Here’s some ancient writing…like, real ancient, that I dug up.
As the internet moves from the novelty stages of
its relatively new existence and into the realm of
a more fully integrated tool for use in the foreign
language classroom, educators are faced with questions
of its proper uses. The most apparent uses of email
for "keypals", a variation on the "penpal"
theme of pre-internet days, have been tried and quickly
worn thin; teachers are now searching for new and better
ways to more fully exploit the potential of the new
This article is a preliminary description of one
aspect of a project carried out in the Spring and Fall
Terms, 1996 at Nagoya University that takes the concept
of the "keypal" and more fully embellishes
the role to that of a "cultural resource informant":
one who acts in the capacity of a "supplemental
teacher" working with students on a one-to-one
basis to more fully expand on in-class coursework through
discussion and collaboration. This article will describe
the pedagogical justifications of content-based language
teaching; the steps involved in contacting the informants
and assembling the information they contributed on
a World Wide Web (WWW)-based page; matching students
to the individual correspondents; and finally, describe
ways in which this project can be adapted to classrooms
that have not yet gained access to internet resources.
McKenzie (1996) informs us that "Unless classrooms
are inquiry-based, project-based or problem-based,
it may be a waste of money to connect with the Internet.
Unless questions and research are central to life in
the classroom, the Internet may serve little purpose
worth the millions of dollars of infrastructure required
to establish a ‘robust’ connection to the Net."
With this in mind, the content-based nature of the
course could be more fully realized. The topic, Introduction
to Intercultural Communication, lent itself well to
content-based language teaching, as it could be used
with problem-based in-class subject matter. Further,
the course could be developed along the lines of themes
to be covered during the 13 – 15 week, 90-minute per
class span that each term required. The idea of the
correspondents to be used as cultural informants came
simply from the need of finding the best way to present
alternative views on the subject matter based on the
experiences of different peoples from different cultural
backgrounds of both the students and the teacher.
The shortness of the in-class contact hours was also
a prime motivator for seeking outside informants.
The author is a member of several "mailing lists."
These are electronic versions of discussion groups
wherein a person can submit correspondence to others
as a means of discussion of a topic, clarification
of previous correspondence or any other information
gathering or disseminating task. It is a step beyond
simple one-to-one email correspondence; that is, using
the internet to exchange messages of a personal nature,
much like regular mail, but at a greatly accelerated
response time. "Mailing lists" enable a single
author to exchange the same bit of information with
hundreds of others simultaneously, and based upon a
shared common interest in which the "Mailing List"
Because the author wished to compile a short list
of informants to help further the pedagogical goals
of this course, it was a natural step to write a brief
letter of introduction and an appeal for help. The
letters (appendix A) contained personal information
of the author and a short appeal to help. The lists
contacted included SIETAR, The International Society
for Intercultural Education, Training and Research’s
two lists, one for all members (approximately 300 worldwide),
and one specifically for members in Japan (approximately
50 members); SIT-Alumnet, a 250-strong list of Alumni
from the School for International Training, in Brattleboro,
Vermont, USA of which the author is a graduate and,
more specifically, the SIT-MATNET, a sub-list of SIT-Alumnet
containing approximately 70 language educators. All
in all, the author could quickly contact close to 700
people with two letters of inquiry, streamlining the
search for correspondents and contacting people with
a more direct interest in the project.
Giving Background Information on the course
After the informants responded to the initial inquiry,
the author sent a more detailed description of the
course. This was done to insure that the lines of communication
and feedback could be clearly established and maintained
between the author and the informants. Background information
(appendix B) on the course was also supplied by the
author to the correspondents to more fully integrate
their experiences into the course. The background information
included personal information about the author, what
the author envisioned as to the purpose of the course,
and an explicit statement on the author’s philosophy
of teaching in line with some of the macrostrategies
advanced by Kumaravadivelu (1994).
