Student Lauren Flattery Helps to Develop New iSchool Chinese Language Course

Community Profile

Student Lauren Flattery is using her teaching background and language skills to help develop a new interdisciplinary Chinese Language and Culture course at San José State University School of Information.

As a student assistant for the grant-funded partnership between the iSchool and the SJSU Department of World Languages and Literatures (DWLL), Flattery is helping to design an online Chinese language learning experience specifically for library and information science students. Like the interdisciplinary Spanish and French courses piloted in fall 2011, the Chinese course will introduce students to library-related vocabularies and resources to help them communicate with patrons in other languages.

Flattery, a teacher-librarian in the Greater Toronto area, is collaborating virtually with DWLL Lecturer Chunhui Peng, who teaches face-to-face courses on the SJSU campus. Flattery is using the knowledge she’s gained as a Collaborate web-conferencing moderator to provide online teaching strategies, such as using virtual break-out rooms to allow students to practice dialogue in pairs. She’s also helping to organize course content in the SJSU learning management system Desire2Learn (D2L).

“Teaching Chinese is very different from teaching Spanish or French, because of the way that the language is written and the way that information is organized,” Flattery said. “There are some interesting challenges to figure out, such as how to illustrate the written language in a live web conference.”

Flattery, who began her assistantship in February 2012, is uniquely suited to support the needs of online Chinese language learners. She holds an undergraduate degree in East Asian Studies, and spent five years living and working in China. She’s also trained as a Collaborate moderator and was a student in the first online French course offered at San José State University School of Information.

“I’ve been able to show Professor Peng some examples of how my French Professor Danielle Trudeau used web tours to visit grammar sites and other online resources,” Flattery said. “I’m investigating some of these tools for the Chinese course to see how useful they are from a student perspective, and she evaluates them from a pedagogical standpoint. We’re teaching and learning from each other in a very rewarding working relationship, thousands of miles apart, supported by the people at SLIS and SJSU.”

Flattery enrolled in the MLIS program to broaden her understanding of librarianship and the future directions of the field. As a teacher-librarian at a French immersion school near Toronto, Canada, Flattery finds that she can apply her coursework directly to her job. “Every course I’ve taken, from mobile technologies to virtual environments to reference services, changed my practice or reinforced what I felt was a good practice,” Flattery said. She’s also used her web-conferencing skills to host virtual author visits in the library, and is ready to support her school board as it adopts the D2L platform for professional development training and high school courses.

Flattery has worked full-time throughout her MLIS studies and expects to graduate in 2013. “One of the wonderful things about San José State University School of Information is that it makes learning accessible and provides the support students need,” she said. “It makes it possible for people to fit graduate school into their lives and be successful.”

The Chinese Language and Culture course is supported by a grant from San Jose State University, and will be offered to students in fall 2012.