Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Monday, January 10, 2011

Christmas 2010

Two things seem to happen each year - one, time seems to move faster (where did the year go) and two, I don't have the energy that I used to (always seem to get sick now at the end of the year).

Fortunately, we had organized a family Christmas holiday to North Captiva Island, off the Gulf Coast of Florida. We had an amazing holiday and I made sure to take lots of pictures and videos with my new Canon Power s95 camaera but it was a bit of an epic adventure to get there but it sure was worth the effort.

We all got up at 4:30am on Christmas Day in order to take a taxi to the Calgary Airport. We were all set to go for our 7:00am flight to Toronto but unfortunately two of the stewardesses slept in so our flight was delayed for almost 30 minutes until they arrived. We finally got going and Marie & I sat up front in business class (I finally manged to get a couple of flight upgrades) while the boys were back in the regular seats.

Once in Toronto we made our connection to Fort Myers with no problems due to the fact that our flight was delayed because of connection and mechanical issues. We finally made it to Fort Myers around 7:00pm and fortunately our shuttle bus had waited for us and we were off to the Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island (with a conveniance store stop en route to pick up some dinner). The Manager of the Lodge had waited up for us to arrive and she helped us check into our room in the original 1926 part of the building.

We all had a great sleep and after breakfast we went for a walk to the Marina and the Randell Research Centre about the Calusa Indians who used to live in this area.

University of Regina Trip - December 2010

One last trip before the end of 2010 :) Thanks to Dr. Vi Maeers, the Director of the Centre of Teaching and Learning, I had an opportunity to spend a couple of days at the University of Regina. I had driven through Regina numerous times en route to the cottage but I had never had the chance to actually visit the city. I was very impressed with the Lake Wascana area - the government buildings, the Science Centre, and the grounds of the University of Regina. The tree lined residential streets surrounding this area were also impressive. It was also interesting to learn that the University will be celebrating its 100 anniversary in 2011 and that it began as a Methodist Church instition - very similar to the history of Mount Royal University. The visit began with a dinner on Sunday night at the local Keg with members of the Teaching and Learning Centre (Cara and Wally) to discuss the series of blended learning workshops that I would be offering. A really wonderful, supportive group. My first workshop was on Student Engagement, Web 2.0, and Blended Learning: What’s the Connection?. From my perspective, this workshop went reasonably well as almost all faculty can relate to the need to engage their students in their learning processes. The majority of participants had laptops for the workshop and I experimented with the use of a Google Docs handout for them to make a collaborative set of notes during my session.

I had a relaxing lunch and a self-guided tour of the University. I was very impressed with how all the major buildings are connected in a circular fashion (including a residence complex and the physical education facilities). This intentional "connection" of physical space really created a sense of campus community.

My second workshop was on Designing for an Inquiry-based Approach to Blended Learning. This workshop did not go quite as smoothly as planned. A couple of issues - first my energy level was not great and second I think I did too many small group "think-pair-share" activities. One of the feedback comments was that this is a great "ice-breaker" activity at the beginning of a workshop but then I should focus on "whole" (rather than small) group discussions. Again, I had the participants working on a common set of notes in a Google Doc handout.

I went for a run in the sub-Arctic weather after my workshop to rejuvenate me. Running through the snow drifts into a very cool wind, in the dark - reminded me of our time in the Western and Eastern Arctic Regions of Canada. Dinner this evening was a Greek restaurant with the Acting Provost and various members of the Dean's Council. It was a relaxing, informal evening and I enjoyed learning that many of the Dean's continue to teach in their administrative roles.

I was impressed that the majority of participants returned for the second day of workshop sessions - as the prediction was for stormy weather. A few of the participants had traveled from outside of Regina (e.g., Moose Jaw and Saskatoon) to attend the sessions (e.g., Instructional Designers with SIAST). I began the second day with a "double-header" workshop - The Roles of a Successful Blended Instructor and Preparing a Blended Course Outline (handout). Good energy and discussion this morning and I'll have to remember how well these two topics work together. Again, a set of collaborative notes for the session were created in Google Docs.

Over the lunch hour I met with Dean's Council and I was so excited from the morning's workshop that I just "blurted out" my excitement rather than trying to understand the blended learning issues that they were wrestling with. As usual, I forgot to listen - seek to understand and then be understood.

I finished my visit to the University of Regina with my workshop on Student Assessment in Blended Courses. Assessment is an issue in any course and the resulting discussion was a good way to wrap up my visit. A final set of collaborative notes were created in Google Docs for this session and then I headed out to the airport to travel back to Calgary. I was a bit worried about the Air Canada flight taking off in the freezing rain but everything worked out fine.

I'm looking forward to returning to Saskatchewan in June 2011 for the Teaching and Learning to (with and through) the power of technology conference.