Inquiry through Blended Learning

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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Friday, September 09, 2011

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudia Arabia - September 2011

I was very fortunate to have a second opportunity to visit the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Saudi Arabia in early September and again I took lots of pictures!!

This truly is an amazing institution and I learned a lot from my visit. First, I learned that the current Rector of KFUPM, Dr. Khalid S. Al-Sultan, is a former student who is VERY committed to student engagement. He's currently in the process of building new student residences so that ALL first year students will can spend their first year on campus. And, he's helping build the Dhahran Techno Valley Research Park which will consist of a number of research faciliaties that will provide KFUPM students with co-op practicum and undergraduate research opportunities.

Myself and Dr. Matthew Ohland from Purdue University had been invited to faciliate a series of seminars and workshops for KFUPM's Reporting Week. I keynoted a new session on New Trends in Blended and Mobile Learning and then followed with workshops on Blended Learning in Higher Education and Mobile Learning in Higher Education. All the PowerPoint slides and notes from these sessions are available from the following web site.

Again, I was VERY impressed with KFUPM's hospitality and passion for teaching and learning. I sure hope that I get to return again as I find my visits to be rich learning opportunities for myself - especially around the topic of student engagement on campus - outside of the classroom!!

Southeast Technical Institute - August 2011

Immediately after arriving back in Calgary from the cottage I had the opportunity to travel to the Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to facilitate a day long series of workshops for their faculty on technology enhanced learning. I must admit that I was still quite tired from closing up the cottage in Ontario and I wasn't in top shape for these workshops.

I flew to Sioux Falls via Denver Colorado on Monday and had a nice dinner with the workshop organizers from Southeast Technical Institute. They seemed like a really great group of people and I was impressed with all of their faculty members. Definitely a real sense of community at this institution - they were planning an institutional pot luck lunch for the day after my workshops.

For my morning workshop (which began at 8am) - I focused on Student Engagement and Technology Enhanced Learning: What's the Connection? The session went reasonably well except their wireless network had been upgraded over the summer and was not working at 100% capacity so a number of people were having problems accessing the Google Doc notes.

We had sandwiches for lunch and then I spent the afternoon talking about designing for technology enhanced learning environments and the roles of the instructor in such an environment. I was totally exhausted by the end of the day and headed straight to the airport for a flight back to Denver and then Calgary. I think my days as an external workshop facilitator are drawing to a close (the travel is just too tough on my body)

York University - August 2011

I was very privileged to spend almost an entire week at York University during the month of August and I made sure that I documented my stay with some pictures. In many ways this institution is similar to Mount Royal - as it has a very diverse student population and is currently only accessible by bus. The reason I was at York was to participate in the Advanced Broadband Enabled Learning (ABEL) Summer Institute and to provide support for a blended learning initiative for faculty members in the Health Sciences and Business areas.

I arrived in Toronto on Sunday night and had a late dinner with Curt Bonk and Ron Owston. Curt was going to be providing the opening keynote for the ABEL Summer Institute and Ron was over seeing the blended learning initiative at York. I am amazed at the amount of traveling that Curt does - this guy has an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm for teaching and technology in higher education!!

Personally, I was involved in several sessions at the Summer Institute. On the Monday, I was part of a panel presentation exploring the future of digital technologies an education. Curt moderated the panel and I was joined by Sara Diamond (the President of the Ontario College of Art & Design) and Alex Couros (Associate Professor at the University of Regina). An interesting discussion about the personalization of learning and the use of digital data (learning analytics) in the future.

On the Tuesday, I faciliated a workshop on Design and Implementation in Blended Learning Environments. The focus of the workshop was on the importance of aligning your course learning objectives, assessment activities, in and out of class time, and digital technologies. The Earth actually "shook" during this session due to an earthquake in Virginia :)

I then provided the closing keynote address for the Summer Institute on the Wednesday. The topic of my presentation was on Student Engagement and Web 2.0 in Blended Learning. I attempted to use this session as an opportunity for the participants to reflect on their conference learning and then discuss how they could put it into practice in the upcoming K to 12 school year.

