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.