Kudos, Kindle, and Charisma
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Joel Josephson is a regular eLearning contributor who recently won our “VIP” User Competition. We spoke with him to congratulate him and hear his take on where online education is headed. Read on for the full interview.
Kudos, Kindle, and Charisma
Our “VIP” User Competition winner, Joel Josephson, is a regular eLearning contributor who communicates passion for his job with charisma both on the virtual page and in person. Years ago, an unfruitful search for bilingual language resources for his children led him to create ‘Kindersite’ as a way of facilitating educational games for young learners through the internet. Since then, he’s been involved in a number of European projects, and today he works to disseminate those that, he believes, are most successful in motivating both teachers and students in new ways. We chatted with Joel to congratulate him for winning both kudos and kindle, and to hear his perspective on the current status and future of online education.
Regular posts on eLearning Europa and other websites, running busy social network groups, organizing conferences…you seem to be truly passionate about your work.
I have a wonderful job and work with some fabulous people, with an absolutely amazing network of European educators. People whom I actually call ‘innovative educators': they’re not people who just stand at the board and do the curriculum by rote, they're people who make things happen.
What is it that drives this kind of innovation?
Innovation is taking a variety of people's ideas and putting them together in a new way. The main feature I try to bring out in projects, and especially in the ones I've tried to initiate, is motivation. Because without it, we've lost the battle.
Motivating has always been a key component of successful education, in one way or another. What’s changed?
Students today have so many other distractions, and their lives are so rich with media, learning or social potential, that as educators we've got to match that. We’ve got to create education that is as motivating and interesting. Although I don't believe that we can teach people just online, either; I’m a big believer in blended learning. We need to use technology and media resources, both within and without the classroom, to break down the classroom wall in a sense.
That’s quite a challenge for teachers, it seems.
Well, I can give you an example of a project we started last January. It’s called PopuLLar, because it combines pop music with language learning, and is directed at a secondary school audience. Students first select a piece of music, strip away the lyrics, and then rewrite their own version in the target language. The best bit comes then: they sing it, record it, and put it up on YouTube, for example, and then share it with schools across Europe.
Does it work?
Well, we know students are very motivated by music; it's part of their lives, something they can relate to. And our goal here is slightly different—we're not looking to teach them a language in this case, we're trying to get them to use it in an authentic setting. Furthermore, everything is managed autonomously, since the teachers act as facilitators, but it’s the students who are learning by solving problems on their own.
You’re involved in a variety of sharing communities. What’s your take on how educators and academics in the field are managing online resources?
I think it's a bit of a dangerous situation now, one in which we have very large communities of educators around the globe who are connecting online—the biggest exclusive community for educators, Classroom 2.0, has up to about 80,000 educators globally—but they actually only represent a very small slice of the total education world.
How do we move beyond preaching to the choir?
The truth is, those involved profit from measurable gains in ideas and creativity by being part of these communities. As I said, though, the vast majority isn’t. Some people say they don’t have time to spend online, but I’ve always said that I actually save time in the long run. Basically, we can't afford to miss out. We simply can't afford to not be there.