On-Line in Japan's Schools: Energizing Education with the Internet - Papers & Essays



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On-Line in Japan's Schools: Energizing Education with the Internet

1. Abstract
In Japan, the 100 School Project to connect selected senior high, junior high, and elementary schools to the Internet began in April 1995. Mr. Naoto Kurimoto, a teacher at Taki Senior High school, a school not selected for the project, and Mr. Makoto Kageto, a teacher at Seiryo Commercial Senior High School, a project school, have explored the possibility of utilizing the Internet for education under very different conditions. This paper reports our attempts to learn about and get on the Internet and its impact on our schools.

2. The 100 School Project
1) The Significance of the 100 School Project for Non-project Schools
In April 1995, about 100 schools in Japan, including senior high, junior high, and elementary schools were connected to the Internet by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Although the project originated through a top-down initiative, it is significant in that it asks teachers and students to understand what the Internet is and challenges them to think about how to use it for education. UNIX workstations were chosen for the project. While this was a wise decision in terms of future usage since workstations can form domain and make a local area network possible, it cannot be denied that beginning with UNIX has caused some technical problems. From now on, when schools not selected for this project try to connect with the Internet, they will have to overcome the technical challenges of UNIX or independently look for some easier mechanism to use. It is apparent that whether or not such schools will connect successfully depends on the skills and resources available at the school site. There are about 1,400 schools all over Japan which applied for the project but were not selected. As will be mentioned in detail below, these schools do not have enough money, expertise, or a readily available institution to get on-line. Nonetheless, they would like to join those schools chosen for the project. Why?
The Internet is useful in the internationalization of education, in particular, for English language education and for increasing students' understanding of the world outside of Japan. Teachers at my school have already begun to realize its value in these areas. The 100 School Project has played an important role in raising such awareness about the Internet's value, even in non-connected schools. In our area, a major problem is how schools not selected for the project will connect with the Internet and how they will use it, without being left behind. As demand for the Internet grows, the role of groups like the Tokai Schoolnet Study Group, whose work will be mentioned below, will become more and more important.

2) Telephone Line Problems
The easiest way to connect with the Internet we can think of is Dial Up PPP. To connect from your school's extension telephone, first dial 0 and then can access your provider. In some schools, however, high telephone rates prohibit such connections. Teachers and students are then left to connect to the Internet at home, at personal expense. This is the most basic and apparent problem throughout our district.

3) The Problem of Telephone Rates
In Japan, telephone rates are very high. I had an ISDN64K line installed at my house and began to use it by Dial Up PPP in December of 1994. The average rate per month from December 1994 to May 1995 was 25,000 yen (approximately 250 US dollars). The following basic rates clarify the costs entailed.
- up to 10 km 180 seconds 10 yen (10 US cents)
- up to 20 km 90 seconds 10 yen
- up to 20 km 45 seconds 10 yen
- up to 30 km 36 seconds 10 yen
To give another example, our school started to use 64K or 128K lines, depending on the amount of information exchanged, for the local area network in September 1995. The telephone bills were as follows.
September 36,610 yen (366 US dollars)
October 73,360 yen (733 dollars)
November 93,360 yen (933 dollars)
December 110,660 yen (1,106 dollars)
Because of the high bills, we decided to use only the 64K line in January of 1996. If we connect with a Super Digital line, the rate will be over 153,000 yen (about 1,530 dollars). This is too much for our school to pay. Without our school administration's tremendous understanding and support of the Internet, it would have been difficult, almost impossible, for us to get on-line. This is the real situation faced by most schools.

4) The Problem of Finding a Provider
To make matters worse, even if the school can afford phone costs, there is an additional obstacle: paying the commercial provider of the Internet. Costs differ depending on the quality of the line, but in general, the cost for one month ranges from 100,000 to 200,000 yen. This is too much for one school. There are two ways to meet the challenge of finding and funding a provider. One is to receive aid from local government; the other is for the Ministry of Education to provide a connection with SINET, Japan's national higher education network. Local government has, unfortunately, not expressed much interest in the Internet. As for SINET, the Ministry of Education said as of October 1994 that if we do joint research with a university, we are allowed to connect with SINET. So, if we can find a willing university, even a school below the senior high school level can get on the Internet.

