Machiko Romaine

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Professor Tosaku wrote in his lecture titled Language Education for the Global Era, “Language education is not only swayed by the leading contemporary theory of language education, but also its content and goals have been greatly influenced by the needs of the particular era. Moreover, both educational theories and learning methodologies of language learning have been facing constant changes with time.
Worldwide globalization made us aware that for both heritage language and foreign language speakers, the required knowledge, ability and skills/nature for using languages are changing. For meeting societal needs, different types of curricula, lesson plans, and evaluations from the traditional ones have been adopted to meet the needs of the diversified learners.”                                                                                                                                                  (Translation by MIRomaine)

Reiko invited me to work with this online entry-level Japanese class for a mixture of college and high-school students for our Course final project. Our goals are for students to:

  • acquire basic communication skills in Japanese language through using the technology.
  •  increase their awareness of cultural understanding through research and comparison,
  • advance their study skills for success in learning

Essential Questions:
What is a greeting?
What is unique about the concept of Japanese greetings?
What is the importance of body language in language learning?
What is reflective writing?

Standards Met:
Nets teachers standards:
Two Design and Develop digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments.
a. Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.

ACTFL Standards:
Standard 4.2: Students demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own culture.

Maketwo puppet showson greetings and add one cultural note.  /1b22590c45fd11095c46353d4214afb5

Make self-introduction video to appeal to future host family in Japan.


There are various sides of learning:
Japanese language and culture:

  • Understanding of how, when, with whom, which Japanese greetings should be exchanged.
  •  Choose proper sentences and contents to make one’s personal introduction appealing to a host family.
  • Mastery of body language use.

Meaning of the contents:

  • Creating an authentic situation where Japanese conversation greetings are exchanged.
  • In American Culture, students found similar choices on greetings.
  • Way to make the self-introduction interesting, so that the listeners will respond.

Technology use:

  • Voice Thread: recording and sharing
  • Vimeo: recording and sharing
  • Youtube: recording and sharing
  • Blackboard program: given
  • Drop box (for simultaneous grading)
  • Evernote (for simultaneous grading)                      

Some samples of Students work:
comments: She was just translating one scene of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ on her first attempt, so we discussed the awkwardness of Prince Aurora even speaking Japanese to the Prince!! For the revised version she crested the scene Princes study for her Japanese test with Prince.

comments: The consideration needs to be given for the choice of situation. Needs to speak with clarity and volume.

comments:He was disguised as James Bond, we allowed them to be somebody else and make sure that they give made-up personal information as long as they followed our instruction correctly.

A Student’s reflection sample:

Here is what I recommend:

Emphasize the following: (They are not Japanese language learning specific.)

  • Read the required tasks in class, promote good discussion
  • Show them a sample work of average grade. (We made our sample video to be about 4 out of 5 in our rubric, with 5 being excellent.)
  • Encourage or assign to teacher’s office hours for checking the pronunciation, vocabulary and delivery.
  • If the students are familiar, introduce them how to write their reflection. We have hardly received insightful reflections. (Reflection 101)
  • Giving feedback to each other also needs coaching.

As I wrote in my interim report, we found many unexpected obstacles in giving online classes. We could not watch the VoiceThreads in class and thus students have to watch them as homework. However, I found that giving effective instruction is the key to success in teaching on-line just as it is in class.

Also more than in a classroom situation, on-line class assignments requiring somewhat repetitive tasks, building on previous learning, seem to give students the satisfaction and enjoyment of learning in both language and technology..

Introduction of the VoiceThread and Vimeo was well taken. It was easy for the students to get feedback on each other’s work and since the feedback was recorded it became a part of their project work. I will continue to use VoiceThread and Vimeo.

It is clear that students are expected to gain life skills through foreign language classes such as promoting products or introducing items to customers, while they are developing their cognitive skills; including research skills, cultural awareness, reflective writing and forming questions, to name a few. Especially in foreign language education, use of technology enhances the creation of authentic leaning situations.

We are now on to the next project where they are producing a promotional 5 min video to show their lunch choices as a restaurant owner.

I would like to share my comments on a recent Bloomberg article on ‘Unholy alliance against online learning’

I agree with many comments that the article’s opening lines are a bit strange. It could be telling us either that college teaching is not challenging for the instructor, or that the lack of competition and opposition to change reduces the pressure for quality education.


Quality and competition is an issue in Japan as well. Two days ago, the newly appointed Minister of Education and Science denied requests by several junior colleges to expand their programs to four years. Her reason was that there are 800 colleges in Japan, and instead of increasing the quantity, the quality of education needs to be looked at.

Typically, quality evaluation is left to accreditation bodies, but accreditation has its problems, since many members of the accreditation body are ex- or current teachers and administrators with little knowledge of what is expected in the real world. They have to follow strict, traditional guidelines to assess the school, curricula and activities, and often the duration of their site visits are limited to a few days or less.

Holistically measuring business (?) aspects of educational institutions is not easily done. But when the community sees a need for on-line classes or four-year colleges, shutting down changes by taking one side of the argument or applying political power will only hurt eager learners.





