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The Playful Scientist as Language Learner: redefining the relationships between learners, knowledge, spaces and media: an experiment at FUN - Future University - Hakodate1

Playful Scientist? Isn't that an oxymoron? Science is supposed to be serious stuff. Anyway, why does a scientist, playful or otherwise, need to be a language learner anyway?

In this paper I'd like to look at some unusual ways of thinking about learning, not only science but also "language", particularly at a new university which opened in April 2001, Future UNiversity - Hakodate (FUN) 2.

I have been involved in designing some of the spaces and curriculum at FUN, and found it a unique opportunity to make some changes in the traditional style of university education. When I was invited to sit on the planning committee at the end of 1998, there was an assumption that my role there would be to fine-tune what was already envisioned for English teaching - something called Basic, Intermediate and Advanced English, and three state-of-the-art Language Labs. This is the system the planners had found at other universities, and this is what they expected to put into place at FUN.

A few weeks before joining this committee for the first time I had a startling conversation with a linguist who was the head of the language department at an engineering university in Japan for ten years. "It's a frustrating situation," she told me. "The science professors are constantly expecting you to do something it's impossible to do - develop students' ability to the point of being capable of writing scientific papers and delivering understandable conference presentations in English. With forty students per class, meeting once a week for two years - no way! But our language teaching staff is always treated like failures!" 3

Beginning to Think about Learning Design at FUN

This conversation was in the forefront of my thinking when I started to make concrete design plans for creating a language program at FUN. I wanted no part of this kind of typical ESL program focusing on grammar and translation. Although my early studies and teaching experiences had been in linguistics and ESL, I had shifted my teaching style significantly when I joined the English Department at Doshisha International Junior/Senior High School where I've been working for the past twenty years, mostly with returnees (kikokushijo) 4.

At Doshisha, and in my work with a group of friends 5, I've been redefining my own concepts of learning spaces, learning designs and curriculums, and I wanted to bring these new ideas to FUN. My thinking about learning and teaching - particularly the ideas of integration, engagement, and authenticity - had a lot in common with Noyuri Mima, one of the people involved with designing FUN from the beginning 6. So I went ahead with my vision of getting rid of traditional names and spaces and continued thinking about how to create a new design of learning language and communication at FUN.

I had turned my interest from ESL to the use of art, drama, music, movement, design, and a wide range of media (which I had come to call "toys&tools") in a constructionist environment where the learners become engaged in creating some external representation of their inner concepts. I no longer saw myself as an "English" teacher but rather as a person interested in using English as one means of communicating with learners both locally and globally. The typical focus of English classes in Japan on grammar and translation became as uninteresting to me as it clearly was to my students.

Yet I was interested in what I saw as the deep concepts of "grammar", which I defined as structure or patterns of communication, and "translation", which I defined as the external expression of any idea or experience, once removed from the original experience 7. Looking at "grammar" and "translation" in these less restrictive ways, opened them up for everyone in the learning community to see their importance and connection to our own daily life activities. Furthermore, I began to redefine "language" and "language learning" so that it could apply to any means of communication.

Changing View of "Language Learning"

For the past ten years in a course called "Me and Media" I have been exploring the idea of media as being any means of communicating, and thus I was now able to see "language teaching" quite differently. Since a language can be any media used to communicate, English is a language, but so are dance, music, poetry, gesture, mime, puppetry, smoke - in fact, anything can be a language for communication and learning to think about the grammar of such languages should be very interesting to students once it was seen in terms of authentic communication.

In order to introduce this wider definition of "language" I proposed removing "English" from the curriculum and hiring no English teaching staff. Rather we created a section of the curriculum called "Communication" and chose a staff to teach these courses according to the ideals discussed throughout this paper. This was more than a linguistic ploy. I felt that if indeed it was a goal of the university 8 for the students to be able to communicate in English, then it was vital to take the radical and paradoxical step of removing language education from its separate and isolated position in the life of the student and the university.

If the university community were able to see learning English as something to be held at a certain time in a certain place by a certain group, I felt sure that such a program (and anyone connected with it) would fail. Furthermore this approach continued what I felt was anathema for our university - a passive approach to learning as something which might happen to us when we stepped into a certain situation and interacted with particular people, rather than seeing our own active responsibility as learners. Naturally, I wanted nothing to do with a design that everything in my experience told me was predesigned to fail!

