“When teachers are given the respect, proper tools and guidance, schools, pupils and communities will flourish.” – Switzerland
As a university student in 1998, Ralph Genang developed the first-ever live Internet course in Europe. His fellow students in the business-to-business marketing course could follow the class online and directly interact with their teacher through video. That initial success led Genang to rethink education. In collaboration with organizations as varied as Stanford University, MIT, Boeing, Forrester Research and Microsoft, he researched how to enhance the students’ learning experience. He then presented his findings at educations forums and in education journals around the world.
This early work eventually led to the concept of an online platform for teachers to collaborate with schools and teachers from other countries and cultures, and eLanguages was born in 2002. Since then, the platform has attracted teachers from around the world, providing an easy-to-access way to jump-start sharing and learning on a global scale. And the concept was recently expanded through a partnership with Global Schoolnet (GSN), resulting in iPoPP: International Projects or Partners’ Place. Here, Genang shares more about this innovative tool, along with his views on that all-important 21st century skill: collaboration.
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
In 2000 I came up with the concept of an online, multi-lingual, project-based collaboration portal for teachers to collaborate with schools and teachers from other countries and cultures. eLanguages has been a huge success from its very start. We motivate our teachers to create projects themselves or to join projects initiated by other teachers. Furthermore, as it is an open educational resource, it is inspiring other teachers to join.
Our projects are of cultural and social importance. Project examples are Food 4 Life, about the importance of food to children’s learning ability, or Global Schools Olympics Project in which schools around the world share how they celebrate the Olympics. At present we have over 20,000 loyal end-users from 140 countries working together in 23 languages. Two to three new schools are signing up daily to eLanguages. Because of its simplicity and because it works on low bandwidth, eLanguages has proved to be a highly effective tool for teachers to connect and collaborate internationally and raise the global awareness of children worldwide.
I am also very pleased to announce that we recently joined forces with US-based Global Schoolnet (GSN) through iPoPP. Together with Dr. Yvonne-Marie Andrès, President of GSN, I am inviting all educators, schools, academic institutions, businesses, NGOs and organizations worldwide to sign up to this fantastic initiative.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
eLanguages has completely revolutionized the way teachers are collaborating on an
international level. Teachers and their classrooms are now connecting and working together globally in an easy and friendly manner, overcoming differences in languages, cultures and views. Teachers who have been teaching the same subject year in and year out now benefit from the opportunity to collaborate with peers from different countries, sharing best practices, resources and different perspectives. This is highly motivational and raises standards in teaching and learning.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Never hesitate to go the extra mile for your end users. I personally see it as the most important task to listen to and communicate with our eLanguages teachers, to seek their advice and feedback. When teachers are given the respect, proper tools and guidance, schools, pupils and communities will flourish.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
To stimulate innovation in education, teachers and their classrooms should be given more freedom to explore and express. Education should be fun, contribute to enrich individuals and communities and make the world a better place to live in.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Be brave, stand for your passion and drive change! In today’s societies we have come to a point where education is often blamed for, and even seen as supporting the problem. And because of this, educators have to cope with even more standardization, which is bad for creativity and innovation. Change is needed urgently and I am convinced together we can make it happen.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
Students expect that technology will transform the way they learn and work, similar to how it is transforming the way they interact in their personal lives. eLanguages stimulates international project-based collaboration, a key essential in any educational curriculum and labor market. Through participation in eLanguages projects, teachers meet the technology expectations, while at the same time teaching essential and practical skills.
This has proven to be highly motivational for both teachers and students involved.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
An eLanguages account for all teachers! By doing this all classrooms can be connected globally and children can start exploring the world.
About Ralph Genang
Birthplace: Rheinfelden, Germany
Current residence: Zurich, Switzerland
Education: Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
Website I check every day: eLanguages
Persons who inspire me most: Teachers
Favorite childhood memory: Holidays
Next travel destination: The Netherlands|
When was the last time you laughed? My two young sons make me laugh all the time. They are simply too funny.
Favorite book: Facebook
Favorite music: Any music as long as the musician is an artist.
Your favorite quote or motto: Stand for what you believe in and you will get there.