5) Technical Problems Dealing with Workstations
The greatest problem in connecting with the Internet is that at levels below senior high school the "computer culture" does not include knowledge or use of workstations. Given this situation, we have only two choices. One is to struggle with UNIX and the training it requires. The other is to look for an easier mechanism to use. It is now difficult to decide which is better because we are in a transitional period. For beginners, the latter may be better. As for our school, we chose UNIX SUNOS 4.1.3; but, it required a lot of effort to get on the Internet. I will discuss this in more detail below.

6) Money or Human Resources
Judging from the situation mentioned above, it seems that money would have been the key to overcoming many of the obstacles we faced, but we did not have sufficient funds. In addition, besides the need for money, the many problems we faced such as looking for a provider and UNIX training required much of those who were involved. Apart from adequate funding, these problems required human knowledge and capital.

3. How a Senior High School Teacher connected with the Internet by Himself and what can be done from Now
1) How I connected with the Internet by Myself
I owe a lot to Mr. Wataru Ito at the Bio-Medical Information Center at Fujita Health University. First, I learned from him how to connect with Dial Up PPP and then how to connect with a local area network by INS64K. Below is the record of his lectures. The lectures were given every other Saturday for 10 hours, starting at 6:00 p.m. and ending the next morning. As a newcomer to using workstations, I took 12 lessons of this kind between February and May 1995.
Equipment Used: SUN Workstations SS5 and SS2
First Lesson. How to initialize the hard disk and set boot device
Second Lesson: How to install the OS and explanation of TCP/IP
Third Lesson: How to set NIS and the Internet in Japan Today
Fourth Lesson: How to set Xwindow
Fifth Lesson: How to set routing and BIND (compiling BIND)
Sixth Lesson: How to use WWW and delegate
Seventh Lesson: How to set mailing
Eighth lesson: How to set PPP and CAP
Ninth Lesson: How to use router
Tenth Lesson: How to set popper
Eleventh Lesson: How to set httpd and ftpd
Twelfth Lesson: Making a homepage
After these lessons, I connected my house with the Network Operation Center at Fujita Health University at the beginning of June 1995. This experiment went quite well, but I see four more key areas we must address to expand connections at school:
  1. With regards to the workstation, we must be able to compile from a source and establish our own binary system. To this end, we must read Netnews and other publications to get the latest information on how to do this.
  2. With the interests of future network administrators in mind, we must explore the possibility of using WindowsNT or Mac servers.
  3. If possible, we must learn about using a router.
  4. We must learn how to connect with "lower" sites by Dial Up PPP.

