Published: July 28, 2014

This article, written by Amy Bounds, was originally published in the Daily Camera on July 23, 2014. To see the full article, please click here.

Mandarin Chinese teachers are spending 10 days learning to incorporate technology that encourages active learning in their K-12 classrooms at a summer workshop at the University of Colorado.

CU's Teaching East Asia program is hosting its fourth summer workshop for Chinese teachers through a federal grant called STARTALK. The grant is part of an effort to increase the number of Americans learning "critical need" foreign languages.

The workshop, open to teachers nationwide, has 18 participants — but only six are from Colorado.

Jon Zeljo, a senior staff associate with the Teaching East Asia program, said he wants to see more Colorado schools offer Chinese. Challenges include the lack of a central person at the state level who can help with organization and communication and the limited availability of people who are both fluent in Mandarin Chinese and qualified to teach, he said.

"There are a lot of people interested in Chinese programs in schools, but there's no organization or way to communicate," he said. "Colorado is way behind. We're trying to create some momentum where we can get the dialogue going."

For the summer workshop, organizers said they chose technology as the theme at the request of past participants. The curriculum was developed in conjunction with CU's Anderson Language and Technology Center and included four Colorado K-12 teachers and a University of Denver professor as guest speakers.

Topics included "flipped" classrooms, where students may watch videos of lectures at home and then spend class time on activities or discussions, and using specific technology tools to create digital tutorials.

Julie Zhu, who teaches Chinese to middle schoolers at a private school in Tennessee, said she likes that the workshop concentrates on a few key pieces of technology instead of giving a broad view of everything that's out there.

"We can practice it until we really get it, then we can go home and really use it in our classrooms," she said. "We're all here so we can do the best we can for our students."