Western’s Woodring College of Education is in its fourth year participating in the Cloud Project, a collaboration between the university’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program and the National Taiwan Normal University. Any student can join the TESOL program and apply to be part of the project.
The Cloud Project is a professional-development program for English teachers in rural Taiwanese elementary and middle schools who don’t have access to native English speakers. The Taiwanese Ministry of Education provides a grant every year to help Taiwanese English teachers study in an English-speaking country. The Cloud Project is unique to Western in that it pairs Western students and faculty with Taiwanese teachers via online connections for nine months.
Trish Skillman is the director for the TESOL program at Western. The NTNU reached out to Skillman about the grant because of Woodring’s location and reputation in the field of education. Skillman submitted the proposal for Western to be a participating school and the grant was recieved.
In the five years Western has partnered with these rural Taiwanese schools, Skillman said benefits have been seen on both sides. TESOL students have been able to apply the skills they’ve learned about teaching online and working with others virtually. Taiwanese teachers have reported that in the past it has been hard to motivate students to learn English, especially with it not being used very frequently in such rural areas. Beginning the Cloud Project has almost reversed this issue.
“Teachers have noticed their students are more motivated to learn English and are more likely to speak it in the classroom,” Skillman said.
Teachers have noticed their students are more motivated to learn English and are more likely to speak it in the classroom.
Between February and April of the year the grant is provided, a mix of 10 Western students, professors and local Bellingham teachers are recruited to participate in the Cloud Project. Some of these are TESOL graduates, current TESOL and education students, and local teachers in Bellingham schools. Once participants are recruited, May and June are spent online planning and prepping lesson plans.
This summer and in summers of past participating years, Taiwanese teachers in these rural schools come to Bellingham for five weeks. They spend July and half of August participating in workshops, touring local schools, preparing lessons for the fall and exploring culture.
Western participants and Taiwanese teachers begin co-teaching online lessons in mid-August. These lessons continue to be co-taught twice a month until December. It’s around this time also that the Western participants of this program get to visit the schools they’ve been working with in person in Taiwan for two weeks.
Western’s future participation in the program depends every year on the Taiwanese Ministry of Education choosing to issue the grant to NTNU again. Skillman said without the grant most students and teachers would not be able to afford the opportunity this program provides. Grant information for the coming year is released in January every year.
For more information on the Cloud Project, contact Trish Skillman at email@example.com.