Teaching and technology at The American School in Japan

How would you design a robot that can pick up and throw BuckyBalls and then hold a larger ball while hanging from a bar? If you could create a new app for your iPad, what would it do? What kind of fairground ride would you design and how would you build a prototype from Lego WeDo? These are just a few of the questions being tackled by students at The American School in Japan (ASIJ).

ASIJ prepares all students to meet the challenges of a dynamic global society in which they collaborate, communicate, create and innovate through ubiquitous access to people, information and ideas. Our aspiration is to make technology an integrated experience for students, rather than a periodic event, by bringing technology into the core of the learning process and the learning space. A key directive that originated from ASIJ’s strategic planning process was that the school focus on developing an emphasis on design and the design process in the curriculum.

Students are empowered through our 1:1 MacBook program (grades 5–12) and the use of iPads in the lower grades to work together, research, share and consume information, and create media-rich products. From experimenting and designing to using their devices to document their thoughts and ideas, they work on a wide range of engaging projects that require higher-level thinking, critical decision-making and problem solving.

“As well as the three ‘Rs,’ we now teach the three ‘Cs’—communication, collaboration, and creativity,” says Head of School Ed Ladd. “It is not only the amount of information available to students, but it is the constant accessibility to this information that is changing the face of education. Teachers are no longer the font of information; instead, the teacher is a coach or facilitator who helps students analyze information, synthesize it, and use it to solve problems,” he adds. “I’m very excited by the changes we’ve already made and the innovative ways students and teachers are exploring and creating with new technology. There has never been a more exciting time to be an educator—or a student.”

“It’s hard to define 21st-century learning without talking about technology, and the robotics program at ASIJ is a prime example of that,” says Head of School, Ed Ladd. Since hosting and winning the VEX Robotics Competition in 2009, ASIJ’s robotics program has continued to enthuse the community. Our teams qualified for the VEX World Championship for the fourth year running in 2013.

This year we launched a new semester-long Creative Design course in the middle school. All sixth-grade students take this introduction to the design process and use a variety of technologies including robotics, programming, CAD and 3D printing as well as hands-on building materials and techniques. Students have the opportunity to use these tools to design creative solutions to self- identified problems, a process that exposes them to the fundamental stages of the design cycle.

For more information about ASIJ, visit their site at www.asij.ac.jp.

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