Delivered!

A quick update for you. It’s still spring vacation and I’ve been enjoying throwing off all the stress of this busy year, and most of that has come from this project! However, I went into school to discuss next year’s lessons and I was pleased to see that our order of 65 books arrived. It’s great to see the finished, final version. The cover is all glam and corrected. Even the interior looks much better but I did nothing to that. It’s just psychological.

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So, we’ll be getting those signed as soon as students return to school and shipping them off to our Indiegogo backers. We also need to discuss what we are going to do with all those copies. Some will go in our library, the rest will probably go to other schools.

We also discussed doing the project again this year, with the new second grade. We’ll create a bumper second edition that will feature 200 more reviews. That’s double what we have now!

So, audience, you’ve barely had time to digest the first edition, but we want to know: for a few dollars more, would you be willing to buy a bigger, new edition next year? Leave your comments below.

Closing Time

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Hello,

Sorry for the long delay in blogging but I hope you have been following our Facebook page. I kept meaning to update here as well but opportunities for important advertising kept cropping up and stealing my free time. Not to mention work.

Well, first up, I’m sad to say that we are in the final week of our IndieGoGo fundraiser, but we have only raised a fraction of the target. It’s very is heartening but if I’ve learned one thing from this project it’s that you can have the best idea in the world and you can have incredible passion for a subject but that doesn’t mean you can make other people like it. It seems people would rather pay for mind reading headphones than help people get out of poverty and the ruins of disaster and help a disillusioned youth gain a passion for education. Well, I kind of knew society was like that all along.

I’ve tried though. I have been and I still am posting regular tweets and contacting groups who might be interested in our work. This has included a competition run by IndieGoGo themselves to find the campaign with the best perk. I ended our campaign but just like the fundraising, the competition is tough. The winners get a cash boost to their project. What is more important is that it offers lots of closure and free advertising. If you want to vote for our project, then go here. Voting is open until Wednesday and you can vote once every hour, you can even vote again from different devices. So if you have spare time you can really push us up the charts! Thank you!

So this is it. The final push. I know we aren’t going to meet our target, but it is said that over 60% of funds for these things come in the last few days. So we might still get a high total yet. Plus, whatever we raise, every $5 will buy one book to distribute here in Japan and who knows how many disparaged students that might inspire! So please don’t be shy, spread word of our project and donate if you can!

http://www.indiegogo.com/letspopculture

Cheers

Like Butter

Hello again!

It’s been a busy week. So busy I took time off yesterday for a minor illness and still did lots of promotion for our IndieGoGo fundraiser. In fact, I scored us a guest blog feature on a publishing blog. It’s called The Masquerade Crew, and while they focus mainly on fiction they cover all sorts of publishing efforts. The Organiser was generous enough to advertise my latest novel a lot on Twitter, so I asked about this project too. You can read the article here.

While I continue to find other ways to advertise our fundraiser, I am a bit worried that we have received no donations in the past week. I think the proverb ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink’ really applies here! I understand other people are not as passionate about this subject as us, but I am genuinely surprised that there has been no small contributions of $1 or so. I mean, what’s $1 dollar really? You’ve probably lost more money down the back of your sofa, and it could really help change people’s lives here.

I just don’t want everyone here to be disappointed.

So, I’m going to make a short video now about the earthquake and the damage done to our school. I’ll post it here and on the IndieGoGo page when it is ready.

Spread the word

I’m not going to ask you to donate money. I’m going to ask you to donate 10 seconds of your time. I’m going to give you the link to our IndieGoGo fundraiser and I want you to share it somewhere: Facebook, twitter, mixi, tumblr, YouTube, … It doesn’t matter. Here it is:

http://www.indiegogo.com/letspopculture

We have until December 1st to raise $1,999 USD or I’ll collapse from stress, my teachers will go back to teaching soul sapping lessons, my students will lose hope in anything they do for school, English education in Japan will continue to fail and earthquake/tsunami victims will still struggle to rebuild their lives. So help, why don’t you?

It’s been one week, that’s 20 % of our time, and we’ve raised $305 USD so far. That’s only 15%, so we are a little behind schedule! That’s to be expected, as word has yet to be spread of our work. As more and more people share, donations will start to come more frequently.