2) The Tokai Schoolnet Study Group
(1) How the Group was born
As mentioned above, about 1,400 schools applied for the 100 School Project. I asked Professor Kunio Goto at Nanzan University what means was left for non-selected schools to connect with the Internet. Fortunately, thanks to him, the Aichi Computer Educational Center gave a 500,000 yen grant to the Tokai Schoolnet Study Group and, with the support of the Tokai Internet Consortium headed by Professor Goto, the schools belonging to the Study Group were able to connect to the Internet by Dial Up PPP. Schools, whether project schools or not, used email at schoolnet@tokai-ic.or.jp. We exchange views by email and we have met once every two months.
(2) The Purpose and Structure of Tokai Schoolnet
Our purpose is to study how senior high schools, junior high schools, and elementary schools in the Tokai district connect with the Internet and make use of it. We also aim to learn how to administer workstations. Moreover, we wanted to learn how to help individual teachers connect with the Internet and to contact people who are interested in the Internet across Japan. At the first meeting, the following positions were created and filled:
General manager: Prof. Kunio Goto (Nanzan University)
Manager: Mr. Naoto Kurimoto (Taki Senior High School)
Staff: Prof. Toru Okuyama (Toyohashi)
Ms. Satomi Shimada
Mr. Eisaku Yamaguchi
Number of members: about 100
(3) Tokai Schoolnet Activities
The following is an outline of what we have covered in our monthly study meetings.
October and November 1994
Using schoolnet-wg@tokai-ic.or.jp, staff members talked about establishing the Tokai Schoolnet.
December 12, 1994
The Tokai Schoolnet Study Group was inaugurated with 60 members. We talked about the purpose of the group and the Internet. A questionnaire was completed with members detailing what subject he/she teaches, computer experience, etc.
January 7, 1995
Our second meeting was held at the Nagoya Network Operation Center. We studied how to connect with Dial Up PPP.
March 22
Our third meeting was held in Nagoya. We drew up a model plan of an on-line school and researched each member's technical problems using a questionnaire. The results would be addressed at later meetings. We summarized the activities of the 1994 school year and decided the host schools for the next year's meetings.
May 20
Our fourth meeting was held at Hikarigaoka Women's Senior High School. A report was given on Internet usage at Hikarigaoka High School. We also talked about applying for a grant from the Toyota Foundation.
July 31
Our fifth meeting was held at Nanzan International Senior High School. A report on the school's computing efforts was given.
September 27
Our sixth meeting was held at Seiryo Commercial Senior High School. Reports were made on the Internet use of a class at the school and how it was used at other schools' culture festivals (annual festivals held in the fall at most Japanese schools).
November 25
The seventh meeting was held at Taki Senior High School. A report was given on what was being done at Taki.
December 12
Mrs. Connie Stout, the director of the Texas Education Network (TENET), gave a lecture at Seiryo Commercial Senior High School, describing TENET and Internet use in Texas. The Tokai Schoolnet's plan of making a hospital in Nepal IP reachable was also announced.
(4) The Significance of Tokai Schoolnet
The group is important because it allows teachers who want to connect with the Internet to talk about the technical and political obstacles they face, and to solve them through mutual cooperation and education. What is more, besides exchanging opinions by email, its members hold face- to-face meetings once every two months. After each such meetings, we have an informal get-together where we can get further valuable information in a relaxed and free atmosphere. These social gatherings have helped form a bond among the group which has helped all the more to support its members' activities.

4. How Teachers and Students are using the Internet
Thanks to the tremendous assistance of Prof. Ito at Fujita Health University, our school was finally connected with the Internet in August 1995. Because of expensive telephone rates, we thought it important that teachers and students understand the benefits of the Internet. Unless it is understood to be useful for education, the line will soon be cut by the school administration.
The following is what we have done. One of our biggest projects was centered around our school cultural festival last fall.

1) Sending a Peace Declaration by Email
In September 1995, the Student Council decided to do something to commemorate the 50th anniversary of World War II. They conducted the following four activities.
  1. Held an exhibition of pictures about what happened during the war and what has happened since the war.
  2. Organized a quiz rally in which participants answered questions about events during and since the war.
  3. Collected international reactions to a "Peace Declaration" they had written and answers to a questionnaire about Japan, both using the Internet.
  4. Made and ate meals eaten during the war.
The third item involved the Internet. Students sent a "Peace Declaration" with three follow up questions and sent a "Questionnaire about Japan," using IECC (Intercultural E-mail Classroom Connections) and KIDLINK. The Declaration was an effort to learn what people all over the world think about world peace; the Questionnaire was to help students learn how much is understood about Japan by non-Japanese.

2) Peace Declaration
by Y. I., President of Student Council
It has been 50 years since the end of World War II. During the summer, horrible and miserable happenings in the war were reported in the mass media every day. There are fewer people who can talk of the wartime experience and we seldom have a chance to listen to them. We were born and have been brought up in an affluent society. We are what we call, "children who do not know war." But we feel sorry whenever we think of the crimes committed by Japan and whenever we see and hear about the terrible times Japan suffered. Without looking back, our future will come; the privilege of young people is not to know our past, but we have a future expanding far and wide before us. Let's stop and look far away. Don't you think we are living, just thinking of ourselves, without paying much attention to others? Peace is not a thing we can take for granted. In fact, regrettable things are happening inside and outside Japan today. Now is the time to think of the importance of peace to create a peaceful world. We wish we will be adults who need not experience war. For that purpose, we must learn the sorrows, follies, and miseries caused by war for ourselves as well as through textbooks. From now on, we want to do everything in our daily lives to attain peace not only for ourselves but for future generations.
President of Student Council

