Published: Aug. 5, 2009

Minori Murata has big plans for her teaching.

A Japanese instructor at CU Boulder for 8 years, Murata has taught the language every year, always with physical materials and following a similar teaching process. In Spring 2009, this changed. It was then that she began to incorporate technology into the course.

Japanese, Murata shares, is a difficult language to learn. “If you’ve never taken a foreign language completely different from English, you might not have felt the kind of frustration my students feel,” she shares. She likens student’s abilities when they first start Japanese to a child’s, “My students have said that they feel like little kids; they feel they cannot say anything at their intellectual level.”

This led her to want to help her students learn the language faster, and better. She wanted them to get more practice, so they could get better at speaking and listening to the language. She knew that a technology like CULearn would help her easily provide listening exercises to her students.

She started slow, using CULearn to post grades, homework assignments and to upload listening exercises for her first year Japanese students. “In class we focus on speaking, which means they get to listen to their classmates,” Murata explains. “But they needed more listening, so I decided to put some online for extra at-home practice.”

Inexplicably to Murata, the same assignments that students had a more difficult time with on paper, became easier online. “Somehow, they felt like the process was easier. They got started faster,” Minori shrugs, slightly mystified. She decided that if student’s found the process of learning Japanese easier online, she would continue to use it.

So what began as using technology minimally will expand to further applications in the future. In Fall 2009, she will use the ASSETT funded Dean’s Fund for Excellence award to assist her in maintaining her use of CULearn. She will continue to post listening exercises and online assignments for her now second year Japanese students.

In the future, she plans to add grammar video clips and audio-capable online flashcards, as well as other technologies she and her students feel will assist in learning the language

Murata knows that putting all this information online, and making it accessible at home, will give students the tools to learn Japanese better. Her hope is that with these tools, her student’s will more quickly move from feeling like little kids to feeling like competent Japanese speakers.

-- Written by: Kate Vander Wiede, CU' 09, ASSETT Staff