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Upcoming August 7, 2008 Wisconsin 24th Annual Distance Teaching and Learning Keynote: “Movin’ to Montana Soon; Gonna be a Distance Learning Tycoon!”
Friday, November 30, 2007
A couple of months ago, I was invited to keynote the 24th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning in Madison, Wisconsin Thursday morning August 7th at the Frank Lloyd Wright Convention Center (see Thursday is the big day for this conference so I was totally thrilled to be asked. The email invite came from Jane Terpstra, the Conference Director (she also inquired why I had not attended the previous 2 conferences after doing 7 in a row). Needless to say, as a fellow cheesehead, I quickly said yes since this is where I went to graduate school, it is the state where grew up (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), and a place that I dream about each day. Madison is absolutely the best place on the planet. And besides, Madison is on a vortex so you can feel the spirit and inspirational presence or aura of the place when you are there. Just drive through on I-90 or I-94 and when you get to the outskirts of this town, you literally feel like a different sort of human being—at one with nature and wanting to help others.

I have presented at this conference many times. When at the conference from 1999-2005 I became known for my Hawaiian shirts. I wore Hawaiian shirts under my suit and tie (at some point in my talk I would strip down to it and my shorts), over the top of my suit (hiding my nice shirt and tie which at some pt I would change into), or when walking in wearing what appeared to be only a Gateway box as an unemployed dotcom worker. But those where other times. Now I am just a boring traditional presenter again. Not! I wonder what I can be this year!!! Suggestions welcome! If I choose your idea, I will send you one of my books for free.

Every year, I did 1 or 2 preconference workshops which were a ton of fun to do! Each was 3 hours long and usually had 70-100 people so I got to meet many participants and form dozens of new friendships. However, I did not go to the conference the past couple of years due to needing a break in my speaking schedule (giving over 100 talks in 2005 as well as 2006 exhausted me and I needed time to write books). So this invite was great since I get to see my favorite place and favorite people and perhaps even my mother and other relatives!

Madison is the best city in the world, and, in August, there are few people who would be willing (or able) to contend it. Ya I’m speaking about August in Madison, Wisconsin with concerts on the square around the state Capital, State Street Brats, Friday night fireworks at the UW Union Terrace, sailing on Lake Mendota with my friend John Craig, and performances and music on the roof of the convention center each Friday night. It is a phenomenal experience. Why would someone miss it? And why do people go to the conference and leave it at 2 or 3 pm on Friday afternoon before experiencing a Friday night in the summer in Madison? I am not sure why. But please, if you go this year, stay an extra night and have fun with my friends and I as we listen to some great music and perhaps sip a few beers (while hopefully not needing to swat too many mosquitoes).

The conference is now entering its 24th year and has a diverse audience. This IS the longest running distance education conference that I know of. Because of its longevity, it has attracted some well known and high quality distance learning presenters and researchers. In terms of attendees, two-thirds are from higher education and the rest are from corporate training, non-profit organizations, government training, and K-12 education. This sorta matches the mix of my research and consulting—mostly higher ed but I work with all sectors. Many administrators from higher education (as well as faculty and instructors teaching in distance education programs) attend this conference so it will be a good one for me to talk about my upcoming book with Jossey Bass (due out in July of 2008):

Bonk, C. J., & Zhang, K. (in press). Empowering Online Learning: 100+ Activities for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, and Doing. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Unfortunately, the above book is taking a long time in press but Jossey Bass thinks it will be good timing to come out right before the conference. For those who cannot wait, Ke Zhang and I have a journal article summarizing it. For a copy of that article, just send me an email or see:

Bonk, C. J., & Zhang, K. (2006). Introducing the R2D2 model: Online learning for the diverse learners of this world. Distance Education, 27(2), 249-264.

As I noted in an earlier blog post, this book details my R2D2 model (Read-Reflect-Display-Do) and has 25 examples for each of the four phases of the model. In addition to my conference keynote on August 7th, I will have a breakout session related to this book. The title of that breakout session will be: From R2D2 to the Matrix: A Galaxy of Online Learning Style, Motivational, Blended Learning, and Learner-Centered Examples. Hope you can make it. I will be giving away a few copies of the book at that session.

