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Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Monday, September 29, 2014

Brazil Trip - September 2014

Once again, I was very privileged to be invited to visit a university in another country and I tried my best to take pictures to capture the experience. This time the destination was the UniversityFederal of Sao Carlos in Brazil. I had never travelled to South America before and I must admit that I was initially a bit apprehensive. But . . . 5 minutes after I arrived I was overwhelmed with the hospitality of the Brazilian people who definitely have a passion for life.

I arrived in a brand new terminal of the Sao Paolo Airport. My first revelation was that Sao Paolo is considered to be on the top three cities in the world in terms of population (over 20 million people similar to Mexico City and Tokyo).

Isabelle, a Professor for Sao Paolo met me at the airport and a driver then drove us through the countryside to Sao Carlos, a city of around 200,000 people. Spring had just arrived in Brazil and the rolling hills were covered with spring flowers and green grass. The scenery reminded me a bit of the Napa Valley region of northern California.

Sao Carlos has two major universities and several factories such as Faber-Castell, which manufactures pencil crayons. I was impressed with how friendly and relaxed everyone was and I felt totally safe and secure, walking through the streets.

Each night, I was treated to a wonderful dinner where I was able to sample Brazilian food and drink. The fruit was wonderfully fresh and sweet and the beef was richly spiced and salted. The beer was smooth and refreshing and the distilled sugar cane was dangerously alcoholic.

I spent the first two days, facilitating a series ofeLearning workshops for education graduate students and staff from the teachingand learning centre. I was impressed with the speed of the Internet (Sao Carlos is a major node on the Brazilian network) and the willingness of the participants to collaborated with myself and each other. I ran all the workshops through Google Docs and the participants used Google Translator to transform their responses from Portuguese into English.

The University is situated in a beautiful forest that not only provides shade but is the home to parrots, toucans, and small monkeys.  It definitely is a very special academic environment!!

For my last three days, I attended the University’s distanceeducation conference where I facilitated the opening key note session . There were also other keynote speakers from Spain, Portugal, and the United States.  It was a tremendous learning experience for me. Once again it got me thinking of the connections between the Community of Practice (CoP) and the Community of Inquiry (CoI) frameworks.  Vanessa Dennan from Florida State University facilitated a wonderful session about the use of the Cognitive ApprenticeshipModel for designing, facilitating, and leading an online course.  I really need to incorporate this model into my own teaching practice.

One of the key take-aways from this conference was a reminder of the potential of the Internet to provide quality, accessible, and cost-effective educational opportunities to all members of society.  Potentially empowering everyone to become active members of a strong democratic society 
This really rang true to me on the return drive to Sao Paolo through the pouring rain and overwhelming traffic caused by more and more people moving from the rural to urban areas in the world. The noise, the smells, and sight of raw sewage floating along the surface of the city’s river definitely made me pause and reflect on how fortunate we are in Alberta.  I just wish we would invest in education like the Brazilians!!


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