Tag Archives: cross-border teams

On awareness and understanding of different cultures

Image: Takobou/Wikimedia Commons

The dynamic Keisuke Tabata, of Kobe Shinwa Women’s University, will be talking about our recent Japan-Indonesia-China-Vietnam project at the annual convention of the Japan Association for Educational Media Study in November. The convention is being held at Kagoshima University on the island of Kyushu.

Our project involved an online movie read-through with university and high-school students. It also featured a workshop on cultural differences, including a discussion of the Lewis Model of communication.

Image: Richard Lewis/CrossCulture

A paper will also be published in the Bulletin of the International Education Research Center at Kobe Shinwa Women’s University. Thank you to Keisuke Tabata and his wonderful students, Ritsuko Anzai (formerly at Amagasaki Kita High School), and the fabulous team at Tadulako University in Palu, Indonesia.

What will happen to our body in space? And other great questions at 6am…


Our second collaboration between Alma College (in the US) and Omi Brotherhood High School (in Japan) came to an end last week with some thought-provoking presentations.

We met on Skype – at 6am here in Japan, which was 5pm the previous day in Alma – for an intensive 90 minutes of cross-border discussion.

The Japanese students presented a series of questions related to the movie “Europa Report” (which we used for a ‘SkypeRead’ teambuilding exercise at the beginning of the programme). Our picture shows some of the slides from Group C’s presentation: “What will happen to our body in space?”

The American students talked about their work for Alma’s e-STEM Cooperative Research Experience (CORE), a one-month academic camp for high-school students and teachers; the students shared the results of their high-level studies on everything from flavonoids in strawberry preserves to influenza.

A very big ‘thank you’ to everyone who made this collaboration possible!

Across 6,500 miles and 13 time zones – part 2


We’ve just begun our second collaboration between Alma College in Michigan, USA, and Omi Brotherhood High School (OBHS) near Kyoto, Japan.

Our 2016 programme involves 24 students, who have been drawn from:

  • Alma’s e-STEM Cooperative Research Experience (CORE), a five-week science summer camp for high-school students
  • OBHS science department
  • OBHS language department.

Our picture shows the students taking part in our cross-border team-building activity: a read-through of the sci-fi thriller “Europa Report”.

“If it’s not easy, it’s interesting”

The students began introducing themselves – and exchanging photos and videos – in a closed Facebook group last week. They also got some advice on working in a global team from Professor Kathrin Altwegg, who is part of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.

Rosetta made a historic rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014; Kathrin’s team is studying the comet’s atmosphere. The members of her team are based across Europe and the US, and I asked her if she had any advice for our American and Japanese students about working across borders.

“You have to be patient, that’s the main advice,” she said. “It will not work the first time probably, so you have to try again and again and again. Cultural diversity means people don’t solve problems the same way. You have to be patient, never give up.”

So, it’s not easy… But Kathrin says that’s a GOOD thing. “I like to work with all cultures. Some are more easy, but the others are more interesting. If it’s not easy, it’s interesting! And you learn something from other cultures – if people are the same as you, you don’t learn anything.”

“Wow, we made it!”


Congratulations to the incredible students at Omi Brotherhood High School in Shiga, Japan, and the Co-Operative Research Experience summer camp currently taking place at Alma College in Michigan, USA.

At 6 o’clock Friday morning in Shiga / 5 o’clock Thursday afternoon in Alma, four US-Japanese groups of students came together over Skype and read the entire 90-page script of the movie “Europa Report”.

  • Click here to read “Alma CollegeとのSkypeReadプロジェクト” on the Omi Brotherhood High School blog – “Wow, we made it!”

It was the start of a 3-week cross-border project that will see the students collaborate on questions related to the movie. The objective is to enable high-school students to experience the fun – and the challenge – of working in remote, multi-cultural teams. It’s also an opportunity to think about one of the biggest ‘unknowns’ in science: are we alone in the universe?

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.

Cross-border business teams and the entertainment arena

Business Review Europe logo

The following article is from Business Review Europe (January 28, 2014).

SkypeRead can facilitate team building across thousands of miles by getting groups of international colleagues together for read-throughs of movie scripts

More and more companies are abandoning traditional organisational structures and creating cross-border teams of people who live and work thousands of miles apart.

But there’s a catch. Nancy J Adler, the S Bronfman Chair in Management at McGill University in Montreal, puts it like this: “Interconnectedness through modern technology has deluded many people. There is the false assumption that just because we can reach anyone in the world so easily through e-mail or Skype, we are therefore all the same.”

Differences in culture, workplace norms and language present very real challenges to cross-border teams. Not surprisingly, team-building is becoming an increasingly important area for global companies. Continue reading

To infinity and beyond!

I’m going to be presenting a paper on movie read-throughs, neuroELT and cross-border teams at the 6th International Symposium on Digital Technologies in Foreign Language Learning.

The symposium will be held at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto on 29th March 2014.


The keynote speaker will be James Paul Gee, the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University. Professor Gee’s books include What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, which looks at the learning principles used in the design of good video games.

The abstract of my paper is below.

“To infinity and beyond! Using Skype group calls to do cross-border read-throughs of movies”

What happens if you bring foreign language learners — from lots of different countries — together in a Skype group call to read through the script of a Hollywood movie? Does it work? Can it improve their language skills? Are there any other benefits? In October 2013 a pilot study for a project called SkypeRead set out to answer these questions.

The idea came from neuroELT, an emerging field that combines English-language teaching with neuroscience. NeuroELT offers a number of powerful ideas, including three that are particularly relevant to the theme of this symposium:

1) Emotion drives learning;
2) We can choose a top-down or bottom-up approach;
3) Good learners are risk-taking explorers.

Participants from 18 countries registered for the SkypeRead pilot study, from Vietnam to Brazil, and from the Czech Republic to Afghanistan. Each participant chose one of two movies: “Toy Story” (Pixar, 1995) or “Ocean’s Eleven” (Warner Bros., 2001). Small, cross-border teams were set up, and each participant was allocated a number of characters in the movie. (The presenter of this paper acted as the moderator for each group.)

Participants reported that the exercise boosted their confidence, speaking skills and ‘real-life’ English skills. Participants also reported that they felt they had made deep and meaningful connections with the other members of their cross-border group. A Spanish participant, for example, wrote, “Perhaps that is one of the nicest things about all this: the feeling that one has for others.”