If you are interested in presenting at this conference, proposals are due on January 15th, 2008 (for more details, see Get in early, as many of my students and colleagues will be submitting this year. And if you want to be a conference exhibitor, it is not too expensive. I used to do that for my company, SurveyShare, and always got people interested in my survey software (see If you have questions or want to participate in research presentations, poster, information session, roundtables, demonstrations, exhibits, workshops, etc, the conference manager is Kimary Peterson (email is and Jane’s email is; see her contact information here: You can also see a PDF call for papers at

In 2007, the Wisconsin DL conference had about 800-900 participants from the USA and another 100 or so from 17 different countries or a total of around 1,000 people participate. Wow, this will be a fantastic forum to present at! I cannot wait. I hope that some of my former professors, mentors, and graduate school colleagues can attend this conference. Jane mentioned that this past year they had representatives from all 50 of the United States except Montana and then she asked me for a description of my keynote. In hopes to help her attract people from Montana, I sent her this one:

Wisconsin Conference Keynote Title: "Movin’ to Montana soon, gonna be a Distance Learning tycoon." (of course, you must know Frank Zappa’s “Montana song” to understand the inspiration for this title (

Keynote Description:
As Dr. Bonk will demonstrate in this session, distance learning has burgeoned in ever corner of the world, from China to Canada to Chile to Chad. More impressively, it has made it to Montana...and not in a small way. Over 99 percent of high schools in Montana have courses in Chinese, Japanese, and Montanese. In addition, all K-12 students in Montana are required to bring their iPods, cell phones, and laptops to their classes for daily lessons plans on Shakespeare, Darwin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Queen Lativah, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem. Given all these activities, it is not surprising that, according to recent polls published in the New York Times, Montaneans are emerging as the most sophisticated consumers of distance learning in the world. This is a land of the big sky and my oh my do they ever like their pie in the sky distance learning programming. As an example, did you know that the average size of display devices in videoconferencing suites in Montana average 100 inches? In fact, there are several sites in Bozeman displaying distance learning programs on 100 foot long screens? Driving through Montana? You can now watch distance learning programs at rest stops, construction sites, convenience stores, gas stations, and even when speeding down the highway at 90+ miles per hour--the screens are so colossal, you can see them for miles. Be sure to keep two hands on the wheel, though.

As a second example, education-minded tourists are no longer coming to Yellowstone to see Ol' Faithful; instead, they are renting out cabins and participating in a variety of blended and fully online distance learning experiences. Notably, Yellowstone Park rangers have created a series of podcasts for attendees to listen to at night. Having trouble sleeping? Not anymore. Just put the Park Ranger Podcast (PRP) in one ear and hear yourself snoring in other. Not surprisingly, “PRP after dark” is the most popular distance learning program in the federal government; more than 3 million listeners this past summer alone. We just might balance the federal budget with such ingenuity! A third example is the infamous Butte Blogger—it’s a Butte!

Spurred by such energy and assorted government distance learning initiatives, distance and e-learning vendors are coming in droves to Great Falls, Billings, Butte, Missoula, and Helena to set up shop. As you may know, ever since the great quake of 1989, Silicon Valley companies have been gradually migrating eastward in the anticipation of the real "big one" and right now Montana is deemed to be the safe spot. Several state senators from Montana have even put forth a bill to rename the state “Sillitana” in recognition of their high tech initiatives. Distance learning is certainly happening in Montana. As a tribute, Dr. Bonk will end this session with a rendition of Frank Zappa's famed “Montana song.” Come join in the fun and sing along with him: “guess I’m Movin’ to Montana soon; gonna be a Distance Learning tycoon."

What do you think? Will this title and abstract inspire people from Montana to come to the conference and my keynote? Tell ya what; if you are from Montana and come to the Wisconsin DL conference and let me know it, I will give you my “Empowering Online Learning” (R2D2) book for free. I will do this for as many Montaneans as show up. Folks from Big Sandy, Geyser, Fort Shaw, Custer, Big Sky, East Glacier Park, Shelby, Libby, Roundup, and Crow Agency—I wanted to see you! All 944,632 of you! Why not! Hec, I like Montana and the west so much, I will do this for all those attending from Wyoming and Idaho as well. Deal? Deal! Now, toss in the remaining states touching Montana (i.e., North and South Dakota) while we are at it. Ok Montaneans, this is your wake-up call. I want to see you!

