Yamada Laboratory, Kyushu University

My sabbatical has finally begun!


It has been 18 years since I started my career including my part-time years, and 14 years since I became a full-time university faculty member, and I have finally been able to take a sabbatical. This is the first time for me to stay and do research abroad. The time has finally come. It was a long time… When I worked for NTT Company, I had the right to go to Birmingham and England for a couple of months, although it was not for research, but it was extended due to 9.11, and then I was transferred to a different department, where my boss revoked that right. When I moved to Kanazawa University, I was recommended overseas research by the vice president of Kanazawa University, and I tried to apply, but the faculty of the center prevented me from doing so, probably because it was “not a research center (Although the English name was Research Center for Higher Education, apparently it is not a research center somehow lol). So I lost my last chance as a young researcher. Then I finally came to Kyushu University and got this chance.

However, due to the spread of the Covid-19, both the university and the government stopped accepting travelers from overseas and could no longer issue visas. I had a hard time deciding whether I should go, but considering my age, I thought it was now or never, so I decided to go for it.

Originally, I wanted to travel beforehand to greet the professor who accepted me and the members of my laboratory, and to create some living environment, but that was not possible considering that I was in the middle of a class period and there was a possibility of self-quarantine for up to two weeks, so after all, I started my trip in the middle of August by the approval of the Director Dr. Taniguchi.D,

The destination is…Michigan, USA. I will be a Visiting Researcher at the School of Information at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, which is world-renowned for its Learning Analytics research and operates a Learning Analytics-related system on campus. My professor is Dr. Stephanie Teasley, who has made great achievements in learning analytics research, and I   will belong to the LED Lab (Learning, Education and Design). The University of Michigan has a large organization, MyLA, which is a virtual research center for learning analytics research and the deployment of its results, as well as a data science research center. Dr. Stephanie invited me to her home for a talk and told me not to be so formal and to make it a good experience for my research abroad. We would like to proceed with our joint research based on the research plan I had submitted in advance. Her husband, Dr. Thomas Finholt (Dean, School of Information), gave me a cap of the U-M School of Information.

Dr. Stephanie is originally a cognitive psychologist, and she is currently working on a research about Social Shared Cognition, which can be applied to “Social-Shared Regulated Learning” in which we socially regulate each other’s learning behavior and awareness in today’s cooperative learning. She also does research on Social Shared Cognition and knowledge construction in CSCL. So, in fact, we share a lot of commons on our research. During this year, I will do my best to promote research that contributes to the improvement of the teaching and learning environment.

Because of this Corona disaster, I had received a lot of concerns from various actors about this research abroad, and I am still not sure what will happen yet, but I think that now is the time for me to travel to the U.S.. Unlike Japan, people in the U.S. don’t seem to pay attention to corona that much (I was surprised to see people drinking very closely in a restaurant at the airport in Detroit), but there are places everywhere for PCR testing and vaccination, which is even available in pharmacies inside supermarkets, etc. The fact that those results are updated immediately is a big difference from Japan. There are loose ends, but where they are tightened, they are tightened, and I get the feeling that they are more in control than in Japan.

Ann Arbor is a very nice place. It is rich in nature, with the sounds of birds, insects, and a flowing river, and it is very quiet. There are fireflies too. The stars are beautiful, too. I heard that summer is short, and winter is long, and since it is the end of August, I thought it would get colder, but during the daytime it is over 25 degrees Celsius. It is hot. I heard there was a storm before I came here.

Our living environment is gradually getting better. I hope not to waste this precious opportunity and to do good research.