In later stages of the course, the author kept an
open narrative journal of the class, which was posted
to the correspondents weekly, shortly after each class
session and which a sample is included below (appendix
C). This again was done to maintain the lines of communication
between the author and the correspondents and to help
the correspondents more fully address the issues and
problems that any of the students may have encountered
either within the classroom context or in the context
of the internet-based task sheets that were part of
the requirement of the course.
Assembling addresses and descriptions
Twenty-seven people in total from various backgrounds
asked to join. The author, using a specialized word
processing program, was able to compile each person’s
request as it came in and built up a WWW page which
was integrated into the overall site containing the
other worksheets and resources to be used in the on-line
version of the course.
Some informants volunteered to withdraw from the
project for various, technically related reasons, but
the author did not find the technical problems to be
substantial for the informant’s withdrawl and advised
The WWW page contained, in the end, active links
to the email addresses of each of the informants, along
with brief personal biographies and an invitation to
the student to initiate the correspondence by simply
clicking on the highlighted name of the person.
Assigning homework to the students
Students were told to access the correspondent’s page
after first learning how to use the locally available
software for accessing the internet via email and the
WWW. Once students could access, the author sent email
with assignments for looking over the entire WWW site
and specifically at the page containing the information
about the correspondents.
Over the course of the next two to three weeks, a
number of small technical matters had to be overcome
before every student was properly matched with an informant.
Inevitably, more than one student chose the same informant
in a couple of cases, which were dealt with on a case-by-case
basis and to the satisfaction of both the author and
the informant. The students were unaware of these negotiations.
Applications for teachers without internet access
A project such as this does not require full internet
access for the student. Schools containing computer
labs can as easily use word processing in the same
way. It does, however, require that the teacher, at
least, has some degree of access to the internet, and
knowledge of the uses of email and WWW programs. The
advantages of this type of correspondence are many,
including fostering a more meaningful interaction between
students and others around the world, giving the students
more of the initiative in their inquiry-based project
work of this sort and allowing the students the opportunity
to see a point of view beyond that of the teacher in
order for them to become more inquiry-based and problem-solving
Disadvantages include more of a time lag between
correspondents and the students, a much heavier burden
on the teacher, who will act as the physical go-between
for the students and correspondents when s/he has to
upload and download all of the email that transpires,
and the corresponding lack of privacy between students
and informants when the teacher acts as mediator of
Language teaching is moving in the direction of a more
"learning-centered" environment as Edge (1996)
has noted, where the teacher acts not as a disseminator
of information, but as a resource pointer and problem-poser,
much along the lines of the Freireian (1971) approach
to teaching literacy.
Using the internet as a tool for this type of project
is just one of many practical uses that the author
has attempted to describe in this article.
The following is an excerpt from the text of a letter
sent to the lists described above.
I’m about to start teaching my course, entitled "introduction
to intercultural communication" to a class of
about 24 students, most of whom are Japanese (maybe
I’ll get one or two non-Japanese, too). As part of
the class, I ask students to correspond with someone
who has had experience either working in another culture,
or involved in an intercultural/interracial relationship.
Hmm. Do you know anyone like this? (^-^)/~
If you are interested in participating, and corresponding
for about three months with students who are MAINLY
studying English for communication, please send me
a private email with a very short (25 words or less)
mini-biography. I will post this biography on a webpage
along with a link to your email address.
I look forward to hear from some of you. I hope the
response is not too over/or under/whelming.
Following is an excerpt from the first letter sent to
the cultural informants on 26 September, 1996.
The purpose of this email is to give you some background
about what is happening in my little corner of cyberspace,
what I anticipate will happen, and some things I’d
like you to help me with. I’ll include a short bio
on myself for those who don’t know me which will include
my current philosophy of teaching, a list of WWW addresses
for the (always under construction) site which I have
prepared for the class, and a general appeal to give
me tips/advice/feedback and all the other good stuff
that comes from collaborative/cooperative projects
such as this. I’ve spent most of my waking hours preparing
this class, as it has become my ideal class for using
the internet as a supplement to content-based language
teaching. Good luck to us all!
