Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lilly North Conference, Travis, Michigan - September 2008

My journey to the Lilly North Conference began on such a positive note. The weather departing Calgary was wonderful (entire September week of above 20C temperatures) and my arrival in Traverse City , Michigan was spectacular, brilliant blue sky and lakes with a mixture of cool, crisp fall air. Upon my arrival at the airport I took the shuttle to the conference hotel and I checked into the Wellington Bed and Breakfast, a restored Victorian mansion. Wow, finally I got to experience sleeping in a “four poster” bed!! I made sure that I got a picture of this experience.

We then drove out to one of the local vineyards for a wine tasting tour. The area has some resemblances to the Niagara Peninsula Region in Canada as it is surrounded by the Great Lakes , which provide a moderating influence to the climate. The area is also known for its cherry orchards and believe it or not – there is such a thing a cherry wine :)

I must admit the “thrill” for me – was eating fresh grapes from the vine rather than tasting the assortment of wines. As the sun began to set, we headed to a restaurant on the water called the “Boat House” where I dined on White Fish from the Great Lakes . After dinner, all the plenary speakers for the conference (me included) provided a 5 minute “fireside version” of their session. It was a lot of fun but difficult to hear all the speakers over the “din” of the other restaurant conversations.

There was a tremendous sense of community at the Lilly North conference and I was really impressed with the level of inter-institutional collaboration within the State of Michigan but I found many of the sessions to be “hit or miss”. It was obvious that several of the presenters had put a great deal of time and effort into their sessions while others had a “wing it” feel to them.

I did enjoy “touring” the town of Traverse City . It's obvious there is some money in towne by the number of large, well-kept up homes as well as the “high end” stores that lined the main street (lots of art galleries). The first morning I ran along the water front and the second day I ran along a trail that follows an inland lake behind the City ( Boardman Lake ). The final night of the conference I even took in a few laps of a bicycle road race that was taking place on the edge of downtown.

On Sunday, I facilitated the closing session entitled Passion, Curiousity -Driven Learning and Web 2.0: What's the Connection with an accompanying handout and follow-up wiki for resources? A number of people attended the session and the plan was to provide the audience an opportunity to reflect and consolidate their learning from the conference but I think I just “overloaded” about one-third of the group :(

Anyways, the weather was still beautiful and I was relaxed when I arrived at the Traverse City Airport – looking forward to a “stress-free” journey home. Sigh, this picture quickly faded when I learned that our flight was delayed for two hours due to fog in Chicago . This meant that I missed my connection to Calgary and I ended up being re-routed to Houston for the night – before taking a 7am flight to Calgary . Maybe I'll think of twice about traveling through Chicago in the future :(

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Otterbein College Visit - September 2008

This past week I had an opportunity to visit Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio. I had been invited by Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens, the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning to facilitate a workshop on Teaching with Technology and on Collaborative Web-Based Technologies.

To begin, Otterbein College was established in 1847 as a university for the Church of the United Brethern in Christ. Phillip William Otterbein was considered to be the spirtual leader of this Church with later merged with the Methodist Church to become the United Methodist Church. There are currently around 3,100 students attending this private liberal arts College with approximately 150 full time faculty members.

I immediately felt a strong sense of communty upon my arrival on campus. People from different Faculties knew each other and everyone appeared to have a strong teaching focus. The morning session on Teaching with Technology was held in a large meeting room with participants arranged at 8 tables. From my perspective, this session went relatively well as the participants appeared to be engaged in table and large group discussions about how technology could be used to support Chickering and Gamson's (1987) Seven Principles of Good Practice in Education. The afternoon session on Collaborative Learning Technologies was held in a computer lab and potentially was a bit more chaotic. I myself find it difficult to focus on a speaker when I have a computer in front of me. I tried to modify the session by providing an overview to 8 categories of collaborative web-based technologies and then providing the participants with time to experiment with each of them.

I created a wiki to support both sessions and I'll be curious to see if anyone uses this tool to post follow-up resources from the session. And of course, I took a few pictures to record my trip :)