My current Japanese 400C provides students multiple opportunities to study collaboratively with the upper-level Japanese students at Mount Holyoke College (MHC), MA by using technologies. This course employs content and language integrated learning (CLIL) approach, and students are expected to gain the new knowledge about the Japanese language through the reading materials, which my friend at MHC has been developing.
The current upper-level Japanese courses at Connecticut College (CC) are facing some administrative as well as pedagogical issues: 1) recent years there are chronically small enrollments; 2) the level of individual student’s language skills varies widely; 3) it is difficult for each student to find a peer who obtains the same Japanese proficiency level in class; 4) there is lack of peer pressure due to familiarization among themselves as well as with instructors, which creates an ineffective atmosphere to motivate the students to improve their language skills.
These issues are not unique at Connecticut College (CC); rather I found that the Japanese programs at small liberal arts colleges faced similar issues. New technologies have enabled us to supply students at both campuses with peer-reading sessions through Zoom, email communication among the students as well as between the students and both instructors, Zoom presentation sessions, and survey after presentation practice as well as final presentation in Google forms. We are also recording peer-reading sessions and Zoom presentations, and uploading them in the shared folder in Google Drive, which we hope helps each student to evaluate her/his own performance for their assignments.
We have unintended positive outcomes by using technologies. This winter we had more snow than usual, and there were multiple times the college was closed. One cancellation happened on the day presentation was scheduled. In the morning I hoped that there would be no cancellation despite the fact that powder snow started covering the ground. My friend at MHC emailed me, “we don’t have snow here.” I had a bad feeling. An email came telling us the college would be closed at noon. I decided to stay on campus for the sake of presentation. Then another email came telling that there would be a parking ban. “Oh, NO!!!!!” Now I had to leave the campus.
I told my students to stay in the room and to wait for an invitation for Zoom session from me through email. I went back home to send out invitations for Zoom session. Thanks to Zoom we were successfully able to have student’s presentations by connecting five locations; a classroom in MHC; a student’s room at Smith College; two student’s rooms at CC; and my place, and we recorded the session as well!!!
We found another interesting effect of using Zoom. Time to time we asked our students if they would prefer not doing certain assignments or not. The students on both campuses always answer, “I can do this.” They never say to us, “NO.” It seems that they are motivated to show their best to the students on the other campus. We are pleased with our student’s attitude. Probably I will be able to report to you after this course whether they maintain this attitude throughout the semester.
Lastly I would like to share with you what happened last year when we offered the same course. I had one male student in the course at CC. He spent two semesters in Korea when he was a junior. One of the female students at MHC came from Korea. Apparently they had many things to talk about. One day my friend’s teaching assistants said to her, “Today you will have a session with Connecticut College.” My friend asked how they figured it out. Then they told her that they knew because the student wore make-up. Hmm…. It IS indeed interesting!!