_Who am I?_
I am a Chicago-born, suburban-Chicago raised, white
non-practicing Jewish 34-year old male. My Japanese
wife of 6 1/2 years is Atsuko. — I graduated from
UCLA (1986) with a BA in Creative Writing in Poetry,
and immediately went into the Peace Corps, where I
started my career in teaching to high school students
in Kenya. I taught English, Geography, History, Ethics
and started two school libraries at the two schools
I was at. After Kenya, I came to Japan without returning
officially to the US. I met Atsuko, married her a year
later, taught in conversation schools, and a vocational
college. In 1993, I went to SIT, did my teaching internship
in a Mexican University and immediately returned to
Japan in June 1994. Since 1995, I’ve been teaching
part-time at three Nagoya universities including NU,
Nagoya University of Arts and Kinjo Gakuin University.
That means that as of October, I’ll have for all practical
purposes, lived out of the US for 10 years. That constitutes
almost 1/3 of my life to date. (@c-)v
_My teaching Philosophy_
In a nutshell, I refer to Paolo Friere’s _Pedagogy of
the Oppressed_ and J. Krishnamurti’s _Education and
the Significance of Life_. I want my students to feel
that they have learned how to learn. They have learned
how to control a bit more, the situations they may
find themselves in, and hence be able to be more proactive
in their lives, rather than passive and reactive. As
a language teacher, I want them to understand how the
influence of learning English has changed their worldview
and made them ever more unique and valuable to themselves,
their family, friends, company, etc. In Japan, where
uniqueness does not mean what it does for Americans,
this is an especially interesting area for me to discuss
with students. I’m also moving a bit in the direction
of a Kenyan writer N’gugi wa Thion’go’s _Decolonizing
the Mind_ in which English plays the role of the bad
guy. The book warns a bit about linguistic imperialism,
and how English is used in countries like Kenya to
maintain the status quo and de-empower those who can’t
speak it. Overall, I agree that we are becoming more
of a global village, and that it is important to understand,
and appreciate, the different perspectives there are
in the world, and to enable my students to communicate
their perspective as well as they can, through the
English language, while making them understand that
their language and culture also has the RIGHT to be
respected and used in communication.
I wholly embrace the internet. I think it will have
a profound impact on all our lives (it already has,
actually). Instead of shying away from it, poopooing
it, or being afraid of it, I want to use the internet
mostly as a networking tool, to seek out others who
view this tool as a great resource of human interworking.
NOT to use the internet would be a disservice to our
students, whose internet skills will give them a competitive/cooperative
advantage in the near future. My favorite motto from
my SIT days was: "You are your own best resource"
and for me, the internet will link me to the rest of
you, who are also the best resources. How’s that for
empowerment? For more on this see what Vannevar Bush
had to say back in 1946
Please please please. This is a great learning experience
for me most of all. I’d appreciate any comments, suggestions,
etc that you have for any part of any of this. Meanwhile,
several people requested to see what exactly is it
I’m doing. Below, I’ll publish the address of the Syllabus
and Map pages of the site, which then gives details
on all the pages in the site. If you want to contribute
to the site, or borrow from the site, or make a link
to the site, PLEASE DO!
is the syllabus
is the map of the site
is where you will find descriptions of all the other
people who have agreed to be contacts.
I will ask, and ASSIGN that students write a dialog
journal to you about their experience and thoughts
about the class. I will respect their and your privacy
on whatever issues they raise with you. However, I
would like you to triangulate that they are corresponding
regularly with you. It will be up to each pair of correspondents
to discuss what they want. If you feel like commenting
on what students say, feel free. At the end of the
course (haven’t thought about this that much yet) I
may ask you to write a brief report about your correspondence
with the student and to assess whether they have satisfied
the correspondence requirement.
This is a sample narrative journal entry from the second
week of the Fall, 1996 term course, written October
it’s now Friday, a full three days after class.
By now, many of you should have had initial contact
with a student. Some of you might get two students,
but I’d like to please ask you to write the student
and say you are already corresponding with someone
else. I haven’t closely checked my email correspondence
with the students, but I’d estimate 10 of them have
contacted 10 of you.
