Technology shortens the distance between people, whereas education closes the urban-rural divide. Since 2014, HABOOK Group has been mobilizing a team of passionate teachers to the execution of "Remote Language Teaching Hope Program (Hope Program)", using smart classroom and e-teaching/e-learning technologies to bring more interesting, interactive, and effective education to students in remote areas.
HABOOK Group (HABOOK) was founded in 1999 by a team of elementary school teachers who are passionate about applying IT expertise to the development of learning and teaching-related software. Their dedication to the development and implementation of digitally integrated teaching solutions gave birth to the "TEAM Model" - a brand of smart education systems incorporating innovative hardware, software and an AI engine called the Sokrates System to resolve the pain points in remote teaching.
Smarter classroom - a true-to-life, real-time interactive experience
Mu-Cheng Wu, Vice President of HABOOK, said that the greatest challenge associated with remote teaching in the old days was the absence of real teachers, and the distance teaching and lack of interaction all made it difficult for teachers to maintain order and keep track of learning progress. To resolve this issue, HABOOK provides each student with a feedback device that they can use to respond to and interact with teachers' questions in real-time, thereby producing immediate data on students' learning progress. This level of interaction enables teachers to tend to the needs of individual students and engage the class in live discussion, Q&A, and coordinated learning.
"Education in remote areas currently lacks three essential elements: resources, teachers, and information," said Mu-Cheng Wu. "Due to budget constraints, schools in remote areas do not have the hardware or software needed to establish a smart classroom, whereas teachers are reluctant to work in remote locations due to inconvenience and students have limited access to outside information." TEAM Model Smarter Classroom presents a solution to this problem! Using the hardware and software supplied by HABOOK, teachers are able to teach remotely across schools, boundaries, and countries to resolve all three challenges outlined above!
Closing the urban-rural education divide through Hope Program
HABOOK has been working with Taiwan Research Association for Read-write Teaching in the execution of "Hope Program" since 2014. The Hope Program runs in complement with the Junior Read Project of the Ministry of Education, where information technology is used to assist elementary school, junior high school, and senior high school students in developing good reading habits. After 5 years, the scope of the Hope Program has expanded to more than 20 rural schools in Yilan County, New Taipei City, Pingtung County, and Nantou County to the benefit of more than 2,000 students, while saving more than 1,000 km of travel distance and time for teachers.
In 2016, the Hope Program introduced "1+1 Smart Course," an innovative "reading-based" language teaching approach that connects two remote classes in the same live stream session. 1+1 Smart Courses are held on a weekly basis to guide students through the Mandarin learning materials of various schools and help them develop listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills with respect to the language. More than 1200 students are taught through the weekly courses. In addition, Professor Hsin-Hsi Chen, Chairman of Taiwan Research Association for Read- write Teaching, leads post-course discussions after each session to help teachers develop expertise in smart courses.
Smart education alliance - mutual learning and growth
This program was further expanded in the 2018- 2019 academic year, and a Smart Education Alliance was formed with contacts assigned in participating schools to coordinate education resources in ways that improve teachers' training and growth. Through remote counseling, workshop, teaching, and interaction, the program aims to improve the quality of education in remote areas and help students develop both interest and comprehension in reading, while enabling teachers to build up professional capacity through knowledge exchange.
This alliance has been expanded to include counterparts in the Greater China Region, including Chengdu ELDU Wisteria Primary School, Xiamen Yangzhai Primary School, Hong Kong Christian Pui Yan Primary School, and Taipei Municipal Zhiqing Elementary School, thereby helping teachers and students overcome geographic limitations. The inclusion of different cultures also inspires learning and growth that were otherwise impossible under conventional methods.
HABOOK's "TEAM Model Smarter Classroom" solution is currently implemented in schools of the Chinese-speaking population and The Middle East. Mu-Cheng Wu said that the challenges currently encountered by his team are largely associated with the lack of resources in remote areas. Apart from the equipment sponsored by HABOOK, schools in remote areas are also deprived of supplies such as cable, monitors, microphones, and video cameras; all of which are prominent issues to their efforts. Schools in remote areas also lack teaching talents with up-to- date IT knowledge, which is why HABOOK's solution is being used in distant training to help familiarize local teachers with available technology.
Supporting an ecosystem of smart cities
In the past, smart city projects used to be planned and executed separately by central and local government bodies using a top-down approach, which often failed to address the reality and needs of the local society. Mu-Cheng Wu emphasized that the "Hope Program" has been coordinating with education authorities, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and businesses in recent years to come up with solutions using a bottom-up approach; today, there have been many examples of successful solutions inspired by local needs.
"Taoyuan City first introduced its Smart Classroom Initiative back in 2015, and has constructed more than 2,000 smart classrooms to date. The city government designated Da You Junior High School as the pilot school for smart classroom development, and Da You made its first remote connection with Hua Yi Secondary School in Singapore in May this year. Da You serves as the role model of how remote education should progress, and will be connecting partnered schools in Japan and China for remote teaching on a regular basis," said Mu-Cheng Wu.
Urban developments nowadays tend to be isolated and confined within separate regions, and governments around the world are starting to realize the importance of coordinating efforts between urban and suburban areas as a means to minimize the urban-rural divide. Mu-Cheng Wu considers technology to be the key for this development, and solutions that used to be considered impossible are beginning to surface because of new technology. By incorporating technology into teaching, the "Hope Program" not only enhances teaching advantage for the teachers and learning progress for the students, but also promotes the concept of "technology-aided education" that has the potential to narrow the urban-rural divide.
Mu-Cheng Wu said that HABOOK will incorporate resources further across the industry to organize events such as skill enhancement workshops, speeches by reputable professionals, and junior read-write camps for students of all counties and cities. In the future, the Hope Program will continue to serve as a solution for improving education in remote areas. "We hope that the government may provide us with more assistance and support our seminar tours, reading programs, and smart classroom interactions with foreign counterparties, and help expand the Hope Program to a new level."