In addition to school visits, the program at Hokkaido University of Education (HUE) Kushiro provided Jenny and I with the opportunity to run three classes of the University's "Curriculum Redesign" course. This course is held with 3rd year HUE education students, and gave us a chance to present and hold discussions about key ideas in education; sharing those from Canada and learning about those from Japan.
Tomita-sensei, one of the professors running the course described the outline and importance of the course to us: 3 semesters, i) taking students out of the Japanese school context and objectively looking at school systems around the world, ii) thinking of themselves as learners before teachers; breaking out of the traditional Japanese ways of learning and considering how they can bring this experience into their way of teaching, and iii) applying the ideas to create unique lesson and unit plans. As all other courses at HUE are aimed towards assimilation into the current education system and structure, this course is groundbreaking and crucial in the development of Japan's education system.
So far, we have taught two classes. In our first lesson, we concentrated on developing the idea that different students have different needs. This involved collaboration through discussion of how students needs are different. We left them with the question, "How can we support these diverse needs in our classrooms?". The next class we presented different techniques from our own courses including: Universal Design for Learning, Engineering Design Process, Inquiry-based Learning, Assessment As/Of/For Learning, and Understanding by Design.
Unfortunately, these studies were all completed in English with no Japanese translations available. After Tomita-sensei translated our introduction to the topics, we divided students into groups and assigned the task of translating the resources. Students used Google Translate, made sense of what they could, and shared with the class. While many students were able to glean information from the texts, the translations from Google were poor, and some of the nuance of content was lost in translation. This made it significantly more challenging for the students to understand the content.
This struggle really brought to light the barriers to global knowledge sharing. While we're moving towards an education system with International collaboration through internet sharing and bridging of languages through technologies such as Google Translate, we're definitely still in the beginning stages. This perspective allows us to truly appreciate unique opportunities such as TAB. It allowed us to build connections - learning about different world education systems, and sharing our own - through the facilitation of a bilingual translator such as Tomita-sensei.
As TAB students, this rare opportunity also comes with responsibility. We have the responsibility of sharing what we have learned from our experiences with educators in Canada. Through this we can amplify the impact of this program, and help foster the development of an International educational community.
This responsibility holds true for the HUE exchange students that visited the University of Calgary, as well. Shinya, a HUE student that attended U of C's exchange last February and has been a tutor and friend throughout our time in Japan, has really exemplified this idea. Learning about Assessment As/For/Of learning during lectures in Canada, he has applied to the Masters program in Hiroshima to develop the first research of this kind in Japan. Through his work he hopes to spread his knowledge of assessment within the context of Japanese schools.
My goal is to find ways to meaningfully bring my learning from Japan to Canada, in a way that expands beyond just my own practice.