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Schoolyard Technology July 30, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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field   We spent a lot of time watching the weather radar yesterday as we watched our backyard begin to look like a small lake. I had not seen such a thing since some of the heavier rains I experienced in Japan. There, I watched our schoolyard fill with water and was impressed with the technology of the Japanese school field.

In Japan, the vast majority of school fields are made of a rough sandy grit. From above they are dirty brown rectangles but their efficiency is invisible. First, I have spent my share of time as a teacher running across uneven fields of grass in Canada and United States. Stones, weeds, uneven grass coverage, oddly placed sprinklers, and trash are features in one corner or another of every field with which I have ever been acquainted.

Granted, they look pretty from a distance and the Japanese fields are a bit of a shock to the North American sensibilities. However, the time it poured a heavy rain on the field was the moment I began to view them differently. When the field began to fill with water there were no uneven areas. The water was not sloshed to one end or the other. It filled up perfectly evenly. This told me someone designed the field to last.

The rains from the past weekend we received on our brown stone yard caused hundreds of weeds to sprout within a matter a days. The students in Japan never had to pick weeks on their fields. I am not sure if chemicals were what kept the field weed free or perhaps it was that the sandy covering, I am still not sure what the field consisted of, was so densely packed that nothing could grow in it.

Teachers and students used the Japanese school field for almost everything: parades, soccer, softball, track and field, calisthenics, and group berating sessions. All these events and more were all on the field. There were almost no signs of activity once the group left the field. I found the flexible functioning of the field most refreshing.

Finally, once the rains finally stopped and we had a moment to enjoy the small lake in front of the school the picture did not last long. Without draining off one end of the field and creating a muddy mess, the water simply worked its way into the gritty sand. An hour later, it was firm and dry to the touch.

You may not think of a field as educational technology, but the technical skills that created that field and the thousands like it across Japan are just as relevant to a discussion of educational technology as the computer is. If you look for it, you can find it in surprising places.

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