That said, here is a BRIEF (HAHA) recap of the last
21 students showed up, though I haven’t had a chance
to put together my attendance sheet.
I started with a few quick comments about getting connected
to the internet. Some students are having the usual
technical problems, and I am not really there to help
explain how to get on email, and how to use MOSAIC
(yes, the computers at NU are a bit old. Black and
white monitors to boot). I handed out another homework
sheet guide to help them find my WWW site and deal
with everything that is on there.
It was time to process BARNGA, which we played last
week, so I asked the students to "make a BEAUTIFUL
circle" which got a big chuckle out of them. I
really like to hear the laughter in my classes. It
shows that it is a receptive atmosphere and people
are willing to let loose. I wish I could do the same,
but get knotted up sometimes.
Next, I asked students to quickly introduce themselves,
since we didn’t have the chance in the first class.
Their name, major and something interesting about themselves.
I have 1 Mainland Chinese graduate student, 1 4th year
law student, 3 third year students and the rest are
first and second year, mainly from the medical, physical
science and agricultural schools. There are, unfortunately,
only three women in the class, which is a bit of a
disappointment, as I’d certainly prefer the balance.
I asked them to discuss shortly what happened last week
with the person sitting next to them. There was very
nice chatting for about 5 minutes as I let them go
on by themselves. I wrote "Remember, Look, Think"
on the blackboard (BB) as they were doing this, and
generally tried to go over the questions I wanted to
ask for the debriefing.
Next I asked them as a class to help me to remember
the process we went through. I like Nagoya University
Students, because they are much more responsive than
the students at my other schools. It IS possible to
have an open discussion, though for the first and second
year students, maybe even this style is strange for
them (sorry for the conjecture here). I elicited the
steps and wrote them down, number by number, trying
to summarize what they had said and to simplify the
English for those having trouble keeping up (many are,
and this is a definite challenge for me to overcome).
Step 11 was: Some of us thought the rules were different
for different tables. Ace was high for one person and
low for another person.
Step 12 was: The game stopped.
I said that I noticed last week that the games didn’t
stop and that something happened. There was discussion
about how gestures were being used, and that the majority
seemed to quickly overpower the minority, even at times
giving the minority the winning hand when that person
thought they had a losing hand.
I then drew it out to real life situations, and three
students responded with
-A Japanese family prepared the best food they could
for a week for their American visitor who, in the end,
said s/he didn’t like the food.
-A male student who said "I went to boys only jr.
high school and high school and then when I got to
Nagoya university … WOW!" definitely inferring
that he was having trouble relating to or dealing with
the female population and said with awe and astonishment
for his strong feelings.
-A female student who said she couldn’t even figure
out how to use buses on her trip to Canada, and found
she couldn’t perform even the simplest functions.
I then explained how Barnga simulates these kinds of
situations and that this was our main theme in the
class, to get beyond Step 12 above, because real life
doesn’t stop and wait for us.
Following is a World Wide Web version current as of
November 11th, 1996 of the correspondents and their
descriptions as submitted by them.
1. L.A. Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org ) is a 40-something
US female who had a career in the arts (13 years) then
did a hitch in the U.S. Peace Corps (Thailand). She
then went back to school and got her Master’s from
SIT. Currently, She is an International Student Advisor
at a College in a suburb of New York.
2. Marshall Brewer (email@example.com)
is the Director of Enrollment Management at SIT. He
holds a Master’s degree in Intercultural Administration
from SIT. He has lived mostly in California, Washington,
D.C., and Vermont in the U.S., Oxford, England, and
visited Europe, Central America, and Japan. He is gay
and married to a man for seven years. He enjoys cooking
3. Marisa Brooks-de Dios (firstname.lastname@example.org)
lived/taught English in Japan for 8 years, (3 years
in Komaki) and while there met her husband, who is
a Filipino. They now live in Indiana, where she is
the director of an intensive English program.
