Educator Spotlight: Meet Masaaki Maeta
Collaboration fuels elementary teacher in Japan
This story is part of a series that celebrates Teacher Appreciation Month. Each day in May, we will introduce to you an outstanding educator within the Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.
For elementary school teacher Masaaki Maeta, Flipgrid is not just a way for one student to be seen. It is a way for all students across the world to see one another.
Masaaki teaches fifth- and sixth-grade students in Aomori Prefecture, Japan, where his students work together in one classroom. He has been teaching for nearly 30 years.
Since his early years in education, he has been interested in computers and technology.
“However, I became tired of the slow pace of computerization in schools, so I distanced myself from technology and began to research thinking tools instead,” says Masaaki, who is head of his school.
It wasn’t until 2018, when he became a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, and then last year when he attended a computer science conference in Asia for educators, that he realized he desperately needed to resume his studies of digital tools in the classroom.
“I was shocked to learn that the use of technology in Japanese schools was so far behind,” says Masaaki, who has also run a playful photo project in Japan. “That’s when I started teaching my own students how to use technology as much as possible.”
Bringing New Tech to Japanese Classrooms
Masaaki became ravenous to show his students something new, and his students responded likewise.
“I was instantly hooked, and the same goes for the students,” Masaaki says. “Give them a new device or app, and they will use it right away. Sometimes they are more familiar with it than the teacher! But students learn so many things in play, so we just started out by playing with Flipgrid together.”
Today, they use Flipgrid every day. Masaaki says his students will complete presentation and reflection videos, explain drawings or calculations, sing songs and test musical instruments. He’s even had his kids complete treasure hunts.
But Masaaki’s greatest joy on Flipgrid is seeing his students reach other schools around the world.
“I had used a lot of technology in my classes before Flipgrid, but it was all about the students working alone,” Masaaki says. “Flipgrid amplifies collaboration among students, and not just in the classroom. We interact with other elementary schools in the area and connect with students from other countries.”
Masaaki offers digital learning online, too, and says his students respond well to Flipgrid.
“Online classes are all about synchronous video conferencing, but not all students can connect at the same time,” Masaaki says. “Asynchronous online classes such as Flipgrid can be very effective.”
Masaaki is eager, captivating and proud to engage his students with a new way to learn. To continue his endeavors, he produced a 100-page Japanese commentary on Flipgrid and is also working on a Japanese how-to video.
“I don’t just like technology because I’m confident in it,” Masaaki says. “I want to use the knowledge and skills I have to give children an exciting intellectual experience. Flipgrid is one of the coolest tools out there, and it is my mission to spread Flipgrid all over Japan.”