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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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,"
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 teacher...software 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