4. Alfred Carrozza (email@example.com)
is an American who now lives in the United States.
His wife is Japanese. They lived together in northern
Japan (Iwate-ken) from 1991 to 1993. He has been studying
Japanese language and culture for nine years. He is
very interested in learning about other cultures.
5. Erik Dahlin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is 30 years
old. He has been raised bilingually and biculturally,
as his mother is from Germany. He has also lived in
Japan for three years, and is planning on returning
6.Karen DeVoll (email@example.com) is a 43 year old
female graduate student in intercultural relations.
She is 6 months into learning Japanese, is the Executive
Director of the Portland/Sapporo Sister City Relationship,
and has been to Japan four times. She will go back
in the Spring to immerse herself in the language and
do research for her thesis. She is married and has
a cat named, Koi. She would prefer having a female
correspondent who is willing to discuss women’s issues,
especially in Japan.
7.Vansin Dokken (firstname.lastname@example.org) was born in Cambodia
in the late 1960s and has lived in the US since October
1979. In 1986 he received a scholarship to Norway as
an exchange student. Between 1987-92 he attended the
University of California at Davis majoring in Electrical
Engineering. After graduating, he volunteered to help
the UN with the general election in Cambodia. In 1993
he returned from Cambodia to study in a Master’s Program
in Intercultural Management in Vermont. Thereafter,
he has worked with a Japanese non-profit organization
in Cambodia and with a non-profit organization in California
(funded by the US Department of Defense).
8.Lila Dubin (email@example.com) has lived
in the Czech Republic and is currently teaching in
Nagasaki. She is American.
9.Mary Vincent Franco (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(a Caucasian female) grew up in rural Northwestern
Wisconsin — studies Spanish & Latin American Studies
at the U of Minnesota — studied (Puebla) and later
worked (Mexico City & Monterrey) in Mexico for
a total of almost 2 years — did her master’s at SIT
emphasizing intercultural training and int’l ed. —
at SIT she met her husband (an urban Colombian) and
they lived in Colombia for their first 4-5 months of
marriage after which they moved back to Minnesota —
She now works for Macalester College, a private liberal
arts college in St. Paul, MN, in the Int’l Studies
and Programming office.
10.Janet Gerba (email@example.com) is an ESL teacher,
American literature teacher, and writer. Born in Kansas,
USA and has lived in California, New Jersey, and now
living in Killington, Vermont. She has taught students
from 5 years old to 75 and has lived and taught in
Hong Kong, Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, Nitra and Presov,
Slovakia. She has also traveled through Japan, staying
with friends and former students as well as Tanzania,
Mexico and all of Europe and the US.
11.Ronnie Goodwin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is
an American who lives with his Japanese wife in Saudi
Arabia and teaches English.
12.Doreen Harvey (email@example.com) is a
cross-cultural training and development consultant,
living in San Diego, California. She was born in England,
where she spent the first half of her life, and now
considers California her home. Her interests are many
– business, Latin America, culture, photography, Asian
cooking, scuba diving, sailing, travel, the stock market,
health, D.H. Lawrence.
13. Gordon Homann (firstname.lastname@example.org) is
a study abroad advisor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
As a student, he studied abroad in Germany for one
year. After graduation from college, he lived in Iwate,
Japan for two years, where he taught English on the
JET program. His wife, Michiko, is from Japan. They
have two dogs, named "Ebony" and "Mimi."
14. Nadine Bolliger Kato (email@example.com)
has lived in Japan for three years, one as a student,
two as a teacher, and has married a Japanese man. Takashi,
her husband, had never been out of Japan before he
met her, and now they are living in the US together,
so he might have some interesting perspectives to share,
also. Nadine is now interning as in international student
advisor at a university in Minnesota. Her undergraduate
degree was in Japanese Studies, from Earlham College,
class of ’92.
15.Suzanne Larsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is currently
pursuing her Masters in Intercultural Relations. She
has worked in the field of Intercultural Communications
for 6 years with many different cultural groups.
