Virtual Exchange (VE) has emerged as a significant instructional technique and is no longer merely an emergency tool during the pandemic (O'Dowd, 2021). Since VE can offer more opportunities for cross-border interactions, it could lead to new conflicts and issues. This is especially the case in Asia-Pacific regions, where historical and political controversies arising from Japanese colonial occupation persist. Japanese language teachers should provide students with dialog and critical thinking skills for multicultural understanding as postcolonial educators (Watanabe, 2020).
When multicultural understanding is set as a goal for Japanese learners, four major needs must be addressed: language fluency, historical knowledge, confidence in handling negative perceptions of Japan by foreigners, and critical thinking skills to embrace diversity fully beyond a mere superficial acknowledgment of differences (Noble and Poynting, 1999).
To fulfill the first three needs, three types of dialog opportunities were provided: asynchronous online dialogs where students engaged in virtual exchanges with peers of the same age from different countries, written dialogs with war survivors where students participated in a more virtual exchange with those who have already passed away, and synchronous online dialogs with Japanese workers who have successfully solved international problems. As for the fourth need, critical thinking skills, a simple yet effective letter-writing activity was incorporated. Students wrote letters to living foreign students, past war survivors, and international activists alike.
Although further empirical evidence is required to substantiate findings from VE practices coupled with letter-writing, students’ products demonstrated promising results in enhancing their multicultural understanding.
This presentation contains APVEA content.
Offering various types of virtual exchanges is prospective for multicultural understanding since it can facilitate reducing geographical and temporal distance. In a virtual exchange, people with different cultural backgrounds can meet. In a more virtual exchange, students can tackle the unsolved controversies that have the roots in the remote past. In a less virtual exchange, students can learn about the successful multicultural dialogues. The different degrees of virtuality can provide students with appropriate dialogue skills for non-violent global integration.
Masahito Watanabe, Yokohama National University, Japan
About the Presenter(s)
Professor Masahito Watanabe is a University Professor/Principal Lecturer at Yokohama National University in Japan
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