Off My Chair

August 31, 2011

I’m celebrating today, in my last day sitting on  a Canada Research Chair (virtually of course!). I doubt if chairless tomorrow will be much different than today, but it is the passing of a personal academic era.

I came to Athabasca University 10 years ago as the Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Distance Education. The CRC program is funded by the Canadian federal government to support scholarship – in a very backward country that does not have any federal educational mandate nor initaitves. The feds are however constitutionally allowed to participate in research. They choose to do so through the funding for up to 2,000 chairs in all disciplines in 2000. Each University was allocated Chairs based on the amount of federal research council funding they are awarded – and Athabasca got three. The catch is however, that the Chairs come in two funding levels – Tier 2 for newer academics, with a 5 year term, renewable once and Tier 1 for all scholars, for 7 years, renewable indefinitely.  Unfortunately for me,  Atahabacsa was not awarded any Tier 1 Chairs, and thus 5 years after my renewal in 2006, it is out of the chair for me – as of tomorrow!

All in all, I have enjoyed the expereince and the prestige. I had a slightly lower teaching load than my colleagues and commensurate higher expectation for research output. A quick look at the old CV shows output over the past 10 years (authored or co-authored) of 5 books, 25 book chapters, 44 peer reviewed articles and more presentations, keynotes and rubber chicken, than I can accurately count.  So a great opportunity!

Life, post CRC, carries on pretty much same as before – without a chair to sit in!  I continue as a tenured Prof here at Athabasca where I teach in the Centre for Distance Education (mostly in our EdD program this year), advise students, edit IRRODL and keep our SSHRC funded research agenda on social networking in self-paced courses afloat.

Thanks to all my colleagues for the visits, correspondence, critique, collaboration and good times over the past decade!


What I did this summer (cont.)

August 19, 2011

A final post, recounting the story of summer ’11 with a brief account of the voyage of the sailboat Barakette. We (friends Scott, Don and I) bare-boated from Vancouver Island, Nanimo Yachts for one week heading up the Sunshine Coast. We have become accustomed to much smaller boats – (or bigger boats and someone else in charge), so this was a test for our relatively inexperienced crew.

The Barakette is  27′ Catalina, the work horse and likely most popular family cruiser on the West Coast. It was old enough to be sufficiently scratched, that we weren’t too intimidated by the gloss!  To our delight everything seemed to be working well (small galley, big ice box, radio, charts, head with holding tank) and all set to go.

We headed across the Straights of Georgia, with good winds and 30 minutes after casting off we were heeled way over, beating into 15 knot winds and sparkling ocean whitecaps – great fun!! We dropped the hook at Smuggler’s Bay the first night, with a stern line to a rock on shore. Beautiful evening and time for a swim and barbecue. Next morning we topped up provisions at Pender Harbour and sailed up Agamemnon Channel. Next morning, heading up Jervis inlet, we came onto a school of porpoises who swam over to check us out, but soon found us a bit boring, compared to this scenery.

32 miles sailing and motoring up the channel brought us to Princess Louisa Inlet – guarded by Malibou Rapids. Fortunately we have leaned to read the tide tables and motored through near slack tide on a one knot current. Princess Louisa is one of those ‘bucket list” type destinations. It is a 3 mile mountain-bound fiord, with at least 20 waterfalls spilling down the near vertical mountain sides. At the head is the roaring Chatter Box Falls, which we visited, but choose to anchor by a much smaller waterfall that serenaded us all night.

Next working we headed back down the channel to Ballet Bay on Nelson Island- the most beautiful anchorage we have yet seen. After a swim, we were enjoying a beer on deck, when a very perplexing dowsing stick began heading straight for our anchored boat. Turns out it was a white tail dear swimming between islands. Using the snorkel and mask we discovered the thickest oyster bed we had seen – 2-3 five” oysters piling on top of each other throughout a small bay.

Next night be headed to our favorite Marine Park on Jedediah Island -picture here. The whole Island is a park, that once was an active homestead. So we walked through ancient old growth forest (Douglas Fir, Cedar, Maples and Oaks), to the old pasture, now overseen by a flock of 30 or so now wild and very unshorn sheep, had a few (rather hard) pears and apples from the orchard and toured the old falling down barn, outbuildings and farmhouse overlooking the bay.

Final day of sailing saw us at the Dingy pub and moorage at Protection Island in Nanimo Harbour. Next morning we then returned the boat, none the worse for wear, but one winch handle (over the beam) less.

A great sail, then home via Vancouver and 30th birthday celebrations with daughter Solanna and 13 hours drive through the Rockies to Edmonton

Thus ends the summer, 2011.


What I did (am doing) this summer

August 3, 2011

I remember with unpleasant memories the task of having to write the “What I did this summer” essay in September every year of grade school. I thought I would pre-empt the pressure by getting it out of the way in early August!

