Interac ALTs Left With “GIGA” Sized Device Deficit  

As far back as 2018, the Japanese government was putting together a ¥461 billion plan to digitize education. Through GIGA School, each and every student in schools nationwide would be given access to handheld computers and high speed internet. The move was said to usher in ‘Society 5.0’ – where Internet, AI, and cyberspace will play a larger role in our lives. If this manifests, it will undoubtedly be a great leap from Japan as we know it – where outdated technology such as fax machines are still present in many businesses and homes – to how the country is often portrayed in films and TV. 

GIGA School officially launched in 2019, yet many ALTs are feeling left behind. A recent online poll showed that, out of the 123 respondents, 51% were not provided with a device at their assigned school. This has led to a large number of ALTs bringing personal devices into schools. 

Should public schools be expected to provide a device for contracted workers? 

Should dispatch companies provide their workers with devices? 

Do ALTs need a device to do their job? 

The Hokkaido ALT Union believes that ALTs do require some form of computer (laptop, desktop, tablet, etc) to function. ALTs are expected to be able to plan lessons and create materials such as flashcards or worksheets which is very difficult without access to a computer. ALTs are also expected to create and deliver PowerPoint presentations and digital games in class. 

While materials can sometimes be drawn or made by hand, they may not match the professional standards expected of ALTs. Furthermore, ALTs with heavy teaching schedules may not have the time to create them. On top of this, ALTs often work at multiple schools and it would be unreasonable to expect ALTs to transfer physical materials between workplaces. 

The Japanese government is clearly pushing teachers to use more digital resources in the classroom and this idea is reflected in the training provided by Link Interac. Since November 2021, Interac North has published a range of training materials on Google Classroom. The most common modules are I.T. related; such as the 8 part series ‘INTERACtive ICT’. It could be argued that that information is wasted on employees who do not have access to devices at their assigned school as they are unable to utilize the contents of the training. At the same time, Hokkaido ALT Union believes that this puts pressure on ALTs to bring their personal devices into schools to meet expectations. 

This appears to be the case as a large number of ALTs are not only resorting to bringing their own devices into an assignment, but several ALTs also mentioned that they had bought a device at their own expense specifically to use at school. Repair, maintenance, and upgrade costs come exclusively from the ALT’s pocket.  
Hokkaido ALT Union believes that Interac North is aware that this happens, but is allowing this to happen to save money and increase profit. If ALTs are willing to provide their own devices, why spend money on providing company devices? 

The lack of clear regulation has an unseen side effect. The inconsistency between how ALTs produce materials and teach classes means that the quality of their lessons varies. This almost certainly has an impact on the level of engagement and enjoyment from students.   

So the question remains: on whose shoulders should this burden lie? ALTs need access to devices, but who will pay for them? By introducing increasing amounts of digitized lesson plans and classroom activities, Interac North is making devices an implicit necessity of the job. Hokkaido ALT Union believes that a legitimate company should provide the necessary tools to its workers to fulfil their job expectations.  

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