline Gillingham | Nov 28, 2022

Our innovative, entirely virtual, teacher professional learning program connecting educators in Australia and China officially kicked off last month, on Wednesday 12th October.

The Australia-China Digital BRIDGE program supported by National Foundation for Australia-China Relations welcomed 78 participants from 19 schools across Australia and 20 schools across China to form 20 informal Australia-China school partnerships.

AEF was delighted to be joined by Mr Peter Cai, CEO of the Foundation as well as Martine Letts, Group CEO of Asialink, to launch the program.

Learning shared through this program will help lay the foundations for deeper mutual understanding and future collaboration across our borders.” said Mr Peter Cai at the online event.

We recently spoke with program participants Chenhua Han, English and Chinese Teacher at Cairns School of Distance Education and Paul Knight, Teacher at Corinda State High School, about their interest in and experience of the Digital BRIDGE program so far.

Chenhua: I aim to challenge myself to learn new things in a different environment. I believe this program will introduce me to new opportunities, enhance my knowledge of innovative learning environments and help me develop an understanding of effective online collaboration.

Paul: I have encountered many experiences from university exchanges, teaching overseas and participating in volunteer aide programs outside of Australia. Something spoke to me as I saw the opportunity presented by the Australia-China Digital BRIDGE Program. This program is about building global competence as well as global confidence one step at a time. The exciting part is the collaboration together [with a Chinese partner school].

Chenhua is currently working on her PhD project regarding effective teaching and learning Chinese character writing for second language learners through online learning platforms.

I would like to gain some insights of the curriculum practices regarding Chinese character writing implementation in Chinese partner schools.

The Digital BRIDGE program is slightly different to standard school partnerships being held entirely virtually.

Chenhua: Technology enables me to connect and collaborate with my partner school teachers in China, including via Teams, WeChat and a number of other online sharing platforms. [We] can now collaborate with each other online, across classrooms and disciplines.

Paul: Our partnership and collaboration started with breakout rooms on Zoom, talking with our fellow teachers in China, getting to know each other and discovering a little about ourselves at the same time. We also created our own “Answer Garden” to begin sharing our ideas.

From October to early December, Chenhua, Paul and their fellow participating teachers are engaging in 8 online, collaborative, expert-led professional learning sessions.

Chenhua: The cultural activity with the Museum of Chinese Australian History during which we were asked to share a culturally significant object to tell our own story about our cultural heritage has been the highlight of the program so far. This activity offered some immediately useful advice on formatting activities and engaging learners. I will be able to try this activity with my second language Chinese learners – it is great to develop their speaking and listening skills.

Paul: Thank you to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for demonstrating their conservation work, and also Andrew Lee from the Australia-China Culture Foundation for his inciteful presentation about Intercultural Understanding and Global Competence. [The latter helped us reflect on] how linguistically diverse people may perceive different meanings through the use of names and celebrations.

Throughout the program, educators are connecting and collaborating with their partner schools to build professional knowledge and skills and increase Australia-China engagement for their school communities.

Chenhua: I hope that the Digital BRIDGE program will inspire educators to develop a culturally inclusive curriculum which reflects the cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity of society. Through the program, opportunities are available for students to identify as Australian and explore cultures and beliefs that may be different from their own.

Paul: I am in discussions to give a presentation on intercultural understanding at my school during the start of year program that I will call “Intercultural confidence,” as a way of encouraging teaching staff on their and our school’s journey towards global competence. I am also planning to talk to student council representatives about how they can become involved in the project.

Asked if she would recommend the program to other teachers, Chenhua said:

It is beneficial to have an opportunity to gain a deep knowledge and understanding of the diverse cultures of the global community. The Digital BRIDGE program will help teachers foster new approaches to using digital technologies in their classroom to enable global collaboration. Establishing an international school partnership provides unique student learning opportunities.

Asia Education Foundation at Asialink, University of Melbourne is proud to be a National Foundation for Australia-China Relations grant recipient to deliver this online, international, collaborative program of professional learning, forming 20 informal Australia-China school partnerships.

Learn more, stay up to date with program announcements and how to join the next cohort in 2023. Click here and follow #AusChinaBRIDGE.

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