3) Reactions to Emailing
As for the "Peace Declaration," we received 8 responses from Australia, 1 from the USA, and 1 from Germany. The response period was, unfortunately, quite short, so the number received was small. But we were encouraged to know that others took interest in our activities and that they were doing similar activities in their home countries. As for the "Questionnaire," we received 53 responses from the USA, 15 from Israel, 1 from Norway, 1 from Australia, and 1 from Finland. The average mark was 70 percent. Strangely, only 30 percent of the respondents answered Q9 correctly (the correct answer is Toyota). By contrast, 90 percent answered Q10 correctly. We thus saw how popular computer games are throughout the world.

4) Other Activities
  1. Making Taki's Home Page (http://www.fujita-hu.ac.jp/taki-net/)
  2. Having a CU-SeeME meeting with Fujita Health University
  3. Exchanging email with students at Temple High School in Finland
  4. Live question and answer session using UNIX TALK with Seattle, WA, USA
  5. Demonstrating what the Internet is to people in the school's neighborhood
  6. Using the Internet to get information for students about universities
  7. Exchanging email with alumnae
  8. Informing students who are ill and at home about what is going on at school
  9. Getting information on astronomy from NASA

5) How the Internet has influenced Students
Throughout the activities mentioned above, at least three things can be thought of as central to engaging and motivating students.
(1) On the screen, it is possible to go anywhere, get any kind of information, and exchange email instantly. The speed of this technology surpassed and amazed students. Such speed can lead to a new sense of time and geography.
Students can learn first hand about other countries' cultures, all at the push of a button.
(2) The Internet gives students greater opportunities to read and write English. It also trains them to operate computers, to get information on their own, to send and answer electronic correspondence, and to compile and report data. This gives them the practical chance to learn by "doing," to actually use English they have studied in school, all without the restrictions of a traditional classroom.
(3) Students can use email to get in touch with researchers and professors whom they would otherwise never "meet." This may broaden their world view and influence their interests and goals. Without the Internet, it would not be possible for such a large group of students to be affected this way.

5. What the Internet has done for My Students
Since the day our school qualified for a category of the 100 School Project, we have had various opportunities for international exchange. We were able to start activities such as a New Zealand farm stay tour, an email exchange through Apic Net, and a friendship rugby game with Australian teams, including a home stay program for the players. However, since teachers were the ones who took the initiative, only a few students took advantage of these great opportunities for cross-cultural experience. There were some students, who didn't dare to get involved. It has been six months since the Internet was installed at our school. We have passed the first stage when we were attracted to the new possibilities offered by the Internet, such as WWW and email. The changes we have seen in the students were much more and, at the same time, different than I had expected. This gave us a new idea of what the Internet can do.

1) The Process to Date
A Japanese language teacher from America visited our school to give a lecture.
Started email exchange with American students who were learning Japanese.
School Homepage was completed and published Seminar for students (at Information Processing Center).
Provided all students with personal accounts.
27 teachers from community colleges, universities and a high school in Arkansas, USA visited our site.
Email exchanges started with Junior high schools in Canada and China.
Seminar for teachers Presentation titled "Cross-cultural Understanding and the Internet" at JAIN's 5th conference
First trial using WWW with a class
Presentation titled "What Internet has Done to the Students" at Tokai Internet Conference
Turned in a request for special budget to the Municipal Board of Education.
Research trip to Scandinavian countries by staff Research trip on the possibility of connecting the Internet in Nepal
Discussion of the use of CU-SeeMe with Takatori H.S. in Nara and Takeokita J.H.S. in Saga
TV Aichi featured our class on "A Class in a High School with Internet".
Regular CU-SeeMe communication started with a high school in LA.
Televised on Tokai TV News Featured in the Chunichi Shinbun newspaper.
TV program by NHK, "Navigation," showing the class on air.
Featured in the Chunichi Shinbun newspaper again.
A visit from a partner school in Finland

