Conference to introduce results from the 100-School Networking Project (Phase II)
Elementary school meeting

A Lesson using Teleconferencing to Communicate with other Children

Koichi Urasato, Shido Elementary School

1. Introduction

With support from the CEC, we are preparing for a full-scale joint study using teleconferencing to establish a network and to develop teaching materials on Japan's various regions. With help from the city school board, we have rented teleconferencing equipment and installed an ISDN line.

It's been four years since our school received computers, and a year and a half since communication equipment was installed. During this time, we've used this equipment for education, and to improve computer literacy among our children.

When elementary and junior high schools in Karatsu city received communication equipment, members of groups discussing subject curriculum and preparing materials created home pages for each school, and a home page for "Our Karatsu City," in which information from each school and area are gathered and linked. We run this home page as a network in our area, while planning and examining lessons in which children can do their own research, exchange information with children in other schools, and generally find more effective and profound ways to study.

1) Create a home page. Collect data that can be used for research, view home pages of other city elementary schools, and collect information.

2) Exchange e-mail. Answer children's questions on the lesson and exchange them with other schools, along with other information. Use the Internet to ask questions and make proposals to the city government.

3) Acquire and use information that can be used for teaching materials. Acquire information from home pages for social studies and science classes, and use to create teaching materials (HTML materials.)

4) Correspond with other schools, using a teleconferencing system. Use the network for research in our social studies classes. Participate in Chicago's Japan Fiesta.

5) Trial of a simultaneous lesson based on information about our city, using an ISDN line, with support from the 100-School Networking Project.

6) Establish a small-scale, in-school LAN. Make files in the teachers' room available to all teachers; make the library more of an information center, so that information from the Internet can be used just like books and newspapers.

2. Study using a teleconferencing system

During the social studies lesson on traditional handicrafts for fifth graders, children did research on protecting and improving traditional handicrafts from our region, and on what people in other regions do for the same purpose, in order to put together a proposal to submit to the city government. We used a teleconferencing system on the Internet for research, and exchanged ideas and opinions with people outside our school, which helped us create well-rounded proposals.

3. Use of home pages, and conducting a lesson with a teleconferencing system

In the Education Fiesta sponsored by Saga Prefecture Board of Edu. and held November 16, we conducted a lesson with a teleconferencing system (Phoenix) linking three schools in the Karamatsu region: The Hirano Branch of the Kyuragi Elementary School, located in a mountainous area in Kyuragi; Kakara Elementary School and junior high school, located on an island; and Shido Elementary School, located in town. The purpose of the lesson was to teach children from each school about each other's lives and the geographical differences of the areas where they live.

There's a history behind implementation of this project. During research on the geographical characteristics of local areas for social studies classes for third and fourth graders, children looked up each school's home page. Children from the computer club at our school and children from Kakara Elementary School researched popular locations along shopping streets and thought up plans for creating the perfect shopping street. They also studied the Kakara area and the lives of its fishermen. They corresponded with each other by e-mail, FAX, and through their respective home pages, gradually building a closer relationship as time passed. Their desire to meet each other lead us to idea of holding a joint lesson using a teleconferencing system.

A fisherman from Kakara island explained the equipment used for fishing by demonstrating the equipment. A shop owner talked about efforts to make the street more attractive, and told us that store owners are interested in what the children have to say. After the lesson, the children talked about their impressions: "Now I feel closer to the mountain and island areas"; "I'd like to go there to play"; and "I understand it pretty well because I knew the person who was talking."

On December 16 and 18, during a lesson for the unit "Life in Various Regions and Our Nation, The Lives of People in Mountainous Areas" in social studies classes for fourth graders, we looked up home pages, acquired and exchanged information, and took part in a joint lesson to learn about problems in each region. We did this using the CU-SeeMe teleconferencing system.

On December 17, using this system, we took part in another joint lesson, in which choruses sang together and in which we played a game, where children talk about the positive points of their school district.

4. Conclusion

In the joint lesson, children who live far away from each other could ask questions to each other face to face and work together in real-time by using communication tools. I think this is very effective in creating more vivid understanding and in rousing children's interest.

We plan to establish a small-size, in-school LAN based in our library, so that the library will function not only as a reading center, but as an information center, where we can access information from all over the world. I believe this will allow children to experience acquiring, selecting, processing, and providing information related to their studies, and help them express themselves more fully.

I also hope that elementary schools in our region will use the information database, "Our Karatsu City," and their home pages to exchange information with other schools, for study projects and in creating educational materials.

The Internet is an effective tool for independent study, for self-expression, and for creating deeper understanding, through the exchange of ideas and opinions with others. I plan to continue working on lessons that make use of teleconferencing, and to find more effective ways we can use the Internet for education.

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