Commitment from Whole University Community

In order to have a hope of success, I felt there had to be a major commitment on the part of the whole university community - from the students to the teaching staff to the office staff, even including the support staff such as cafeteria workers and guardsmen. Furthermore, the commitment has to spread to the local community, which in the case of Hakodate Mirai Daigaku 9 had made tremendous sacrifices and has great expectations for the future of the city's development.

As the person responsible for creating this part of the curriculum, I felt that the worst thing that could happen for our students would be for the community to be able to isolate the responsibility for learning to communicate in English. To valid my point, the reader need only think about putting any typical Japanese college graduate (even from the so-called top public universities) in a position where they need to express their ideas clearly and interestingly in a foreign language 10.

Though members of our teaching and office staff who were involved at the planning level of this university agreed to this decision, there is still a underlying view that the responsibility of teaching English lies with a specific group of people. Old concepts die hard and it would be foolish to imagine that turning this philosophical idea into a living part of university would be an easy process! It is not uncommon for other teachers and staff to refer to the Communication Staff as the "English teachers" or to comment to us about the difficulties that our students are having in using English with the obvious meaning that this is seen as our responsibility. Our response is, "Yes, what are you doing to help them?" or "What shall we do about that?"

Connection and Playfulness

There are two other related points that have importance in the design of learning spaces and activities at FUN. One is the notion of connection and the second is the notion of playfulness. In most post-middle school learning in Japan, what happens in the classroom seems to have little connection to the "real" world outside of the four walls; furthermore, it is thought to be very serious stuff; that is, there is no sense of exploration, mystery, excitement, involvement 11.

At FUN, we are hoping to remove the isolation and deadly seriousness that seems to be so much a part of "normal" school/university life. We feel that it's important to help our learners feel connection between themselves and the knowledge they are being exposed to. Most of what takes place in university classes doesn't touch students' lives meaningfully. Otherwise, why would they fail to attend classes or sleep in class when they did?

The designers of FUN attempted to create both a physical space and a curriculum, which would address some of these issues of disconnection and deadliness. One way we approached this was to make the university wall-less or borderless. Our almost totally glass building symbolizes this idea well. As Noyuri Mima, one of the main conceptual designers of the school, said: open spaces, open minds. The fronts of the professors' offices, as well as the classrooms, are glass walled, signaling, not separation, but openness and being a part of, rather than apart from the rest of the world.

Specifically, relating to the learning of English we wanted it to happen in authentic situations; that is, situations where the learners felt a need to communicate in English from within themselves, rather than something forced falsely on the situation. To make this into a reality our Communication Staff was chosen to have a great diversity and we include a dancer, an artist, a story teller, a cyberspace nut, a media freak, a linguist, and a language teacher. Actually all of us have some interest in each other's areas and there is a lot of opportunity for supporting each other and team teaching. We are working hard to try to find ways to have our students learn to be good communicators in the situations they find themselves in - a goal which goes way beyond, but will include, helping our students learn English. But again, it will only include this if the university community supports it as a whole.

As for playfulness, this has a lot to do with the willingness to make mistakes and to see learning as fun at FUN. One of the Communication Group's research and teaching areas is called "the Sandbox", where, like children, learners of all ages will come together to play and learn through play. much as young children do.

As with every new idea and ideal, the reality will be slow in coming. But that is part of the challenge we face in trying something new. We look forward to interacting with others who are trying similar experiments, and different ones, too, so that we can all learn together.

Appendix 1:
Future UNiversity (FUN) - Hakodate
as a Learning Organization

written in collaboration: Noyuri Mima and Hillel Weintraub

1. Traditional Universities and the Knowledge Acquisition Model

The traditional components of a university have been faculty, students, and general supporting staff. For generations, classroom instructors have stood in front of the blackboard, using standard style textbooks, and lecturing to their students. In this environment, intellectual work is thought to be an act of knowledge transfer. The human mind is seen as a container and learning is seen as the pouring of knowledge into it and saving it. (This is similar to the well-known "Banking Metaphor" of Paulo Freire, so it certainly isn't limited to Japan!)

With this view of knowledge acquisition, studying is considered as individual work. On the whole, teachers give importance only to the process of acquiring and saving information, and doing this effectively was the goal of education. Over the years, this has developed into the traditional style of university education in Japan.