2) Equipment: UNIX Workstation
1 rental client machine from the 100 School Project Windows (PC-9821), with 47 image transferring system 2 CU-SeeMees

3) Students ' Experiences with email
When students sent mail in the beginning, they did not even know the meaning of an account and terminology like "domain," "server" and "client." Soon, students sensed they were reaching countries far from Japan. They received replies addressed to them. Since no one opens their box, they found that it was just like regular letters! They were astonished how fast they received responses, sometimes the following day. They soon figured out how to use passwords and started writing replies without showing the teachers. Students were amazed that teachers could not see their mail and were impressed at how interesting and fast sending email could be. Gradually they got used to the operation of the machine (use of diskettes etc.)

4) Examples of the Mail arrived to the Students
  1. Mail from students in taking a Japanese course at Arkansas University ( in Romanized Japanese)
    Hajimemashite. Boku no namae wa Wendel Fleming desu. Dozoyoroshiku. Boku wa niju-sai desu. Arkansas daigaku no gakusei desu. Computer science to Nihon-go no benkyo o shite imasu. Nihon-go no benkyo wa shichi-kagetsu dake shimashita. Boku no Nihon-go wa amari umaku arimasen. Shichi-gatsu ni san-shukan Nihon no Shimane-ken ni ikimasu. Nihon no ryori ga suki desu.
    Tonkatsu ya sashimi wa totemo oishii desu. Because my vocabulary is very small, I will finish the letter in Japanese.
  2. Mail from China
    I don't like Japanese. Maybe Japanese are not as bad as I think, but I can't forget the war between our two countries. It difficult for me to accept Japanese. However, Japanese all very love their country, and they all work hard constantly. This is something that we should learn from. If my answer is not right ,then I'm sorry!

5) Student Experiences with WWW
Students saw WWW in a class, learned how to operate the browser and knew the meaning of "http" by looking at graphs on automobile imports and exports. They got interested in getting various information. They wondered how could this screen be connected to a computer in Tokyo. Looking at the homepage, students knew that it was connected to the world. They also wondered who would be looking at our homepage. They got accustomed to WWW and played with servers' list after school. One of the students found about mail-order with email and wondered if he could buy a LL Bean bag.
Students also compared the level of English used on WWW and that used in their English textbooks. They found it to be nearly the same level as in the English STEP Test Pre-2 Level.

6) Student Experiences with CU-SeeME
(1) Experimental contact with Takatori High School and Takeo Junior High School:
Students experienced the newest telecommunication set up and talked freely about themselves and their neighborhood. They could talk with two schools at the same time.
(2) A school in LA
We started weekly communication with a school in LA. Students managed to communicate using the phrase," Could you say that again?" They sent questions to LA beforehand. The sound was getting improved.
(3) With university students
We also started communication with computer students at Aichi Educational University. All students were involved in the conversations. They prepared to ask questions via CU-SeeME.

6. How the Students have changed
1) Internet: bringing Light to Each Student
In Japan, elementary and junior high school students have always been forced to take part in academic competitions at school. This test taking system and evaluation process is the only method used to rank and compare students' abilities. Not much of what is said in a classroom is addressed to individual students. Furthermore, in junior high school, the system changes and students see many different teachers in a day. Teachers can thus evaluate their students only according to how they do in one particular subject.
My favorite moments using the Internet are when I check my mail and write back. My students are attracted to mail exchange functions and uses it as a part of their social life. The Internet's time has come! The ball you threw is sure to be back to you. This is how my students feel when they are using the Internet. They are always eager to open the mailbox and read the mail they have received since they can send mail directly to their friends.
On-line, no one cares about small things like making grammatical or spelling mistakes. Users can get all the information they need by themselves. The new information they discover, combined with what they already know, brings them a new understanding of many things. The mail and information I receive always makes me excited. It affirms my reality. As I am merely one small person in a big world, it feels good to know there is someone who is trying to reach me. I think this is how the students feel.

