Pupils of Nankadai Higashi Elementary School near Osaka are learning firsthand the significance of communicating with their counterparts in other countries via the Internet.

The school’s Net program is at the stage now where some pupils participated in two videoconferences with South Korean children attending Hanshin Elementary School in the second half of last year. A third dialogue is slated for April, according to Shin Dong Kyu, principal of the private school in Seoul.

The children spoke English at the first conference but switched in the second to their respective native tongues, with the exchange translated by interpreters.

“The children were very pleased with the videoconferences,” Shin said, explaining that they were the outcome of e-mail correspondence.

The pupils began exchanging e-mail after Shin learned from a teacher at Hanshin High School that a Japanese elementary school wanted to open online communications with Korean children.

Besides the videoconferences, the e-mail also led to an exchange of visits by teachers. The two schools hope to realize visits by pupils, too.

“We have expanded (those we are in contact with over the Net) in stages from third-graders in neighboring schools to sixth-graders in other countries,” said Yuji Hase, deputy principal of Nankadai Higashi Elementary School in Kawachinagano, Osaka Prefecture.

He said his school’s children now exchange e-mail with children in 34 countries.

“The children’s eyes are glued to the computer displays when searching the Internet for something they want to know,” teacher Shoji Umeda said.

Umeda is busy building up facilities for the inauguration of Net teaching in April 2002 under new teaching guidelines.

Videoconferencing in the Japan-South Korea exchanges is not smooth because of the difference in communications speeds between the two countries. Umeda was chagrined that Japanese schools are not set up to match Korea’s ultra high-speed circuits.

Still, the Net program at Nankadai Higashi Elementary School would be nothing if not for the help of “information education” advisers like Shoko Aizawa.

Aizawa, of Omiya, Saitama Prefecture, offers her 16 years of computer expertise to teachers like Umeda. She is dispatched to schools under the government’s emergency employment measures.

“At a time when the use of computers is considered a matter of course,” she said, “computer education at school is necessary so that children will not be alienated.”

“Like learning to read and write, basic knowledge, manners and skills on the means of expression are about the three things (that make up information education). It is also important for lower-grade children to enjoy computers with their friends in a noisy and happy atmosphere.”

Information education advisers are hired by local governments on a temporary basis. Their task is to support elementary and junior high school teachers teaching information education with personal computers.

In Aizawa’s case, she visited an elementary school in Omiya, Saitama Prefecture, three days a week for five months during fiscal 1999. She worked with teachers together in the classroom and also helped them prepare teaching materials.

Aizawa started a Web site to inform teachers of the existence of the adviser system. And at schools where she was assigned, she helped teachers start their own sites.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology plans to install computers with Internet access in all schools across the nation by 2005 under its national information education project.

However, the adviser system faces extinction at the end of March 2002, when the government’s emergency employment measures are terminated.

Making full use of personal computers in schools, Aizawa said, can take root only with the help of those who want to offer their computer expertise and teachers who wish to receive help.

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