Following this win, and upon hearing an (unconfirmed) comment about how bringing personal computers to high school had been banned by the Miyagi Prefecture Board of Education, the GENERAL UNION began to wonder what conditions were like for other instructors and teachers in other areas of Japan. After all, computers have quickly become an essential tool for making lesson plans and teaching materials, completing work reports, and accomplishing various other activities required by their chosen occupation.
To find out more, the GENERAL UNION asked its Facebook viewers to complete a simple poll, detailing the policies of the places which they work, and sharing their own experiences of rules and provisions regarding the use of personal computers.
Of those polled, here’s what we learned:
What Is Your Main Working Environment?
- 43.1% – Junior High School
- 19.6% – University / College
- 11.8% – Language School
- 09.8% – Multiple / Other
- 07.8% – Senior High School
- 03.9% – Elementary School
- 03.9% – Kindergarten
What Is Your Employment Status?
- 72.9% – Directly Hired (e.g. by a Board of Education, or Private School, etc)
- 22.9% – Dispatched By A Company (e.g. by Interac, JoyTalk, etc)
- 4.2% – Not Sure / Other
Does Your Place Of Work Provide You With A Computer To Use?
- 68.5% – Yes, with Internet access.
- 14.8% – No, I have to bring my own device.
- 13.0% – No, I am not allowed to bring my own device.
- 03.7% – Yes, without Internet access.
Are You Allowed To Bring a Computer To Your Place of Work?
- 51.3% – Yes, and I can access the Internet.
- 30.8% – No.
- 17.9% – Yes, but I cannot access the Internet.
“Using A Computer Is Essential For My Job.” – Agree or Disagree?
- 78.7% – Strongly Agree
- 17.0% – Agree
- 02.1% – Neither Agree Nor Disagree
- 02.1% – Disagree
- 00.0% – Strongly Disagree
“Access To The Internet Is Important For My Job.” – Agree or Disagree?
- 80.4% – Strongly Agree
- 17.6% – Agree
- 02.0% – Neither Agree Nor Disagree
- 00.0% – Disagree
- 00.0% – Strongly Disagree
The poll also had an optional “Please Tell Us More” section for people to share their stories and experiences about the situations that they are in, or have otherwise experienced. Here are some of the negative experiences that people (anonymously) shared with the GENERAL UNION:
“My school provides laptops for teachers to use, but they are essentially antiques. We’ve asked on multiple occasions for replacements or updated hardware; however, we’re constantly refused the funds (Meanwhile, the manager bought a large projector and sound system we didn’t need, as well as a grand piano that will only get used about 2 or 3 times a year). As a result, teachers are forced to bring their own devices to school daily.
The provided laptops have missing keys (e.g. no E, R, T, or 3 on the one next to me); take more than 10 minutes to start up after being shut down; take more than 5 minutes to start up after sleep mode; take more than 5 minutes to open programs; sporadically disconnect from internet and printer network; don’t function with modern technology such as smart phones or projectors; the screens black out at random times; and they have to be permanently connected to an electrical power source as their batteries are so old they no longer hold any charge, so they can’t be moved from office/preparation area to classroom without allowing about 20 minutes to restart not only the computer itself, but also any necessary programs.”
“I am not allowed to use a USB stick, so I have to email myself the worksheets that I need (from home!) and then use the school computer to check the email and print off the worksheets. Ridiculous.”
“NOVA has laptops to use to enter notes on the site, but everything else is blocked.”
“The situation at ECC doesn’t generally require me to use a computer, as we have printed lesson plan books – but unless I want to come in early and do unpaid overtime to prepare lesson plan notes, I must make them at home, which is what I do currently. I spend about 3 or 4 hours a week at home preparing for classes, or reading lesson plans on my smartphone on the train. Smartphones are absolutely prohibited at work. We are only provided copies of the lesson plans outside of the schools via the online teacher portal, as well as other essential documents like updates to the curriculum or personnel documents, time off requests, etc.
If needed, generally speaking I can request to use a computer at work, and official policy encourages it. However, the computers are generally in use by the staff, so I must interrupt their work to use them. There also isn’t time during the shift for these kinds of things, so if I need to request time off or print out a form or updated class schedule or additional resources, it must be done during my free time before or after my shift.”
“I was told that I could use my own personal computer if I asked for permission and very few schools would allow use of their PCs. Also, Internet access would not be allowed except for a one-time use per request at the school. In addition, I was told that removable storage is not allowed due to the possibility of copying and taking private information from the school home.”
“As an eikaiwa instructor, most of my necessary lesson materials are provided in paper format. However, I do need computer access several times a month to check company policy on the official website, and to download various clerical documents I’m required to submit – such as commuting forms. A staff member has to log in for me, as teachers are not given password access.”
“There is a computer on my desk which is only usable if there is a card used to log in. As I am a foreign teacher, I am not entitled to have a ID card to access the computers, but I am expected to prepare and teach all three grades on a contract that is considered part time. However, the JTE will only teach one grade and also has a computer on their desk.”
“Due to my position, my company issues a notebook PC for work use. There are many security-related restrictions imposed on this PC. Some of them are reasonable; some are not.”
To end this article on a positive note, here are some of the more agreeable situations that people taking the poll have shared with us:
“When I pointed out that the wireless connection to my work computer was very weak, direct-cable network access was arranged.”
“No teacher is allowed to access the internet on the day of school entrance exams. This is the only day when it is forbidden. I find this reasonable.”
“We have four desktop PCs for staff-use connected to printers. The school does not provide personal computers, but we can bring our own and connect them through WIFI.”
“Being a CNET in Osaka, I need to be able to prepare materials with visual references that provide content and interest to my lesson. I have never been denied access to the staff computers nor have I been reprimanded for a personal device. In fact, I was working with a school in a poorer area in Osaka that provided me with a tablet to create slide-shows on.”
“Computer policies at my company are put together as knee-jerk reactions and seem to be based around issues of data security. However, sensitive files can be emailed to others, or can be accessed through other online means. Also, this policy seems to be enforced by lip service only, and I am often told that I cannot use my computer, but then will be expected to bring it along for special presentations, demos, and other company functions.”
“I have been lucky in being the first to convince and implement technology into the classrooms whether as a dispatch, direct hire, or independent contractor. It’s just a matter of communicating the effectiveness of it to the teachers, demonstrating its useful impact, and doing a little bit at a time. I have done Jeopardy, PowerPoint Presentations, watched YouTube videos, talked with dozens of other classrooms and guests around the world via Skype, created file sharing sites for ALTs and JTEs to share resources… the sky is the limit. Yet, one needs to be patient and savvy about using any new idea or tool.”
If you’re having a problem with computers at your school, or your school or company has banned you from taking your own devices to work, please get in touch with the GENERAL UNION at:
Do you have more thoughts or opinions about this topic? Let us know on our official Facebook page at: