Photographer: Kevin Riddell
Jul 14, 2010
By Monica Chapman
OHIO students training to teach English as a second language (ESL) are in for a treat when Greg Kessler is facilitating the technology instruction.
An assistant professor of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and the director of the Language Resource Center, Kessler was recently named the 2010 Outstanding Graduate Faculty based on teaching excellence and an overall dedication to graduate education.
In presenting the award at the Graduate Commencement ceremony in June, Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit described Kessler as enthusiastic, creative, supportive, engaged and dedicated to interdisciplinary teaching and graduate education. She praised his active role in developing instructional materials for use with new technologies and preparing teachers and students to use these materials in ways appropriate to their teaching contexts.
"Anyone who visits Gordy Hall’s labs can see Dr. Kessler’s impact," said Benoit. "From Flip video cameras to iPod Touches and the new iPad, he ensures students and faculty have the opportunity to receive a hands-on learning experience with the newest technologies and the latest software."
Established in 1972, the Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award honors a professor who has demonstrated exemplary performance as an instructor, a researcher and a faculty member. Each graduate department nominates one of its faculty members for the award, and the recipient serves as the graduate commencement speaker the following year.
"This award came as such a surprise to me. I had no idea I was even nominated until it was announced that I was chosen," said Kessler. "It is particularly important to me since it is initiated by graduate students. I think my job is always focused upon the future of my students and what I can do to prepare them for the opportunities that they will encounter."
Jeff Kuhn, a graduate student in linguistics, headed up Kessler's nomination. Kessler said his recommendation letter received unanimous support from the linguistics graduate body and approximately 30 supporting signatures.
Kuhn, who spent six years teaching English in Japan and Mongolia, praised Kessler for his practical approach to education – focusing on free, web-based instructional tools, including YouTube, Skype, Google Documents, and a barrage of social networking sites. These kinds of programs, said Kuhn, are easily-accessed by most teachers, regardless of resources and funding.
"A lot of teachers are not going to teach in perfect situations," said Kuhn. "They're going to teach in places where there's a lack of money and a lack of experience. It's a 'Do what you can, where you are, with what you have' sort of thing."
According to Kuhn, Kessler's constructivist approach and emphasis on the learning process ensure that teachers walk away with applicable classroom skills. His open-door policies, resourcefulness and rank – at the forefront of the growing field of CALL – further validate the award, said Kuhn.
"You can go to him with an idea that seems difficult, and he'll say, 'If you just do these steps, it's completely possible.' And he does that with everything you approach him with," said Kuhn. "He takes the impractical of academia and makes it very realistic, and so you feel involved."
Kessler's dedication to teaching extends beyond Ohio University. He has taught CALL teacher preparation courses and programs across the United States, as well as around the world in countries such as China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, and Kazakhstan, just to name a few.
He is widely published, has authored software, made numerous presentations at major academic conferences, and consulted internationally with organizations including Chubu University, Ohio University, and Arabian Educational Training Group, and the U.S. State Department English Language Specialist.
In addition to his professional accomplishments and contributions, he has served on university-wide committees, advisory councils, and professional boards including his current service on the executive board of The Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium.
Despite his broad background, Kessler said he is most interested in the way that CALL, and the larger world of social networking, helps people improve their connections with one another, their communication, and ultimately their learning of language and culture.
"Some people anticipate a future of technology based learning that removes people from the equation," he said. "But I am always trying to focus upon the role of people, including teachers, students, learners and others, in the communication and learning process."
In the coming year, Kessler said he will focus on several online language teaching programs as well as programs with Chubu University (OHIO's Japanese sister school) and Al-Baha University (OHIO's emerging Saudi Arabian sister school). He is also enthusiastic about the switch to semesters, which will allow himKessler the ability to redefine the curriculum and develop a master's degree in CALL.
Kessler said working with graduate students and the excitement of new pedagogical possibilities that accompany new technologies are among his job's highlights. And if his nomination is any indication, Kessler's excitement is catching on.
"He's very inspiring to students and builds their confidence," said colleague Dawn Bikowski, director of the English Language Improvement program within the Linguistics Department. "He really sees technology as a way to kind of immerse students … and to be creative and innovative. He somehow challenges people and gets them to do things they never thought they could do."