I hope you are enjoying a successful entry into the winter season, even with the warm temperatures. This post has some impressions from an accreditation visit to Yokohama International School in Japan, and Brillantmont International School in Lausanne, Switzerland. They had some interesting work in: using IT to connect with parents, transnational diversity and programs with their local community.
Imagine if your class Moodle was open to all parents and faculty in the school community. Both Yokohama and Brillantmont operate that way. Brillantmont is a boarding school of 150 students coming from over forty countries around the world. About half of the students live a plane flight away from the school. The teachers at Brillantmont all put up their daily assignments, daily gradebook and even student absences and lates onto their page on the school website for parents, teachers and faculty to see. This policy could be seen as an invasion of the privacy of the classroom, or a move toward transparency, accountability and sharing of information. Brillantmont has committed to using ICT as a means of daily connection with their parents from all over the world.
I asked the Deputy Director if the daily updates led to more emails and calls from parents, she hesitated then answered “no.” She hesitated because at the beginning she did hear more from parents, but since so many issues became clear early on, in the long run there were fewer problems. The Head Housemaster also said that such communication allowed advisors to handle small issues before they became big issues. The Deputy Director said that it took about two years to successfully transition all of the teachers to the system. The Housemaster said that most of the calls to him were along the line of: “I see my child is behind in his homework, please restrict him to his room this evening to get his work done.” I did not have a chance to talk with students on the program, but the Deputy Director remarked that preferred having the homework schedule laid out ahead of class. Submitted work also had a time stamp. Teachers could change the homework schedule to adjust to daily work in class and Department Chairs could quickly see the outlines of each teacher’s class.
Here’s a photo of the main Brillantmont buildings in Lausanne:
Yokohama also has what they call a Learning Hub. The Hub is a web blog that is open to students faculty and parents. The Hub does not have a daily gradebook, but daily assignments and activities are posted there. It also works as a blog: many student assignments are posted there, and parents can see their child’s work as soon as it is posted. Yokohama is promoting digital literacy, so many of the posts were student recordings, videos, animated PowerPoints, small web pages, computer simulations, and written reports with inserts and links, etc. Instead of instantly posting grades, YIS teachers posted a student update at the end of every month. The school provides ongoing in-service training to instruct teachers on how to use the new ICT following the CoETaIL program (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy).
Here’s the link to the home page of their Learning Hub: http://blogs.yis.ac.jp/
Both schools had diverse parent bodies, both geographically and culturally, and they want to use ICT to better connect with their parents. On a curricular level, Yokohama was fully invested in the IB Programme whereas Brillantmont consciously chooses not to use the IB. Their reasoning is interesting and a topic for another post.
Moving on from computers, the topic of diversity differed from US schools. The focus of presentations while I was at the schools was on transnational students. By transnational, I mean a student who has a parent from the USA, a parent from Korea, and is growing up in Japan. One of Anna Mac’s best friends here has that background. Her mother grew up near Santiago, Chile. Her father grew up near London, and she is growing up in Geneva. When she is asked “where are you from?” it is a much longer answer than when someone asks me that question. It is even hard for her to answer “what is your mother tongue?”
In the US, diversity often leads to discussion of white privilege and ethnic minorities trying to find a place in the country. Here diversity leads more to how to weave together different cultures. The international schools do not have a majority group. The largest national group at Brillantmont (Swiss) makes up 10% of the school. The largest national group at Yokohoma (Japanese) makes up 30% of the school and usually includes and English speaking parent. The posters about transnational presentations pointed to workshops on how these children create identity and how they negotiate various cultural worlds. What did I witness in the classrooms? All the students speak English well, but with many different accents and with many different types of phrases. (Of course, these kids would be confounded by our walk-back, pay-back, Outback…) It’s a twist of the play Pygmalion.
Below is a picture of the Monday morning assembly for the elementary school. Children, Teachers and Parents all participate:
Finally, Yokohama does a wonderful job of connecting the students to the local community. They have built an International Center for Japanese Culture on the campus. It is a preK-12 school and the students experience various required courses in Japanese music, art, calligraphy, tea ceremony and literature. The Museum of Modern Japanese Literature is on the same block as the school. Then YIS shares the ICJC for an Evening Community School. In addition, the school is in the international district of the city, so it hosts language schools in Dutch and Italian on campus. All of these activities bring a wide range of people through their doors. YIS effectively shares its resources and skills with the broader city.
Here is a picture of some students playing the Koto:
Please enjoy the holidays.