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3 Lessons American Districts Can Learn From Foreign Schools


With thousands of domestic K-12 institutions to cull information and advice from, schools in the United States have seldom looked overseas for help selecting and integrating educational technology. However, as the Internet continues to erode traditional geographic barriers — and as international schools post impressive results from their tech initiatives — reaching out to colleagues in other countries for advice and support is becoming more commonplace.

Leadership That Promotes STEM

Patrick Adams’ international ambitions began two years ago when the science teacher from Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, CA, flew to Japan to participate in Toshiba’s Tomadachi STEM Leadership Academy, an annual one-week, cross-cultural STEM exchange and leadership program for 16 high school students and eight teachers from Japan and the U.S.

During Adams’ overseas trip, he observed at the academy and gave input on how more science, technology and cultural activities could be integrated into a shared scientific approach. For example, he began looking at the similarities between Japan’s Super Science Academies (upper secondary schools that prioritize science, technology and mathematics) and America’s science-focused charter schools. He toured some of those focused high schools in Japan, looked at their current projects, and got to meet several teachers while there.

“It was interesting for me to see how these highly-specialized schools can really focus in on being cutting-edge with science and technology,” said Adams. “It’s an approach that’s been very successful in Japan, and it creates an emphasis that permeates everything they do at the schools.”

At one school, for example, students were working in rice paddies, studying plant genetics and mixing traditional Japanese culture with modern science. When Adams returned to the U.S., he started talking to other teachers about how to transform a half-acre garden on Bellarmine College Preparatory’s grounds into a useful component of the institution’s science curriculum. “The idea of giving students that type of interface is pretty exciting,” said Adams.

In return, Adams said he was able to share information about his school’s learning management system (LMS) with his Japanese counterparts, many of whom lacked knowledge of and hands-on experience with such systems. “LMS is fairly new in the U.S. and really hasn’t taken off in Japan yet,” said Adams, who uses the Canvas by Instructure platform. “It was nice to be able to share that piece of technology with them and show them how our students and teachers use the LMS to keep track of activities, calendars, assignments and discussion groups.”

For more information on TOMODACHI Toshiba STEM Leadership Academy: http://www.toshiba.com/csr/education_tomodachi_stem.jsp

Read more http://thejournal.com/articles/2014/10/01/3-lessons-american-districts-c…

Adams engaging American and Japanese students during TOMODACHI Toshiba Academy in Tokyo