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Japan takes school trips online for the pandemic

/ 04:17 PM November 11, 2020
20201111 Japan school trips

Some schools in Japan have decided to keep school trips closer to home in order to limit travel time. Image: Nagaizumi Kita Junior High School via AFP Relaxnews.

In Japan, the distance learning experience adopted worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired schools to branch out with other online activities. In fact, educational establishments in the country are increasingly looking to the internet as a means of organizing virtual school trips. Thanks to platforms like Zoom, remote excursions can be organized to respect social distancing and other health guidelines, while also maintaining meaningful interactions with specialists.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced education systems worldwide to adapt, notably by making use of technology. In Japan, as in many global locations, schools have put in place measures to ensure the safety of schoolchildren and staff in the face of the ongoing pandemic. While online classes may have become a new norm, school trips — one of students’ favorite activities — pose a different problem entirely. In fact, many schools have had to cancel or postpone these activities, which often require lengthy journeys and group conditions that are not possible for now.

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However, with privileged access to new technologies, certain Japanese schools have found a new way of maintaining educational trips with no need to hit the road or to cancel completely.

Nagaizumi Kita Junior High School, for example, treated students to a virtual school trip mid-October, reported Kyodo News, with students visiting the cities of Kyoto and Nara without having to leave their classroom.

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Maintaining interactions

For their remote trip, students at this junior high school in central Japan used the videoconferencing app Zoom, which has seen its popularity skyrocket since lockdown measures were imposed in many countries worldwide. The schoolchildren followed a monk taking them around the World Heritage-listed Yakushiji Temple in Nara.

They also listened to the monk talk about Buddhist teachings, emphasizing the importance of keeping a positive attitude during the pandemic, as per Kyodo News. During this virtual school trip, which lasted around four hours, the children also took part in an online competition, having their knowledge of the area tested by comedians based in western Japan.

The school’s vice-principal, Manabu Watanabe, was keen to point out that while these virtual trips cannot fully replace real-life excursions, they nevertheless give students “a taste of the trip” in these difficult times.

“The students are in their final grade of junior high school, so we wanted to give them a chance to create memories with each other. They said they really enjoyed it,” he told Kyodo News.

Some schools have opted to maintain real-life school trips, but they are generally switching to more local destinations, favoring travel by bus to limit interactions between students and the public. However, some parents worry that their children could spread the virus when returning from such trips. CC

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TOPICS: COVID-19 pandemic, distance learning, videoconference, virtual trip, ZOOM
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