It is not only the conservative nature of humans in general that makes traditions hard to change, but the accompanying institutions and other cultural support that grow up around such traditions. For example, the tests that students need to take to enter universities in Japan support this view of learning as "gathering up information." All teachers in pre-college institutions from elementary school to high school feel pressure to prepare their students for this kind of exam. Furthermore, after university, in the usual exams given to enter graduate school or companies, or even the National Bar Exam or the hundred of other exams given to grant licenses for certificates (various teachers' licenses for example) students' ability to perform successfully is evaluated by the information and memories stored inside their heads.

But of course we know that in our real lives, whether as students, workers, parents, friends, we don't only depend on the remembered information we carry with us. In our daily lives, we solve problems not only with our personal pre-attained knowledge but more often with knowledge constructed through interacting with new situations and people. When we meet a new problem, we try to solve it by collecting information in various ways, such as consulting with others, doing research in some printed material or on the internet, or using tools or toys of some kind. Also, we need to recognize that solving problems is not just a means to gain knowledge. Human study is not "knowledge acquisition" so much as it is an interpersonal activity which takes place in conversation and in communication is inseparable from situations or the context. Learning should be defined as the process of interaction which occurs in social relationships within a community containing a multitude of things beyond any single individual.

2. Designing Our New University

First Design Principle: No Space Barriers
Learning without Walls in Open Spaces

There are a lot of boundaries in traditional university education. In Future University-Hakodate, we have designed a new learning environment which values learning without walls and attempts to remove various partitions - between classrooms, subjects, and learners. Faculty have traditionally stood on a raised surface, "delivering" lectures to students, who were expected to listen passively. Taking away these platforms and having completely open teaching areas or ones with glass used to limit noise but not the exchange of ideas, is our way of creating open style environments which will make interaction among students and between teachers and students very natural.

With these open spaces, students or teachers walking by an interesting class or workshop might think, "Hey! What's going on in there?" Or "Wow! That looks interesting. I'll just walk in and join them." Such an open atmosphere would be unthinkable in most universities in Japan where both psychological and physical doors are kept tightly shut.

At FUN, we also intend to have a lot of teamwork. Or perhaps the concept of "teamplay" may fit our spirit better. In any case, team teaching and team learning will be rife! Our students will be actively involved with designing learning environments which will be playfully serious, intellectually challenging and mysteriously engaging. Our open physical and emotional spaces will promote stimulating human activity which will we lead to deep, meaningful learning.

Second Design Principle: No Course Barriers
Introduction of Project Based Learning

In university lectures, it is usually thought best to teach a systematically starting with what is usually called "the basics". While this style of teaching has a long history and is comfortable for some teachers and learners, it also makes many students disengaged because it is difficult to relate their learning with their lives. Furthermore, in this systematic style, students have difficulties connecting their school activities with their future work and lives. Social value or intrinsic pleasure from the act of learning itself is lacking. Earning credits or the grade itself becomes the main goal.

Project Based Learning (PBL) is very different from this systematic style which is exemplified in ordinary lectures which present knowledge set in every field. The Project Based Learning Approach takes away the barriers among subjects. Most human activities, in society or at work are not limited to one subject or another, but cross into many disciplines. In the same way the project based approach is a way of gaining a comprehensive experience in meaningful human activity. Educational research indicates that people learn more through significant social and personal activities. Furthermore, learners can apply how they learn to new situations which arise in their life, since PBL encourages design skills, research skills, experimentation, simulation and modeling practice and creative problem solving - what they learn Students collect information, carry on experiment, making a model, do a simulation, create ideas to solve assignments given to project they take part in. Students are not limited to one discipline, but can learn in a more realistic, interdisciplinary style. The focus on grades is replaced by a focus on meaningful learning.

Third Design Principle: No Personal Barriers
Cooperative Learning & Team Teaching

In creating our new university, we have focused on the concept of Cooperative Learning as one of our key design concepts. CL is a total shift of learning philosophy and style. People we are learning with become part of our community, there to support us, challenge us to move to new depths of understanding, thus affecting both how we learn and what we learn. It is generally accepted that cooperative social and work environments are healthier and more productive, but this concept has not become a part of most university designs. FUN will be a learning community in which all aspects of the university, from physical structure through the open relationships among learners, including teachers, will promote learning cooperatively.