2) Changes in the Students
"To have a secret is to be secured to oneself." Japanese people believe that individuality grows when one keeps a secret. Accordingly, students are promised that no one can open their individual mail boxes. This gives them a sense of being trusted and helps them feel free to write what they really want. By exchanging mail many times, they begin to get a sense of this kind of communication. They feel satisfied because they are handling a brand new communication system which is only now being mentioned in our newspapers.
Students find themselves using English in a practical way and feel proud because they are trying to master English. Computers are a tool for improving the quality of their lives, whether they decide to find a job or go to college. Learning English and getting international information on the Net will become trendy among young Japanese workers of today and tomorrow.

3) Internet changes a Class
"Individuality is the most important thing" and "Motivation is a must in education" are some trendy slogans, but in reality, teachers just talk and talk using only a piece of chalk, and students just copy what is on the blackboard into their notebooks automatically.
However, now that the Internet is finding its way into classrooms, and each student has his own account to send out information to the world, the role of teachers in class has been changing. The teachers have stopped just giving lectures, and have assisting each student when necessary. The introduction of new technology has the potential to change the content of education drastically.

4) Network from Teacher to Teacher
I get a lot of helpful suggestions from teachers in other schools through the Net. Discussions I have with teachers at my school help me in many ways, but this alone sometimes makes my point of view narrow and makes it difficult to meet the needs of students. Fresh information and ideas via the Net are a welcome presence. By talking with teachers of all levels on the Net, I have learned more about what are appropriate goals for students, according to their age. Supported by such a human network, it has become possible to do what one teacher or one school could not have done alone.

7. Conclusion
What can we do from now? First, this year we can help some eager teachers connect with the Internet and expand the local area network. It may be wise to use Mac or WindowsNT severs rather than UNIX workstations as we look to expand. As for the upper site, we asked Professor Ito at Fujita Health University to connect high schools to SINET. Next, we must deal with the problems presented by telephone rates and ISDN. As school look to go on-line, they will be unable to cover these telephone costs. With this in mind, we have applied for several grants for schools attempting to connect with the Internet.
If the teachers who are taught how to connect with the Internet help, in turn, some other teachers, next year more schools can be connected with the Internet. In such a way, our support system will become stronger and stronger. In a few years, local governments will most likely decide that all schools should be connected to the Internet. At that time, those who have experience will be able to help guide that process.
To meet the demands of the future and present we must consider the following:
  1. install a bigger line
  2. move to more and more user-friendly technology
  3. lower telephone rates
  4. have an information center for linking schools within the same town or city.
With these challenges in mind, it is imperative that we provide access to this emerging world for our students. They look toward to a future in which distances are shortened just as boundaries are expanded and access to information becomes easier just as demands for analyzing that information grows. At such a time, they must be ready to become engaged with and to guide and shape the technology which will underlie it. (written by Kurimoto)
When I started with the Internet, I struggled with UNIX. This was a new way of communicating to me. However, its complex system was often frustrating. There was so much that I wanted to do with my students on the Net, but at first, I realized what I really could do was really very little. But as I learned, I came to see how to make practical use of the Internet in my classroom. It is hard for the students to understand what the Internet is by explaining its function or system. It is easier for them to feel how wonderful the network is while they are communicating on the Net themselves. They can grasp how individuals are related to the Internet through their own experience.
If they have learned to operate the Internet by the time they graduate, they can use the network to improve the quality of their life. It is said that Japanese children have lost their individuality and that their faces all look the same. Information and the network encourage individuality and can help our students create new faces. As the newest technology makes increasingly faster electronic exchanges possible, computers have been used mostly in the field of economics as a tool of efficiency and practicality. But such uses are hard to relate to humanity; so computers evoke an image of cold, heartless technology. But in these days, I can feel the warmth of someone over the Net.