Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Oooh! Shiny!

So, at the end of last semester, one of the classrooms in the language labs that I 
used for three of my freshman oral English classes was dismantled a couple of weeks 
before the end of the term in preparation for the move to the new classroom building 
that was scheduled to be opened for the spring term.  Why in the name of sense they 
couldn't wait another week until classes finished beats me, but there you go. Anyhow, 
the class monitors were put in charge of finding alternate places to meet 
(Sigh...freshmen monitors...it got interesting sometimes.) Anyhow, one of them 
somehow managed to get permission for us to meet in the new building in second-to-
last week of the term.  It wasn't even officially opened yet, although nearly 
everything was in place.  As it turns out, ours turned out to be the first class held 
in the new building.  During the middle, a workman came in sheepishly to add another 
piece of glass to one of the desks.

Anyhow, this semester, most of the English major classes are in the new building.  
The downside is that it's the furthest possible teaching building from my house, so I 
need to be sure to leave the house ten minutes earlier than I have before to give 
myself time to get down there.  But it's super convenient for the students--it's the 
closest to the dorms, and right across from the cafeteria.  The upside is that it's 
brand-new and super modern.  

I'm excited that in my new classrooms, the students have chairs and little tables, 
that can be moved and don't involve crawling over anyone to get in and out.  Much 
better than the long rows of fold-down seats in the older buildings. We can clear 
space of skits, or push desks together for group work.  Another exciting thing is 
that all the classrooms have heat--it's always been a normal part of life in China to 
freeze through classes in drafty buildings, but as new buildings are built heaters 
are becoming more and more common.  I guess with the rising affluence of China it's 
become more feasible to have the luxury of heat, and as conditions rise this 
generation begins to see things like heat as more of a necessity than it was before.  
So, things are getting more comfortable, although I don't think the dorms are heated 
yet.  However, it's not doing me much good so far today as I'm not sure where the 
office is in this building to get the remote to turn the heat on.  Even without it 
isn't on, though, I think the classroom was a bit warmer than in the other buildings, since 
it's new and not yet drafty.  I should have sent one of the students to get it, but I 
didn't think of it until they were gone.  I will in my afternoon class.  

The other fun thing about the new building is the technology.  As I was telling my 
students this morning, every year I'm in China my classrooms get better and better.  
My first year back in Jingzhou I had a large chalkboard and usually chalk.  Here in 
Wuhan, I have at least always had powerpoint.  But this...this is cool.  The screen 
is not just a pull-down white projector screen--it's a huge touch-screen.  I can 
operate the computer from the screen if I want, and there are buttons up the sides to 
bring up a keyboard, a highlighter, drawing and writing tools, etc.  There're even 
buttons to make audio recordings and a camera, but I haven't figured out how those 
work yet.  But with the writing tools and all, I can just use my finger to draw on 
top of my powerpoints, underline things, highlight things, etc.  All I have to do is 
tap the screen to go to the next slide, instead of running back over the the computer 
terminal to use the mouse.  The students got several laughs out of me, though, as 
it's very sensitive and, as this was my first time using it, I kept accidentally 
rifling through the slides when I was just trying to point something out.  I kept 
doing things I didn't mean to do.  After they left, I played with it a while, so I 
should be able to get through the next lessons without so many accidents.   

I love my new classrooms. :)


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