Wednesday, March 7, 2012

bfg on sonyland doesn't exit

I miss having a ps3. It was so wonderful. Just looking at it by the TV... So sleek, so blue and handsome. But leaving Canada I was reconciled by the fact that I would be spending the next year (heehee I didn't know then I'd be a lifer) in Sonyland. Akihabara was a 50 minute Shinkansen ride from my house. Worry? Please!

Lies. All lies. Sonyland doesn't exit -

I should have known when I first sat down to the yellow ancient keyboard in my office. But only when I asked to borrow a USB stick did I start doubting that Sony was even from this country.

"Sensei, do you or some teacher have a USB I could borrow?"

"Memory stick? Um, well no but we have this," And in her hands, I shit you not, she held out a floppy disk.

The last time I saw a floppy disk was in my DOS class in Secondary 1. Was this a joke?

Sadly, no. The ENTIRE school has everything backed up on floppy disks. Even now I am shacking my head...

I invested in an inexpensive Sony USB which wows my colleagues to no end. Even though there is a wireless network at school, I am not allowed to log-in. There is one projector for the entire school. Recently, all high school teachers in Shizuoka (not ALTs) were given a laptop. I like to call them Dinosaur. They take up 25% of a desks surface, weigh about 5kg and anytime I try to access any decent website the network blocks me. Teachers cannot access videos or pictures easily - whats the point then? Administrative work can be streamlined. Oh, Japan.

So you can imagine what happened last October when I walked into class to teach with SJ, the new iPad. To say my teachers were shocked is an understatement. Some dared to whisper in my vicinity, "~~~ iPad~~." The best part was how excited my kids got - many coming to visit at lunch time to play with the apps. "Sure wash your hands and speak English!" two of those kids later got iPhones with many similar apps to mine and we play "Words With Friends" where they proceed to kick my ass! Suddenly it wasn't about learning English it was about learning about the iPad and my students, who, as monkeys, really can't focus, were engaged and active in the learning process. Words like download, upload, stream, buy, app store where floating around the room and it wasn't my voice but theirs. I just nudged them a bit and they took off... Made my birthday present to myself worth every penny and more. But more so, I think it really showed my teachers that there is more than one way into the castle. Our castle being English.

As a device junkie - Kindle, iPad, iPhone, MacBook, universal remotes, etc. - I am horrified at the gapping hole in lessons: Teachers wasting time writing on a board when they could just prepare a simple Power Point, NOT allowing CD submissions ("Cassettes only thank you!) for speech contests, computers with floppy drives that do not have a FUNCTIONING USB Key input.

Every class I use something: movies, music, power point, pictures, ... I use my iPad as a reward for students who finish class work early - they get to play English games. I use apps like Teacher Pal to take attendance, record grades and input notes on my students ("extremely loud and annoying. Wants to be a singer so loves learning English songs. Will shut-up if lesson is music centered"). Though my supervisor is supportive of this, I was very very depressed when I learned from a friend that the new school building they are constructing does NOT have a projector in every classroom, will not have outlets to support more tech in the class and really doesn't deserve the word "new".

So my question is why? Why are teachers not using these amazing tools to help enrich their lessons, save them time and do something fresh and new. Something that simulates the real world and isn't teacher centric. And why is it that in Sonyland - where the tech industry makes 130 billion US dollars a year, has some of the highest quality cellular phones and is home to such household names as Toshiba, Nintendo, SHAR - technology is excommunicated from the classroom?

And most importantly, how can Japan start taking advantage of the great technology they create and share with the rest of the world for themselves?


bfg returns to lesson planing ... on her computer.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

bfg on why my iPad is amazing

...because I can blog from bed which is awesome.

bfg goes to bed

Sunday, February 5, 2012

bfg on crumbs

Why HELLO there Blog. How are thee? Happy in your Internet universe of whatevers and whatnots? Me, you ask? What of meeeeeee?

Well, today as I was grading my third year students' final exams armed with a whip-free Starbucks mocha a lady sat next to me. Why an interest in a lady sitting next to me? My dear friend, in Japan people with eyelids usually have a one seat radius of open seats. My favourite of course is the bus ride where I sit with so much room all around me as people stand far, far away. Even better is when I sit next to someone, my Italian hips demanding 60% of seat space. No "wa" there.

Naturally, I devoted an entire corner of my eye to her activities and it proved torturous for it took her exactly 71 minutes to eat her teeny-weeny Japanese sized chocolate brownie.

Crumb by fucking crumb, her fork picked away slowly bringing the little bit to her mouth. Chew. Chew Somemore. Swallow.

Before long, I was fantasizing of teaching her how to BITE her food. Sink teeth in. Roll eyes and enjoy this oh-so Herbal Essence experience. Chew slowly. Making noise is okay. While swallowing raise brownie to mouth so as to not be without it for long. By the end, I almost took it away from her. No brownie should be eaten that way.

Those flashing moments, where my mocha is swallowed in 4 gulps while my peers are still playing with the sleeve of their drink is when I realize I am gaigin. It doesn't bother me... but there are moments where I just come home and pretend I am nowhere. Just today while shopping at the GAP, I tried on a pair of pants that fit save for the fact that they only covered half my asscrack. Not a fashion statement I want to be making at this time in my life. Constantly, they tell me, "In Japan, we don't have such sizes" and I feel life I am a VBFG: VERY Big Female Giant.

February has proven to be overwhelming. Not only is it end of semester for me but lots of shit hit the fan: issues with my 2009 and 2010 taxes in Canada and Quebec (Vivre Le Quebec Libre!), huge volunteer project that took up way too much time, 3 birthdays, exams, creative writing projects due, so many detentions I had to "reschedule" some, my daily twenty minutes of Jillian Michaels and my neighbours hearing me scream "Cunt Bitch Ass Whore" after work every day, and mail. So much mail these days with "pay me!" and "you forgot"...

But really the main thing is I have come to the decision that I am going to take a serious step towards staying in Japan permanently. So... I am applying for a second Master's degree- something that can get me a uni position here (or anywhere in Asia  - Singapore and Korea are interesting alternatives). So a big part of this month is getting my application done with everything else. It seems crazy but life here is good. But you know that don't you? Life would have to be good if what I am complaining about is crumbs.

That said, I came home and ate a hefty amount of Pringles in Crumb Ladies honour. I showed her how its done. "Yes! Yes! YES!"

bfg leaves for midnight snack of nutella and peanut butter sandwich.