INTERVIEW: NAMIKO TSURUTA SHARES HER EXPERIENCE OF THE ACCELERATED LEARNING CERTIFICATE IN VIRTUAL TRAINING
Namiko is the Program Director of Global Language Institute, an English consulting company, and the Creative Director at thetoykyolife.jp which focuses on helping foreign residents acclimatise in Japan. Namiko, a foreign language educator, attended the Accelerated Learning Certificate in Virtual Training at the start of the pandemic and generously offered us her insights into the program and her experience in the following interview.
BUT FIRST, WHAT IS THE ACCELERATED LEARNING CERTIFICATE IN VIRTUAL TRAINING?
Accelerated Learning (AL) is a total system for speeding up and enhancing both design and learning processes. Based on the latest brain research, it is a proven methodology to increase learning effectiveness while reducing costs and time in the process. We were all affected by COVID-19, which forced us to move our training online. It was and still is vital that we continue to create learner-centric experiences, regardless of the space we’re in.
The AL Certificate introduces key concepts that will help learners deliver powerful sessions online and at the same time, create an interactive learning atmosphere for their participants. It is not just about adding activities to your virtual sessions, but about designing engaging learner-driven online sessions that create real impact.
INTERVIEW WITH NAMIKO
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO ATTEND THE ACCELERATED LEARNING CERTIFICATE IN VIRTUAL TRAINING PROGRAM?
“It was the first year of the pandemic and our business model changed, which required that a lot of our resources become available online. While I had a team of people who were content developers, who were comfortable with tech, as the program manager it was my responsibility to oversee this team and I felt less confident about running things online. I happened to take an introductory course with The Learning Gym that was advertised through Diversity Dojo. Experiencing TLG’s hands-on type of training really motivated me to then continue. I had to get the buy-in of the boss of course, as training doesn’t come cheap, but there’s a reason for that and it was worth every Yen.”
WHAT BENEFITS WERE YOU EXPECTING TO GET OUT OF THE PROGRAM AND WHAT DID YOU ACTUALLY GET OUT OF IT?
“At that time, I was so naïve, but I think I was expecting something really technical. Something that just involved being given a list of resources of everything that was available to us. However, it was quite different. A lot of the (AL) principles instilled the same type of learning that I’m already familiar with being a foreign language teacher. I was really pleased as I felt comfortable in the workshops and in the training and a lot of things really resonated with me because of my teaching background. I remember Melanie saying that it’s not about tech, it’s about learning and making the technology available so that learners can have knowledge that’s accessible. That’s what I took away with me.”
DID YOU HAVE ANY MAJOR AHA MOMENTS OR KEY INSIGHTS FROM THE PROGRAM?
“Oh every time! Mostly because the participants weren’t people that I expected to be in a group with. These were people that were business owners, people who were already working in innovation and AI, and had nothing to do what I was doing. Because of the diverse nature of the group, not to mention that many of them were also multilingual speakers, it was a really refreshing way to experience firsthand what it means to belong to a DI (diversity and inclusion) group. I now really understand how (our) students feel, having to navigate in their second language. Then there were also all the things that happen in online sessions, like the technical issues, people trying to dial in from China, but couldn’t, due to censor restrictions. Technical issues happened all the time and that really prepared me for when we did our virtual sessions with students in Nepal. Also understanding that even with technology, you will face problems, because not every tool is accessible to every person and the adjustments you need to make to your work and the way you do things to accommodate these issues.”
WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU MADE TO YOUR PROGRAM DESIGN SINCE TAKING THE COURSE?
Although TLG has a very diverse group of learners in all its programs, Namiko’s EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teaching background was not typical for us either. The AL principals, however, are universal and applicable to all types of learning, in any industry.
Namiko explained she was already thinking about “learner-centric” training 10 years ago when she returned to school and studied second language acquisition (SLA). Hands-on training is important for her especially with her in-service teacher training programs. It’s a principal she was already familiar with from her time as a preschool teacher. Pulling all these elements together, “making the right connections, understanding the foundations and principles of SLA, learning more about the principles of Accelerated Learning, applying that to what is feasible in the classroom and understanding what knowledge or skills my learners may or may not already have” now informs how Namiko designs her programs.
