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My Freaky Two Days in Illinois
Friday, February 15, 2008
I wrote this recap for my blog and people who are writing to me about my Illinois adventures this week. I spoke at Northern Illinois University of Wednesday and meetings at the University of Illinois on Thursday.

Freaky incident #1:
I got up at 4 am on Wednesday morning and went running (since I must run every day) and then drove up to DeKalb which was 5-6 hours to the north. Tuesday we had a bad snow and ice storm. Roads were bad but not too bad. Some of the streets by my house were pure ice—-hard to run. Flashlight in hand, I got in a good run. Time to drive—my neighborhood was the worst part with all that ice. Most of the expressways had snow or ice on the side of the road but the lanes were fairly good; still no room for error. I had a close call with death on the way up near Champaign with a huge truck/tractor carrying gigantic wheels tried coming in my lane on the expressway as I was trying to pass him. I think he could not see me. I had to slam on my brakes and I am glad they worked. Everything flew in my car all over the place. Breathed deeply after that one. Fortunately, it was the one stretch of road wherein there was a meridian or extra bit of lane or I might be pushing daisies right now.

Freaky incident #2:
Last night I got home from Illinois. I spoke at Northern Illinois University Wednesday b4 going to Champaign. I was there touring the NIU campus Wednesday all day and giving talks there in the afternoon and one late that night. Did you see the news ( I am sure you have. There was a shooting on Thursday afternoon. It seems that there are 6 dead, and 21 people shot (including the grad student instructor I think). Gunman was a student (white man dressed in black) from the University of Illinois who graduated from NIU in sociology the year before. He too is now dead—he reloaded his gun and killed himself. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education today (, he stopped taking his medication and started to act strangely. See photos from the tragedy:

I feel bad for all the friends and families impacted by this and for NIU since it is such a great place. Did I pass any of those students the day before? How could this have been prevented? Was this guy staking things out the day before? Did I perhaps pass him on the streets? Will universities be forced to increase their screening and security? Will it no longer feel like a university anymore?

With all due respect for the students who were killed or wounded, this is all just too odd for me not to post something in my blog. Ok, I called my friends up there last night (I have a close friend from grad school days at Wisconsin in ed psych who is a professor there—Dr. Cecil Smith. I also have a former student teaching up there—Dr. Lisa Yamagata Lynch). Cecil had fortunately left for a meeting in DC earlier that day and Lisa was teaching 2 hours away off campus. Cecil’s wife, Ellen, told me that they had helicopters hovering over their house for a while after this. Apparently this happened at 3 pm. The night before, Cecil, Ellen, and I were reminiscing about graduate school days at Wisconsin in the late 1980s. Life seemed so peaceful there—despite the cold and snow. In fact, it was so cold Wednesday that it is hard to imagine anyone doing anything like this.

What is the reaction at NIU? Jason Underwood, a doctoral student who arranged my visit sent me an email today that said: “it's been a sobering couple of days.” I am sure it has. Lisa sent me a note last night after her class: “Can't really think right now.” I am sure that many people at NIU will have a tough time thinking for the balance of this semester and on into next year. Many of my IU friends and former students are sending me similar notes and reflections. This entire country has just entered another state of shock! Can anyone in this country spell gun control (of some kind)? Will states and cities have to adopt gun banning laws like nonsmoking laws? Will a link between guns and deaths have to appear like those between smoking and deaths before anyone does anything? Oh ya, I think that such research already exists. This should not be hard.

The real strange thing is that I had a choice of presenting on Wednesday or Thursday. I am glad I picked Wednesday now. He could have picked the lecture hall of my heavily advertised talk in their new alumni center. That would not have been good. There were fliers on it all over campus. My talks can be downloaded here:

He was a University of Illinois student! I was at the University of Illinois all day Thursday. So I was at both places this crazy guy hung out at. Makes me think twice about presenting somewhere now!

Freaky incident #3:
Freaky thing #3 when at the University of Illinois yesterday, at about 1 pm, Michael Linderman, Director of Program and Course Development, University of Illinois Global Campus, met me in his office after we had lunch and we chatted about many things related to online learning and their approach to course design. Seems that they are developing many interesting online classes in education, e-learning, nursing, safety management, etc. They have some impressive plans and an excellent and relaxing work environment and staff. What a great place to work! Michael is someone anyone could work for. We discussed e-learning conferences. Michael soon asked if I would go to the Sloan-C conference on asynchronous learning networks in Orlando next November. I told him that I was never invited and that I wanted to go but that they have the really top people in distance learning and e-learning there so maybe I am bottom people. As a result, no invite for this bottom feeder (i.e., me). Little did I know that Karen Swan from Kent State University had sent me an email roughly 20 minutes earlier inviting me to give a plenary session and workshop at the conference. I have been waiting for such an invite for a few years. Freaky! The invite was coming as we spoke and I had not spoken of my interest in that conference to anyone previously (I had kept my interests internal—in my head). The past few days have been strange with a Capital S!

Freaky incident #4:
When in Champaign, I had breakfast with a Korean doctoral student at the University of Illinois who was a master’s student of a former student of mine who is now a professor in Korea. I am helping her with her dissertation on e-mentoring online. She was my tour guide when my son, Alex, and I were in Korea for a world cup soccer game 6 years ago. You never know when you are going to bump into someone again. And then I had lunch with an instructional designer from the Illinois Global Campus who was a master’s student of another former student of mine who is now a professor in Korea. Her sister is now applying to my program. It is such a small world. So back to back meetings with people who are students of former Korean students of mine. Many Koreans interested in e-learning and studying or working in the USA. Freaky stuff this week. Students of students? Geez, I am getting old. Smile. At least they are not students of students of students of mine. But at least I started in higher education at age 13.

I think no more TravelinEdman for a while.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 6:39 PM  
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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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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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