Class Apps

Explore these short classroom-applicable video presentations available from NCTA. Each “App” focuses on a timely topic or “best practice” presented by an NCTA consulting scholar, seminar leader, teacher alum, or author. How can you use the videos?

  • Take a “quick course” on a current topic you can integrate into your teaching.
  • Choose a video to show in class.
  • See how NCTA alumni are using new resources successfully.
  • Hear what authors have to say about using their new books in the classroom.

Our full collection of Class Apps video presentations in shown below. You can also explore Class Apps by categories:

China: Contemporary Issues, Curriculum/Classroom Strategies, Government/Foreign Relations, History

Japan: Art, Contemporary Issues, Curriculum/Classroom Strategies, History, Literature/Children’s Literature

Korea: Contemporary Issues, Curriculum/Classroom Strategies, History

Recently Released

Making Sense of Mao.  Designed as a an introduction for teachers, Chinese historian Timothy Cheek presents a brief overview of Mao Zedong, his ideology, and legacy through a consideration of three topics: “Why Mao?”; “Mao in History”, and “The Many Faces of Mao in the China of the Early 21st century.”



The Current State of Uighurs and Kazacks in China. Sarah Tynen. Originally offered as a webinar, Dr. Sarah Tynen shares her recent research on the situation in Xinjiang and the impact of Chinese government policies on the Uyghurs in that region.



The Hong Kong Crisis: Historical and Comparative Perspectives. How can we better understand the evolving place of Hong Kong within the PRC and help students understand the current events there? Sinologist Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink (publication date: February 2020) analyzes the ongoing 2019 Hong Kong protests within the context of increasing political control in Xi Jinping’s China. He also offers analogies, frameworks, and comparative lenses for considering the 2019 protests in light of earlier Chinese protests (the 1919 May 4th Movement and the 1989 Tiananmen protests) and 20th-century European Cold War geopolitics.

China, Big Data, and Surveillance. Political Scientist Jessica Teets describes the ways China is using big data and surveillance to develop its new “social credit system.” Sometimes maligned in the Western media, the social credit system doesn’t just punish bad behavior, Teets notes, it also rewards good behavior. Also, despite the authoritarian aspects of the social credit system, Teets explains it has the potential to result in better governance since it also applies to government officials and companies.

“Reading” South Korea through Literature and Popular Culture. How can you pair pop culture and literature to teach about Korea? Juxtaposing a K-pop music video and a famous Korean poem, Korean literature scholar Dafna Zur offers strategies for analyzing Korean cultural texts and avenues to access Korean literature in translation.

Disputed Waters: South China Sea, International Law, and the Future of Asian Balance of Power. Political scientist Orion Lewis sheds light on the territorial disputes occurring in the South China Sea that continue to make regional and international headlines. Lewis breaks down the complex issues with straightforward terms, illuminating maps, and classroom-appropriate videos and documents.

Demographic Cliffs and Economic Reforms. After decades of double digit economic growth, China is new facing the “new normal” of lower economic growth. Political scientist Jessica Teets offers a crash course in the changing Chinese economy, discussing factors of change and how China needs to reform its economy going forward.

American China Fantasies. As Xi Jinping looks to expanding China’s role in the world, historian Jeff Wasserstrom explores the evolution of US attitudes towards China. Looking at the past century and today, Wasserstrom discusses changing views of China, how and why these evolved, and how these correlate with US images of other countries—including Japan– in modern history

Xi Jinping:(Re)Centralization of Power. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s attempts to consolidate power have garnered considerable attention inside and outside of China. As Xi’s institutional changes and anti-corruption campaign have targeted officials at all levels and, increasingly, potential critics, China scholars outside of China are trying to determine if Xi wants to save the Chinese Communist party through his campaigns or if he is attempting to gain power for personal gain. Jessica Teets discusses both theories and the implications of Xi’s (re)centralization of power.

