Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Sunday, August 31, 2008

August 2008

Even though our time at the cottage was finished - summer was definitely not over.

Upon our arrival back in Calgary Alex and I competed in the Lake Chaparral Triathlon. Alex placed 4th in his age division on Saturday and I was 4 minutes slower in the Sprint Triathlon on Sunday - than a year ago :)

For the last couple of weeks of August - Alex attended hockey camps in Calgary and Banff, Eric relaxed at home, Marie worked on an article related to her dissertation, and I prepared for the upcoming academic year at Mount Royal College..

We finished the summer with a camping trip to the Kananaskis Country for the Labour Day weekend with friends. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side and we returned to Calgary early - after awakening to snow on Sunday morning. Some great pictures and memories!!

Cottage Life - August 2008

We had an amazing holiday in British Columbia and I had the privilege of being a facilitator for Academic Impression's Instructional Strategies for Blended and Online Learning Conference in Park City, Utah but . . . my favorite part of the summer was with my siblings and their families at the cottage on the Lower Rideau Lake in Ontario. The Rideau Canal System celebrated it's 175th anniversary last year by being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The weather this year was definitely mixed (lots of rain with some sunshine) which meant that the vegetation was green and the water level very high. A couple of highlights for me this summer were Benjamin's (my sister Christy's baby boy) first visit to the cottage and Eric & Alex both mastering one ski on the water. These highlights and more are captured in photos of our cottage experience this summer.

Instructional Strategies for Blended and Online Learning Conference - Park City, Utah - July 2008

I was very fortunate to have been selected by Tunde Brimah of Academic Impressions to help facilitate a conference on Instructional Strategies for Blended and Online Learning. The conference was held at the New Park Resort, just outside of Park City, Utah, at the end of July 2008. The other facilitators were Chuck Dzuiban from the University of Central Florida, Tom Reeves from the University of Georgia and Margaret Riel from Pepperdine University.

Helping to facilitate this conference was a real "stretch" for me as Chuck, Tom and Margaret are VERY experienced researchers and facilitators. Once I got over my nervousness I was able to become part of the group and I must admit that I learned a lot from the experience (despite arriving direct from the summer cottage with a case of poison ivy).

I facilitated the pre-conference session on Designing Learning Courses for the Needs of Diverse Learners and then followed up later in the day with a session on the Role of a Successful Blended/Online Instructor. The second day I facilitated a session entitled Student Engagement and Web 2.0: What's the Connection. From my perspective, this was my best session (highest personal comfort level and positive reception from the audience).

Besides facilitating the sessions, I had an opportunity to have some wonderful dinners with the "gang" as well as a great evening in downtown Park City. Of course, I made sure that I captured the experience with some photos before jetting back to the cottage on the third day of the conference (just in time to join the rest of the family - next blog posting).

Friday, August 22, 2008

British Columbia Family Holiday - July 2008

It seemed like it was a mad rush to get everything completed before we headed out on our family holiday to British Columbia. I had to finish the marking for the graduate course in blended learning and the University of Calgary and as well as put the final touches on a funding proposal with Griff Richards and Terry Anderson from Athabasca University (sigh, we were not successful).

But, it was worth it. We had an amazing time in British Columbia and as usual we took lots of pictures of our adventures. It all began with the drive north to the Bowron Lakes - with beautiful weather and scenery. The canoe trip was a HUGE success as we completed it in a heat wave - no rain until the final day.

The drive west to the Pacific Coast was interesting for Marie and I as we passed through a number of communities where we had received offers to teach in the mid-90's (no regrets). In Prince Rupert we visited an old cannery and then enjoyed putting our feet up for the ferry ride south to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, via the Inside Passage.

Once on Vancouver Island we marveled at the huge Douglas Fir and Western Cedar. We did a day hike into San Josef Beach in Cape Scott Provincial Park in the north-western corner of the Island. We went whale watching and kayaking out of Telegraph Cove on the north-eastern coast of the Island. And, we headed south to Nanaimo to enjoy a relaxing day on the beach at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park.

Then it was off to Vancouver on the ferry to visit the Aquarium in Stanley Park, the Capilano Suspension Bridge and a night of "urban" camping. Next we headed to Whistler and Pemberton along the Sea to Sky Highway. Phew, lots of construction and congestion - it took us over 3 hours to reach our campsite. The journey continued on a very rough and windy road towards Lillooet and then onto the Shuswap for a final night of camping and swimming before arriving back in Calgary - rested and relaxed!!

International Conference on Blended Learning - June 2008

Wow, the 2007 to 2008 academic year has certainly provided me with some tremendous opportunities to travel to a number of interesting conferences.

This year culminated in my trip to England to attend the International Conference on Blended Learning. This is the 3rd year I have been involved with the event. The first year, Randy and I presented a sessions from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) Conference in Toronto and then last year, I attended the actual event. Besides attending the conference the trip to England is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with Rick and Diane Mills. Last year they introduced me to road biking and I purchased my own bike as soon as I returned to Calgary. This year we spent a weekend in Winchester, which is located in the south-eastern part of England. Apparently, King Alfred, the first Anglo-Saxon King of England established his headquarters her in 800AD and a replica of King Arthur's Roundtable hangs in the remnants of Winchester Castle. In 1382 the Bishop of Wykham established Winchester College as a feeder school to New College that he had recently established at the University of Oxford. Both of Rick and Diane's boys attend Winchester College and it was fascinating to visit the College and the Towne.

As usual, I took lots of pictures of the trip and I had a great time cycling in the countryside around Winchester. I always feel like I'm traveling back in time as we pass through villages with thatched roof cottages and country lanes bordered by tall hedges and stone fences. This year Rick and I even did a cycle tour through the City of London.

I then headed north to Hatfield and the University of Hertfordshire. This University is quite similar to Mount Royal College as the institution has a long history but the present campus is located on land that used to be an airfield. In the case of Hatfield, the land was previously occupied by the De Havilland and British Aerospace companies while MRC was built on a former military base and flight training centre. Both campuses have new buildings with lots of windows and natural light, which I really appreciate.

I particularly enjoyed the conference this year as I knew a number of people and there was lots of time allocated for networking. I helped to facilitate 6 sessions from Canada via Elluminate with the conference. There were some audio problems with a couple of sessions but the majority were well received. Mike Powers from Laval University and myself did a session on Blended Online Learning Environments (BOLE).

Two sessions that really stuck out for me were one by David Nicol on Re-Engineering Assessment Practices (REAP) and one by Myles Dyer on Video Blogging. David's premise is that good assessment practices provide students with higher quality learning experiences and he has developed a set of guiding assessment principles to facilitate this process. Myles very eloquently demonstrated how vBlogging can be used as a powerful self-reflection tool in order to document personal learning growth and development. As usual, I posted a set of notes from the conference and Myles included and interview with me in his YouTube Video about the conference.

I must admit that by the end of the conference I was exhausted. Trying to keep up with life back in Canada, teaching the blended learning course, and actively attending the conference have all caught up with me. Time now to go "into the wilds" of British Columbia.