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Sharing the loss of my dear friend Jay Cross
Saturday, November 07, 2015
Hello my friends. It has been a tad bit more than two months since my last post. The time has come despite the sleepiness. I am quite weary for several reasons but I feel the need to stay up tonight and grasp for air and jot down some thoughts.

You see, two weeks ago, I was in Hawaii for the annual E-Learn conference (invited panel session). And this past week, I have been in Indianapolis while attending the 2015 AECT conference. In fact, yesterday morning, two of my most excellent colleagues (Dr. Tom Reeves from the University of Georgia and Dr. Mimi Miyoung Lee from the University of Houston) and I had a special presidential session at AECT on best practices for cultural sensitivity in MOOCs (slides and handouts). This session was based on our newly edited book with Routledge on MOOCs and Open Education Around the World.

A few hours later, Mimi and I got an award for our paper on the self-directed online learning goals, achievements, and challenges of MIT OpenCourseWare subscribers. It is great to get such feedback immediately after publication. After that, there was the closing ceremony and other events. Suffice to say, it was a highly active week (or couple of weeks) and hence I am most tired.  But I feel that I must soldier on and blog now.

Why must I blog tonight?  Well, I just found out that we have lost one of our foremost of learning dear dear, friend Jay Cross. See link to blog post from Jane Hart below that one of my former students just sent to me as well as the post from Clark Quinn. I am sure many more will arise in the coming days.

RIP Jay Cross, Jane Hart, November 7, 2015
Clark Quinn has also blogged on it ealier today. Vale Jay Cross, Learnlets, November 7, 2015.

If you have not heard of Jay, please explore his homepage or whatever will replace it. Jay was always insightful, straight-shooting, and an immense joy to talk to. He was a highly trusted friend who had the unique ability and previous experiences to straddle and make sense of a wide array of emerging learning trends. He could also think about how each of these trends or new approaches to learning impacted different educational sectors and then he would quickly write some engaging piece of prose about it. In it, he might discuss various economic, educational, or social problems that it might directly or indirectly address.

I feel fortunate to have corresponded with him recently…and give him some feedback on one of his latest projects; namely, "Real Learning." In retrospect, I am delighted that he had reached out to talk to me. But that is Jay. It seems that Jay’s last Internet Time blog post was a few days ago on this topic: Real Learning: Macro and Micro, Jay Cross, Nov., 4, 2015

He made a second post that day related to the Brain Matters conference in which he was to keynote this coming Tuesday afternoon: Brain Matters, Jay Cross, Nov 4, 2015
We are fortunate that Jay made a recent video on Real Learning, October 24, 2015 (3:10). Read more details about the Real Learning project here or find some actual content or details here

If one were to search for the word genius in a virtual encyclopedia, he or she might find Jay Cross as an example. I wish I could write like Jay. I wish I could read like Jay. Gosh I do wish I were half as smart as Jay. As Clark Quinn mentioned in his blog post, that man could synthesize a ton of stuff! And I truly wish I could offer you a recap of his life right here, right now. I wish I could stay awake for 48+ more hours straight so I could come close to providing a recap or overview piece that I am proud of. This will have to do. We all now suffer from the loss of one Jay Cross.

We/I have lost a true friend. I still remember meeting him about 13-14 years ago at the E-Learning conference in April 2002 in DC which I believe Elliott Masie hosted. Near the end of the conference, there was a group of people sitting around various tables and reflecting on how the conference went. My friend Dr. Ellen Wagner pulled me aside and told me that I had to meet a guy sitting with a group of people at a nearby table. His name was Jay Cross and he was among those who 5 years earlier had become known for a new trend called E-Learning. We had a fascinating conversation that day and dozens of times after. There is no one out there with whom I can have candid feedback about pretty much any learning question that I might come up with. Jay knew pretty much everyone and everything in the field. He was a mentor, confidant, guide, inspirer, listener, creator, experimenter, and world knowledge synthesizer. No one like him in the world.

Whether Jay or someone else had coined the term e-learning mattered little. What mattered was that there was something unique that had emerged for delivering instruction to masses of people around the planet. Jay recognized this technological event was anything but ordinary. In fact, Jay himself was anything but ordinary. I was delighted that Ellen Wagner had pointed him out to me. We soon became good friends.
Jay seemed to know everybody. He certainly interviewed or reviewed some of the foremost authorities in learning and technology in his Internet Time blog. So much history of the fields of training and education, learning technology, e-learning, computer science, organizational culture, performance improvement, and business management in those posts. A college professor might assign his or her students to scour through Jay's Internet Time blog (as well as other resources from Jay Cross) and find some of these excellent historical pieces and hold class discussions on them. In fact, I may try this idea out tomorrow with my class.
A decade ago, when I was working on my monster book, "The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspective, Local Designs," I felt fortunate that Jay agreed to do one of the two forewords. The other foreword was from the well known scholar, Dr. Michael G. Moore at Penn State. Jay's advice in that article was spot on as usual. Now that Jay has passed and that particular book is nearly a decade old, I decided to send email asking the good people at Wiley/Jossey-Bass if I can post the forewords to the Blended Learning Handbook to my PublicationShare website. I have taken the liberty of posting them for now and will remove it if they say no.

