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Ideas For Teaching Social Justice In Japanese Schools by Nathan Gildart

Bio: Nathan Gildart teaches MYP Individuals & Societies and DP History at Nagoya International School in Japan and has been teaching in a 1:1 environment for 20 years.

A former technology coach now back in the classroom, he is an educational technology geek who employs a wide range of digital tools to differentiate and enrich learning.

Gildart is a Google for Education Certified Trainer, Google Certified Innovator, Google Educator Group Leader, a Google Earth Education Expert, and YouTube Certified. He has been a featured speaker/blog contributor for EdTechTeam, Apps Events, has trained international school faculties in Japan, and presented around the Asia-Pacific region.

His teaching and learning resources can be found at with his educational musings at Find him on Twitter: @nathangildart. 

In light of the global protests around the world in recent months, this post is a resource with ideas in which you can include social justice as an element in your classroom practice. By this, I mean including discussions about these important issues throughout the year. While I believe there is no perfect model, it is important that our students see themselves in the curriculum and that racial and social injustice are addressed openly, respectfully, and honestly.

“Social justice education has implications for what we teach (curriculum) and how we teach (pedagogy).” -Thurber

Challenging our beliefs and assumptions can no doubt be a frightening prospect, for educators and for students. Dialogue can spark strong and/or negative reactions.

As we do this, we need to reflect as educators about what messages our curriculum sends to students.

  • Do we have images and examples that accurately reflect the world?

  • Are we conscious of our own stereotypes we may be promoting in our classes through the examples of images, people, and events we use?

It is important to keep in mind that these ideas require access to digital tools, which is limiting for those schools in areas suffering from disparity. Educating ourselves is a good first step. For pedagogical approaches, feel free to read through this Vanderbilt article. (which also contains practical ideas)

For the sake of brevity, and the overall purpose of this writing, here are some ideas for the classroom. 

Activity Ideas – Generate Discussion and Take Action

Discussions. Begin long-term discussions in pairs, then small groups, leading to a larger group discussion. This could help some build the confidence to ease into having a discussion in front of the whole class. The Learning Network: 10 Ways to Talk to Students About Sensitive Issues in the News gives a number of strategies for doing this in your classroom. 

Analyze Data and Statistics. Use data spreadsheets to create graphs and charts that allow students to visualize and hypothesize. National government data (where available and reliable) or that of the agencies of the United Nations and regional organizations can be used. These can focus on data such as health, education, employment, and incarceration. When using Google Sheets, you can easily turn data into graphs and charts that can be copied and pasted into Google Slides and other platforms. Here is a tutorial video on how you can take data from data tables embedded on websites, easily put them into a Google Sheet, and use the data in a variety of ways.

Learn and Teach About Protest Movements. Have students research current protest movements. They can use a Google form to upload their research, sources, and photos. This in turn can be used to quickly make a Google My Map that shows protest around the world through pins with student research, sources, and images. (be sure the image folder from your Google Forms responses is made visible) Here is a tutorial video on how to do this with Google Forms and other tools. 

Create a Physical and Online Poster Campaign. Students can use images and research to create an anti-racist, pro-equality campaign with free online collage tools. These tools allow the user to choose their photos to quickly create a poster with text that can contain a slogan, call to action, or links to further learning. This video includes free online collage tools.

Create an Online History Tour of Injustice. Students can research examples of injustice around the world, such as racial discrimination or oppression of minority groups. Using Google Earth Projects, students can take their research and collaborate on a class project or make their own tour that is media-rich with Google’s satellite imagery, uploading their own researched and cited images, and embed copyright-free documentaries and news videos. Here are some links to tutorial videos on how you and your students can create a Google Earth Project or Google VR Tour Creator project. 

Create a Social Justice Podcast. There are a number of tools to create a podcast. Anchor is a very user-friendly tool that allows one to record a podcast directly from a smartphone or upload an edited recording using tools such as GarageBand, Audacity, or Quicktime. Users can also use Anchor with cloud tools such as Screencastify, Loom, and Screencast-o-Matic which allow for audio-only recording. 

For further language-based ideas that are age-targeted check out and D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice.

In the Physical Classroom

On our classroom walls. Include examples of positive role models from a variety of countries, regions, cultures, and gender identities. Here is a link to tutorial videos on how you and your students can use Google Drawings to create a wide range of visuals for your classroom. (also includes graphic organizer worksheets) 

Provide a gender balance in our examples. (ie) When teaching history, include the work not only of white Western male historians (which seems to be the norm), but include the work of women and non-whites. 

In our content examples. Focus on concepts that show the human experience, rather than focus solely on specific regions of the world. (ie) When discussing conflict, have a range of examples of conflict such as protest, insurgency, and civil war, which sends the message that conflict is a human condition rather than simply a problem for some people and regions. 

Evaluate classroom resources. Have a look at the textbooks and other resources we use. Ask students to question and track where they were made, who made them, the intended audience, what kinds of biases may be in those sources, and what can be done to have a balance in representation through classroom materials. 

Provide variety and choice on assessments and classroom activities. Find out what students want to learn. Teach the concepts but allow students to explore people and events that interest them while keeping to conceptual learning. For example, when learning about the achievements of people in history, challenge students to seek those who have had a positive contribution from a range of countries, regions, cultures, and gender identities. Who has advanced human society but not received credit for their accomplishments? 

Works Cited

“D.C. Area Educators For Social Justice”. D.C. Area Educators For Social Justice, 2020, Accessed 15 July 2020.

“Race & Ethnicity”. Teaching Tolerance, 2017, Accessed 15 July 2020.

“Teaching Race: Pedagogy And Practice”. Vanderbilt University, 2019, Accessed 15 July 2020.

–          A note from ALT training online’s David Hayter


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