A local paper in Kyoto visited Kyoto Gauken High School back in July and observed the students interacting with American students during the bridge building excercises. They have recently published an article in their local Kyoto newspaper about the PacRimX Project. There was a delay in posting this, as we had to have it translated to English to post (link to Japanese article on Kyoto Shimbun website at bottom of article):
Virtual exchange with American Highschool
English conversation through Avatars
The students of Kyoto Gakuen learn English in Second Life – a virtual 3D world in the Internet, and they communicate with American high school students through an avatar. In the Fall, they will create costumes for the Jidai Festival – one of the three big festival in Kyoto to introduce the history of Kyoto to American students. Many students say, “ It’s fun to learn English this way. “
Second Life is a virtual 3D space created by an American enterprise. The users make their own avatar and which can move freely in this space. The users design their clothes or buildings, and they can chat with other people using their keyboards. Kyoto Gakuen has a sister school relationship with American high schools in Modesto, California, and this program was offered to them by Modesto school district. Kyoto Gakuen started participating in this program in May. 35 students of the International ICT course and 30 American students are joined together in this international exchange program.
The stage of this school exchange is the exclusive virtual island called Pacific Rim. Both students visit this island and exchange cultures or take lessons such as making bridges or planting each other’s flags hand in hand. When they work on these projects, they have to cooperate or decide the details in English. This Fall, Kyoto students will make ancient costumes for Jidai Festival and invite American students (to visit).
Shuji Okawa (15) says “ When I speak up to them, American students respond kindly. I didn’t like English (before), but now I find it fun.” Yasuaki Kuromiya(57) who is in charge of International ICT course, says “ Students can move freely in this virtual space, and they can talk to a number of students at the same time. This forges close ties with each other. We would like to continue with this program and expand it further.”