International Educator - March/April 2013 - S12
PHOTO CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
Professor Employs Technology to Teach Japanese
ason Jones, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-
lets them participate in fan sites for popular books or films. “That’s
Milwaukee, teaches a variety of Japanese classes to English-speaking
pretty popular,” he says. His classes routinely make use of Dropbox,
students and says technology has made a big difference in the way
Facebook, Twitter, and Desire to Learn as well.
students learn what can be a complex language.
“Having a translation course online is a great benefit,” he says.
“The graduate program I teach is completely online,” he says. While
“It mimics the nature of a lot of [paid] freelance translation. The stu-
that’s totally technology-based, it also means finding creative ways to
dents will get a lot of assignments online. They’re going to be com-
make the material relevant and capture the attention of students he may
municating online, so they have to do it well. They have to research
things online. A lot of students arrive here not yet knowing how to
“You really find yourself leveraging whatever technology you can leverage,” he says. That includes an app that lets him test students on-screen
and others that let students in different countries interact in Japanese.
“I got here in 2010 and soon after, put together a fellowship application
do those things.
Despite using a lot of high-tech teaching tools, Jones admits it all has
its limits and that straight online language learning isn’t a great match for
through the State University of New York’s COIL Center,” he says. COIL is
“People have embraced technology in the classroom where they can,”
the Center for Collaborative Online International Learning, and it works to
he says. “It’s a good idea to have it all. But could you only offer Japanese
expand language learning into cross-cultural learning that sensitizes stu-
courses online? I’m not sure people would agree with that. People are
dents to the traditions and perceptions of people in other countries.
more comfortable, I think, with traditional face-to-face courses. As a sup-
Jones says his grant helped him put together a course that was taught
with students from his class and students from Japan.
plement, though, I think people
“I went to grad school in Japan,” he explains. “I spoke with someone
He says the tables were
I knew there and we decided to have an international course with stu-
turned last year when he took
dents here and students there.” It wasn’t as much a language class as
an online course on making
a culture class designed to expose students in both countries to the
the most of Google and trad-
thoughts and perceptions of the other.
ed in his teacher’s desk for a
That course used social networks, including Facebook and Twitter,
to get students talking and interacting, along with an online portfolio
students used to create, post, and collaborate on work.
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR | 2 0 13 L A N G UAG E S U P P L E M E N T
“Students on the Japanese side posted recipes that they taught my
“It was a great course,” he
is a great
says. “It came with quizzes and
lots of videos and things. But
students here,” he says. “We went and bought the recipes, and the stu-
I quickly realized that I wanted to be on the other end of things! Taking a
dents had to make the food and provide a report on it. It was exhausting,
class like that is a quick way to realize how strict you have to be with your-
but it was a great experience.”
self in online learning and how disciplined you have to be to make things
“Everything took place in a dorm,” he says of that class. “It’s a living
learning program where students with similar interests live together and
take the class as a community. It lent some interesting aspects to the project,” and brought the lessons into day-to-day living.
Other courses have also embraced technology to teach. “A colleague
has put together a business Japanese course,” he says. “She’s added a
face-to-face component where students visit a Japanese company and
have the opportunity to test the things they’ve learned. But she’s using
Google Hangouts, videos, and online short stories as well.”
Jones teaches a course on translating Japanese media that has
students using editing software to subtitle shows and media, and
work. It’s not as clearly defined as classroom learning.”
That said, he says his online classes also have tremendous benefits.
“I can see if my students are working efficiently,” he says. “I can see
how they work. I can tell them that if they try something this other way,
they’ll get better results or it’ll be faster. And sometimes it’s surprising to
see how efficiently they can do things.”
That’s also true for his in-person classes.
“I can go around the classroom and check what they’re doing on my
iPad or iPhone,” he says. “There’s actually something magical in being
able to do that. I can see what everyone is doing without physically looking over their shoulder.”