"His understanding of the synergy between language pedagogy and technology are invaluable to all of us in Global Languages."

(Photo: Jonathan Sachs Photography)

Joseph Borkowski recognized with 2020 MIT IS&T Infinite Mile Award

January 8, 2021

Global Languages salutes Systems Administrator and Instructional Technologist Joseph Borkowski for his receipt of an Infinite Mile Award from MIT’s Information Systems & Technology department. Joe received this award in recognition of his contribution to the Canvas and Teach Remote project in 2020.

“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award,” noted Professor Emma Teng, who is director of Global Languages. “Joe was absolutely vital in our pivot to remote teaching in March last year. He also worked tirelessly over the summer to lead our unit’s transition to the Canvas LMS. Thanks to his hard work and dedication, our transition to remote teaching—which occurred under incredible time pressure—was remarkably smooth and effective. We were lucky that we had already initiated a pilot of Canvas under Joe’s leadership prior to the pandemic, and we were able to build on his experience and knowledge to maintain academic continuity during this disruptive time.”

Global Languages Administrative Officer Liam Brenner concurred: “Joe’s forward thinking and passionate approach to instructional technology were evident from his early advocacy for Canvas from 2017. This same spirit was invaluable after our sudden shift to remote work. Through a year of so many twists and turns, he has supported our instructors not only to keep pace with the rapid changes of remote instruction, but to find new teaching tools and opportunities in the Zoom classroom. And he was equally essential in supporting our headquarter’s team in transitioning to work from home.”

From the point of view of Takako Aikawa, Senior Lecturer in Japanese, “Joe is a hero to everyone.” She said, “He is always available for trouble-shooting any type of computer problem. He has a solid technical background and has a passion for the use of technology in education. His knowledge of instructional design and his understanding of the synergy between language pedagogy and technology are invaluable to all of us in Global Languages. We are extremely lucky to have Joe in our unit, and I believe that he will act as a catalyst promoting instructional technology for language education.”

Maria Khotimsky, Senior Lecturer in Russian, recalled: “When on-campus classes came to an abrupt halt in March 2020 and just about everything was filled with uncertainty as we hastily packed our offices, Joe offered a thoughtful piece of advice: no matter how hard these times are, they will make us better teachers in the long run. There is not a day that I don't think of Joe's words, and not a week that I don't turn to him for advice. From answering questions on Canvas logistics to brainstorming educational technology solutions, Joe's help throughout the pandemic times has remained a steady source of support, thanks to which I was able to do my best in developing new pedagogical approaches and fostering student community in virtual classes.”

“Joe’s optimistic attitude also helped to keep morale up,” Teng added. “And I’m especially appreciative that he encouraged us to remember that learning new tools and media can be fun, even under difficult circumstances. Under his tutelage, I have personally learned so many new technology skills that I can continue to implement in my classes once this pandemic is under control.”

Joseph said he was honored to be recognized, and pointed to the role played by all the instructors in what Global Languages accomplished. "Our enthusiasm for our students and trust in the diverse expertise of our colleagues set us up for success in a truly novel teaching environment. The successes recognized here owe so much to the ongoing efforts and resilience of our group.”

In an interview last April, Joseph reflected on his experiences supporting the unit as instructors were forced to move quickly to remote teaching, saying: “But despite the challenges, I’m so appreciative of this huge collective effort together with wonderful colleagues.”