August 25, 2009

 Pangaea Seminar & Workshop 2009!

I just got back to Kyoto with other staff members from Tokyo where we successfully held our event, the Pangaea Seminar & Workshop 2009. Right after wrapping up our seminars and workshops, we left Tokyo with a sense of fulfillment that we’d got from our big achievement.

It was a one-and-a-half-day weekend event; we had very little time to learn, but could absorb massive amounts of information.

We received a lot of good feedback from our participants. One of the comments said, “I’ve attended a variety of events, but this event was by far the most productive. I enjoyed every single lecture. All lectures were exceptionally informative. I felt that time passed very quickly.” And here is another comment: “The lectures I attended were fun and easy to understand. I am very glad that my questions were answered. Great help!” We deeply appreciate all those who joined and supported our event!

Now I want to briefly talk about our lectures. Every lecture was fascinating, and enabled me to gain new perspectives. The followings were what I learned from two of the lecturers.

Dr. Yuji Inoue delivered a lecture titled, “The Path to 2050: The Case of Japan” in terms of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). He brought up some issues that Japan will confront in the future. Dr. Inoue addressed that the number of consumers will significantly decline in Japan due to its falling birth rate. And he further discussed how Japan should deal with the problem properly at the international level. He made his lecture very clear and understandable to his audience using words, such as “international,” “global,” and “inter-regional.”

Dr. Inoue also talked about standardization and development of technical standards. He showed us pictures of the Roman Roads in Pompeii, which was buried under volcanic ash nearly 2000 years ago, to explain the history of standardization. In addition, he specified the differences between the U.S. and Europe in terms of the concept of and the approach to standardization. He stated that the process of developing technical standards is not only a technical matter, but also a political agenda, for the process involves vested rights. He made me interested in the topic.
Prof. Toru Ishida gave us an audience-friendly lecture on his subject – “Cloud to Crowd” – by illustrating the history and future of computers. He included the following topics: a history of computing from mainframe to cloud computing; how computers were operated; how computers will be utilized; who will use computers; and new computer devices.

Prof. Ishida told us, “A quarter century ago, we used room-sized computers, and people fully believed that computers would be getting smaller.” And he continued, “Actually computers have become smaller. However, I used to ask myself at that time – ‘Why do we need small computers?’ and ‘What’s the use?’ ” “And now we know that it is used in a cell phone technology. And I have been amazed at the way tiny smart phones of today have been used with technologies.” he added. “In 20 years from now, cell phones will shrink to microscopic size like powder. I wonder how we can use such ‘powder’ cell phones. They might be dropped easily and hard to talk because they are too tiny. I think finding possible ways to use the particle-sized cell phones may be a worthy challenge, especially for young people.” he concluded. I nodded in excitement and murmured to myself – “I can’t wait to see the upcoming changes brought about by ICT!”

Posted by: kumakinoko | | Permalink

August 04, 2009

 August 2009 Newsletter: Yumi's Monthly Note

Hello, everyone!

Greetings from Malaysia! Toshi and I have been in Sarawak, Malaysia to assist our Webcam Activity networking between Sarawak and Kyoto. It was successfully held yesterday, July 25, with 41 participants from both activity sites, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) and Kyoto University. Because the Webcam Activity took place in Malaysia for the first time, everyone who joined the activity at UNIMAS including visitors was insanely excited during the activity.

We started the Pangaea Project to overcome language, cultural, and geographical barriers using the internet. And we believe that the Pangaea Webcam Activity is one of the most comprehensive and effective tools to beat those barriers. This is why people often give us a comment after their initial experiences of the Pangaea Webcam Activity - "I was thrilled and fascinated with the Webcam Activity. What's more, it gave me goose bumps!" I received similar feedback yesterday right after we wrapped up our Webcam Activity.

Because Malaysia is a multiethnic country, we have been working with culturally diverse participants, such as Malays who are Muslim, Malaysians of Chinese descent, and Malaysians of Indian descent, at the UNIMAS activity site. Yesterday, all the Malaysian participants were divided into four multi-cultural groups - red, blue, green, and yellow - to play games, "Matching Game" and "Nazoren," with their Japanese friends via webcam. We had meticulously selected those two games while planning this Webcam Activity in order to help children to learn to put themselves in other people's shoes with fun.