I do hope that someone from Montana attends the conference. Just so you know, here is the real keynote title and description (sorry Montana people—but I do promise to mention you in my talk at least once—send me distance learning examples from Montana and I will try to include as many as I can):

Real Keynote: Technology Trends Opening Access to Education Worldwide: Now, we ALL can learn!
According to Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat, worldwide economic trends are flattening. In education, however, learning opportunities are actually expanding or opening up through myriad of emerging distance learning technologies. From online content in the form of e-books, podcasts, streamed videos, and satellite maps to participatory environments such as social networking, wikis, and alternate reality worlds, technology-based learning continues to offer new pathways to learning. At the same time, instructors increasingly share their course materials and teaching ideas globally, thereby providing expanding learning opportunities and resources. And the software on which to provide such online learning contents and experiences is increasingly free and open source.

Naturally, many questions surround such systems, sites, and resources. For example, how can instructors and learners in developed and developing countries take advantage of these trends? For what purpose will people share? How can these trends converge to address individual learner's needs worldwide? Curt Bonk will address these issues while enticing participants to think of implications for their organizations, countries, and regions of the world as well as for themselves as leaders and learners.

What do you think of the above keynote? In effect, I will walk the audience through my WE-ALL-LEARN model which is the basis of the other book I am working on (each letter stands for a technology trend). This book is tentatively titled, “WE-ALL-LEARN: An Open Education Extension of the World is Flat.” I hope to be done with it in the early part of 2008. Ok, see you all in Madtown in August! This will be a blast since now, “WE-ALL-LEARN.” Anyone need some dental floss?
Subscribe to the TravelinEdMan podcast
  posted by Curt Bonk @ 7:19 PM  
  • At 5:40 AM, Blogger Dan said…

    Get a furry head that you put on during the presentation. Dip down behind the podium and come up with the head on.

    Furries are popular in MUVEs like SecondLife. They are, in my opinion, the ultimate example of identity shaping in online spaces. Kind of reminds me of the "nobody knows you're a dog online" comic.

    With the explosion of online social networks, MUVEs, and MMORPGs, the issue of identity formation should certainly be a significant part of our research agenda in distance education.

    The Furry, could be a lead in for this topic. Of course you can also use it to discuss metamorphoses, evolution, or "choose your change topic".

    Good luck. I was hoping to go to Madison this summer, but I don't think I'll be able to get out of work. However, I might submit something anyway (because I might be changing jobs :)


  • At 9:52 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Hi Dan. Hope you submit. But if not, you can watch the stream online. Changing jobs? Still in Korea though, right?

    Speaking of Second Life, you can see a Wikibook chapter on it one of my students just posted.

    We had Intellagirl from SL in our class last week as I may have mentioned to you. She was great!

    I am just back from running--cold here all of a sudden. Hands frozen. Hurts to write.

  • At 9:52 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 11:23 AM, Blogger Jane Terpstra said…

    Since I've already suggested topics for your keynote address, does this mean that I will get a free copy of your book? Autographed?

  • At 10:01 PM, Blogger Dan said…

    Yep, still in Korea. I see myself here for a while. Lots going on, opportunity abound, and the living is good :)

    Hoping to move to a faculty position in a language department at one of the universities here in September or the beginning of the next school year (March 2009).

    I like the lit review. I'll have to add something about interaction in there. The real explosion of video games took place when playing with a person sitting next to you was replaced by playing with someone out in the ether. To ignore this movement is to say that all interaction is scripted by the game makers, which is certainly not true now.

    Heard you got some snow out there. I'm looking forward to it. I'll be in Chicago next week.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year to you and your family.


  • At 6:12 AM, Blogger MW (My Wish) said…

    I am sure you're gonna have some fun in the conference, Traveling ed man.

  • At 9:30 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Yes, Jane, of course! I will give you 2 or 3. And Kimary will need one as well for all her email promoting the conference and help in the past.

    Dan, the light ice came here. It is worse to the north up there in Chicago. It will be good to have you back in the States for a week.

    Lori--thanks. Too bad you cannot attend this one.

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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.

See my complete profile

Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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