HOW HAVE YOUR STUDENTS RESPONDED TO THE CHANGE? HAS THERE BEEN AN IMPACT ON YOUR ENGAGEMENT OR EFFECTIVENESS?
“(this is) interesting because all the classes that I taught, even during the pandemic, were not online, so I wasn’t able to test anything (I’d learned) until I started doing online presentations. It was interesting because these were all language teachers (I was presenting to) and many of them had not had the training that I was able to get. So even with the sharing that was going on, there were some apps that they were not familiar with, and some tools that they didn’t know about. And so when I was doing the presentations, I found myself explaining exactly what Melanie had to us, in terms of how to use Mentimeter, and how to annotate. Even though I was talking to university professors, those simple, or what we thought were simple tasks, still required explanations. This was enlightening as it really made me understand that it wasn’t employing the tools that would enhance engagement, but rather “how” using these tools could enhance engagement. I think that really sunk in during the training.”
AS YOU’RE IN THE LANGUAGE SPACE, WHO WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS PROGRAM FOR?
“I definitely think this is a course that someone who is not familiar with what’s out there should experience. A list of the top 100 tech tools for 2022 was recently published. If you’re not familiar with the top 50, I think this type of training would be very beneficial, because it doesn’t just expose you to all the tools, but you actually use them. I think that’s the difference between this training and attending lectures or presentations that just show you the tool, versus Accelerated Learning’s hands-on application. The last tool we experienced was Wonder.Me which was a very different experience, and so being able to use that during the training, applying it, and then thinking about how we can use it in our professional field, I think was very important.”
Namiko went on to say that ultimately you learn through practice; putting the tools to use in your everyday work, versus just learning about them in a training. She doesn’t believe this is solely a self-study scenario, but that being in an environment where you learn the essentials and get to practice with other people is what is very useful.
“I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to someone who wants to just do it on their own. They could, but I think the whole experience is about interaction and interaction through technology and ultimately, I think that’s what engagement and learning is all about.”
YOU RECENTLY WON AN AWARD. CAN YOU TELL US WHAT THAT WAS?
“I was really surprised! I won two. I won Michelle Steele’s Best of JALT presentation awards for two topics. One was Classroom Engagement and that was actually the first presentation that I did after attending Melanie’s introduction to Accelerated Learning – so I’m eternally grateful for that. The other one was for Diversity and Inclusion, through the lens of our learners and understanding how using technology is one important way of narrowing the gap and promoting inclusion to narrow the gap and to promote inclusion for all learners. It really made me think, not just about our foreign language learners who have “disabilities” in their ability to express their ideas in their second language, but everyone. I think that’s something we can work on more and I try not to use tools that don’t promote that (inclusion) because I think it’s important to use what tools we can to make it accessible for all.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO LEAVE US WITH OR ANY OTHER FEEDBACK YOU HAVE?
“Take the course! Take it! You may think that it’s expensive, but if you look at how much graduate school and continuing education courses cost, I think we have to stop expecting other programs to be free. I really feel that with qualified, knowledgeable, facilitators you too, can then spread that knowledge through implementation in the classroom. It’s not always possible to offer everything for free, as it requires time and effort to put these courses together and execute them. If it’s free, then it often requires you to put in extra time to do the extra readings and tasks on your own. But when you’re paying for a package, especially if its Melanie’s, it’s guaranteed that you’re going to get the highest quality of training. As a teacher myself, and someone who teaches other trainers, I can really appreciate when trainers can use what they have learned right away. Another key was the caliber of my group members. These were people who were serious about their learning. Everyone contributed and it was a very cooperative environment. No one had anything negative to say; everything was constructive, and everyone was encouraging one another. Ultimately, I think it’s experienced facilitators and coaches that are going to help you to do the things that you need to do in your business. So, I’m eternally grateful to Melanie. She’s really enthusiastic and I think that’s important too. It didn’t matter what time zones we were in; she was in it 200% and I know as a teacher that requires an incredible amount of, not just energy, but commitment, knowledge and skills. I’m a big fan!”
We’d like to thank Namiko Tsuruta for her time and insights and congratulate her for her Accelerated Learning Certificate in Virtual Training program and winning the JALT awards.