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Imagination Drives Production of CALL Software for Children
Exclusive Interview with Innova President Joe Wiseman

Joe Wiseman, Innova President Joe Wiseman and Innova Multimedia, Ltd., are June sponsors of the ESL MiniConference Online newsletter. Mr. Wiseman worked as a teacher, school principal and assistant superintendent before co-founding Innova in 1994. He spoke from the educational software company's home offices in Stephenville, Newfoundland, Canada, for the following ESL MiniConference interview. Innova is offering exclusive free access to their design platform for K-3 supplemental ESL/bilingual software this month. For log-on instructions, please email or

In 1994, teachers John Maddock and Joe Wiseman discovered the world of multimedia. They took Mr. Maddock's ideas on teaching poetry and transformed them into a CD-ROM that went on to become INNOVA Multimedia Ltd.'s first product: Poetry in a Nutshell(R). "We recognized then that a market existed for software that focuses first and foremost on education (vs. entertainment)," explained Mr. Wiseman.

Since then, according to Joe Wiseman, the INNOVA team has consistently put learning first in all of its products and services. Today, INNOVA offers a range of curriculum-specific educational software for primary, junior high and high school students, and educational multimedia services to businesses and organizations.

INNOVA's primary product line is the A Whale of a Tale(R) series, used by children aged 5 to 9 to improve their skills in language, math, science and social studies. The series meets international curriculum learning outcomes and also supports learning English as a Second Language. Users of A Whale of a Tale(R) products can customize individual learning packages by using INNOVA's unique software, LessonBuilder(TM). The company also offers educational software products for junior high and high school students in poetry, apprenticeship, and rocks and minerals.

Joe Wiseman's compelling personal philosophy drives the software development process at INNOVA. "I believe that all children have the capacity to learn all of the core content at any grade level," he told the ESL MiniConference. "I also believe that children learn differently due to personal and environmental factors, so we try to vary our pedagogical approach to give each child the opportunity to learn in his/her style."

According to Mr. Wiseman, INNOVA's goal over the next year or two is to complete the development of instructional units in the A Whale of a Tale(R) series. "The vision is to have at least 1 INNOVA lesson for every state standard from K to Grade 3 in the subject areas of language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies," he said.

But the special application for the A Whale of a Tale(R) series as supplemental content based language practice in ESL immersion as well as bilingual ESL programs is a powerful enhanced focus for INNOVA and Joe Wiseman. "Fundamentally, I believe that language skills are at the heart of all learning," he explained. "Solid language skills enable the learner the freedom to explore the world's knowledge."

A deep understanding of the language learning process informs INNOVA's ongoing development of software for the ESL/EFL community. "A good language teacher understands the relationship between language usage and the underlying skills needed to use language effectively," said Mr. Wiseman. "The teacher understands the individual needs of the learner in relation to the inventory of skills needed to use language effectively." INNOVA applications are designed to complement the teacher's efforts to establish an ideal language learning environment, according to Joe Wiseman. "The most effective environment is one where the teacher structures skill development at an individual level," he explained. "The closer a teacher is to individualized instruction, the more effective is that learning environment."

Mr. Wiseman sees a crucial supportive role for computer assisted language learning (CALL) and applications like INNOVA's A Whale of a Tale(R) series in the future growth of ESL/EFL and bilingual education. "The designer of educational software needs to understand the learning environment in order to develop programs to support effective learning," he explained. "We believe that no piece of software will ever replace an effective is another tool to add to the teacher's arsenal along with textbooks, videos, calculators, etc." INNOVA is honing its software design to TESOL, national and state standards, according Joe Wiseman, INNOVA President. "We believe that good software evolves from the state standards and that these standards incorporate the skills necessary for effective English language acquisition," he told ESL MiniConference Online in our recent interview.

The INNOVA vision also recognizes an international market for ESL/EFL products. Its Spanish bilingual version of A Whale of a Tale(R) was piloted in Chile and new culturally specific software is being developed for Asia and Europe. "We are currently working on a Korean language adaptation of the A Whale of a Tale(R) series for use as an ESL tool in Korea, which testifies to the strength of the series in Asian markets," said Mr. Wiseman. "We have also completed a UK adaptation using British voice actors."

The series appears to have universal appeal, and Joe Wiseman has a pretty good idea why that is. "The pedagogy is sound and sea creatures are of interest to children all over the world," he explained. "They rank up there with dinosaurs and Outer Space creatures. Children are able to make that leap into fantasy and still learn!"

By Robb Scott
Editor, ESL MiniConference Online

2002 ESL MiniConference Online