Migration and Urbanization in China. China is experiencing a feverish rate of urbanization–the largest migration of people ever witnessed, as 250 million Chinese from rural areas defy tradition and law to move to urban areas for better lives. Political scientist Jessica Teets discusses the challenges, costs, benefits, and unintended developments of this massive migration and urbanization, as well as some solutions.

Korea Goes Global, Part 1. Political scientist Tony Robinson introduces the fastest modernization/industrialization project in world history. He explains “state-led industrial development” and export-oriented economics, describing the collaboration of South Korean government, chaebols, and labor in the 1960s-1990s.

Korea Goes Global, Part 2. Catch the Korean Wave! In the 21st century, the South Korean government, along with Korean corporations and artists, have focused on the strategic creation and global export of popular culture, a.k.a. The Korean Wave (Hallyu). Political scientist Tony Robinson explains the concepts of “soft power” and “creative economy” in regard to the Korean Wave project and how the city of Seoul is defining a global era.

The Japanese Constitution at 70. Part 1.  Japan’s 1947 constitution, imposed by US Occupation forces, is unique as a governing document that has remained unchanged despite its foreign origins. In Part 1 of this two-part Class App, historian Ethan Segal highlights the 70-year history and considers how this constitution came to be embraced in Japan.

The Japanese Constitution at 70. Part 2. In July 2016, Japan’s ruling LDP party gained the legislative majority it needs to push major constitutional changes, including changes to Article 9 (the no war clause), the role of the emperor, and more. In Part 2 of this two-part Class App, historian Ethan Segal focuses on constitutional controversies, calls for reform, and divided views within Japan.

Dispelling Myths about North Korea. Historian Suzy Kim from Rutgers University illustrates common myths in the mainstream media regarding North Korea. She demonstrates how teachers and students can deconstruct those myths through critical analysis focusing on Korea’s historical and cultural context as well as a comparative global context.

Japan’s National Stadium and the Struggle for National Identity. Planning for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is well underway. One of the biggest controversies in the lead-up to these Olympics has been the design for the Olympic stadium, also called Japan’s national stadium. Kathleen Krauth, history teacher at the American School in Japan, analyzes the stadium as an engaging case study for using sports, the Olympics, and architectural design to teach about Japanese culture, national identity, and 21st-century goals. What were the roots of the stadium controversy? What did the original winning design and the final design choice convey about Japan as a nation and people? In addition, Krauth explores the controversy over the 2020 Tokyo Olympics logo, offering further ideas for the classroom.

Japan’s Contemporary Security Challenges: 2016 and Beyond. Facing threats around the Asian region and in an uncertain world, is Japan’s Article 9 obsolete? The Japanese government, like other governments around the world, sees the demands of 21st century national security as requiring new strategies and alignments. Political scientist Andrew L. Oros addresses several critical questions to help viewers better understand Japan’s security challenges and policies: Why does Japan’s security policy matter to the US and the world? How do legacies of Japan’s WWII past and it’s post-WWII security policy shape Japan’s current security policies? What are Japan’s current security challenges? What are the new directions being taken by the Abe government and why are these seen as controversial both within and outside Japan?

The Meaning of President Obama’s Visit to Hiroshima. Why is it important to teach about Obama’s May 2016 visit to Hiroshima? Historian Alexis Dudden of the University of Connecticut offers her perspectives on the first official visit to Hiroshima by a sitting US president. Dudden presents an overview of the dropping of the A-bombs, including differing American narratives in the aftermath of the events, and discusses the significance of Obama’s visit in terms of the power of reconciliation and the uses of historical narrative as lessons for the future.

Japan-Korea: Histories that Bind. Japan and South Korea are neighbors whose cooperation in the 21st century is vital. Yet this bi-national relationship is challenged by complex, intertwined, often violent, and contested histories. Historian Alexis Dudden, University of Connecticut, traces the ways in which these two countries have been tied together and torn apart through the 20th century and argues that acknowledging history and learning from it will be essential if these two nations are to move forward. She discusses the current controversy over Comfort Women and briefly considers North Korea.

