I have been in Japan since Wednesday, for a symposium on Portfolios in Medical Education at Mie University in Tsu, near Nagoya. I was a second presenter after another expert from a medical school in the U.K., where they have been using portfolios for high stakes, summative assessment. I provided quite a contrast with my focus on student-centered, formative portfolios. This was my second bilingual hands-on workshop: the first in Finland in 1998 and now Japan in 2007. This was quite a contrast. In Finland, I was teaching how to create an electronic portfolio with Adobe Acrobat. Today, we created an electronic portfolio with GoogleDocs. This time, I knew the tool well enough to be able to point to the part of the screen where the different commands existed in the English version, and it all worked, although I had a great workshop assistant who was typing and using the software in Japanese.
The participants were very actively engaged in both yesterday afternoon's workshop, which was mostly lecture, and today's full day workshop, which was very hands-on and participatory. We had simultaneous translation, which I had only experienced a year ago in Italy, where it was all a lecture format. At least today, that was a lot of experiential learning going on. I learned one thing: only use the Firefox browser when using GoogleDocs. Internet Explorer for Windows did not work well.
I am most impressed by how well I was taken care of while I was here. I was met at the airport and escorted to my hotel, where I had my first dinner. Every day, I was escorted to their offices or to where I needed to be for the workshops. Tomorrow, I will be escorted on the train back to the airport for my flight to Hong Kong. The taxicabs were immaculate, with white covers on the seats. My hotel had free wifi and free breakfast. Our lunches were catered in beautiful boxes. I had no idea about everything I was eating, but it was all very good. As my first trip to Japan, it was very impressive!