Writing from Japan, Storypark’s partners talk about local education and how the innovative practices of Tokyo Community School are supporting their educators and children.
The Tokyo Community School is an internationally-minded Elementary School with a “doors-wide-open” policy that encourages people to visit and observe the school freely, and for students to get outdoors to experience learning first-hand.
Students explore the outdoors, caring for and riding horses, sleeping under the mountain sky, meeting professionals, and taking the lead with projects through an Inquiry-Based educational philosophy which promotes public speaking and social responsibility.
Because TCS (Tokyo Community School) is so active, it has been a challenge in the past to keep families and caregivers in the loop, and help families witness the learning of students when parents cannot be physically present. Because a lot of the student’s learning happens through their experiences, it is difficult to test and quantify their education. Storypark has been very helpful, keeping a record of learning as students blaze a trail.
Mr. Kazuyuki Kubo, the founder and director of TCS, explains that a big driver for their open-door policy is that most standardised education in Japan happens behind closed doors, making life in school unknown to parents, resulting in confusion and a hands-off relationship between schools and families.
The criteria for assessing students and curriculum are largely ill defined and unknown to families. TCS was founded with the intention of including families into school life, to bring clarity to the educational process with the attitude that both the students and the school are always improving. So the question was raised, “How do we assess students, communicate with parents, and show the value of student’s time at school?”
For each of these questions, Storypark has been a valuable tool, and is helping to bring greater transparency to the classroom, especially when allowing teachers a better way to communicate with parents. In the past, the four walls of the classroom were the greatest forum for showcasing student work, and so almost every inch was covered with a poster or a photo. But the new TCS has traded-in that proud clutter, to showcase student efforts securely in Storypark. Parents can now easily see what is happening in school, and because of videos and stories shared back and forth, families can see a side of their children that would not otherwise be known to them – whether their child be studying dutifully, or mischievously acting out.
Parents understanding of how their children behave in school has improved, which has helped the TCS learning community to set realistic goals and expectations alongside parents and caregivers.
Mr Kubo explains that the traditional Japanese report card is decidedly boring. No one besides the teacher can really know why a student receives one score or another, and this causes problems as teachers can render grades based largely on opinion, or allow school politics to distort outcomes.
TCS is now constantly sharing evidence of student’s learning on Storypark to help back up a teacher’s decision so that the final grade should be no surprise. If there is good communication than parents and teachers can collaborate and share meaningful information to help that child improve along the way. When parents can see the learning process they can better understand how to support their child’s development.
Principal of TCS, Mr. Chikara Ichikawa says that Storypark has also allowed greater transparency between colleagues as well. By looking at other teacher’s stories, he can better understand their way of thinking, what they value in their students, and even their development as teachers.
Teachers make stories about what they’d found to be the most interesting thing to happen that week in class, and he says that these stories have helped him to better understand their perspectives. Both he and Mr. Kubo are excited about the original and creative uses of Storypark to help Tokyo Community School with it’s mission to bridge the gap for children between school and home life, to help involve families in the education and development of their children, and supporting and challenge it’s teachers to improve in an environment of supportive transparency.