Full Collection

China’s Millennials: The Want Generation. An Interview with Book Author Eric Fish. Author Eric Fish introduces his 2015 publication, China’s Millennials: The Want Generation, discussing his goals and research, and providing an introduction to the themes and case studies in his work. He offers suggestions for how teachers can use profiles in the book with their students to teach about contemporary China.

Individualism and Upheaval Among China’s Millennials. Observers often comment that young people in China have been brought up with lofty expectations and plentiful opportunity as a result of China’s economic boom. How is China’s “millennial” generation coping with China’s slowing economic growth and narrowing possibilities for success? In this Class App by China’s Millennials author Eric Fish, teachers and students get a vivid glimpse of the challenges, rebellion, and disillusionment among young people struggling to succeed in a rapidly changing China.

Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation? Cultural appropriation has made headlines in recent years as icons of pop culture have adopted aspects of traditional cultures of various ethnic and national groups for their performances and publicity. Based on her work as an art historian and art history instructor, Melanie King provides an introduction to the complex issue of cultural appreciation vs. cultural appropriation, offering contemporary cases and considering the issues as they relate to teaching about culture generally, and Japanese and other cultures, specifically.

Milestones in K-12 Japan Studies. Over the past 45 years, Japan studies has grown into a vital curriculum and professional development focus for K-12 educators. Many people, projects, and publications have enriched contemporary K-12 Japan Studies in the United States. In this Class App, Linda Wojtan, an educator who has helped shape the field and a consultant to NCTA for almost 20 years, provides perspectives on some of the milestones in the development and evolution of Japan in the K-12 curriculum. She considers early pioneers, innovative projects and curriculum, bi-national efforts, and current initiatives.


Learning to “Read” Japanese Paintings: A Social Studies Perspective. One of several complementary Class Apps considering techniques for using visual art in the secondary curriculum, University of Washington NCTA director Mary Bernson introduces several questioning techniques before providing historical background information on the famous artist Sesshu Toyo. This Class App is designed to empower social studies teachers to explore artwork with their students in ways that respond to social studies skills and themes.

Learning to “Read” Japanese Paintings: Using Art as an Entry Point for Japanese Literature. High school literature teacher and NCTA alumna Sarah Campbell presents one in our series on Asian art in the classroom. Sarah shares strategies for using the piece “Winter Landscape” in an anticipatory activity for a unit on Japanese Buddhist stories. She then offers lesson plans and resources she has developed and used for teaching several medieval and contemporary Japanese stories with Buddhist themes.

Learning To “Read” Japanese Paintings: An Art Historian’s Perspective. This is the first in a series of Class Apps that model ways of “reading” artwork from the perspectives of multiple courses and disciplines—art history, history, and literature. Art historian Carla Stansifer offers questions and strategies designed to guide students through a systematic study and analysis of a classic work of Japanese ink painting, “Winter Landscape,” by Sesshu Toyo. Stansifer introduces concepts and terminology that form the basis of analysis from the discipline of art history while also providing background on Japanese ink painting and its techniques, tools, and subject matter.

New Media and Internet in China. Chinese censorship of the Internet, a hot topic in the Western media, can be a hook to engage secondary students in exploration of important issues in contemporary China. Political scientist Orion Lewis presents a concise overview for teachers of three debates surrounding the development of the Internet and other forms of new media in China: 1) whether the Internet will lead to democratization in China; 2) new media, and government attempts to it, as factors in China’s economic development; and 3) how the Internet impacts China’s international relations. Professor Lewis lays out the debates, offers current research, and provides suggestions for introducing these topics in class. Finally, he suggests Chinese and Western Internet sites that students can use to analyze current issues.

Using Samurai to Teach Critical Thinking. Thanks to TV, movies, manga and anime, students may bring lots of knowledge of samurai to the classroom. But how much of what they know is based in fact? And how do teachers dislodge student stereotypes to teach and learn about samurai in their historical context? Professor Ethan Segal suggests that samurai offer an excellent case study for developing critical thinking skills because students can analyze the media sources of their own knowledge as well as historical primary and secondary sources, comparing and contrasting the information presented. In this Class App, Professor Segal offers a five-question template for interrogating sources. He applies those questions as he suggests a variety of print and visual sources that can be used in the classroom to engage students in historical inquiry and analysis of samurai culture in the medieval period. Segal concludes with the case study of the film The Last Samurai.

