Cross-border educational initiative launched in Japan. Meanwhile on Saturn…

Giving high-school students the opportunity to experience the fun and the challenge of working in remote, multicultural teams. That’s the objective of an international collaboration between Alma College in Michigan (USA), Omi Brotherhood High School in Shiga (Japan) and SkypeRead.


Alma College has won a $5 million grant from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation for improving education within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). As part of this, the College is running a four-week summer camp for high-school students called the Cooperative Research Experience.

Working with Martin Stack, an Alma College alumnus who teaches at the University of Shiga Prefecture, SkypeRead will add an international dimension by linking the American students at the camp to Japanese students at Omi Brotherhood High School, 13 time zones away.

In the first phase of the project, as a team-building and communication exercise, each group will do a cross-border read-through of the science-fiction movie “Europa Report”. In the second phase, each group will formulate a question related to the movie, and then devise ways of working together remotely. A possible question could be something like “What, in theory, might life on Europa look like?”


We launched the project yesterday with a presentation to students at Omi Brotherhood High School. Moments before we started, Martin and I changed our presentation to include some exciting ‘breaking news’ from the Cassini programme, an international space mission. Cassini has found evidence of hydrothermal activity on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, opening up the possibility of it being an environment suitable for living organisms…

We’d like to say a very big thank you to everyone at Omi Brotherhood High School for the wonderful welcome they gave us yesterday.

Fostering critical and creative thinking

R.E.A.D.I.N.G. is a new book from Seibido. I contributed three chapters:

  • Charles Darwin: Time Traveller
  • The Obsessive Doctor [Sigmund Freud]
  • Karl Marx: Revolutionary

There’s also a brilliant piece by my University of Shiga Prefecture colleague Walter Klinger – “The Roman Empire: The Social Meaning of the Gladiators”.

As the editor Gayle K. Sato explains in her preface, the acronym R.E.A.D.I.N.G. can be composed using keywords “that best explain why this textbook was created the way it is – to foster critical and creative thinking in an ESL classroom.”

  • READ: a lot.
  • EXAMINE: the reading.
  • ANALYZE: your examination.
  • DISCUSS: each others’ analyses.
  • IMAGINE: reading as muscle training.
  • NAVIGATE: your life.
  • GERMINATE: your own words.

A brief history of cross-border scientific teamwork

This is a 3-minute version of a 1-hour presentation I did at the Association for Science Education Annual Conference earlier this month (University of Reading, UK).

The brilliant Galileo was the father of modern science. But he wasn’t exactly the father of cross-border scientific teamwork. He refused to lend a telescope to Johannes Kepler, the Imperial Mathematician in Prague – even though Kepler was, at the time, almost the only person to support Galileo over his claims to have observed four moons orbiting Jupiter.

Continue reading “A brief history of cross-border scientific teamwork”

What can cross-border business teams learn from the movie industry?

From Business Review Europe & Middle East


Graham Jones, SkypeRead – Leadership

How many business sectors can compete with the movie industry in terms of making products that have worldwide appeal?

In part, this is because film companies have become rather good at seeing things from a global perspective. “Big Hollywood films have no national ideology attached to them today,” notes Michael Lynton, the CEO of Sony Pictures (itself a subsidiary of a Tokyo-based multinational corporation).

The industry also has few rivals when it comes to teamwork. Movie-making is a highly collaborative enterprise, and films undergo countless changes during production. Cinema audiences may not sit through all of the closing credits, but they are an essential part of the movie experience. What other organisations give such clear, public recognition to the contribution of each and every member of the team?Continue reading “What can cross-border business teams learn from the movie industry?”

Copernicus 2.0: native-speakers are no longer the centre of the English-speaking universe

This weekend I presented the results of our first “Europa Report” read-through at the Association for Teaching English through Movies (ATEM) Nishi-Nihon Conference, which was held at Hyogo University of Teacher Education here in Japan. Here are some highlights.

Images: Start Motion Pictures; Magnet Releasing; NASA; JPL; Jan Matejko; Stockfresh; morgueFile

The Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle believed that we were the centre of the universe. The sun, the planets, the stars – everything – rotated around one, single point: the Earth.

In the 16th century, however, there began a revolution. The Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus argued that we are not the centre of the universe, and everything does not rotate around one, single point.

There was just one problem: Copernicus didn’t have any evidence.Continue reading “Copernicus 2.0: native-speakers are no longer the centre of the English-speaking universe”

Realising in fact what has been dreamed in fiction…


“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life,” wrote the Irish author Oscar Wilde. “Life holds the mirror up to Art, and either reproduces some strange type imagined by painter or sculptor, or realises in fact what has been dreamed in fiction.”

This was certainly true when we did part 1 of our first “Europa Report” read-through on Saturday. Our five participants in this ‘test flight’ came from five countries spread across three continents and 14 time zones, and they were absolutely magnificent – it was thrilling to listen to them!

But just as we got to the point in the script where a solar storm ‘fries’ the ship’s communications, we suddenly lost Skype contact with the person playing the role of William Xu, our mission commander… (Fortunately, William was able to rejoin us a few pages later!)

I’m going to be presenting the results of this study in January at the Association for Science Education Annual Conference, which is being held at the University of Reading in the UK.

Interestingly, the town of Reading brings us back to Oscar Wilde: he spent 18 months in Reading Gaol (prison) and, after his release in 1897, wrote the poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”.

“Collaborate! Communicate! Improving cross-border communication and teamworking within STEM”

I’m going to be presenting the above paper on International Day (“Science Education without Frontiers”) at the Association for Science Education Annual Conference 2015 (University of Reading, UK, 7-10 January).

Juno-spacecraftImage credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

I’ll be talking about the results of our SkypeRead:Europa project. With the support of Start Motion Pictures, we’re bringing together STEM practitioners from across the world to do read-throughs of the movie “Europa Report”. The aims of the project are to improve English-language communication and teamworking skills.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It’s an area where cross-border collaboration is becoming increasingly important – but it’s also an area where, according to studies, there is a lack of “teamworking” and “communication” skills.

We’re just started recruiting non-native English-speaking STEM professionals and students for our SkypeRead:Europa study. If you know someone who might be interested in joining us, we’d love to hear from them!

Language, emotion and social connection

“In an era where mankind seems to be faltering, to be viewing the future with fear, we stepped forward and attempted something bold.”

This is the opening line from the script of the movie Europa Report. It was also the opening line to my pecha-kucha presentation (20 slides x 20 seconds per slide) at the FAB5 International NeuroELT Conference last weekend!

1) “In an era where mankind seems to be faltering, to be viewing the future with fear, we stepped forward and attempted something bold.” This is the opening line from the script of “Europa Report”, a movie …

2) … about a scientific, multinational mission to search for life on Europa, one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter. This is what scientists do: where mankind seems to be faltering, they boldly step forward and work across borders.

3) In 1919, for example, right after the end of the first world war, the English astronomer Eddington led a mission to an equatorial island to record a solar eclipse and demonstrate that spacetime is curved – as predicted by the German physicist Einstein.Continue reading “Language, emotion and social connection”