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592Challenges for Bioethics from Asia

Video Conferencing for Bioethics Education: A trial in bioethics education to combine different subjects, different grade students, different regions and different schools

- Yuzuru Shatari .

Kanazawa Nishikigaoka High School, 6-218 Kubo Kanazawa-shi Ishikawa-ken 921-8151 JAPAN

Email: yshatari@hotmail.com

The Bioethics Education Network in Japan”, established in 1996 (Macer and Asada), has succeeded in combining teachers already practicing bioethics education at high schools and also other teachers all over Japan who are interested in this subject. We have had 35 seminars so far that have aided our decisions about the content to be taught and methods to be used in our classes. Many teachers have already been practicing bioethics education in various ways on their own. This means that many students are learning about the same subject in different ways, and therefore they may have developed different ways of thinking or have made different discoveries. If exchange among these students is to be realized, it can be expected that they will learn different points of view and make new discoveries with one another. This is why we have thought of giving students a platform for such exchange, using video conferencing. It is not the teachers but the students themselves that play the leading role in bioethics education. While teachers instruct their students according to their own personal methods or viewpoints, if such an exchange is realized, we can expect to deepen their understanding of bioethics.

Video conferencing can be easily realized, using small TV cameras and software. By using this device, we foresee a situation where people in distant places can talk and discuss as if they were in one place together. Thanks to the courtesy of the International University GLOCOM in letting us use their computer server, we recently tried a video conference among Kanazawa Nishikigaoka High School in Ishikawa prefecture, Naha International High School in Okinawa, and Tsukuba University. The students were able to have a discussion on some bioethics topics  in a friendly atmosphere, looking at their friends’ faces on a projector screen and listening to their voices through speakers.

This exchange happened to be between students in different grades discussing different subjects like biology and computers. The exchange between the different aged students turned out to be more effective than we had expected. In addition, since bioethics involves a variety of topics from various fields of study, different subjects can be and should be discussed.  For instance, English teachers can teach bioethics using the English textbook that is now being edited by Prof. Macer. Other teachers of biology, social studies, Japanese, computers, home economics, PE and integrated studies, can talk about the topic as well. Different subjects have different aims and therefore different approaches to the solution of a problem.

As a result, students learning the same bioethics theme under different subjects tend to develop different opinions or ideas accordingly. We can expect new developments in bioethics education by using video conferencing and combining various activities of students in different places. There has always been exchange between teachers, but very seldom with students. Now, with the emergence of video conferencing, we feel the barriers that have limited students’ learning have been cleared. In other words, we are now able to provide our students with the opportunity to learn without the limitations of school location, students’ grades, or subjects.  

In bioethics education, teachers are very often required to give thoughtful consideration to problems such as human rights, and that tends to make teachers nervous.  Also, in order to promote bioethics education in school, teachers need to have a tremendous amount of discussion and preparation seminars. So, given this situation, it is not an easy job.  However, by using video conferencing and “the Bioethics Education Network”, we will be able to do such preparations much more easily.

. pp. 592-593 in Macer, DRJ., ed., "Challenges for Bioethics from Asia" (Eubios Ethics Institute, 2004).

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