Kyoto Summer School Update

Today was day four of the Kyoto Summer school. Over the past three days we’ve seen the two groups of students really getting along a lot better each day. We are not sure if it’s familiarity with each other, or the jet lag wearing off that is contributing most to this. The Modesto students have been having video conferences and online/in-world meetings with the new Kyoto students (freshmen) back in Kyoto late in the day (early morning in Kyoto).

On Monday the new Kyoto students interviewed the Modesto students in a video conference. They asked questions like what were their hobbies, dreams, favorite music, and other personal questions. The entire class was taking careful notes, as this information would be needed two days later in-world to find their partner’s avatars.

Kyoto Students Interviewing Modesto Students via Video Conference

Yesterday, the two groups of students logged into the PacRimX Islands in Second Life to try and locate their partners, armed only with their notes from the video conference a few days prior. The Modesto students were distributed around all four islands, so no island would be overloaded with avatars. We had over 70 avatars in-world on our four islands during this activity. As in the picture below, many of the students clumped up in groups to talk and exchange items with each other.


Avatar Hunt In-world

This summer we have been leaving the video conference link open anytime that we are interacting with the Kyoto students in-world. This allows us to record the interactions, and also gives us a convenient communications channel to coordinate the activities in-world between teachers. The students have started to use this open link to have conversations with each other, sometimes staying after class to chat.

It’s really quite amazing to see the difference in students from last summer to now. We have had some great interactions between the two groups, with students on both sides singing, dancing, and being very animated in their conversations with each other. In a few instances we even have had to ask them to wrap it up when the interviews and conversations go long and we have other students waiting. This is quite the contrast from last year’s video conferences. One big difference is last year most conversations were one to one. This year we have two and three students on each side of the video conference, and this seems to put them at ease more.

The visiting Kyoto students are working with their Modesto counterparts to produce a music video as their first project. The first few days were filled with the students sharing music from their respective countries. Once they decide on a song they storyboard the music video and then grab a video camera and still camera and head out on campus to film their footage. I’ve seen students filming stop action sequences in the hallways and stairwells, others are outside capturing scenes around campus, and one group had a full band assembled in the quad complete with electric guitars, drums and other instruments.

Students Planning A Music Video Project

It’s really going to be interesting to see the music videos when they are done. We had to tweak our network configuration in the video lab to accommodate the increased load of having so many students editing video at the same time. Tomorrow we go out on our first field trip to a popular tourist spot, and each of the teams will have cameras and a single video camera to capture scenes for their DVD projects. I’ll post some pictures from this trip over the weekend.

So far the students have been exceptionally cooperative, polite, and involved in the projects at hand. It will be interesting to see how they do tomorrow out of the classroom socially interacting and yes, shopping! So many of the Modesto students are now expressing an intense interest in participating in an exchange trip to Kyoto this next school year. While the Kyoto students have been coming to Modesto for close to twenty years now, we stopped sending student to Kyoto after the 911 attacks. We are both hopeful that we can get the Modesto exchanges to Kyoto started up again this year.

Next week we have board members and other visitors coming to see this experimental summer school. With any luck, this exchange will set the stage for future summer school exchanges with Kyoto.

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