Students Going Global
How do you transform a ubiquitous pastime into an educational tool? The Japan Society, through its Going Global Social Networking Project seems to have figured it out. The initiative uses a secure social media networking platform to enable direct communication between elementary through high school students in the U.S., Japan and Pakistan.
In an exclusive interview, Dr. Robert A. Fish, director of education and family programs at the Japan Society, discussed the program with Education Update. “We think it’s important for kids to learn how to use social networking in a professional context, responsibly,” he says.
The teachers and students from these different schools collaborate to create projects to engage their students at all levels of ability using the students’ interests and creativity to introduce their counterparts in different countries to their own culture, experience, and ideas. The flexible format has enabled the project to be teacher- and student-driven, using a range of activities from art portraying students’ daily lives or a specific theme, to oral introductions to practice language skills, to debating capital punishment.
“A lot of [the students] created digital collages which were fascinating – it was an education for me—especially to see what the Pakistani kids put up, it was so different from what you’d expect if you just read the New York Times.”
The benefits of participating in Going Global include practicing collaborative work, authentic cross-cultural learning, and tapping into students interests in a school setting. “In education it’s almost become a truism that you learn best by doing, not by listening,” says Fish.
Going Global began in September 2011, and in its first year its rapid growth has surprised its creators, and been a source of pride. “We did this from scratch, and to have 750 kids from 3 different countries talking to one another, that was great,” says Fish.
The project is part of the extensive education and family programs produced or hosted by the Japan Society. Its programs have broadened their reach nationally and internationally to share the institution’s resources with students and teachers across the country. Their website aboutjapan.japansociety.org makes materials available to educators everywhere, and attracts about 300,000 users per year. It also operates a 3-week study tour of Japan for junior high and high school educators from all over the U.S. and will soon launch a student exchange program.
Over 100 years old, the Japan Society is a nonpolitical nonprofit American organization that seeks to foster a greater understanding between the U.S. and Japan through a variety of innovative intercultural exchange programs. #