Tsutomu Kanegae

Tsutomu Kanegae
Enrolled 2010-2012 Academic Year
CSK Corporation IT Solution Company
Assistant Section Chief

Please tell us about your current work.

I am in charge of business dealings with educational institutions and promoting Blackboard Inc. (*1) products to universities all over Japan.

What led you to enroll at GSIS?

I will turn 40 this year, and I had no idea what to do after that. I wanted to put my years of hectic working days behind me, and I wanted to somehow contribute to the educational business world in the next phase of my career. Just then, my boss suggested that someone from my company enter GSIS. So, I volunteered to be the one, and applied for it. The timing was perfect, as I got support from my workplace to study something new, just when I thought I wanted to.

I knew about GSIS from its start in 2006. Kumamoto University was one of our clients, so I already knew Professor Kita and the other professors. I had also met Professor Suzuki several times when he was at Iwate Prefectural University; he has long been a recognized authority on instructional design in Japan. I remember the first time we met. I took Iwate Galaxy Railway Line to Takizawa Station and then walked to the university…

The university just sort of suddenly appears in the middle of a clearing in the woods, doesn’t it?

Right. (Laughs) I thought the location was very unique.

Do you visit universities all over Japan?

Yes. I’ve travelled from Hokkaido to Okinawa, visiting 133 universities all told. I counted them up to introduce it as one of my advantages during the entrance exam.

How do you like the GSIS courses?

My way of thinking about graduate school has completely changed. I think the fact that most of the students are working adults makes them so enthusiastic. I soon realized that we were learning from each other. Career students, who entered graduate school right after they finish their undergraduate course work, might get frustrated about having to take experimental courses like the SCC-based ones. However, I think us working students find it easier to accept the curriculum laid out by the university, and just focus on making progress together. Meanwhile, career students, in my honest opinion, are pretty passive and not as enthusiastic. I think the GSIS program is best designed for students who can make progress in their studies through their own will.

Is it different from the universities you have seen so far?

Yes, definitely. I think the about 60% of university professors are generally not so interested in teaching (laughs). So, when I talk to those professors about introducing WebCT or e-learning, I feel like we are totally misunderstanding each other. When I had just started this job, I was often asked if introducing these systems would mean they wouldn’t have to do anything for their classes. I was fed up with their attitude that instructional systems were a means of cutting corners in education.

Conversely, GSIS’ e-learning is so well constructed and makes the most of the advantages of WebCT.

How do you communicate with other students or professors?

I often text with my classmates, or sometimes meet with them to talk, and other times use Skype to do group work. Mainly though, we communicate on the message boards on WebCT. We also exchange e-mails. For example, when I was thinking of giving up on a difficult task in ID I, I saw one of my classmates who was struggling in the same way but hanging on. So, I e-mailed him, and we started encouraging each other over e-mail and, even though we were behind the schedule, we ultimately finished the task.

What have you learned during your studies here?

I became kinder.

Kinder? What do you mean?

I learned that it’s not someone’s fault if they are unable to do something. They just need to learn the right way to do it. It’s meaningless to judge, scold, or mock them while they are struggling. We have to believe that, with sufficient instruction and time, their situation will change.

I learned this from the Carroll model of school learning. Before the entrance exam, I read through the text of Pedagogical Fundamentals on the GSIS website and was fascinated by this model. It’s very optimistic. The other day, I was teaching my son how to do crossover while jumping rope. I told him: “It’s not your fault that you can’t do it. I would scold you if you didn’t even try to do it, but It’s not a big deal that you can’t do it yet. If one hour of practice wasn’t enough, let’s just keep trying.”

This is what I mean by becoming kinder.

Your way of thinking will change once you learn how to learn. I want to be a professional of learning. Ordinary university students just don’t know how to learn. They’ve only known the learning style taught to them in high school, so it’s only natural that they can’t adjust to the university style right away. If we taught them theories about learning, they would be better able to learn by themselves, I think. They might understand how to use these theories to improve their learning style.

Looking ahead, how will you utilize what you have learned in your job?

I am already utilizing it every day. First, when I tell my clients that I study educational technology at Kumamoto University, they get surprised and ask me about what I’ve learned. Then, I can explain to them how they can improve their courses, based on the theories I have learned here.

The fact that I can talk about my experience using e-learning as a student at Kumamoto University also boosts my credibility. Because my company is just a distributor of instructional systems, some clients believe that we don’t know how the courses themselves work and how students feel about taking them. Customers even ask us, “have you ever even used e-learning?” Now, however, I can tell them about how I study using e-learning myself, and explain how certain activities can really help students learn. I’m much more convincing now.

Do you have any trouble with the e-learning at GSIS?

It is hard to find enough time to study. In particular, I couldn’t make the time in the second semester because I had some trouble at work. Time management is the most difficult part for me.

How do you balance your work with your studies?

After work, I go home, eat, and then study until 4 am. I decided I shouldn’t study any later than 4 am. Of course, I have to shorten my sleep, but I can still make it through work the next day. On the other hand, sometimes I will be too busy with work and miss a deadline for one of the tasks. However, the professors always cut me some slack during times like that. I have asked them to let me to submit a task after the deadline several times now, and so far, no professor has ever said “no”. I really appreciate their kindness and understanding.

Do you have a message for someone who is considering entering this school?

I want to improve education in Japan, and I want like-minded people to enter this school. Education in Japan is somewhat fuzzy, I think. It’s unplanned and haphazard in how it changes, like it’s just following whatever the current trend is. Our corporations are also struggling with this, and education within them is getting more and more complicated. I want to help reorganize and simplify education in Japan.

To achieve this goal, Japan needs more education professionals. Some people in the training sections of companies can’t do anything other than routine deskwork. If they knew educational theories, they would be more motivated to improve themselves, but because they don’t, they can’t even see that they need improvement. More professionals are indispensable for improving this situation.

(Interviewed in February 2011)

※1 Blackboard Inc.: CSK Corporation is the agency in charge of selling the Blackboard Learning System (formerly called “WebCT”) of Blackboard Inc., USA in Japan.