16.Chris MacCormack (email@example.com)
spent 2 years in the Dominican Republic as a Peace
Corps Volunteer and two years in El Salvador as an
English teacher. He has had many Japanese students
in Tampa, Florida, where he is now. He married and
divorced a Salvadorean so he’s also a little wiser
about intercultural marriages than he was 20 years
17.Walter A. Mosch (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a 45-year-old
American who lives in Vermont, USA. He is married to
a Chinese Singaporean and they have a 3-year-old boy.
He lived in Asia for 6 years and taught at the International
School in Singapore. Many of his students were Japanese.
He is presently teaching at a small college and doing
racism work in his community.
18. Herlyne Ramihantaniarivo (email@example.com)
is from Madagascar Island in the Indian Ocean, near
Southern Africa. She is currently studying health care
at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. Her nickname
19. Nerida Rand (firstname.lastname@example.org) has also been
teaching ICC classes to Japanese students. She is
Australian by birth, and has studied in Japan, Taiwan
and the U.S. She worked as a writer and cross-cultural
trainer in Japan for four years. Currently She is working
in community theatre in Australia, and teaching Japanese
and Intercultural Communication part-time.
20.Catherine Rogers (email@example.com) lives
in Vermont and recently studied Intercultural Management
at the School for International Training. She has travelled
in southeast Asia and lived for almost a year in Penang,
Malaysia. She worked for MACEE, a company that provides
information to students in Malaysia who would like
to go to the U.S. to study. She hopes someday to live
and work in Japan.
21.Stephen M. Ryan (RX1S-RYAN@j.asahi-net.or.jp)
is from the UK. He was an exchange student in the US.
He has lived and worked in Japan since 1984, He has
a Japanese wife.
22.Loran Diehl Saito (firstname.lastname@example.org) works
for an international exchange organization and recently
married a man from Japan. She has a B.A. in French
and an in a few weeks will complete an M.A. in Intercultural
Management. She has studied and worked in France and
Namibia, and has traveled in Brazil, Canada and Japan.
23.Kayleen Oka Sorohan (email@example.com) is a graduate
student living in Seattle. She was born in Canada
and is a sansei. She grew up in a small French Canadian
town where her family was the only Japanese family
in town. She lived in Japan for two years where she
taught English in Yamaguchi-ken.
24. Molly Strattan (firstname.lastname@example.org), an American,
lived in Kenya, East Africa, in 1986 – 1988. She was
a high school teacher there. She is now a nurse/midwife
in Portland, Oregon, USA.
25. Nestor G. Trillo (email@example.com) has lived
in Japan and is a Mexican/American. He is fluent in
Spanish and English. He is currently doing research
in Intercultural Communication.
26. Charlie Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org) holds
a B.A. in English literature from Sonoma State University
and an M.A.T. from SIT. He has also participated in
workshops for teachers intending to work in a corporate
environment. He has successfully helped clients improve
their English for Professional Communication from Asia,
North and South America, and Europe and has experience
training in a wide variety of settings, including refugees
in Asia, production workers in the United States, and
high level diplomats and business executives in Europe
and the USA.
27.Nicholas Zweig (email@example.com) is currently
working at the University of Texas at El Paso as a
career advisor. He has lived in Germany for several
years, and visited several other European countries,
and Mexico. He does not know any Japanese. He has worked
with inlingua on their intercultural training programs,
and given a few trainings on his own.
Edge, Julian. (1996). from a lecture on the Japan Association
for Language Teaching’s 4-Corners Tour stop in Nagoya,
Freire, Paolo (1971). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Continuum:New
Kumaravadivelu, B. (1994). "The Postmethod Condition:
(E)merging Strategies for Second/Foreign Language Teaching."
TESOL Quarterly, 28(1), 27-48.
McKenzie, Jamieson. (1996). Internet as Bandwagon?
"From Now On – The Educational Technology Journal"
6 (1). September. http://www.pacificrim.net/~mckenzie.
Last Modified: November 27, 1996