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Electronic whiteboards help make west Japan high school classes interactive

Students attend a class using a newly introduced "electronic blackboard" at Saijo High School in the city of Saijo, Ehime Prefecture, on Nov. 20, 2019. (Mainichi/Nobuto Matsukura)
Answers submitted by students via tablets connected to an "electronic blackboard" system are projected onto a board at Saijo High School in the city of Saijo, Ehime Prefecture, on Nov. 20, 2019. (Mainichi/Nobuto Matsukura)

SAIJO, Ehime -- The introduction of a system to project digital and teacher-made materials onto whiteboards called "electronic blackboards," is progressing at Ehime prefectural high schools in hopes of improving teaching effectiveness.

Saijo High School in the city of Saijo, Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, is one such education facility using the new system. During an English class, 40 first-year students were separated into eight groups. Teacher Madoka Okauchi handed out a tablet computer to each group and asked, "What is a word that means 'easy to lift or move'? You have one minute."

A 60-second countdown began on a timer projected on the whiteboard at the front of the classroom. As soon as the students responded on their tablets, answers began popping up on the board. Looking at the answers, Okauchi said, "The answer is 'light', nice try! But I see some groups have made spelling mistakes."

From the second term, Saijo High School has installed the electronic board system in 21 homerooms for students of three grades, and in six special classrooms. During classes, digital textbooks based on normal textbooks as well as teacher-made slides and other materials are used.

Okauchi makes her own warm-up questions for the English class and lets students respond via an electronic bulletin board app, which enables pupils to share their answers instantaneously. Until the second semester, Okauchi used to make index cards showing English words and their Japanese translation front to back when teaching vocabulary.

Now, words can be displayed on screen, even in random order, and she can also attach audio material to each slide. Teachers can project a textbook page onto the board and handwrite whatever needs to be stressed.

"It's a big advantage to be able to learn how to remember (English) vocabulary using a screen, together with the students. Until now, I provided explanations while looking at textbooks and conducted short quizzes. The biggest change is how everyone is now facing the front," Okauchi said.

First-year student Kirari Kurokawa, 15, commented, "It's amazing that we can know what all of the other groups are thinking." Takumi Manabe, 16, who enjoys classes using the high-tech board said, "During math class, we can learn from figures displayed on screen, and it helps me concentrate."

According to the Ehime Prefectural Board of Education, "electronic blackboards" were introduced in 118 classrooms at 65 prefectural schools during the 2017 school year and numbers have been growing since then. The education board plans to install the system and set up Wi-Fi in a total of 1,507 classrooms including homerooms at the 65 schools by the 2023 academic year.

Following a bidding process, electronic blackboards produced by Sakawa Inc., based in the Ehime Prefecture city of Toon, have been introduced in the prefecture's schools. The firm continues to expand its business across Japan.

(Japanese original by Nobuto Matsukura, Imabari Local Bureau)

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