The Institute and Our Community

Sainsbury Institute’s technology-assisted teaching debut

Sam with Tim Pestell of the Norwich Castle Museum with the UEA film crew
Sam with Tim Pestell of the Norwich Castle Museum with the UEA film crew

The Sainsbury Institute is very committed to exploring new ways of disseminating our research in Japan, including through the use of what are termed ‘new technology-assisted teaching’, such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). The University of East Anglia is an active member of the FutureLearn initiative as well as other world-leading institutions including University College London, University of Edinburgh, the British Library and the British Museum.

The Sainsbury Institute is currently involved in developing a MOOC-like series of programmes which are to be launched in January 2016 prior to the first incoming cohort of University of Tokyo undergraduates as part of the Sainsbury Institute – University of Tokyo Summer/Winter exchange programme. A trailer for the programmes will form part of the reception to be held at the International House of Japan in November marking the first visit to Japan by Professor David Richardson, Chair of the Management Board of the Sainsbury Institute and Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia.

The MOOC-like programmes are being developed by Simon Kaner working with our Senior Research Associate Dr Sam Nixon. Sam has been working on African archaeology for many years, but since January has returned to an interest piqued while a graduate student at UCLs Institute of Archaeology when he was able to take MA classes given by Mizoguchi Koji, a long-term supporter of the Institute and now Professor of Social Archaeology at Kyushu University and President of the World Archaeology Congress – an organisation established in 1986 and which will be holding its Congress in Kyoto in September 2016, the first major international archaeology congress to be held in Japan since the 1960s.

Preparation for the MOOC has involved filming at Norwich Castle Museum- during which it appeared that the Museum is home to an exceptional set of early Edo period (possibly 17th century) samurai armour. Following on from the filming there, the Institute has arranged for Victor Harris, former Keeper of Japanese Antiquities at the British Museum to visit Norwich to give an assessment of the armour (some readers will recall Victor’s excellent Third Thursday Lecture a number of years ago at 64 The Close, with Lady Sainsbury in the audience). The MOOC-like programmes will provide an introduction to the archaeology and cultural heritage of East Anglia, in particular around Norwich and Norfolk, for the students coming from Tokyo in February 2016. We hope that this introduction will help familiarise them with the sites, materials and concepts they will encounter while they are studying here (from Norfolk flint, via conservation officers, to the excellent Norfolk Museums Service and English Heritage).

Furthermore, we hope that the students will be able to do some preparatory research on objects such as the samurai armour in the Castle Museum, so that they can give something back to the local and national heritage services that are always so welcoming to our Japanese guests. In addition, we hope that these MOOC-like programmes will help us encourage other students from Japan and elsewhere to come and enjoy East Anglia’s remarkable cultural heritage. The Sainsbury Institute has long promoted the comparative study of Japanese archaeology and cultural heritage, and these initiatives allow us to further develop links between Japan and our own region, while also helping to fulfil both the Institute’s and UEA’s commitment to using the latest technology to get our message across.

Simon Kaner
Head of the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage

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