I mostly wanted to share the scene (below) that I ‘ve been staring at every morning from the deck of my Father-in-laws cabin on Allen Lake, near Blind River, Ontario.

It is a wonderful place and though Telus mobility reached my wife Susan’s cell phone out on the end of the dock, I was blissfully unable to connect to either a phone or the net for a couple of weeks. But of course, I did peddle the 8K to the local pub when I really needed an Internet fix.

In this ‘blended holiday’ I did write a forward to an upcoming Networking book Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning  (sigh, not Open access), prepare for an inotroduction to the keynote of Clark Quinn at the Madison conference, read a book on educational research (way too American) and another on chaos theory BUT  spent lots of time just reading fiction  (really enjoyed Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce - Athabasca’s first ‘writer in virtual residence’) swimming and visting with new and old friends – including (of course, my wife and best friend Susan).

I’m now at the annual Madison Distance Learning and Teaching conference and looking forward to meeting a colleage and ex student Terumi Mitazoe from Japan. Terumi and I have published 3 articles, a book chapter and a co-authored a book, but have yet to meet F2F. She has expanded upon my “Equivalency Theory” and is creating a site with various studies that have validated the ideas in that early 2003 work  So Friday we present together this combined work.

Then my summer ends with 6 days of sailing off the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. tough life…..


Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology

May 6, 2011

Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and TechnologyThe second book I want to post about is the 3rd edition of Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and technology that arrived on my desk yesterday. This one even came free ($82 in paper back, $45 as an ebook), because I authored one of the chapters (more below on that).

The book is edited by Robert Reiser and John Dempsey, and contains nearly 400 pages and 38 chapters. Each chapter is written by one of the big “who’s who” of mostly American instructional design (ID) gurus. You’ll find chapters by David Merrill, Walter Dick, David Jonassen, John Keller, Richard Clark,  Michael Hannafin and the two editors – names familiar to instructional designers and ed tech students for the past 3 decades at least. There are also a few new faces – notably e-learning and knowledge management guru Marc Rosenberg and Valerie Shute (amongst many others). You can see the full Table of Contents here. I also noted an increasing (but still far in the minority) number of women scholars such as Marcy Driscoll and Elizabeth Boling.

The text is designed for the serious instructional design student. The editors have produced an edition of this text every five Read the rest of this entry »


Passing of Gary Boyd – a great scholar and friend

April 7, 2011

I was saddened today to learn of the passing of my friend Gary Boyd, Professor at Concordia University in  Montreal. Gary exemplified scholarship in education technology and came to personalize what I think are the necessary, but far too uncommon characteristics of  scholarship and application of new technologies and pedagogy to teaching and learning.

I first met Gary in 1988, when Robert Sweet and I went on a research trip to Concordia. I still remember two things about that first meeting- first the vivid introduction to scholarly mess – Gerry had mountains of texts, papers, floppy disks and conference proceedings spilling out and over his desk and the floor. Second, I also remember his big smile and very warm greeting to Robert (a past Concordia colleague) and to myself, At that time, I was about  million psychological miles from an academic vocation and life style. I was impressed by both aspects of Gary’s life.

Read the rest of this entry »


Estonia and University of Tallinn

April 5, 2011

My friend Rory McGreal and I are very fortunate to have been invited to by the Estonian E-Learning Development Centre (oh to have a funded, national e-learning group and strategy!!) to present at the 8th annual Estonian E-learning conference in Tartu starting tomorrow.  Yesterday morning we spent the day gawking at the wonderful ‘old town’ here in Tallinn. Although Rory kept grousing about the Disneyfication of Europe’s old cities, we were pretty impressed.

Tallinn, Estonia old twon

Tallinn, Estonia old town

The town was settled by European immigrants in the 12-14 century. It has the highest town wall (complete with towers) that I have seen and the center is chalked full of very old houses, Inns, churches and the current Estonian houses of Parliament. Of course all of this beauty comes with a zillion tourist and handicraft shops, outdoor booths and restaurants.  The season is just beginning as there is still dirty snow piled up on the corners (reminds me of home). Read the rest of this entry »


On leisure and the academic lifestyle

January 7, 2011

Maybe I’m just a work-aholic, but I had trouble engaging in total relaxation over the holidays. I did manage to read a few novels, do some skiing, visiting with friends and relatives and even slept in for an extra hour most days  (not quite as easy a task for us old farts, as in younger days!!).  But I also made time to finish a book chapter, read my email daily, assigned a few article reviews and did just a bit of net surfing and blog reading. Sort of what I refer to as a “balanced holiday”.