“Voices from Japan:” 3.11 through Tanka Poetry. The project Voices from Japan: Perspectives on Disaster and Hope captured the extraordinary responses of Japanese individuals to Japan’s  3.11 Triple Tragedy through a time-honored Japanese form of expression—tanka poetry.  Kathleen Krauth, history teacher at the American School in Japan, talks about the development of this poetry collection and offers strategies for using these vivid, beautiful poems to teach about Japan, 3.11, and human responses to disaster in social studies and literature classes. Kathy demonstrates how she involved her students with the poetry and offers multiple teaching ideas, along with a selection of the tanka poems.

Xi Jinping’s Reform Agenda. The “Chinese Dream”-what is it and how will it change China? Xi Jinping has offered a new and sweeping reform agenda, which he has labeled the Chinese Dream. Political scientist Jessica Teets presents a clear introduction to the promised reforms, how government policy is working to make good on the promise, and how it will change China.


Demographic Change in Contemporary China. Political scientist Jessica Teets introduces critical demographic changes that will challenge and transform China over the next decades, including China’s graying population, and how the government of Xi Jinping is planning to create new provisions of a social safety net as part of the “Chinese Dream.”


China’s Changing Grand Strategy: China’s Rise, Regional Security and Domestic Reform. The philosophy behind China’s current “grand strategy,” as well as shifts and trends in this strategy and international and domestic impact are laid out in a concise, information-filled introduction for teachers by political scientist Orion Lewis.


Dissecting the Rise of China: China’s Rise, Regional Security, and Domestic Reform. Political Scientist Orion Lewis offers a concise and insightful overview of China’s 21st-century rise to global influence, including implications for the Asian region and the world political and economic order, as well as the meaning of this rise for China’s domestic reform agenda.


China in the 21st Century. Jeffrey Wasserstrom on “What everyone needs to know.” 

Author Jeff Wasserstrom introduces the revised 2013 edition of his best-selling book, with special attention to how teachers can use the book, in whole or part, in the classroom.


Chinese Characters. Editor Jeffrey Wasserstrom on Teaching with Contemporary Profiles. This 2012 publication offers 15 case studies that challenge oversimplified views of China and helps educators present a more multifaceted portrait of a country undergoing huge transformations. These profiles make compelling teaching materials!


Clothes Make the Nation: China and Globalization. Hook students through this unique approach to studying China’s modern transformation. Chinese historian Jeff Wasserstrom offers a novel and compelling analysis of China’s changing politics and its role in the world through an analysis of the clothing of China’s leaders and power brokers over time.


Hairy Politics: What’s in a Braid?

Would students say they make a statement with their hairstyles? They are not alone. Historian Timothy Weston offers a rich analysis of Qing China’s society and politics,  by exploring the imagery and symbolism of changing hairstyles, particularly the Manchu “queue.”


Taiwan: The Other China.

Make room for Taiwan in your curriculum. Chinese historian Timothy Weston offers a “quick course” on what—and why—our students need to know about Taiwan in the 21st century. Enrich your students’ perspectives today!


Teaching with the MIT “Visualizing Cultures” Collection. The “Visualizing Cultures” project offers an amazing collection of visual resources for teaching Japanese and Chinese history. Award–winning classroom teacher Meredith Changeux shares lessons and strategies for using the materials with secondary students.


Three Japanese Picture Books for the Elementary Classroom. “Kid-tested, professor- approved!” So says Japanese children’s literature specialist David Henry in introducing three exemplary works for use in K-6 classrooms: Kamishibai Man, The Wakame Gatherers, and Faithful Elephants. Includes context and teaching strategies for using these books. Engaging stories with accurate portrayals of Japanese culture and history.