If we look at learning outside of most formal classroom situations, it is apparent that it is both cooperative and social, as well as being supportive of individual expression and growth. Learning stagnates if there is no feedback loop; we need the opportunity to hear our own thoughts and see them reflected from others, particularly in a critically constructive environment. Moving away from the metaphor of pouring established information into the minds of students to a more constructionist and collaborative model, FUN @ Hakodate is designing itself as learning community where problems can be solved together through a commonly developed set of shared meanings. These understanding will never be seen as dogma, but through the open exchange with others both locally and universally will constantly be challenged, re-examined and refined or re-built.

In order to create this kind of atmosphere, we need to remove the kinds of situations which encourage learners to focus on individual performance on tests, and rather design spaces which encourage cooperative interaction - research, rethinking, presentation through various media. This does not mean that students will lose their identity in group work, but instead will find and develop their own strengths and unique talents, still thinking how they can work together with others, rather than working against others as in most competitive situations. Furthermore, by encouraging teachers with different perspectives and fields of research to take part in projects together, the idea that diversity is valued and that students should constantly be stretching themselves to think both widely and deeply. Through team teaching, the content of project becomes enriched, and students' work can be evaluated from many different aspects.

Fourth Design Principle: No Language or Communication Barriers
Acquisition of Communication Skills

Communication ability - the ability to listen to others and express ourselves - is very important for self-development and self-realization. At FUN @ Hakodate, our theories of communication will grow out of our own lively, engaging, and authentic practice. So-called expert theories will not be handed meaninglessly to students to memorize, but rather our theories will develop through reflection of learners' own work, as well as an understanding of the theories of others. In keeping with our concept of barrier-free learning spaces, communication, including the use of English and all sorts of media, is not something only taught in special classes held at particular times a week; it is an integral part of university life, with every subject stressing both the science and practice of communication along with the communication and practice of science.

Both research and presentation are part of the heart of learning. One of the important aims of FUN @ Hakodate is to help learners see the value of research and presentation in their personal and professional lives, and to begin to develop their confidence as communicators in a wide range of situations, utilizing a wide range of media. Working in schools, homes for the aged or handicapped, on newspapers/radio/tv, and even street performances are ways we will enter into dialogue about the arts, science and technology with the local community. Furthermore, this dialog will be expanded beyond our local community of learners to the universe of learners through the internet and a-v conferencing, bi-lingual journals and tv shows as well as summer or year long exchange programs. With this design, foreign language skills will not be imposed but developed from the felt needs of the students.

The contents of Project Based Activities will include presentation and exhibition design, technique of media use, theories of human cognition and communication, cooperative problem solving, and project design itself. A wide range of final outcomes will be honored - such as a traveling performance with acts demonstrating particular scientific principals that might be given to children, an interactive scientific exhibition in our university museum, a journal or tv show aimed at audiences around the world. In this way students' ability to communicate scientific ideas in real world situations will be developed, a very different situation from the traditional university structure where knowledge is presented in rather limited ways only to a teacher.

Fifth Design Principle: No Age or Learning Style Barriers
Diversity of Learners

One of the barriers in traditional universities is that only teacher and students in one location are taking part in the learning activities. We are planning to remove this partition in project work culminating in authentic communication activities. In this way, learners of all ages and cultures will interact. Some examples of such projects would be designing facilities for lifelong education like library or aquarium in a town, or creating toys for disabled children's use, or planning ways that a local bookstore could develop to meet the needs of our university.

If our students themselves are valued as knowers-in-progress, they will also begin to value others in the same way. Interacting with learners of all ages to understand their intuitive and developed theories of science will be most rewarding - from children in kindergarten through high school, to retired people and other adult learners, perhaps experts in a particular field, perhaps changing jobs. Bringing such people into our university life will change the way all members of community begin to see themselves as taking part in the life-long process of learning.

Furthermore, we are greatly aware of the lack of women in the sciences and have taken it on ourselves to change this situation. Although the number of women students in science majors in Japan is increasing, it is still very low, so Future UNiversity at Hakodate will search for ways to encourage young women scientists to join us at every possible turn, and our goal is to accept half men and half women as students.

By taking part in a respectful dialog with a diversity of learners, we will begin to see a wide range of styles and intelligences. Different study styles, learning styles, presentation styles; different kinds of intelligences - for problem solving, for thinking creatively, for social interaction, for artistic or dramatic expression - each person will feel his/her own power both individually and as a part of the learning community of FUN @ Hakodate. We have even created a special museum space in our university where learners of all ages, from all sectors of society, with all styles of learning, can interact and share their visions.

