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ACCE English teaching program looks to expand, volunteers needed

Date Posted: 2007-02-23

The American Chamber of Commerce Okinawa “English in Education Committee” has been running a program with Okinawan Elementary schools for the past three years to enable local children to be comfortably introduced to learning English through conversational exchanges.

The program, which uses a "real time" Internet Video/Voice connection to hold 30 minute Video Tele-Conferencing (VTC) meetings, interacts with children from the 5th and 6th grades and exposes them to real English language conversational exchanges from an early age. The focus is not to explicitly teach in the traditional sense of the word, but rather to enjoy time spent together introducing and using English and hence to intrinsically motivate the children to learn more in this way.

As well as the daily Internet exchanges the program coordinators organize face-to-face meetings between volunteers and students to enhance friendships made during the on-line sessions. The focus is always to have fun and normally takes the atmosphere of a party with English language games and activities.

“It’s always good to meet the students in person” said Gordon Bolton, Chair of the English in Education Committee. “I am often left at the end of a VTC session wanting more time to talk with the students, and any chance to do so is a bonus.”

That feeling was echoed by long time volunteer Rebecca Jane Vinson. “I’ve been volunteering with the VTC program for the last two years and I have to say it is one of the highlights of my week. It has become part of my life, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to give something back to the wonderful people of Okinawa.”

Bolton included a note of appreciation saying “I’d like to take this chance to thank everyone involved in the program. Without the help and support of the VTC volunteers and teachers at Toyama Elementary School it would not be possible.”

The success of the VTC program has been further indicated in that interest has been shown by Urasoe City to expand the program into other schools - so the search for new volunteers is on.

The only computer hardware requirement is to have access to a PC with a webcam, microphone and Internet connection.

It’s a great way to take your mind off work and get involved with the local community.

The official weekly schedule for the brief VTC sessions is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 1:30pm and 2:00pm.

If you feel you are able and willing to help in any way please contact Gordon Bolton through the ACCO office on 098-898-5401 or by email chamber@amchamokinawa.org.

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