Back at school, I have put up a quick poster to show students how well our fundraiser is doing. So don’t disappoint them, and don’t embarrass me! Share that link!

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I’ve also been bugging students to contribute more illustrations for the book. So far I have gotten a few doodles but I’m hoping I’ll have some more drawings worthy of being chapter headings and not just page decoration. Still, they are cute.

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That’s it for now. Keep following the Facebook page for more regular updates, and the Indiegogo page for more regular, detailed and fun updates. Videos coming soon!

Started!

It’s on!

The IndieGoGo page is here and it’s on. We are now accepting donations until 1st December.

So please get over there and do what you can. Donate if you have money, even a dollar could change lives, but if you can’t, then share, share and share again! This really means the world to me and it could really change lives, but only if lots of people know about it! So please, I will never ask for anything again! Unless, I get stabbed or something, then I may ask you to pull the knife out. Be realistic here,

As the fundraising continues, I will continue to blog here, giving updates of our progress and our efforts to advertise the project. I’ll also be posting interesting tidbits such as videos and photos directly on the IndieGogo page, so be sure to keep following that!

So there we go! After months of hard work, this is finally happening! Here’s to a big success!

Countdown

This is it! Or rather, tomorrow is it. Tomorrow the IndieGoGo page will go go live! In 24 hours you’ll be able to start donating to our project, and we sincerely hope that you will. All the teachers and students here at Mukaiyama are counting on you to help them and those people still struggling to rebuild their lives after last year’s earthquake.

Full information can be found on this site (hint: try the links above) but to donate, and watch the awesome video, you need to go to our IndieGoGo page at http://www.indiegogo.com/letspopculture

Please, please please tweet this link, Facebook it, tumblr it, anything, just spread the word, especially if you know someone interested in Japan, helping charities or teaching. This project really can make a big difference, but only if more people know about it.

So tweet away, my friends. What would you have me do in return? I’ll do it! I promise.

Premiere

Hey there, normal people. I’m a movie star now. Haven’t you heard? We made this great film telling people all about our project and its just so fantastic that people have propelled its stars into outer space. Literally. They strapped us to a rocket and now as we float through space our heads are popping…

But enough of the bizarre imagery. There is some truth there, and that is that we have made a video. It even tells people about the project, but I doubt it will propel anyone to fame. It’s online, on YouTube, you may even be able to find it, but I’m not advertising it yet because I want my select audience of beta testers to have their premiere so they can inform me if there is any problem first.

I don’t think there are any major problems. In fact, I think it turned out really well. Some parts surprised even me. However, it was a little rushed as I only had just over a week to film and edit it, ready for the Indiegogo project page’s launch on Friday. So it is a little rough, but I really tried hard to make it much better quality than my usual YouTube efforts and the students put in a great performance too, after a little persuasion.

So this is it! We are only 3 days away from starting the funding drive! Now is the time to start telling people about our project and the all important soon to be open page at www.indiegogo.com/letspopculture.

So what are you waiting for? Go! Tweet! Facebook! Tumbley tumblr…!

That’s a wrap

Today I finished filming the video to promote the project. The students ran their annual half marathon leaving the school nearly empty. So I took to doing some location shooting without interruption. I finished my bits quite quickly. I had some speeches in the media room, I had some speeches in the halls, I even had some speeches while writing on the walls…. wait! No! Don’t got complaining to my school. I actually wrote on the blackboard and did some (almost) stop motion animation, but walls rhymed a bit.

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After that, I was stuck marking until the students returned from their run and were ready to film their part. At first we only had a few boys volunteering, but while we were waiting for some organization we all tried to rope in any girls who passed by, to give the project some balance. It’s bad enough having no students in the video and people thinking there is just me on this project, but neither did I want just boys in the video as its supposed to represent the school, and guess what?! We have girls! So we all kept asking girls if they anted to join in, but even though faces would be hidden, everyone was very shy. Eventually we got three girls to join in and filming got underway.

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It took a few minutes to explain what I wanted to do, but they are smart kids they got it. We had a practice and then filmed it three times before we got the perfect run. Then we filmed a goodbye message at the school entrance. This was more fun because other students were running around and we had to try and avoid them, but they got to see what we were doing.

