At the end of 2017, two classrooms on different continents shared their cultural experiences with each other. Here’s how they did it.

Written by Yuka Ishiyama
Translated by Takayuki Doi

Photo by Lin Mei on Unsplash

From November to December 2017, Edmodo and Zkai helped create a global classroom for a few elementary schools in Japan, connecting them to fifth and sixth graders at elementary schools in Australia.

Students in the global classroom were grouped into teams of three to four. They studied their own national cultures and events, then presented to the rest of the class in Edmodo. Japanese students spoke in English while Australian students spoke in Japanese, expressing their cultures with their own words.

How did we do it? Here’s a step-by-step process:

Step 1:

In each physical classroom, the students discussed with each other about what national culture or events they will introduce to the other culture.

Then, we asked them how to explain it. The students thought about it in their own language and worked with teachers to convert it to the other language.

It was a great opportunity for students to learn about the culture of their home country, such as the meaning and the cultural background of certain festivals, ceremonies and celebrations that students are participating in.

Posts from a Japanese student

Step 2:

Students from the Japanese elementary school created English cards while the students from the Australian elementary school created Japanese cards together with the images that explains the culture in each team, which were all posted on Edmodo.

Posts from an Australian student

The teacher only asked each student to comment or like on posts from the other country.

Posts from Japanese students

Originally, there were no regulations in posting but the Japanese students examined what they want to say in English by themselves. They voluntarily translated their comments into English and Australian students used Japanese in posting their comments.

What Did We Learn?

Fostering ICT literacy

For many students, it was their first experience with social media. Students were able to see posts outside their usual social circles. There were responses to their posts and they had a more interactive experience, hearing about other cultures directly from people living in that society.

Using the Internet to Connect New Cultures

Students used Google to search for images that will fit to explain their country’s culture. Although there were differences in confidence between each student, all students were able to try searching for images by using specific keywords.

Improve motivation for learning

The Japanese students examined the posts in English and returned comments in English while the Australian students examined the Japanese posts and returned comments in Japanese. The excitement from this project was much greater than what the teacher expected and the students were more motivated to learn than in previous activities.

Also, students were able to experience cooperative learning by helping friends when they struggled to post comments or express themselves.


Summary

Communicating between two classrooms with a language barrier showed us some valuable takeaways:

  • Unlike the English language, which requires spaces between words, the Japanese language requires no spaces. Students were confused by this, as opposed to adults, who had already adjusted to this change.
  • The students enjoyed the activities over any particular learning motivation, resulting in a deeper, more memorable learning experience.
  • Because of their desire to express their sincere feelings with one another, students chose specific words and meanings when writing their comments.