The Effect of Intercultural Student Teaching Project that
Utilizes Information Communication Technology


Akemi Sakamoto, Kio University;
Shiyo Sakamoto, Shitennoji University;
Amanda Lippert, Punahou School



The presentation reported on a research project whose purpose was to examine the educational effects of an online intercultural student teaching project.


The online intercultural student teaching project took place between April 22 and April 24, 209, as a partial requirement for a Music Pedagogy course at a teacher-training program at a university in Nara, Japan. Six groups of college students enrolled in the course, three to seven students per each group, participated in the project. Each group planned and taught a lesson on traditional Japanese music to elementary school students in Hawaii. Internet-based free videoconferencing software called Skype was used for the lessons. Each side used a PC with a microphone, video camera and projector attached to it. The image from the other side was shown on a large screen by means of the projector. Table 1 below shows the teaching objective (musical element) and materials (songs) each group had chosen for their lesson.


Table 1:


Teaching Objectives

Teaching Materials


Japanese pentatonic scale

Daruma-san, Nabe-nabe, Tanko-bushi


Japanese pentatonic scale

Genkotsu-yama, Otera-no Osho-san



(Japanese singing style similar to vibrato)

Soran-bushi, Nabe-nabe, Amagi-goe


Japanese pentatonic scale

Daruma-san, Agarime Sagarime, Nabe-nabe


Japanese pentatonic scale

Daruma-san, Nabe-nabe



(Japanese singing style similar to vibrato)

Soran-bushi, Sakura Sakura, Nabe-nabe, Amagi-goe


Each lesson was video-recorded. The recordings were later used in reflection sessions where all the students enrolled in the course, including those who had not participated in the actual teaching, watched the recordings, wrote comments in a questionnaire and had discussions based on the written comments. The written comments have been collected and the discussions have been recorded for analysis.



(1) Language of instruction


98% of the students have made comments relating to this category. Although the students have studied English for 6 years, none of them had had much experience in using English in oral communication and lacked confidence in their English competence. Typical comments in this category are gWe revised the visual aids several times in order to make sure that the children would understand the Japanese scale without much verbal explanation,h gWe made our instructions and directions as short as possible because we couldnft memorize them,h and gWe had to think hard what was really necessary to teach and what was not because we wanted to limit the amount of verbal instructions.h The most common solutions taken by students were (a) using visual aids, mentioned by 86% of the students, (b) minimizing the amount of verbal explanation, mentioned by 68% of the students, and (c) focusing on the teaching objectives, mentioned by 52% of the students.



(2) Different cultural background


32% of the students have made comments relating to this category. The students had to teach foreign children living in a foreign country and it made them wonder how much knowledge they can assume that the children would have. Typical comments in this category are gWe thought Ocharaka would be a nice and fun song for teaching Japanese scale, but realized that it would be too difficult because the children might not be familiar with the game,h gIfve never realized that this simple song had so many culturally-laden aspects,h and gIt was difficult to imagine how the children would feel when they listened to this song because they might not share the same feeling towards cherry blossoms.h The most common solutions taken by students were (a) doubting the knowledge that they took for granted, mentioned by 28% of the students, and (b) not selecting materials that might be too culturally-laden and required much explanation, mentioned by 18% of the students.



(3) Limited interaction


86% of the students have made comments relating to this category. There was a time lag between each utterance and the response because of the distance. Although the video camera used in Japan was capable of zooming in and out, the video camera used in Hawaii was built into the PC and the students were only able to see the children at a fixed distance. Typical comments in this category are gIt was the first time I realized how much information I was getting from just being in the same classroom,h gWe tried to ask as often as possible if they really understood what we were saying because we couldnft see their reactions well,h and gI tried to focus on each child as much as possible because it was very difficult to tell if there were some confused children.h The most common solutions taken by students were (a) making frequent comprehension checks, mentioned by 82% of the students, and (b) wait for the teacher in Hawaii to help out, mentioned by 46% of the students.


The above-mentioned restrictions have forced the students from the planning stage to reconsider and revise their teaching techniques, some of which they had taken for granted and had not been consciously aware of. According to their comments, it made them realize the importance of focusing on the teaching objectives when making lesson plans (34%), using non-verbal communication such as visual aids and gestures (78%), thoroughly studying the materials (62%), monitoring studentsf understanding (74%), and paying attention to individual students (32%). Although the importance of such points have been taught in various courses in the teacher training program, it seems that the immense impact of the experience of the online intercultural student teaching project helped considerably in raising their awareness. Considering the fact that only four weeks of teaching practicum is being required to earn an elementary school teacherfs license in Japan, it can be expected that raising studentsf awareness on such aspects of teaching before the practicum will have a strong positive effect.