II. The Internet will change the Japanese
Here's a typical scene you'll find in a class at a Japanese school. The teacher gives a one-way lecture, just talking on, while students take notes without saying a thing. The teacher writes some answers on the blackboard, while students diligently take notes. There's no exchange in the class at all. Students just have to memorize their notes.
Students are supposed to be in class to learn what they don't know or don't understand, but the teacher only asks, "Does anybody knows the answer?" and keeps on talking. Some of the students feel stifled in class. They repeatedly bully classmates, cut classes, come to school late, or leave school early. Their only interests are what to wear, how to put on make-up or the like. Their interests and energy are only self-oriented.
More and more students lose their temper suddenly for no reason, commit crimes, and some blackmail and extort middle aged men. I've never seen or heard anything like this before. Poor schools produce a large number of dropouts and poor classes leave many of their students behind. Isn't it the expediency of educators that has caused the current situation? Although many educators think classes should be student-centered, I doubt they have actually put this into practice.
2. What We expect from the Internet
I really wish students would use their energy for self-discovery, not in a narcissistic way, such as wearing pierced earrings, applying make-up, their hair having permed and so on. I think some circumstances should make them ask themselves what their lives are about. And, I also believe that the different cultures and viewpoints of foreign countries will make a difference. The Asian Internet High School Exchange, for instance, covers telecommunication exchange and face-to-face meetings.
I remember one Japanese girl who joined the exchange. She said, "I think Japan is a rich country, but I feel there's something lonely about it." She said it when we went to the airport to see Jasmine off. Jasmine was a girl from Nepal. She introduced Nepali traditional dancing in the meeting and she was so proud of her country's dancing and told us how culturally important it was for the Nepali people.
The Internet enables you to break through the barriers between schools and countries, and is also changing the English language classes. English language classes were a time for students to diligently transcribe what was written on the blackboard into their notebooks. Nowadays, it is becoming a time to learn useful expressions that students find interesting, and exciting.
3. School Reform and the Internet
"Bullying", "students armed with knives", "depersonalization" -- every time these issues have surfaced, they have been widely reported by the mass media, and guidelines for educators have been revised. Nevertheless, no school reform has taken place. While many educators have said that the idea of reforming is good and understandable, they did not think it leads to concrete class reform.
Today, the Internet is about to be introduced as a teaching tool. By 2002, every school in Japan will have access to the world via the Internet. Installing computers will change classes. Every student will face the world. To guide students, educators will have to communicate patiently with teachers at the other end of the Internet.
Together with educators all over the world, I really hope that the Internet realizes a student-centered class, and becomes an excellent opportunity for students.
4. Examples that motivates International Understanding
- To bring a new cross-cultural air into your classroom and make students examine their lives.
- To have international exchange with foreign countries in class and remove the classroom barrier.
- To make them feel a sense of happiness when they can make themselves understood in English.
- To make students feel how valuable and important the current class is in their lives.
- To make students gain a sense of achievement (materializing what they learned from communication, creating a collection, record, home page, etc.).
- To make them feel that their existence is being respected (a mail account per person, video letters)
- To get comments, suggestions, and opinions on their home pages from outside of the classroom.
In a regular class, students are evaluated by mid-term and final exams. But I believe that students have not been assessed on what they have expressed or created, and that they haven't felt things like a sense of mastery, pleasure, or excitement.
- To experience what they have never experienced before (communications through Cu-SeeMe), and be influenced greatly by that experience.
5. What leads to International Understanding?
No one can look at himself or herself. You have lived all your life in Japan, steeped in Japanese culture, whether you realize it or not. But suppose that you encounter a different culture, you can see your silhouette against this different culture and view a clear outline of yourself.
I think international understanding is similar to the above. You become familiar with a different culture and compare it with Japanese culture. It will help you to identify yourself as Japanese.
Not only focusing on how different you are with others, you should look at how much you have in common. If you share time with people in foreign countries and keep doing so, I believe this will lead to international understanding.
When talking about Japanese identity, educators usually refer to a sense of unity with nature, or the beauty of the four seasons in Japan. They cite cherry blossoms in spring, birds that sing in summer and maple leaves that turn red in autumn....
Information from overseas allows you to compare your culture with another culture, which makes it much clearer to identify yourself as Japanese. The other day, I received a mail from a teacher at a Japanese school in Indonesia. The teacher wrote, "it is hot all year round and we generally wear the same kind of clothes all the time. I miss Japan. Here, there is nothing that tells us what season it is except for the special occasions." This kind of information gives students a chance to look at their own country.