However, some people – and I count my good wife Susan in this crowd, contend that I need to get away from it all on holidays and make sure that everything I do,  can’t possibly be construed as ‘work’. I guess that is one the benefits/challenges of an academic (and increasingly other professional) lifestyle- not being able to clearly separate work from pleasure – home from office.

In a related if more omminous context, I overheard the conversations of my daughter (now finishing her PhD) and a friend who is a research assistant at a major Canadian university. They were talking about the lifelstyle of the researching/faculty members who they work with. Each noted that the pressure to get grants, publish, teach, research, advice, and deliberate on committees didn’t leave  time for anything else – non essentials such as family, community, church or sports. They both were wondering if the sacrifices demanded from the “never enough” world of academia are made up for by the freedom of time and place shifting that most academics (and especially those of us who teach online) enjoy. I guess I’ve gotten used to the fact that I never have enough time to read everything I should read, or play with every Web 2.0 tool that I find interesting, or even visit f2f or online with friends and colleagues whose company I know I would enjoy and learn from. But I’m a practiced multi-tasker and capable of getting done what absolutely must get done – until holidays come!!  Then time and anxiety about its effective use grows…..

This month our University came out with a new early retirement incentive, but gosh, years of holidays seems like a long time! I guess then I will develop my next career (after I decide what it is). Oh well, I guess I’ll muse on  Thoreau’s comment below and keep in touch with my inner ant!

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?“ – Henry David Thoreau

Hope you had a ‘relaxing’ holiday.


Reflections on Blogging

September 9, 2010

Glen Groulx’s question about edu-blogging are inspiring a little Labour Day reflection on my own blogging. Glenn is a prolific and quite exception scholar of educational blogging and it is pleasure to respond to his questions, in small response of the many valuable posts he has distributed on educational blogging.

I started my first blog after returning from a conference in Australia where I presented some ideas on the pivotal role of social networking in distance education (see Social Networking: Distance Education’s Killer App). It became apparent that there was only so much academic pontificating one could do, without actually experiencing social networking. So I was ready to take the plunge. In 2005 edu-blogging was still relatively new, with mostly only innovators/early adopters participating. Still, I remember at the time thinking I was a bit late to the party, but time rolls on. Read the rest of this entry »


Driving Home from Madison

August 12, 2010

While winding our way home (2800 kms) from the Madison Distance Learning and Teaching Conference and our annual holiday at Sue’s Father’s cabin in Blind River Ontario, we had a few adventures, that I wanted to share in the following post.

We left Madison Wisc. enroute to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and began to notice an increasing number of motorcycles on the freeway. Suddenly it twigged and a check on the map showed we were heading straight for Sturgis SD. For those not aware, Sturgis is the town most centrally located in the continental USA and home of the world’s largest motorcycle rally. A check on the net showed the annual event was starting the day we were to arrive!  This 70th anniversary rally, was hoping to attract over 700,000 motorcycles attendees!  The event features rallys, contests, concerts (Bob Dylan appearing this year) sales, tattoos, tours and everything else related to motorcycles! By the time we were within 100 miles, the motorcycles outnumbered 4 wheeled vehicles and probably 50% of the cars and trucks were towing trailers, many with the now familiar Harley Davidson winged decal plastered on the side. Read the rest of this entry »


Academic Hat Trick

April 2, 2010

For those non Canadians reading this, a hat trick results in hockey (and I learn from Wikipedia, in other sports) when one scores three goals in one game. Well, the academic game lasts considerably longer than three periods, but I was both delighted and surprised to score a hat trick this week.

The week started with a call from Chere Gibson (emeritus professor from Univ. of Wisconsin) saying that I was to be awarded the “Wedemeyer Award for Excellence in Distance Education Practice. This award will be presented to the practitioner(s) who most exemplifies excellence in practice in distance education in North America”. The award will be presented at the 26th annual Distance Teaching and Learning conference in Madison, Wisconsin.

The next day, after insuring my head hadn’t swelled beyond the size of my bike helmet, I pedaled to work to receive an email from Canadian Network for Innovation in Education president Ray Whitley, that I was to be presented with the CNIE annual award for leadership at thr CNIE conference in St John this May. International awards are very nice, but recognized by one’s peers at home is especially gratifying.

The final goal was notification that myself and Bruno Poellhuber from the University of Montreal had won a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities  Research Grant for $140,000 over 3 years to study social networking interventions in self-paced distance education programming. Now the amount of this grant may not seem much (especially when spread between 3 institutions over three years,) but those knowledgeable about Canadian funding for ed tech research programs know that we are in an extreme political drought and that any funds for research is rain from heaven!! Actually Bruno and I failed in our first two tries at this competition, the second time because reviewers found that we had not not provided justification for conducting this research in French and English – can you believe we live in Canada??

Anyways, weeks like this come very infrequently in academic, and I hope you will forgive the self promotional flavour of this post.

Terry