The challenges of increasing students’ deeper understanding of language learning through an online course were greater than Reiko and I had anticipated. One of our goals is to increase their cultural understanding with language use, not just for Japanese language use, but also with similarities in their native language.


Although the classes are held three times a week for 50 minutes each via the Blackboard program, where we can see the students’ faces through the computer monitor, it is not easy to evaluate, respond, question and supply what they need.

At this college entry-level Japanese language and culture course, the students don’t seem to utilize the teacher’s office hours where they can seek help. We had to make it clear that signing up for the office-hour helps them produce quality work and pronunciation, and this effort will be reflected in their grades.

The first assignment was to make two video puppet shows of pre-assigned Japanese greetings with cultural explanations. The products were mere translations of the greetings. After they received the feedback from peers and teachers, they all wrote fair reflection papers. Based on the findings from the first assignment, we decided to communicate with the students with clearer descriptions of the task requirements for the next project.

The result of the second project was a bit better, but they were pretty much the same as the first project. The students didn’t understand the most important cultural aspects of the requirement. This was to make a self-intro video to a future host family in Japan. What they made were simple self-intro videos, with no interest shown of their intention to visit Japan.
After a good discussion and feedback session in class with the students about their self-intro videos, students have agreed to remake the video.

Although the students’ vocabulary and grammar skills are limited since they have only had two months Japanese classes — and we don’t expect much in details or depth — we know they can do better.

Stay tuned; the final products will be shared here in December!

According to the Sunday morning TV program in Tokyo, there were four separate arrests between June 2012 and today for cyber-scare notices in Japan. These include:

– The bomb scare of Ise Shrine: one of the most sacred shrines in Japan,
– A kindergarten bomb scare
– A school bomb scare
– An indiscriminate killing notice.
Four men in different parts of Japan were arrested when they were discovered through their IP addresses, which were identified as the origin of sender of the notices. Their lives took a downward fall in spite of their denials, and they were formally turned over to the public prosecutor’s office. A rumor states that one of them has to resign from the college where he has been a student.

I couldn’t find any of these incidents reported in English online papers, although economy and foreign relations related news is extensively covered.

The end of this saga came very suddenly for those four men. One of the major news media companies (TBS) received a notice from the so-called ‘True culprit’ saying that those four are not responsible for the incidents. This was followed by the customary ”formal apology” with three police officers bowing in front of TV cameras.







      Then there were explanations on how to hi-jack people’s IP addresses and remotely control their PCs through downloaded free applications or/and 2 channel in which some viruses were imbedded. The communications were sent through several overseas servers so that they couldn’t be easily traced.

If one leaves a virus-infected PC for over certain length of time, the hackers can use the embedded camera to see if you are in front of the screen or not, then if you are not there the hacker will go into your hardware and do anything the hacker wants. There was fake evidence left by the hackers to make the police to believe that the innocent person was responsible for the action, such as leaving drafts and history of site visits.

Three points stuck in my head from the Sunday morning program: 1) convenience reduces the security, 2) that we are connected means we are chained, and 3) there are things that we know we can do but we don’t do.

The program then went on to discuss the importance of teaching technology ethics and literacy in the early stages of education.

We still have a lot of work to do.

For the Course 5 final project, we are working with students who take on-line foreign language course on the East Coast of the United States. In our case study, two public school students and four college students are enrolled in this program. The class is offered during their school hour (9-10am their time) and the course is treated as a normal class given in school. Due to the small enrollment for the less frequently taught subject, this case Japanese language, the instructor resides overseas.

Time difference is one challenge, and technology use is the other. For giving instructions, the Blackboard program is used: seven screens are viewed at one time, including a larger screen for the instructor. However opening the screen slows down other functions so we decided to shut the screen during class.

We co-teachers planned to have a face to face discussion on screen on ‘greetings, actions and behavior’ to increase the students’ awareness on importance and meaning of exchanging ‘greetings’ in our society, but the discussion ended up as a typing session. Although we had a good exchange of ideas as we expected the hope for seeing students’ reactions were not fulfilled.

We were going to show two sample videos that we made as scaffoldings for their project examples, we couldn’t. At US public schools, Internet video viewing is banned. They could be a way to get special permission to allow access to view the video in class, however going through the red tape takes time and effort for the oversea instructor. Instead we assigned the high school students to view the videos as an assignment at home. So far the necessary information seems to be reaching to the students on time, but there seem to be many unexpected obstacles to running online classes smoothly.

In a foreign language class, where most of the contents in lessons are rather basic—like the exchange of greetings, weather, likes and dislikes, school life, home—helping to increase students’ critical thinking skills is a challenge. For students to come up with relevant questions regarding what they are leaning in Japanese, and the case of my classes, finding a connection to their own culture and lives, a comparison to their own cultural issues help students come to an ‘aha’ moment.
For instance, when you read the recent article on the revised salutation rules in the British Royal Family as decreed by Queen Elizabeth II, we learn about the connection between social order, bloodline and the show of respect when greeting other royals. One sees the similarity in Japanese greetings, where age and social hierarchy influence not only greetings, but also the honorifics in speech and writings.