After a bit of a break on Wednesday afternoon - I joined a number of York faculty members from the Health Sciences and Business areas for a one day workshop on blended learning. I provided the opening keynote session on Designing for an inquiry-based approach to blended learning and then I worked with groups of faculty about how to "action" this vision into their own courses for the remainder of the day.

On Thursday night I took the bus and subway to Cathy and Peter's home. Somehow Cathy and I managed to get on the same subway car and we were able to them walk to her house together. I was able to catch up on my course work during the day on Friday and then Peter and I went for a really nice neighbourhood bicycle ride in the afternoon. That evening we drove to the airport to pick up Eric from his flight from Ecuador. He had spent the past couple of weeks helping to build schools in this country with the Me to We organization and I was very excited to hear his stories. I must admit that I did not even recognize him at the Arrival gate as he had his sun glasses on with an Ecuador hat and sweater :)

After a restful sleep - we spent Saturday in downtown Toronto. There were a lot of activies going on including a buskers festival, comics convention, and Toronto Blue Jays game. The main focus though was on Jack Layton's funeral. We were fortunate to catch the beginning of the funeral procession at City Hall - definitely an emotional tribute to a man who "really made a difference" for his family, his political party, and his country!! After the funeral we had lunch at the Maple Leaf Gardens Sports Bar and then headed back to Cathy and Peter's to relax before our early morning Sunday flight back to Calgary :)

Cottage - Summer 2011


Definitely some of the best summer weather we have ever had at the cottage. Endless sunny days, not too humid, and the temperature even managed to cool down for pleasant sleeping most nights - check out the pictures!!

Unfortunately, not everyone was able to be at the cottage at the same time this summer - but at least everyone was able to come for at least a short visit. The first week started with a "boys fest" - California and Calgary cousins with no Moms :) Once we had yet more "trees" removed - we got the boat in the water and spent lots and lots of time tubing and wake boarding!! We even managed to squeeze in a visit to the Stewart Park Music Festival although it was too hot and humid to stay very long.

Aunt Beth arrived the second week along with Peter and Cathy for a weekend visit. The great weather just continued on - and we all had a restful and relaxing time together. We also kept the tubing tradition alive along with a visit to Kingston for Queen's campus tour. I wonder if any of the boy cousins will actually attend this family institution? We also discovered a VERY interesting store near Westport - which contains everything (and more) than any cottage could ever want or have :)

We were very sad to see the California family leave but Marie arrived the same day and we turned our attention to "gasoline free" water pursuits such as paddle boarding, windsurfing, row boating, and kayaking. A couple of days later the Brooklyn family arrived and it was wonderful to rediscover the cottage through the eyes of the younger cousins - Benjamin and Noah. We got the wading pool out - along with all the cottage toys, high chairs, rocking chair, wagon, the good olde Rideau Shark soap box car. Now that Charles was present - ping pong with the new table swung into high gear. What an amazing bonus for the cottage along with the new BBQ!! Hey, we even discovered that we can barbeque salmon on a cedar plank with the new BBQ :)

The entire Doland-Richmond clan also arrived next door and we had a wonderful fish fry and fireworks night (courtesy of Uncle Charles). All too soon it was time to put the boat "to bed" for the winter and pull Splash Island and Water Mat out of the water. I must admit that putting away everything was a bit tiring this year - but I sure appreciated all of Marie, Christy, and Charles' help!!

Kayaking Adventure - July 2011


I've got to give Marie credit for organizing an AMAZING family vacation to British Columbia (lots of pictures).

We began the trip with a kayaking adventure through Gwaii Haanas National Park in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Incredibly beautiful scenery, amazing wildlife, and a wonderful opportunity to learn about the Haida culture. A few nuggets for myself:

First, I did not realize that the Haida had three distinct types of totem poles:

  • Ceremonial - to celebrate the wealth of a family indicated by the number of potlatch rings
  • Memorial - to honour a special person what was killed at sea and who's body was not recovered
  • Mortuary - like a tombstone. An inverted tree with a mortuary box on top with the bones of the dead.