Now this weekend I had to edit it, then it should be up on YouTube in a few days. It’s a week until the Indiegogo page goes live. So, I think, we will be ready! Please check it out.

The making of the introduction video

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Hey viewers and welcome to another exciting edition of “It’ll Be Alright On The Night”. I’m your host, Matthew Rowe, and… I guess I got carried away with the whole video making thing.

I’ve been filming clips for the Indiegogo project introduction video. It’s been fun but harder work than I imagined. Now, I try to make a short video on YouTube about my daily life every day, well, five times a week, but I don’t spare much time for production because I don’t have that much time every day. However, for this video I want it to look good so I’ve been practicing lines, setting up shots, dressing the set and patrolling security too.

The results are quite good, I can’t really tell until I edit later, but there have been a lot of bloopers. I never realized how hard it is to remember and deliver lines correctly, and then it’s even hard to remember what you are supposed to say after a difficult bit. So, if there is enough room on my iPhone and iPad to save the clips, I might make a bloopers video as a bonus later. It’ll be nice to post on Indiegogo.

Slowly, I’m getting there. The wrapped footage – ooh, look at me, I used a proper filming term – is piling up. I just have to work out a few location problems. Basically, I want to do a walk down the corridor as I talk through a few points, but they keep having lessons in the extra lecture rooms so I can’t disturb them. Hopefully, in today’s last period I will have the space I need.

Very soon, I’m going to visit the classes to instruct the students who want to appear in the video. Due to permission problems and personal safety, students will be appearing wearing masks, but still I have only had a handful of volunteers, and all boys! I want to get some girls interested for the sake of balance! So I’m also thinking of how best to use students in masks. I might get them to do something else funny. We’ll see what happens.

And that’s it, production continues.

Interveiwed

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Good evening folks,

It’s very late and I’ve had a tiring day. Only two lessons and a bit of organizing with the students files, turned into a marathon session of helping as students came to me for their saved files and for access to the computer room. Also, at lunchtime I helped a student with pronunciation for a speech contest. She surprised me because when we talk she makes quite a few mistakes, but she obviously practiced hard. I also recorded myself reading the speech so that she could listen to my pronunciation. However, we had some trouble transferring the file to iPod. So many ways to do it but not many ways that do not reveal private information, like emails. We got that done in the end though.

The exciting thing today was that I was interviewed by a student about the project. It’s for a broadcasting club competition. He has to read a report about one minute and 30 seconds long and he chose this project as the subject. Therein lies the problem, as I am very passionate about the subject and I gave him a lot of information. He will have difficulty making it short enough.

However, I was really happy to do this. Not only is it a chance to talk about the project, but it will also advertise the project to other schools. Another thing is that just by the fact that he wanted to interview me, it shows that he is excited and interested in the project too. That’s what’s really important to me because one of the main reasons I did this project was to make students more interested. We talked for a long time, with a teacher translating the hard parts. Below is a transcript of the interview

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1. What made you start this project?

My main reason is I wanted to do something exciting for the students. Lessons can be very boring and although the project is mainly writing, I think the goal and the end result is very exciting for all of us. But I think it might be too exciting. I think a lot of students don’t believe this s going to happen. Not until I show them a copy of the book. If I could have proved it before I think a lot more students would have tried even harder. The sad thing is we may only do this project the once, this year. Other reasons though, reviews seemed like a logical next step since everyone ad been learning how to express their opinions. Also, I was looking at what skills I can offer as a teacher that others can’t. It occurred to me that I’m a writer and I knw how to publish books. So I started thinking of ways I could use this for school. Also, I may be dreaming but I see no reason why this book cantbea big success and f it is we can help a lot of people by donating profits to disaster victims

2. What do you think when you read sentences students wrote?

Honestly, this sounds cliche, but I was really surprised. I knew students were capable, otherwise I wouldn’t have done the project, but so many students wrote long reports on their first draft. I really expected I would have to force more information out of everyone. So I was very happy. On another level, what the students write is very concise. Reading their work mad eve realise that a lot of what native English speakers write and say is unnecessary, but I think language learners choose their words very carefully. I hope the readers realise this. For example, a student said that her favorite groups music videos were very original. If I read this from a native speaker I would assume it was just a tag word to gain my interest, they didn’t really mean it because everyone says that so get viewers interested, but I believe that she really meant the meaning of the word: that the groups music videos are unlike any others. I hope this book will not only show Japanese schools what students can really do with English but help native speakers reexamine how they use the language too.

