Wise’s career in education began in 1973, and since then he has worked with students at a wide variety of grade levels teaching subjects ranging from physics to foreign languages. Combined with Wise’s work with numerous organizations including UCLA, the Crossroads Science Institute, and NASA, he brings “a strong sense and understanding of technology, both its strengths and its limitations.”
Wise’s quest to revolutionize the way that technology is used in schools begins with his personal creation, the Learning Tool (LT). Wise will implement the LT as a complete school management system using technology to create a new model for school around learning. Imagine being able to take a student’s work in school and create a map, as you could with DNA, “to indicate what this student has been doing well and what they have not.” The creation of the learning tool will help “to bring learning to every student as opposed to just the ones who get it.”
Joe sat down with GameDesk to talk about his passions, goals, and the most meaningful moments of his career. Read about Joe’s breathtaking journey through education, and learn about the exciting new things that Joe will be bringing to the GameDesk community.
Joe Wise Interview
March 23, 2012
Q1: What is your passion? What are you really excited about?
My passion lies with seeing people learn, finding new knowledge, and making connections. I love spending my time on Physics, making things work, and riding my Harley.
Q2: Tell us about one of your most meaningful moments in education.
Well that would have to be the story of Oscar. I was working at a boy’s home for delinquent children at the time, and Oscar was a young boy in the facility who had a broken arm. At that time, the boys were doing a math problem, and in order for Oscar to add numbers, he had to put tick marks on the paper and count up the tick marks. When he was finished, he came up to my desk, excited to show me his work. But there was a mistake in his work … He had carried incorrectly, and because this was my first day on the job, I was unsure of how I should deal with this situation. Eventually, I decided to show him his mistake and I said, “Oscar, there is a mistake here. You forgot to carry this number over.” He suddenly burst into tears and walked back to his desk sobbing. At that moment, I thought to myself, “That’s it. I just ruined this kid’s life.” A few minutes later, Oscar got up, picked up his pencil, and began to work on the problem again. And I never forgot about that moment.
Q3: Let’s talk a bit about your work experience: Where have you worked? What projects have you been involved in?
I began my teaching career in 1973 at a public school in Ohio. I taught there for seven years. After my time at the school, I decided to return to school to get my Master’s degree in Humanities, the Classics; this led me to a project to translate a number of languages, including Syriac, Arabic, and Greek, using technology. I worked on that project for a number of years, and taught languages at the college level concurrently. After spending some time in languages, I returned to teaching Physics, and I have been teaching physics for the last 22 years.
About 11 years ago, I came to the New Roads School and started the Center for Effective Learning. I took the research that we knew about how people learn and brought that to the classroom in a practical way. For the last 11 to 15 years, my passion has been about integrating technology into the classroom and learning how to best help kids learn.
I am currently serving as the educational public outreach coordinator for the NASA Dawn mission, a mission to the asteroid belt. I am responsible for all of the educational public outreach materials that are developed for the mission: I wrote the educational component of the mission proposal, and I am also a member of the mission’s science team.
Q4: What drew you to GameDesk? What do you like the most about GameDesk?
I met Lucien at an event, and as we began to talk about a vision for what schools should be, I found a kindred spirit. I believe the comment I used was “it sounds like I’m listening to myself!” It was a mutual feeling. All of the synergy and collaboration began with that discussion.
Q5: What do you plan to bring to GameDesk?
With 39 years of experience in various levels of education, I have tried virtually everything in the classroom. I have a strong sense and understanding of technology, both its strengths and its limitations. That expertise and experience, coupled with GameDesk’s vision, makes for a very dynamic partnership.
Q6: Have you set any personal goals for the 21st Century School?
My personal goals begin with a piece of software that I developed called the “Learning Tool” (LT). Using the LT, I want to be able to see the accomplishments of a student. I want to take those accomplishments and be able to map them out, just as you would with DNA. I want to see what the student has been doing well and what they have not. Using this, I want to be able to indicate what this student will have trouble with so that we can intervene at the second or third grade level. When we look at the situation that we currently have with students in high school, there simply is not enough time. We often only have a time frame of 3 to 12 months to fix the issues that the students have in the classroom; there is no way to fix all of the things that the students have misunderstood or missed. I see such potential for us to bring learning to every student as opposed to just the ones who get it.
Q7: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
I think that working with technology effectively is what makes the 21st Century School possible. We can use technology to personalize the delivery of information and education in the form of differentiated instruction, the act of working with students at the level that they are currently at, rather than forcing all students to the same standards. With current technology, I can manage a great deal more than I could have in the past, so as we now look at designing a new 21st Century School with GameDesk, I know that we can now do what was not possible before. This is the culmination of years of cultivating relationships and exploring avenues, and this is a really exciting phase in my life.