The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) yesterday launched a new initiative called the “Mobile American Corner” to facilitate interaction between students in the US and remote areas in Taiwan using technology.
At the square outside Taipei Railway Station, a truck equipped with a 60-inch television, e-books on touchscreen computers and iPads, and a youth-oriented collection of US literature was opened to students, marking the beginning of a two-month journey that will see the bus travel to Greater Tainan, Pingtung, Taitung and Hualien County.
“This Mobile American Corner is not just a car, but also a bridge, a bridge between Taiwan and the US,” said Ryan Roberts, director of the AIT American Cultural Center, when he introduced students at Yuomu Elementary School in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sansia District (三峽) to their counterparts at Punahou School in Hawaii.
Using video-conferencing made possible by fiber-optic cable networks going from Taiwan to Japan, to the west coast of the US and then to Hawaii, students exchanged words of welcome in each others’ languages.
Currently, there are 465 cities around the world hosting the growing network of American Corners, a project run by US overseas missions in collaboration with local libraries to provide information about the US, the AIT said.
However, “this [Mobile American Corner] will be the first mobile, digital American Corner,” AIT Director Christopher Marut said at the opening ceremony yesterday.
Marut said the Mobile American Corner provides an innovative platform for young people and the general public in Taiwan to reach out to the rest of the world, allowing the AIT and its partners to expand our reach to more people.
“I hope the American Corner can play an important role in making sure that we continue to stay close and connected — and most importantly, listen to each other and understand each other better,” Marut said.
The Mobile American Corner project is part of the “Read for the Future,” a program launched by the CommonWealth Magazine Education Foundation in 2004 to provide reading materials to children with limited access to educational resources to help them develop an interest in reading.
The AIT has contributed to the program since 2008 by supplying books.
Now, by combining books and technology, the program can further foster children’s interest in reading and bridge the gap between rural and urban schools in terms of educational resources, CommonWealth Magazine founder and chairwoman Diane Ying (殷允芃) said.
The project was the latest in a series of AIT outreach campaigns, which range from a high-profile initiative in which AIT officers went to night markets to explain the US Visa Waiver Program, to a recent countrywide bike tour with AIT Kaohsiung Branch director Gary Oba.