3. What would you write if you were a student?

Well, I’m going to be writing an introduction to the book, talking about ways I experienced Japanese culture and ways it has already influenced people around the world, but if I was writing a review for the book, I think I would write about my favorite Japanese group:Scandal. No one has written about them and they are my favorite.

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I don’t understand the lyrics so their music is probably all for girls, but I really like the songs. But more importantly I really admire the people. In a music industry with too many idol groups who just sing and dance, these four girls learned how to play instruments, write their songs, perform and they sing and dance. Theyve come straight from high school to a major record label and are really living their dream. I really think they should be supported for that and so that real music bands, especially girl bands, don’t disappear completely from the music charts.

4. What do you want students to think about by practicing this project?

I think this project works on so many levels. If they think small, it’s Simply another writing exercise to practice their English and expand their vocabulary,but i hope its a bit more interesting than that because they can write about something they love and I think that’s a big motivation to use language. Plus, they have the goal of their book being published and perhaps helping many people in need too. But I hope many students think more deeply about the need for this book. People all over the world are interested in Japan and that’s kind of huge. As far as I know, we are the only people to do a book like this, its the first of its kind and although it won’t be as in depth as many guides, because of the language problem, I think it will be a great starting point for people who want to know more and it will show the world what aspects of Japan’s culture are important to real Japanese young people today. So this book will help a lot of people interested in Japan. But I want them to think about the power of their words. Students often learn English and it seems boring with no real use, often the way English is taught is boring. But with these words that students have learned, studied and written down, they will spark people’s interest all over the world, they will be a gateway to people’s deeper knowledge and learning of Japan, maybe even the start of their lives in Japan. Not only that but if our book does make money then these boring English words you wrote will earn money that will help earthquake and tsunami victims improve their lives following the disaster. English will help people recover and get back to normal lives. And if this project goes on to be really successful, it may be one of the first changes in how English is taught in the future. So I really want students to look beyond their piece of paper and see the impact their English learning can have on the world if used in a certain way. Maybe then students will like English more.

5. What kind of people do you think of as potential readers of the book? (What kind of people do you want to read this book?)

As I have already said, this book cannot be the most in depth guide to Japanese culture available because it is written by language learners while others are written by native speakers with expert knowledge of their subjects and years of experience and research available to them. We are just a few people in a classroom. That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything but it is what it is. We can’t compete. So we play a different game. Our book will be interesting and easy to read because the language may be simple. So younger people can read it. It will also be a small, cheap “gateway book”. Maybe someone with a casual interest in Japan buys it because it is aches, they read students reviews and they gain more of an interest in Japan. So they buy more books, learn the language and eventually go to Japan to study or teach or live… Its completely possible. There may also be people who are searching for what really is popular in Japan now and they don’t trust other guide books because they are inevitably written with a foreigners perspective. Our book is different. Hey can get the real up to date opinions of current Japanese high school students.

However, I think the most important audience for this book is other teachers, students and people within Japan. It will show people that language learning doesn’t have to be boring, language learning can be creative. It will give other teachers ideas of what to do in the classroom and perhaps make great collaborations on projects even bigger than this. We are only three teachers and five classes of students, but we made this book and I’ve talked about the effect this book could have. Imagine what we could do if many schools worked together? I also hope it will inspire students. Not only show them that English isn’t boring, but show how they can make an impact with their learning and skills and show them how any skill can make a big change if you just think about how to use it. Japan’s English education has been struggling for many years. One of the things holding it back is the attitude of many language learners and the inherent shyness of Japanese people. If this project can open even a few minds it will be successful. It doesn’t have to be about English either. Please anybody, go forward and use your maths skills on a great life changing project, go and use your science, your French, your computer programming, your drawing skills, your basketball skills, anything at all and just know you can use them to do whatever you want.

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Fundraising ends!

The EndDecember 1st, 2012
Our big fund raiser is coming to an end... Here's when. Thank you for all the support! We all really appreciate it.

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