Learning Chinese in a Blended e-Learning Environment

2017 Chinese Department Seminar Series – University of Sydney

“Digital Natives” Learning Chinese as a Foreign Language in a Blended e-Learning Environment in a University Setting
Dr Irene An Shidong, The University of Sydney

5:00 – 6:30pm, Thursday 13 April 2017
SLC Common Room 536, Brennan MacCallum Building A18, University of Sydney


The terms “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants” have attracted heated debates since their emergence more than 15 years ago and caused subsequent empirical studies exploring young people’s engagement with digital technologies. However, more research is needed to investigate how “digital natives” learn using technologies in educational contexts.  This study adds to this body of research. It examines Chinese language students’ e-learning experiences in a blended campus-based university environment. Drawing on an ecological perspective, the study explores the relationships among the key contextual elements: the teacher, the student, the learning task and the learning environment in their natural setting. The first part of the study focuses on the characteristics of the digital Chinese language learners perceived by the “digital immigrants”, the teachers. It shows that the teachers do not necessarily agree on the generational divide identified in the literature and do not necessarily perceive these “digital natives” as competent digital learners who can exercise “agency” to initiate effective self-regulated learning. The second part of the paper examines the learning experiences of the “digital natives”, stressing on the “agency” of the learners and how they interact with the self-regulated CALL environment. The findings show that students generally perceive themselves as competent in using some basic computer technologies and use them widely in learning. However, they do show diversity in competence in certain types of technology and their engagement with Chinese learning in CALL environment also differs greatly. It suggests that digital natives are not necessarily effective language e-learners.  Little research has investigated digital natives’ language learning experiences from both the teacher and the student perspectives. This holistic contextual research on digital learners is believed to have significant and practical implications for CALL.

Dr Irene An’s primary research interests are in the areas of CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) and Second Language (L2) Acquisition, Second/Foreign Language Teaching. Her PhD was on E-learning in blended language learning environments. Her earlier MA was in Applied Linguistics, focusing on Second Language Acquisition and Second/Foreign Language Teaching. She is now the coordinator of the in-country study programs in the Department of Chinese Studies and her teaching focuses on modern Chinese language at all levels.

Contact: Chiew-Hui Ho
Phone: 02 9351 3083
Email: chiewhui.ho@sydney.edu.au