Two, the Haida had the food chain figured out. The killer whale was at the top of the sea, the bear for the land, and the eagle for the sky. There were originally two main clans of Haida people on the Islands - the Eagles and the Ravens.

Three, the logo for Gwaii Haanas National Park is the sea otter and urchin - representing the balanced relationship that these two play for the ecosystem. Once the sea otters were exterminated for their pelts the sea urchin population had no predators and they ate lots of kelp resulting in some areas becoming "deserts" - kelp free.

In terms of the kayaking trip - it was definitely an engaging experience as we had to learn to become "one" with the elements - mainly the rain and the wind. Fortunately, it was not that cold and I think we all kept warm with the constant paddling on the water. This is definitely one family holiday that we'll always remember!!

After finishing our kayaking adventure - we flew to Vancouver where we had a few days to visit the sites and sounds of the city. One of our prime destinations was the University of British Columbia (UBC) to see if the campus would be the "right fit" for Eric. UBC's setting is definitely amazing and it sounds like they have a very impressive undergraduate science program - the only catch is the "cut-off" for acceptance into this program last year was 91% - go Eric go.

We also had a chance to visit Granville Island and Stanley Park before heading back to Calgary - en route to the cottage :)

Teaching and Learning to the Power of Technology - June 2011

Yahoo, finally the last conference of the 2010 to 2011 academic year and I captured a few photos of my experience on my iTouch.

I sure have been "on the road" A LOT this year!! The final conference was the Teaching and Learning to the Power of Technology Conference at the University of Saskatchewan. I presented the opening keynote session Student Engagement and Blended Learning: What's the Connection? and I thought it went very well.

This was my first time in Saskatoon and I really enjoyed exploring the South Saskatchewan River valley via some great runs!! I was also very impressed with the University of Saskatchewan. It was much larger than I thought and it appears that they are involved in some very progressive programs through their Teaching & Learning Centre (e.g., Learning Communities program).

June 2011 Road Trip

It was time again for my favourite conference of the year - the Canadian Society for Studies in Education (CSSE) annual conference, which is part of the SSHRC Congress - the largest social science and humanities conference in Canada and I made sure to take lots of photos. The conference was held this year in Fredericton, New Brunswick so we had to catch an early morning plane from Calgary. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I forgot my laptop, which meant I was going to be partially "unplugged" for the trip.

I had visited Fredericton and the University of New Brunswick campus about ten years ago and I had very pleasant memories of my visit. It really is an idea government/university town and might be a great place for one of our boys to go to university. While at the conference I presented a couple of sessions. One on our group work study, Moving to their own beat: Exploring how students use digital technologies to support group work, outside of the classroom. And, one on our education undergraduate study, Investigating the Impact of Student Participation in an Undergraduate Society. From my perspective, both sessions went well and it was fun presenting with other members of our Department of Education & Schooling at Mount Royal University. I was also involved in the Technology and Teacher Education (TATE) pre-conference session but I wasn't able to be part of Jodi Nickel's Portfolios for Self-Assessment session or Zehra Akyol's The Development of a Metacognition Questionnaire in the Context of Online and Blended Communities of Inquiry session. One of my biggest pleasures at the conference was having access to a UNB bicycle which allowed me to opportunities to explore the numerous pathways. A great form of exercise and relaxation!!

After the CSSE conference, I flew to Ottawa for a couple of days at the cottage. They were very productive days as I was able to do quite a bit of spring cleaning with Bill as well as travel to Kingston to pick-up our new windsurfer.

From the cottage, I flew to Washington, DC for the weekend for the Lilly DC Conference on Teaching and Learning. The organizers had asked me to facilitate a closing keynote/workshop session on Blended Learning in Higher Education: Promises and Pitfalls. The conference held at a hotel in Bethesda, Maryland, which meant another long cab ride. The weather was excellent and I was able to get in a couple of long runs along the old Georgetown railway track during my stay.

I then headed back to the cottage a bit tired but still able to do some more cleaning as well as assemblying the new insurance ping pong table and BBQ :) I finally headed back to Calgary after being away for nearly two weeks (I don't think I'll go for these extended trips in the future :)