posed by the Chinese participants. Students also created
a shared blog to cover the topics of food, sports, holidays,
and celebrations. These activities gave the Chinese students
the opportunity to practice writing in English, and my students learned to practice their formal writing skills.
Because their Chinese partners were learning to translate
English, our students had to be very thoughtful in their
writing. They had to be sure to avoid slang, idioms, and abbreviated language, among other informalities, as these are
lost on the Chinese students, who translate our text literally.
We had some interesting and amusing experiences the
first year. For example, sometimes the Chinese students
sent emails with all capital letters. Our students felt this
was the equivalent of shouting. They shared this with the
Chinese students who changed their format. Also, the
translation skills of the Chinese students produced some
unusual correspondence at times. One Chinese student
was trying to communicate that she was excited to see a
video we were working on, but our students thought that
she was mad because of the time it was taking us to complete it. By the end, both groups showed improvement in
skills and communication.
It was interesting to see students’ perceptions change. For
example, my students confirmed their impression that
Chinese youth spend more time in school and more time
studying. They were surprised to learn that the Chinese students don’t necessarily love to do that. The Chinese students
were intrigued by how much free time our learners have.
One of our students remarked, “I learned how alike we
actually are. I guess I had stereotypes of Chinese people.
You know, they like school and all that stuff, but they’re
really just a lot like me. They like sports. They like pop
culture. They like animals. They like traveling.”
This year, we are taking a different approach by pairing
each U.S. student with a Chinese student. In these one-to-
one pairings, students can get to know each other better as
individuals. My students have told me it is exciting when
they find a common interest, such as swimming or certain
TV shows, with a peer on the other side of the world.
Real-World Workforce Challenges
During our pilot year, Schoolwires was trying out different platforms, which led to some opportunities for us to
develop our problem-solving skills. For example, for the
first unit, we decided that teams at the two schools would
create videos, share them, and edit them to create a single
15-minute video that compares and contrasts two cultures.
Each team created videos and storyboarded how the final
video would look. Unfortunately, the video files were too
large and couldn’t be sent back and forth. So rather than