From Free2xpress to blog -- online Chinese writing for secondary school students in Singapore

Sim Seok Hwa
The University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong SAR, China

This study investigates the potential of online engagement on the development of Chinese writing ability by secondary school students in Singapore. Preparation for the investigation is being undertaken through a series of small-scale investigative studies that have already yielded encouraging support for using a Website for helping students acquire Chinese writing skill.

A study, which was conducted in 2004 from January to August, found that a Web-based writing website, 'free2xpress', developed by the writer showed potential for promoting thinking and aspects of the writing progress in users. The site encouraged users to engage in interactions that could be used to encourage the development of Chinese writing and aspects of written communication. Student collaboration on the site permitted individual students to learn from the strengths of one another. The writer concluded that students would benefit from interactions with peers. It was evident from the way students responded that learning progress was strongly influenced by the interactions with other peers who were also using the site.

Pilot work suggests that individual learners are able to learn Chinese writing from the site. Learners can proceed at their own pace and can practice and revise strategies in line with their successes and errors. It was also very evident that learning, knowledge and gains in writing skill are strongly promoted through interactions with peers. Further experimentation is needed to refine a Website that offers models and programmed instructions to help users acquire Chinese writing skill. Investigations are also needed to establish which forms of interaction between students promote maximum learning.

Blogging is a recent trend in Singapore education, and the writer has adopted it as an online writing tool for learning Chinese writing in this study. The purpose of the study carried out is to investigate the effectiveness of an interactive model on the online writing of secondary school students in Singapore. The research will also attempt to assess the use of 'Blogging' as a tool to explore characteristics of online writing as a learning genre.

Four schools participated in the experimental work. The data collection process took several months and qualitative and quantitative methods of assessment were applied. Data collection included questionnaire surveys, interviews and text analysis.

The major fieldwork consists of a series of multiple case studies focused on establishing whether online instruction and interactions will actually encourage the development of Chinese writing. It is hoped that the outcomes of the research will carry importance for using online learning as a tool for teaching all aspects of writing. In particular, the evidence may be important for the design of school curricula and individualized private learning.