3. Students as the Center of Learning

In traditional school education, "passing" knowledge through using standard textbooks and then evaluating solely based on what knowledge has been memorized is the standard approach. This style created the mistaken view that meaningful study activity is closed, individual work inside the university. It is different from what experts do in real society. Scientists' activities include searching for meaningful issues, generating hypotheses, and finding ways to verify them. In contrast with this, education today focuses on memorizing propositions and formulas, or on proving an issue already known. Classes tend toward a drill and practice mentality so that so-called "basic knowledge" will be deeply instilled.

Students as Apprentice Researchers

Objectifying knowledge in this way removes all the mystery, surprise and relevancy of learning. It encouraged passive learning and disengaged learners. In order to change the situation, at FUN-Hakodate we regard our students as "apprentice researchers". This means that they will take an active and vital role in research and will be seen and learn to see themselves as "theory-makers", rather than as simply "theory-takers." They will learn from their own mistakes and develop new attitudes about the value of mistakes.

Faculty staff as a "senior researchers" have to show what they do consciously, thinking outloud as they work and provide opportunity for students to join them in authentic activities. In this way, students can begin to see learning as exciting, challenging and meaningful and themselves as active learners. This development of their own strong identity, in a world where young people's individuality is often submerged by the deluge of images from new media and high-tech, we hope they can find new and joyful meaning in living. By giving students a change to do "real" art, real science, real communication, we want them to become engaged in the joyful aspects of meaning-making and finding a place for themselves in today's and tomorrow's world.

Portfolio as Achievement

In university education at present, students can have their ability evaluated mostly through their performance on tests. But we believe that meaningful education is beyond simplistic evaluation which focuses on a single moment of a learner's life. Future UNiversity-Hakodate will encourage our students to develop awareness of how their behavior affects our environment and society. We value their process of social and intellectual growth, because we see learning as a process, rather than something that can be evaluated at a particular moment. Evaluation within a total context of the students' learning is as important as learning in the total context of their lives. What a student doesn't know but is in the process of learning, is much more important to us than what the student can demonstrate s/he already knows.

This attitude totally changes the way learning is seen. Students immediately recognize the hypocrisy of saying "Learn in Context of your lives!" but then evaluating based on single event performance. We want to avoid such hypocritical actions - trust and respect among learners is vital to everyone's growth!

Thus our evaluation system will not aim to grade "objectively" or "relatively", but will focus on development through feedback. Students will create their own portfolio of learning experiences over four years. Their portfolio will demonstrate a process of learning, what kind of technical knowledge or cultural theories they are developing, or what kind of projects they have been engaged in. This portfolio is accumulated from the time of entering our university and will be used as used as a record of their growth as learners. Their graduation thesis will represent a culmination of their work with us and become part of their portfolio, which can then be used to show their progress in learning, rather than a simple curriculum vitae when they are looking for work or planning to attend graduate school.

4. Prospect for the Future - University as Learning Community

Providing the learning surroundings described above, the Future University at Hakodate intends to redefine "community" to include our students, our faculty and administrative staff, people in Hakodate and neighboring towns, people in the region of Hokkaido, and expanding throughout Japan and the world, offering learning opportunity to everyone within physical or digital reach. We want to redefine humans as lifelong learners through our sharing of meaningful learning and living experiences.

written in September, 1999;
reviewed for publication in this journal, February, 2001, by H. W.

Appendix 2: Syllabus, Spring Term, 2001-Communication Class II, IV
syllabus written originally in English by Hillel Weintraub, January, 2001
Japanese translation by Miki Yokoyama, Research Assistant, Future University - Hakodate

The target and goals


The key ideas of this module are MAKING CONNECTIONS, PLAYING WITH CONSTRAINTS, CREATING NEW DEFINITIONS, EXPRESSING OUR SELF THROUGH MULTI-SENSUAL MEDIA, and SEEING OURSELVES AS LEARNING DESIGNERS. By learning to feel the "me" in media, and experiencing things in new ways, we can begin to understand the connections between ourselves and various media, and discover our own place and style for communicating in this world.


we will begin to experience "media" as multi-sensual.

we will begin to play with media in new ways.
we will begin to think about learning and ourselves as learners in new ways.
we will begin to express what we know best: our own experiences!
we will begin to learn actively, in groups, with FIRE;that is, with passion, energy, playfulness, and curiosity!

