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Oh Canada...10 E-Learning Memories from 9 Trips in 2 Years.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Ok, this posting is a chance to me to reflect on many trips I have had recently to the Great White North as some refer to it as--though with global warming I have rarely seen snow there. I have been in Canada for 9 different trips in 2 years starting with Ed Media in Montreal in June 2005. That was memorable indeed! Jazzfest. And my sabbatical started a year ago with a 3 city tour of Canada--talks in Saskatoon, Calgary, and then Edmonton. Much to do there! Many people to show me around! Thanks to everyone for that! From Barry Brown in Saskatoon to BJ Eib, Norm Vaughan, and Randy Garrison in Calgary, and John Boyle, Guohua Pan, and many others in Edmonton. It was great to be on radio, 3 TV stations, and the newspaper one day in Edmonton. Pics from Saskatoon are below with 3 professors, Barry Brown, Rick Schwier, and Earl Misanchuk, there who all got their degrees in my department at IU a few years earlier (smile). They are doing the Indiana "I."

Pics from the Calgary portion of that trip are below (note that they made me wear the Calgary Flames shirt for my journey up to Edmonton where the Oilers play hockey. Smile.)

(Note: above is Norm Vaughan and myself in one picture and the whole group in the other.)

(Note: one pic above is of me and Randy Garrison; the other is of me with BJ Eib and Pam. BJ and Pam used to work in Indiana. BJ worked at our Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) in our School of Education where she brought in tons of teacher training grant money. We are doing the Indiana "I" in this picture.)

I have been to Canada 3 times in a little over the past month; first to Mohawk College in Hamilton to speak on how the learning world has become flat and also on strategies for teaching online (see Next I gave a keynote at a conference at Concordia University in Montreal (see See pic below with Arshad Ahmad from the business school at Concordia. Finally, last week, I spoke in 3 different places in 3 days to begin to wind down my sabbatical as it all started--with a 3 city speaking tour in Canada..only this time in the eastern time zone instead of Rocky Mountain time. I have gone from west to east. I still need to get to more provinces, however.

In my most recent 3-4 days in Canada (June 3rd-6th), I spoke to teachers in the York district in Newmarket (just outside Toronto thanks to Janet Murphy's excellent coordination), graduate students at York University in Toronto (my first grad class since this sabbatical began--thanks Ron Owston--see Flickr for pictures or see below).

The Orion conference in Toronto (see, and then Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. I took a shuttle service from Toronto to London; otherwise friends and taxi's drove me from place-to-place. Lot of friends! See some of those at Orion conference below (observing a presentation on an anatomy course in 3D).

Now after all these trips let me make some quick observations.

1. E-Learning Leader: The majority of my speaking invites related to e-learning and blended learnig lately are from those in Canada and the UK. This indicates either that they know I like a good beer and conversation or that these 2 countries are assuming leadership in this field or attempting to do so. Perhaps it is both! Notice that Ed Media is back in Canada in 2 weeks (in Vancouver) and eLearn is in Quebec City in October. Maybe there is more government support for e-learning in Canada than here in the States where we lack e-learning leadership from the government. A recent study I did in corporate training departments in 5 different countries showed that government support for e-learning and blended learning was high in the UK and Korea and lagged behind in the USA, China, and Taiwan. We did not study Canada in that one. I guess we should have.

2. Cross-Institutional Collaboration: I notice that in the Canadian higher education workshops I do are typically jointly sponsored and open invite (i.e., anyone can attend for free). As a result, there are often people from many local colleges traveling to another one for a conference or event. Or an event is broadcast using Webstreaming or videoconferencing. The sharing, networking, and collaboration among and between institutions of higher learning as well as the corporate sector in Canada is stunning. I have noted similar things in the UK. People in the UK travel well due to the size of their country and they can use trains (a conference in the middle of the country, say in Leicester, is only 2-3 hours for nearly anyone to travel to by train). In Canada, it may be that share and collaborate well and invite people from nearby places due to its enormous size.

3. Sponsors: As I said, in Canada, there are sponsors for these e-learning conferences. People like Joe Sandercook from McGraw-Hill Ryerson and others have done a marvelous job of sponsoring my talks in Canada. I rarely see the same thing here in the USA. It is really heartwarming when someone calls me up and says "hey, Curt, we have a regional conference in Moose Jaw and we would love for you to be a keynote speaker there." Unfortunately, I have yet to be to Moose Jaw or Yellowknife but perhaps someday. McGraw-Hill Ryerson, like any company is profit-driven, but it is one few companies that truly seems interested in moving the field of educational technology and e-learning ahead. As a former CPA and corporate controller, it is good to see some genuine interest in the ultimate user of their products--the faculty members and the students. Thanks Joe!

