“Although Japan seems to have a blessed educational environment, there is a gap due to various factors. Education of physically and mentally handicapped children is behind compared to Europe or the U.S.” – Michio Inaba, Japan
For Michio Inaba, losing his hearing in the second grade wasn’t only life-changing, it was career-defining. The experience gave Inaba, a Microsoft Expert Educator, a passion for integrating disabled children in society, and a unique appreciation for diversity. He’s used that passion to make a difference in the lives of his students and to stand up for the rights of all differently-abled members of society.
“I am proud to be deaf,” Inaba says. “I would like to challenge a lot of things in the future for deaf children.” And he’s doing just that. Inaba founded NPO Deaf Support Osaka in 2007, and in 2010, established Bochi Bochi Kids, a learning space for deaf children. But it’s his work with his students every day (at a school where he’s taught for over 30 years) that perhaps has had the broadest impact.
For his Global Forum project, Inaba brought his students together with workers at a local sewage treatment plant who were learning sign language. The project had his students learning technical terms about waste treatment in sign language and interacting and communicating with the workers. “The main purpose of creating this learning environment,” Inaba says, “was my wish to convey the importance of relationships between people to the deaf children by using ICT.”
Inaba uses technology extensively to support his work and to help his students become comfortable in diverse settings outside the classroom. From PowerPoint teaching materials that students can study on their own, to collaborative tools and social media that help students connect to others in the community, Inaba takes full advantage of technology to make learning accessible and improve learning outcomes. And his blog offers helpful tips on using education technology to its full potential.
What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?
It is important that deaf children take pride in themselves. And they need to reform society.
I would like to raise this feeling in them, because I am deaf myself.
Can you tell us about a favorite teacher, or someone who made a difference in your education?
My favorite teachers are many disabled persons who I met in my life – not only deaf persons of course. Various people, such as a visually impaired person and a physically handicapped person using a wheel chair.
Please describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education. What has changed as a result of your work?
As sign language is not yet widespread in society, deaf children think that sign language interpreting is natural. However, I think that a society which is dependent on sign language interpreting is weak and therefore I hope that the children themselves help to spread sign language. I introduced the children of my class to people who work at sewage treatment plants in Osaka. These people are learning sign language and have built a team called “Team Sakura.” Their motto is “talking face to face.”
When deaf children met them, they were very surprised and very glad at the same time. I intended to nurture the encounter of the children and the people at the sewage treatment plant. So I started to develop sign language explaining the work and technical terms relating to sewage treatment with the help of Team Sakura. Through this project, deaf children became more conscious and confident about the idea to spread sign language. And the project also helped them to overcome the prejudice that sewage treatment is a dirty job.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
The technical terms relating to sewage treatment in sign language were developed using PowerPoint. Regarding the preparation of teaching materials by PowerPoint, I made sure that the material can be used by the children themselves and not “teacher operated.” The material enables the children to study information they can choose by themselves about sewage treatment and related terms in sign language, at any time and in any timing. In other words, the material is not just a PowerPoint presentation; it is designed to help the children to study autonomously and on their own initiative – and of course having fun with it.
In your view, what is the most exciting innovation happening in education today?
We can connect in real time with various people all over the world via the Internet.
Free mobility is a difficult problem for many disabled people. This can be improved with the Internet, as a disabled person can extend his world with it, and is able to work together on various things with various people.
Is there a 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, or creativity and innovation) that you are most passionate about? Why?
I think the terms are all equally important and should not be treated separately. However, if I had to choose one: collaboration. I love to cooperate with various people.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
Microsoft Lync. Not one-sided transmission, but mutual communication is important.
I would like to apply Microsoft Lync in order to establish an environment in which we can learn and educate mutually.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
Education support in Japan is different in each municipality. To state comprehensively is very difficult.
How must education change in your country to ensure that students are equipped to thrive in the 21st century?
Although Japan seems to have a blessed educational environment, there is a gap due to various factors. Education of physically and mentally handicapped children is also behind compared to Europe or the U.S. Although it is necessary to advance inclusive education, Japanese society is still unripe. In Japan, educational support is not sufficient.
First of all, teachers should have the right to carry out their educational activities more freely. Further, education in Japan is very exclusive – especially public education. Therefore, education which utilizes ICT does not spread very easily. It is necessary to reform an outdated consciousness.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
My effort is “The use of ICT as a way of building good relationships between people.”
To achieve this goal, I had to take my class to meet people outside the classroom and also invited people to our school to communicate with the children. But as I mentioned above, schools in Japan are very exclusive. So I had to make a lot of effort to persuade the administration of my school.
How can teachers or school leaders facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
It is important for educators to have enough time and freedom for activities outside the classroom. The work of a teacher is not only to educate; she/he also has to be a good supporter. In my case I was able to take advantage of my experience in various activities supporting disabled people.
Describe your most innovative teaching and learning practices and how they are supported by technology?
I try my best to contribute to a society of normalization. The establishment of good relationships between people enhances normalization. My innovative teaching and learning practices are based on this conviction. Therefore, technology which supports communication and cooperation between people is indispensable.
Describe how you use your favorite Microsoft technology in the classroom and how that impacts 21 century skills development?
My favorite Microsoft technologies are PowerPoint and OneNote. Although PowerPoint is a great tool, many educators use it only as a presentation tool. I am using PowerPoint as a tool to create teaching material. Although it takes a lot of time and effort, the smiling faces of the children, when they are able to understand and are given the opportunity to work autonomously, are worth it.
The use of OneNote, which enhances mutual communication, also helps me in the classroom. I think it is important to use technology creatively.
Describe to us your role as a leader for technology in your school, community or among other educators?
I have been teaching for more than 30 years in a school for deaf children and have been acting as the head of the research section of my school. I am a pioneer of ICT in the Osaka area working together with the board of education in Osaka. Further, I have worked for 30 years aiming at the improvement of the life of deaf people and the expansion of human rights.
How is the experience being a Microsoft Expert Educator?
I dreamed that I would be recognized as a Microsoft Expert Educator. It is very honorable for me. It enables me to make friends with other educators all over the world. My life is changing a lot.
AboutMichio Inaba, Teacher, Microsoft Expert Educator
Osaka Prefectural Ikuno School for Deaf
- Birthplace: Osaka, Japan
- Current residence: Osaka, Japan
- Website I check every day: Facebook, Microsoft Educator Network, Twitter.
- Person who inspires me most: Various disabled persons.
- Favorite childhood memory: I became deaf when I was in the second grade at elementaryschool. However, I did not change to a school for the deaf. Attending the general school, I learned together with my friends through their ears. That helped to build good relationships and is also a good memory.
- Favorite book: Detective stories, but I am very busy and do not have time to read.
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Lync.
- What is the best advice you have ever received?: Disability is individuality.
- Your favorite quote or motto: Everyone is unique that is the value! Diversity is fun!