We will begin to experience a new learning style for the new millenium, first through experiences designed by Hillel,and then through experiences we design together.

This will be done by playing with, dancing with, and thinking with all kinds of media.


Phase 1:

Waking Up our mind and Body! Being Playful! We will have some shocking and amazing experiences to help us think about media/communication/language in new ways. We will try to build a supportive learning community together. We will reflect together on these common experiences, sharing our ideas through journals and other media.

Some key metaphors for this phase: Waking Up, Warming Up, getting our appetite!
Some key ideas: *experiencing*, *envisioning*, *realizing* (finding our real-eyes!)

Phase 2:

Thinking together, we will work in groups and research some aspect of Media & Communication using a wide range of media - traditional mass media (books, newspaper, magazine), popular visual media (film, video), new media (internet, /keitai/, digital film) and personal media (what's that??)
Some key metaphors for this phase: Jumping In, Going Deep
Some key ideas: researching,exploring,discovering, triangulating

Phase 3:

We As Media! Groups will think about content (what to represent?) and style (how to represent it?) Four components of learning design will be presented as we think together about effective and meaningful Presentation. We will examine and play with the different constraints of various media as we try to represent (re-present) our research and new ideas to each other

Some key ideas or metaphors for this phase: recreation(fun!) = re-creation; presentation = re-presentation (every representation involves translation); construction is making the invisible seen and tangible; everything has a grammar! Some key words: constructing, externalizing, rehearsing

Phase 4:

Both within our class community, within FUN, and from outside of our small learning community, reactions will be shared, feedback will be given, reflection on our work and play will be done, evaluation criteria will be discussed and considered. What was the effect of our efforts? What could be done differently?
Some key words: performance, audience, ambiance, and feedback.

Grading: will be based on a combination of attendance, attention, energy, weekly reports, research, re-presentation and self-evaluation.

Text: Materials to play with and think with will be given out at each class.

Pre-requisite or instructions for Communication Section "FIRE": Students should come to class with an open and energetic mind and body, ready to try new things!

  1. At the time of this writing, in early February, 2001, Hillel is still at Doshisha International Jr/Sr High School in Shintanabe, Kyoto, Japan, where he has been teaching English and Communication & Media, and Director of their new Communication Center since its opening in 1997.

  2. My way of writing UNiversity is not the official way! Even my word processor doesn't like it and automatically changes the "N" to lower case! But I like it because it makes it clear where the "N" in "FUN" comes from.

  3. This quote is from my memory of this conversation and not an exact quote. Also, I have not received permission from this person, so she will have to remain nameless.

  4. "Returnees" refers to young people who have lived and studied outside of Japan, most commonly while their fathers were working in Japanese branch offices abroad. Most of these students return to Japan with varying degrees of bi-lingualness and bi-culturalness.

  5. These friends have formed a group of crazy & creative learning designers called Mudpie Unlimited and include Nobuyuki Ueda of Konan Women's University, Yoshiro Miyata of Chukyo University, Miya Omori, Lehan Ramsay of Future University - Hakodate, and Kazuyoshi Koizumi of Child Research Network, Benesse Corporation.

  6. See Appendix 1, Future UNiversity (FUN) - Hakodate as a Learning Organization

  7. For a fascinating look into the world of translation, take a look at Douglas R. Hofstadter's book, Le Ton Beau de Marot: in praise of the music of language, Basic Books, NY, 1998.

  8. I'm always reluctant to use terms like "university" because it depersonalizes what I see as the real situation. Especially at FUN members of the community have the power to make the decisions. It's not some impersonal machine - "the university" - but actually real people, including me - that are making day-to-day decisions that affect the life of the university community.

  9. The university's name in romanized Japanese.

  10. It is very much related, but not within the scope of this paper, but most college students in Japan are not capable of presenting their ideas interestingly in their native language either. This is something that we are attempting to address in our Communication Courses and throughout the learning experiences at FUN.

  11. It's important that the reader understand for us the contrast is not between playful and serious, but between playful and uninteresting/boring/disconnected/unengaging/unhumorous/unmysterious. There is nothing more serious than a child at hard play!

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