4. Inquiry-Based Learning: Only in Canada do I get requests to speak on inquiry-based learning. Most recently, some folks at the University of Guelph (near Toronto) wanted me to speak on it. Unfortunately, we could not come to a date and time. Interesting, back in November 2005, I noted that the University of Calgary has a funded blended learning initiative wherein faculty members can get funded for their blended learning course projects if they include an inquiry component. See success stories at the Learning Commons department at the University of Calgary: Why is inquiry-based learning not more prevalent in the USA or other countries that I visit? Is this a direction we should head? Does online learning provide more rich and powerful opportunities for it?

5. Blended Learning: A hot topic in Canada right now is blended learning. People like Norm Vaughan and Randy Garrison at the University of Calgary are doing a more practical and higher education focused book than my Handbook of Blended Learning which has both higher education and corporate training components. Their book will be coming out soon with Jossey Bass or so I think. Randy and Norm are also currently offering a course on blended learning. I said, a course on blended learning. Wow!!!!!!!!!! I am not sure that would fly here at Indiana. I have had many people in my TravelinEdMan journeys ask my if IU could offer a master's or Ph.D. in blended learning or e-learning and I have to tell them regretfully no.

Dr. Rick Schwier at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon told me last month (he was here on sabbatical) that they are also offering such a course on blended learning. And blended is not just hot at Canadian Universities. For instance, when at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), they had me do a talk on blended learning that they sent to 35 or so sites in Canada as well as to Alaska and Saudi Arabia. I also did a blended talk in Saskatoon a few days before it which is a Google video now (see Last week, I spoke on blended learning to graduate students at York University, to instructors at Fanshawe, and then to end my trip, I gave an overview of blended learning to Fanshawe administrators.

The Canadians sure seem to like blended learning as much as they do hockey...well, maybe not that much. These are just a few examples. Perhaps it is because, like me, they believe in getting learning out in as many formats to reach as many people as possible. They have a diverse population and significant geography to traverse with their courses. Perhaps the Canadians are simply taking a leadership role. Perhaps one should read Ron Owston and Randy Garrison's chapter in my Handbook of Blended Learning to see what is going on in Canada in the area of blended learning or wait for Randy's upcoming book.

6. Facebook: When I spoke at Concordia University in Montreal a few weeks ago, I showed my Facebook account and noted that I only had 2 friends in 1 year of using Facebook (and one was an acordian player from Germany I had never met). Now, less than a month later, I have more than 20 friends in Facebook and it is growing every day. Seems many Canadians felt sorry for me. Also, I have been told that Facebook has a huge presence in Canada; especially in the Ontario province. Interesting--why are the Canadians fascinated with Facebook? In the past week, however, I have had people from countries such as Australia, the USA, and the UK contact me through their Facebook accounts. So maybe, Facebook is starting to take off among us adults across the planet. Someone should study this!

7. OISE is Poised Again: When I was a graduate student at Wisconsin in the late 1980s, my colleagues and I were always reading information from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. It was always highly grounded in theory and yet had a practical bent to it. People like Marlene Scardamalia, Carl Bereiter, and Gordon Wells have always been welcome reading. Marlene and Carl led the research field on computers and writing and continue to do so. Their psychology of writing papers and books were an inspiration to my own dissertation on computer prompts and writing and keystroke mapping of that writing. Anyway, I have meet a number of people during the past few trips to Canada who have recently completed dissertations at OISE on various collaborative technologies. Once again, it seems that OISE is facilitating many interesting studies (see picture below from Olivia Roberson from OISE who just graduated with a dissertation related to online collaboration processes and stages). Way to go OISE and Olivia!

8. May Day: The past few years I have been to Canada for inservice workshops in May and June. May and June apparently are the months when colleges and universities are in summer session and instructors can come in for some training. Here in the US, this might more often be June and July or never (smile). In Canada, it just seems expected that professors and instructors will engage in retooling during May or June. Many (though not all) realize that the world is changing and they better learn what is possible. Sure, there are still many who are reluctant, resistant, reticent, and hesitant. But, hey, as Bonk is Borg will note, "Resistence is Futile" (see or Some reading this post will say, well we have training at my campus here in the US. What is Bonk talking about. Well, when you compare the number of higher education institutions in Canada and the US, and realize that I have spoken at 3-4 times as many Canadian colleges and universities than US ones during this sabbatical, you have to at least note it. Ditto the UK compared to the USA. Perhaps US people hate me. Or perhaps they do not like a good conversation and a beer as those in Canada and the UK do.

9. In Canada, E-Learning Friends are Friends for Life: I am on sabbatical now. Been on it for 14 months with a little over 2 months to go. Big sigh and an ug!!! Back in the fall of 1998, I did part of my last sabbatical at Simon Fraser University (SFU) at their Burnaby campus in Vancouver at the top of a mountain. What a lovely place it is. Wish I could go to Ed Media in Vancouver later this month, in fact.

