ACM Logo  An ACM Publication  |  CONTRIBUTE  |  FOLLOW    

An Interview with Jack E. Kosakowski of JA Worldwide

By Lisa Gualtieri, Jack E. Kosakowski / April 2010

Print Email
Comments (2) Instapaper

Jack E. Kosakowski is the executive vice president and chief operating officer of JA Worldwide, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating young people about work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. He is also president of Junior Achievement USA.

Kosakowski was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve a two-year term on the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy in January 2008. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Achievement Foundation, and is a member of the United States Commission for UNESCO. I spoke with him about JA Worldwide's online initiatives, such as simulation- and game-based training. —Lisa Gualtieri

Lisa Gualtieri: Explain how JA uses experiential learning to bring the world outside the classroom to children.

Jack Kosakowski: There is abundant research that shows students are more likely to retain information when they are actively engaged in the learning process, as opposed to passively listening to a lecture.

To that end, the JA model reinforces program concepts via hands-on activities. For example, in one of our high-school programs, JA Exploring Economics, students learn how supply and demand work through an activity in which they set, and then must adjust, the price of a commodity based on the demand for it in the marketplace.

In addition, the JA classroom volunteer adds a real-world perspective by sharing their own professional experiences with students, which help students connect the dots between their school lessons, the JA program and the real world.

LG: What are some of the most successful online activities, games, and simulations JA has developed, and what has made them successful from an educational perspective?

JK: In one of our existing online programs, JA Titan, students run a virtual company and must make decisions about resource allocation and price structure, for example. JA Titan currently reaches more than 100,000 students around the world, and has an annual competition in which students can put what they've learned to the test and pit their businesses against others, just like they would in a real business environment.

LG: Given how classroom and online education are evolving, not to mention the technology in children's lives, how do JA programs maintain relevancy?

JK: The business and financial literacy concepts contained in our programs will always be relevant to the marketplace. People will always need to know how to budget their money, and how to create a business plan if they want to succeed in the business world. What will change is how students will learn these concepts. This is where JA's opportunity lies—to leverage technology to deliver our programs in a way that aligns with how young people want to receive and retain information—whether it is through social media or technology or through online channels.

LG: What are the most significant skills someone in JA learns that are not taught in schools?

JK: Among the most important skills that students learn from JA programs are "soft skills," such as leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving. Through the experiential nature of JA programs in which students often work in groups to solve a challenge, they learn that they must be able to read others' personalities, how to interact appropriately, how to resolve and defuse conflict, etc.

LG: Given your current use of mobile devices and social media, which seem limited, are these vehicles to extend your reach and what would you do with an unlimited budget in these arenas?

JK: Like many other organizations, we're using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to communicate with our stakeholders. We're also looking at ways we can effectively and appropriately leverage these tools, to build awareness about JA programs and for existing and former students to stay connected with each other and with the organization. If our budget was unlimited, I could envision JA using technology to put the volunteer virtually into the classroom, perhaps teaching multiple classes simultaneously, maybe even in different countries. This would help JA scale its reach while retaining one of our key differentiators—the skill and experience brought into the classroom by our volunteers.


  • Sat, 10 Oct 2009
    Post by Katherine Bolman

    Roger, good to see you. I remember finding you in the 90's I am creating an online course which I wish history teachers would. It is a history of art around the world and would add depth to their courses. it is of course underdevelopment. So my question is how can we get them to find and review the course or think about the importance of the art of the time as a way to deepen the critical thinking that is so important for students understanding of history? As usual this is a great article. May I publish it on my website under Some interesting ideas? The site is

  • Mon, 21 Sep 2009
    Post by Dick Carlson

    "Learning to plan therefore has two components: being able to create a plan from scratch and being able to modify an existing plan for new purposes."

    As an Instructional Designer, I can't remember the last time that I really designed a course "from scratch". I'm always re-using previous ideas and models that worked well, and just plugging in new content or learning goals. I'll always try some new ideas, but most of what I do builds on what worked well before. I suppose that's "how I learn".

    (BTW, I find it amazingly ironic that a comments box in "eLearning Magazine" doesn't allow any HTML or a link to my blog. What year are you folks in, anyway?)