Lessons from the Yamanote Line

Last weekend, I was in Yokohama doing some workshops with Kim Cofino for various groups of teachers in the Tokyo/Yokohama area, including the current COETAIL cohort. It was a heap of fun, and I’ll write more about that later.

On Monday, I spent the day running PD for staff of Yokohama International School, and I was asked to do a short presentation to get things started. The brief was just to present “something inspirational”, whatever that meant. To be honest, my mind was drawing a complete blank and was quite lost for an idea. I went back to the hotel room on Sunday night – my last night before returning home to Australia – and started working on my presentation. I was really quite stuck for an idea, but I was also keen to get it done so I could go out exploring some of the Japanese sights on my last night there.

I got to the point where if I stayed in the hotel room working I knew I wouldn’t see anything so I just decided to go out exploring anyway and hopefully something would come to me before tomorrow morning.

This slideshow is what I came up with. As I stood there at a Japanese railway ticket machine with absolutely no idea how to use it, unable to read the instructions, feeling quite anxious about heading off to explore a strange city I didn’t understand, it occurred to me that this is what all learners must feel like as they launch into unknown territory. I reasoned that I would be talking to many teachers the next day who perhaps felt equally anxious and unsure about exploring the world of technology. Maybe there were lessons I could learn from my night out on the trains of Tokyo that might serve as a useful metaphor for my talk the next morning.

I took a collection of photos from my travels on my iPhone, and then used Keynote on my phone to put this slideshow together whilst on the train. By the time I got back to the hotel (an adventure in itself!) the slideshow was 95% done. I did end up importing it to my Mac to add the finishing touches, but it was essentially produced almost entirely on the iPhone.

I don’t claim it’s a perfect metaphor, but hopefully there are a few lessons in here that might be useful to anyone moving into a world where they feel strange and uncomfortable.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Lessons from the Yamanote Line by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

9 Replies to “Lessons from the Yamanote Line”

  1. As I read your blog, having met you this weekend at the Coetail, I found myself actually reading the words with your voice in my head. It was a strange experience for me. I’m glad however that I got the chance to meet you since I have also been enjoying reading your blog regularly. I especially liked your article about coincidence or connection? Immediately following the weekend workshop, I spoke to our technology coordinator about finding ways to share what we learned with the other staff members. We are all very excited about the new connections that we are making with each other as we try to integrate technology into education. Thanks for coming. Grace Yamato

    1. Thanks Grace, it was nice to meet you and I really enjoyed working with all the teachers I met over the three days in Yokohama. I truly did learn a lot myself too.  Glad to hear you found it interesting and motivating… adding technology to quality education really opens up a whole lot of doors that will be able to take out students forward.  We just have to be able to learn to leverage all this stuff into great quality teaching and learning experiences.

  2. JR East has [English] buttons on their machines.  Plus, the best lifesaver I had when I was in Japan is a Suica card.  Not only can you use it to ride trains (no tickets), but also for buying stuff from convenience stores and vending machines.   Also too, plan your route before you go, HYPERDIA.COM is a lifesaver for English speakers in Japan.  It is very accurate and I used it for planning short trips as well as longer trips (such as Ikebukuro to Yokosuka).  I miss Japan and one reason is riding JR.  JR does make it easier for English speakers.

    1. Yeah I was surprised to find that at Motomachi station the signs were in Japanese and English, but when I got to Shibuya station they were only in Japanese. Live and learn.

      1. Really?  I don’t remember Japanese only signs at Shibuya.  I do know that romanization has been used on station signs since the Allied Command had control of Japan.  Actually, I specifically remember English signs there because I followed the signs to the Hachiko exit because I wanted to get pics of the Hachiko dog statue outside the station (a very popular meeting point at Shibuya) unless you were traveling on a private railway.  I do know that JR and Tokyo Metro/Toei subway is pretty good about English on their signs. 

  3. Chris, this is great.  Everything you say is so pertinent, relevant and so important for teachers still trying to get onboard with 21st century learning.  I loved the analogy and it worked.  Having been in Tokyo myself  I know what the transport maps etc are like and I think I did the same trip. I may show this to others myself .. as it gets the point across so well. Margie

  4. I LOVE the analogy you’ve used Chris, especially having done a whole holiday in Japan myself using only the rail system!
    The travelling was both infuriating, exciting and interesting. I learned a lot in the journey and can see all the lessons you’ve cleverly highlighted, what a neat & clever way to do it!
    I also found that several (off the tourist beat) stations were not in English, luckily many Japanese people I spoke to loved the opportunity to practise their English conversations with me and were only too happy to help.
    I’m off to download the keynote app for my iPhone, looks like you never know when it might come in handy 🙂


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