Back in November 1998, I got a chance to hang out with Linda Harasim's research team where the TeleLearning Centres of Excellence were headquartered. Linda had quite a wonderful research team assembled there--Cindy Xin, Brian Fisher, Milton Campos, Sylvia Curry, etc. And she kindly introduced me to many people who came to the TeleLearning conference there that month. People like Ron Owston from York University and Robin Mason from the Open University. They all remain friends today! See pics of Milton and I in Toronto in May. First time I have seen him in years yet he remains a great friend.

I got emails from Cindy, Brian, Milton, and Ron in the past 1-2 days. And there is talk of many of us getting together at Milton's new house near the Vermont border just outside Montreal. My career perhaps had started taking off the year before in Finland, but those weeks in Vancouver were wonderful since I was able to meet many e-learning friends for life. Perhaps I need to move to Canada. I grew up in Milwaukee, so not far in terms of accent.

10. Canada has Stephen Downes: Stephen reads everything in the field of educational technology and online learning and often summarizes them so well that you do not have to read them--just read his blog (hec, he is likely one of the first to read this blog post--though his blog says he is in Taiwan now with limited access and is about to travel home.). And, unlike many of us who publish just for the sake of tenure, he is passionate in his writing!!! As I indicated, Stephen will often read and review articles on emerging technologies so that you can decide whether to read the article yourself or use the particular technology. He will blog on a conference that perhaps you could not get to. I attend many conferences each year but remain amazed by the number that Stephen gets to. Stephen's blog is perhaps read by more people in higher education than anyone else. Do the Canadians know how well he places Canada on the e-learning map. If you were at a dinner party and someone said "educational technology" and "Canada" in the same sentence, I think most would immediately think of Stephen Downes. Thanks for all the fantastic posts Stephen! You are an e-learning institution.

Well, that is 10 things I have to say in recapping all these trips to Canada over the past 2 years. (Note that I have been to the UK 10 times in a little over 2 years and 9 times to Canada in less than 2 years; I am curtailing my travel now in order to write more books. TravelinEdMan will still exist, but his ideas will have to travel electronically more often than in the past).

Of course, I have enjoyed these visits to Canada but I am getting a tad worried that I am starting to speak Canadian. Haw bout dat huckey game, eh? Ok, I better sign off now, before someone calls me a hoser. Just post it you hoser. it goes.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 8:09 PM  
  • At 12:42 AM, Blogger AJC said…

    "Facebook is starting to take off among us adults across the planet. Someone should study this!"

    Lots of people are looking at this Curt!

  • At 8:15 AM, Blogger Downes said…

    Looks like I wasn't first. ;)

  • At 9:25 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Ok, Stephen, but you were second. Good on ya.

    Thanks for the link AJC. This Facebook friendzy is something of interest to me but I am studying YouTube videos and Wikibooks now.

  • At 7:32 PM, Blogger Annelieske said…

    I work in the vocational education and training sector in Fremantle, Western Australia. I agree whole-heartedly with your comments about Stephen Downes. I read his OLDaily almost every working day - Stephen is a major source of my knowledge about trends in learning technologies.

  • At 10:40 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Yes, Stephen dominates the adult learning space and Will Richardson dominates the K-12 blogging space.

  • At 11:08 PM, Blogger My Wish (MW) said…

    Glad you enjoyed your Canadian time of the year. It is nice to learn about the concept of cross-institutional collaboration and sponsorship. BTW, Canadian tones are charming in my perspective.

  • At 3:58 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Yes, they are charming. Wish I could speak Canadian all the time, eh? Ya der eh!

    Lots going on in that country in our field. You might try to publish your blended learning study in one of their journals such as the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. This is edited by the folks at Athabasca University near Edmonton.

  • At 8:24 PM, Blogger MW (My Wish) said…

    Thanks, Curt, See, I do come back to read your comment, eh?

    I think my friend Mark Kretovics at Ohio State published with them and I will try to submit one now that you are recommending it.

  • At 12:37 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Sounds good--I have 2 articles in there this year. Read my new blog post with 3 links to blended learning news and reports from the Sloan-C people.

  • At 12:54 PM, Blogger Guohua said…

    I got three friends who signed on to Facebook just in a couple of months. So, another instance of Facebook popularity.

    Also, enjoyed your presentation on blended learning in Edmonton. Feel resonating to much of what you said. And the presentation format was unique - there was fun in it as well.

    Agree with you that Downes is a guru in the field. Came across his readings in various occasions and enjoy reading them.

    Am able to comment on this after getting back my Google account PW.

  • At 5:56 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Ya, I went from 0 to 2 friends for like 10-12 months and in the past 3-4 months, I went from 2 friends to 55. Interesting how Facebook is moving up in the world.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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