Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2007


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Instructional Technology (EdDIT)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Gary Shank

Committee Member

Rose Mary Mautino

Committee Member

William P. Barone


code switching, cultural free zone, ESL, instructional technology, qualitative research


This ethnographic inquiry investigated the interaction of shyness, a cultural trait and technology within the Chinese higher education system. It was from this adventure a new approach to help Chinese students improve their oral English was developed while stumbling upon a global phenomenon. Technology does more than provide logistical assistance; it creates opportunities. One such opportunity is a culture free learning environment.

The purpose of this study was to explore whether different combinations of technologies help to overcome cultural barriers when teaching Chinese students to speak English in the People's Republic of China. There were three different forms of technology used in this study: cell phones, MP3 players, and computers. These ideas were born out of necessity as an educator. Under traditional classroom settings, it was difficult to urge Chinese students to speak. Within the Chinese culture, students were terrified of making mistakes. For the Chinese students a certain amount of perfection in their work was required, and the cultural strain of "saving face" was evident. The ideas behind the subsequent research with Chinese university students were formulated by the success observed when working with adult students at a private English school.

By seeking to identify the catalyst for a possible phenomenon when English Language Learner (ELL) university students in the People's Republic of China learn English, the primary goal of this project was to facilitate learners of ELL with becoming less shy in the learning process and gain confidence through the learning experience. Technology played a major role in the educational delivery, communications, and learning. Based on a familiarity and ease of access, the university students were directed to incorporate the use of cell phones and MP3 players to facilitate their learning. The devices took away self-consciousness, hesitation, and removed the cultural boundaries that made them unwilling to speak. This, combined with affirmation of their skills, allowed students to speak about adult ideas in a more grammatically correct and more complex way. A website was also developed, but it was less successful. Students were more comfortable with cell phones, and continued to use them when commenting about the website. According to my students, computers were regarded as technological devices to increase productivity. Although ownership of personal computers was increasing, they were rare with limited access while this research was conducted.