What are critical thinking skills anyway? Bloom’s Taxonomy comes to my mind first. I mentioned Bloom’s Taxonomy in an earlier blog as one of the YIS Coetail assignments. It was titled: “Life long learners,” and I discussed that we teacher needs to be facilitators and good models for students to be life long learners.
2001 Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: Elevating discourse to promote critical thinking skills

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After listening to Dr. Cummins’ speech on the importance of having a mother tongue for having a clear identity who one is, I came to realize that the lesson of developing the creative, evaluative and analytical skills building starts at home. What we really need is a bog site or workshop for interested parents.

At the beginning of the Coetail work, I wrote the above blog post for the November 15, 2011 assignment: Copyrights East and West, based on my own experience as a foreign student in the United States. Even Japan has a rather unique interpretation of copyrights, copying someone’s exam answers and submitting them as one’s own answers is not accepted. That is clearly considered as ‘cheating’.

Yesterday I watched the CNN news, reporting on the recent incident at Harvard.

As a language teacher, when I read submitted work by a student, I can see his or her face in the writing. I can even hear him or her reading it. When the work has been edited heavily by someone-else, I start to feel unnatural about the work, and start to look for proofs. This may be teacher’s instinct or one may call it a mismatch with the information on file. I have seen the computer program to check the close similarities of English composition and determine whether or not the writing is original. I was wondering why the assistant professor thought this was the time to teach everyone a lesson. It is clear that the educational system has failed to do its job of teaching these 100+ students the right way to work “collaboratively”.

Listening to the news at Harvard, I started to wonder if we have been doing our job to prepare the students for what they will really face. The comment by the Crimson editor was disturbing since he found that most of the students who were questioned were confused and did not know what they have been accused of. A University of Maryland administrator commented that colleges around the US would use this as another educational opportunity for the students to be a better scholar and/or leader. A couple of comments expressed to this news were also disturbing since they don’t think this isnews. However do we teachers know how to effectively discuss the importance of academic integrity in class to avoid having future cheating in exams?

At Coetail, we found that as early as kindergarten we have to make the students aware that thereis a difference between the original work and somebody else’s work to which the credit needs to be given. The product of a collaborative work or individual work needs to be clearly marked. It is too easy to take someone’s work or idea from the open-space, such as the Internet, and submit it as one’s own, but that is stealing. Except in the world of music, as it seems that remixing of certain short phrases are not considered copied work.

Whenever I walk across Roppongi corner, which is one of the popular crossings in Tokyo, I always see a fruit stand outside of the market called ‘Marche’ in French. The meaning is interesting: to walk. Also, the original store was named Marusho, similar to the French word, so I can’t stop chuckling at the originality of the store name.  The fact is that there are plenty of expensive fruits on the stand as the photo shows, and no one is watching it. There may be a camera watching the stand, but if the stand were in another country, the fruits on the stand may disappear in no time. And some may say it is stupid to leave the goods unattended.

My point is that the classroom is not the only place where ethics or value discussions take place; it needs to begin at family level, at home and society. I see punishments may stop students from cheating, but the discussion requires involvement of all the members of the society for establishing and sharing common views, values, understanding and behavior.


It has been a great year of learning at COETAIL at YIS. Thank you everyone. I leaned how to connect and share with teachers who have similar interests, and reflect on and apply what I learned. The reading materials and discussions with other members definitely sharpened my cognition as an educator.

For the final project for Course 4, I chose to revise the unit I enjoyed the most in recent years. This ‘Communication’ course was done in both Japanese and English. Since the students in this HS-level language arts course demonstrated their Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency in English better than in Japanese, I allowed them to run their research in English; however, their presentations both writing and speaking were in Japanese.

The original project only had a research-presentation form. For the revised project I’ve added two extra components: collect others’ opinions, and summarize the collected data adding one’s own reflections.

During this past year, I re-learned the value of listening to others’ reaction and feedback. Since true communication is only assured when the received message matches with the sender’s, through surveying the reaction to one’s message one can surely polish the content and manner of presentation, making it clear and to the point.

Current brain research confirms the effectiveness of such





Personal learning, PBL, problem-based learning, project-based learning,

As we discussed various types of learning, it became clear to me that there is no one learning style or teaching method appropriate for all.

First, educators need to know what kind of social and economic community the students and parents are from. Second, they should know expectations the community has from the school, both academically and socially.

When we studied about successful project-based learning in the United States, we realized the difference between their students’ backgrounds and expectations, and the backgrounds and expectations of students at international schools in Tokyo.

When we looked at challenge-based learning, we found that this learning style may have a problem covering the basic facts that the students should learn in class. When challenge-based learning builds its curriculum based on student inquiry, it will be a challenge for educators to incorporate other necessary building skills.

Thus, we as a group suggested to build the lesson on challenge-based learning as follows:

  1. Gather people’s resumes, curriculum, and students’ project results of various kinds.

  2. Discuss the strengths and recommendations of each genre.

  3. Based on the questions and recommendations from the group, discuss the project ideas.

Using such a process to derive and develop project ideas is more likely to result in project ideas relevant to their lives, and applicable to their futures.