Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Canadian Society for the Studies in Education (CSSE) Annual Conference - Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario

The Canadian Society for Studies in Education (CSSE) annual conference will be my last "road trip" for the 2008 to 2009 academic year - yahoo!!

Wonderful to be back in Ottawa again and the weather has been incredible!!

I began with a pre-conference meeting for the Technology and Teacher Education (TATE) special interest group. We spent some time sharing resources together and then had a nice dinner at Maxwell's restaurant on Elgin street in Ottawa. TATE has created the following spaces for sharing resources and ideas:

Username - itcommons
Password - tate-csse

TATE Twitter Area

Once again, I've put together a set of notes for the conference sessions I attended and I've also posted a few pictures of our Mount Royal Education & Schooling gang. Jodi and I ran in a 10km run on Saturday night and Jim Zimmer and I presented our Student Engagement and Interactive Technologies session on Monday morning. Neat to see that Mount Royal has also posted a brief story about our research to the institutional web site. I also was part of a panel session on the use of Wikis in Canadian Pre-Service Teacher Education Programs.

The conference was a great way for our Department to spend some time together, outside of Mount Royal, and I think that everyone in the group enjoyed Ottawa and the CSSE experience!!

Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE) Conference - Ottawa, Ontario

Ever get that feeling that you are TOTALLY over extended -constantly compromising quality for quantity?

Too many conferences, too much travel and too many competing demands on my time!!

Anyways, it was great to be able to visit Ottawa in the spring during the tulip festival. The reason for the trip was to attend the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE) annual conference. Fiona Villamar (a student at Mount Royal) and I facilitated a session on our Student Engagement and Interactive Learning Technologies study and Mike Power (from Laval University) and I presented on our Blended Online Learning Design research. The conference was held at the Chateau Laurier Hotel and it was a wonderful experience presenting both sessions in the ballroom with thoughts of all the famous people and former Prime Ministers who have presented in this room.

As usual, I created a set of notes from the conference and here a few of the highlights from my perspective.

George Sieman's Keynote Session and his list of resources.

Phil Ice's session on Using Online Collaborative Document Editors to Enhance Student Satisfaction and Cognitive Presence Outcomes and the introduction of a couple of collaborative online writing tools - Adobe Buzzword and Zoho Writer.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reaching & Teaching Conference - Calgary, Alberta

I guess we all have our "off" days :(

I had been invited to facilitate a Blended Learning and Student Engagement: What's the Connection? session for the Reaching & Teaching Annual Conference. This conference is co-organized by the Calgary Professional Development Consortium and the Golden Hills School District. Each year, the conference focuses on a specific theme and this year the topic was technology.

Sigh, I really should have spent more time researching the needs of my audience (K to 12 teachers and administrators). Rather than focusing on an instructional design framework for online blended learning - I really should have focused on the notion of student engagement and how a blended learning approach and technology can be used to foster student success and retention. The BIG problem for me - was that I had been asked to offer the same 90 minute workshop - twice. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon. An opportunity to make the same mistake twice - insanity - doing the same thing over again but somehow expecting the results to be different.

Lesson learned - know your audience!!

Hopefully I don't make this mistake again.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Sloan Blended Learning Workshop - Chicago, Illinois

On the road again . . . .

Third straight week of conferences and travel - I think I'm getting tired of airports :)

This week it was the Sloan Blended Learning Workshop in Lisle, Illinois (a business suburb - just west of Chicago). I arrived on Sunday and had a relaxing afternoon (and swim) at the hotel. In the evening, I went out for a multi-course Italian dinner with in nearby Napier with the other workshop coordinators and instructors.

The Sloan-C Foundation has been involved in supporting online education initiatives in the United States since 1993 and they have sponsored an annual blended learning workshop for the past 6 years. The first workshop was by invitation only and Randy was one of the participants. This year's workshop was designed to have a business and instructional strategy track and I was responsible for facilitating most of the instructional strategy workshops. On Monday, I conducted a four hour workshop on Designing Blended Learning Communities. I had anticipated a group of about 40 participants but I ended up with over 100 people and we ended up moving the workshop into the main auditorium. From my perspective, the workshop was relatively interactive (several opportunities for small and large group discussion) but I sure was exhausted by the end of the day. The next day, I was scheduled to facilitate The Roles of Successful Blended/Online Instructors workshop in the morning and I must admit that my energy level was not "prime". Fortunately, the participants were VERY engaged in this workshop and they really kept the discussion "fresh". It was fascinating to learn how people are using different synchronous and asynchronous communication technologies to "blend" their higher education courses and programs. Montana State University offers an online pre-service teacher education program (only the practicum's have a face-to-face component) and one the faculty members conducts her classes in Second Life (she is Bella Topaz). A faculty member from Red Deer College indicated to me that they are using Horizon Wimba to support their online courses and that one of the advantages of Wimba is that it allows students to connect to the synchronous sessions via telephone if they encounter computer problems (1-800 number).

I was totally exhausted but exhilarated by the end of the conference. Next stop was New York City to visit Christy, Charles and Benjamin in Brooklyn. It was 88F when I landed at La Guardia but by the next day it had cooled off to the mid-60s. Previously, I had only visited New York in the late fall - when all the leaves and flowers had finished so it was amazing to arrive in the "peak" of spring. The vivid green of fresh grass and leaves, all the trees in blossom and the tulips in their prime - I made sure to take lots of pictures!! Christy and I spent a morning in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens with her friend Angela and son Oscar. In the afternoon, Christy and Benjamin had a rest while I ran the Circle Road around the perimeter of Prospect Park - what a treat!! Later on, Christy and I took Benjamin to the Music Together class and then we picked up some fixings for a pizza dinner in their apartment. I got to experience more of Benjamin's life on my second day in Brooklyn. We began the morning with a ride on the F Subway Train to Bergen for gym class. Benjamin really enjoys taking the subway and I'm really impressed with his spatial intelligence - he recognizes many key landmarks in his neighbourhood (i.e., the local pie shop, the entrance to the subway and his apartment). Christy was involved in a concert at Polytechnic Prepatory where she teaches violin/viola so she had to leave after lunch but I got a chance for a second run in Prospect Park as their baby-sitter Liz looked after Benjamin while he had his nap. Towards the end of the afternoon, Charles and I headed into Manhattan to see the sights and to buy him a pair of glasses. Phew, lots of people and noise - I was tired by the time we decided to head back to Brooklyn and purchase some Vietnamese baguettes for dinner in the apartment. All to soon, it was time to head back to Calgary and I was fortunate to be able to transfer to early flights so that I arrived home in time for dinner.