During Matching Game, two groups at the UNIMAS activity site drew pictures of "Doraemon" - a Japanese "anime" character - to describe the word that they thought of about the given word, "blue." I was blown away with their drawings because they scratched pretty accurate pictures of Doraemon. I wondered if Japanese participants had the same reaction as I had...

Nazoren is our new word association game. Excitingly, the game made its first "public" appearance yesterday. To play this game, using a cool translation gadget, "Language Grid Playground," is essential to deal with language barriers among our children. In fact, the Language Grid Playground played a vital role in helping our participants yesterday. Some Malaysian Chinese participants don't understand English very well. However, they could communicate with their peers by translating words from and into Chinese through the Language Grid Playground.
(*the Language Grid Playground)

At the end of the activity, we had a free Q & A session, in which participants exchanged their questions and answers through webcam. Japanese participants asked, "How's your school life in Malaysia?" "In Malaysia, schools operate two shifts a day. The morning shift starts early in the morning and ends around noon. The afternoon shift begins at 12:30pm, and students are dismissed after 6pm," Malaysian participants replied. The answer really surprised Japanese children. And then, they asked another question, "So how about lunchtime?" Well, the answer was that those who go to school in the afternoon don't need school lunches because they eat lunch at home before leaving for school.

Overall, we had a fruitful Webcam Activity. Our participants spent an hour and a half playing together. I believe it was a great opportunity for the participants to build emotional bonds with each other by identifying their similarities and differences. I was very happy to know that Malaysian children created their own greeting cards to send their messages, "I enjoyed meeting you," "I love Japan!" and/or "I want to see you again," to their Japanese friends. I've packed all the greeting cards into my suitcase to deliver them to our children in Kyoto.

This is our "behind the scenes" information. Toshi and I taught our Malaysian children some Japanese before connecting our webcam. They easily learned to speak Japanese fluently. They picked up Toshi's Japanese, "Gooooooood!" Now they know how to say "I like it," "I like it very much," and "That's correct" in Japanese. I was amazed at how fast they learned Japanese and how easily I forgot Malay phrases I learned. Shamefully I needed to practice over and over again (more than 30 times) to learn how to say "I will do my best" in Malay. As the children learned "cute" in Japanese, I asked them a question, "who is the cutest here?" "Of course, Yumi!!!!" they replied. The answer made me smile. At the same time, I telepathically overheard what Toshi said: "They just know how to respect the "pre-elderly"..." I didn't care what he thought because the tenderness of the children had touched my heart already.

By the way, the Pangaea Project is to be launched in Bario next January.

This month, a message from a mother whose son is our participant is featured in the Pangaea Ring. Her son joined our program three years ago and loves to create computer animations. In Kyoto, he has been our teacher and "onsite technical support" in the field of computer animation.


Posted by: kumakinoko | 3. Newsletter | Permalink

 August 2009 Newsletter: Pangaea ring Ms. Ikume Fukutake

This month, a message from a mother whose son is our participant is featured in the Pangaea Ring. Her son joined our program three years ago and loves to create computer animations. In Kyoto, he has been our teacher and "onsite technical support" in the field of computer animation.

It's been three years since my son, 12 years old, joined Pangaea. The time passed quickly as a flash. I think he didn't understand what the Pangaea was at first, even though he listened to the explanation. However, he thought it's fun to be able to communicate with friends from all over the world through the Internet. That's why he joined Pangaea. And now, he is falling in love with Pangaea! He's always excited to go to Pangaea Activity.

In the beginning, it looks like he made so much trouble to the Pangaea staff that I even thought I'd better let him stay away from Pangaea Activity. Also, I didn't get what he did at Pangaea Activity. But, after a while, it turned out that he was enjoying various things with a computer such as drawing pictures and creating games in an intercultural communication context. Also, he enjoyed participating in the activity of calendar-making with all the participants from Japan and Korea. He always enjoys the activity and wants to have more. Currently, Pangaea Activity is once a month and he wishes to have more and more Pangaea Activities per month. Now, he can't wait to join a Webcam activity between Japan & Malaysia that will be held on July 25, 2009!

Thank you very much for letting him experience various things that he never had in his life. I would like to let him participate in Pangaea Activity to his wish!

Pangaea Supporter (Pangaean)
Ikume Fukutake

Posted by: kumakinoko | 3. Newsletter , 4. Pangaea Ring | Permalink