         Jay Cross and Michael G. Moore. (2006). Forewords to the Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs. In C. J. Bonk & C. R. Graham (Eds.). Handbook of blended learning: Global Perspectives, local designs. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer Publishing. 

As Jay points out, "The ideal blend is a blend of blends." See Jay's Figure F.1. Dimensions of the Blended Learning Stew. Thanks for those insights on blended learning Jay!
At the end of the day, Jay Cross was a champion of others. He would interview them. He would write to them and ask their opinions and later promote them when and where he could. He provided such services for me on many occasions. Jay would also organize teams of people to discuss new trends and innovations or to respond to some of his own ideas and recent writings. Examples of such team meetings might include ideas about new forms of conferences or meetings, some new synchronous conferencing technology, discussing various informal learning examples, and/or pretty much anything you or he might dream up. In addition to those group meetings, Jay would often gin up a novel idea and solicit feedback on it. Across it all, he was amazing.

I interacted with Jay on many occasions since that first meeting. Among them was the American Educational Research Association (AERA) meeting in San Francisco on April 10, 2006. My long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Kim Foreman, arranged for a special event over at San Fran State University that night including Ke Zhang, Bob Reiser, Brian Beatty, Jay Cross, myself, and others. I spoke on blended learning. I think Bob Reiser from Florida State University discussed some aspect of corporate training or human performance technology as did Jay. Many of my current and former students attended the event. See pics below. Unfortunately, of the five people in the first few pictures below, both Kim and Jay are now deceased (see my August 20, 2010 blog post on Kim).

I tried to get Jay to do the "Indiana I" with us, to no avail.
Jay and I both delighted in the overflowing crowd that was attracted that evening. Standing room only and many people sitting on the floor at SFSU.
Jay dazzled the crowd.

Then we went off to dinner. I still could not get Jay to do the "Indiana I" with a group of my current and former doctoral students at IU.
A few years later (January 27, 2009 to be exact), my colleague, Dr. YaTing Teng, and I had he privilege of walking the streets of Berkeley with Jay. And of course we grabbed some excellent lunch and he told us many a fine story. I cannot remember why I was in the Bay area that day (I will assume that I was at a conference of some type), but I am glad I was able to stop in to see Jay.

See below...unfortunately, it was not Jay's car, but why not take it for a spin? Jay seemed to know everybody except the owner of this car. Too bad!

Just a few months later, I had the opportunity to visit Jay again. This time I was at his house on April 4, 2009 (8 years to the day after MIT announced its OpenCourseWare project and 15 years to the day since Netscape went public; if interested, see my recent article on this). A few pictures from this visit are posted below. Jay was interviewing me about my World is Open book at the time and posting it to YouTube for his newest project and broadcast channel. What a beautiful area to live. Needless to say, I was jealous.


Jay invited several others and had a "Learning Irregulars" meeting. Our mutual friend, Clark Quinn, stopped by for it and is in a couple of the pictures with us below. Clark is in the red sweater. I am in the red shirt and tie. And Jay has his Hawaiian shirt on. Enjoy.
"The World is Open" pose with Jay Cross and Clark Quinn.
Jay gave me a tour of his lovely backyard. Then it was time for business.
There have to be hundreds of recordings of Jay on the Internet. Someone might want to compile them.
I learned the value of signing anything you give away form my dear friend Jay Cross.
I miss him already and I am sure many of you do too. There is no one in the world quite like Jay Cross.
Bonus pics with Jay from the Emerging E-Learning (EMEL) conference in Abu Dhabi, UAE, September 2-5, 2004:
A couple of days after writing the above blog post on remembering Jay Cross, my friend Vance Stevens reminded me of the class that I taught with Jay from Abu Dhabi in the UAE to Bloomington, Indiana in the USA late night on September 3, 2004 (it was actually the wee hours of September 4th where we were--there was a 9 hour time zone difference according to my notes from that day).
The videoconferencing system worked marvelously. Jay was a good sport and most excellent friend in staying up with me late that night. I think it was one of my doctoral students, Nari Kim, who handled the equipment for me in Bloomington. Thank you Nari (11 years too late)!

Was it my "The Perfect E-Storm" talk or my talk on "Navigating the Myths and Monsoons of E-Learning Strategies and Technologies." Either way, it was fun to use raincoats and umbrellas in the UAE where it rarely rains.

My class back in Bloomington looks on (including Jung Won Hur, Gina Anderson, Fang Fang, Mei-ya Liang, etc.). I have even found the syllabus: It was taught to both our Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses. 
The day before (9/2/2004), we had lunch in the Sheikh Nahyan's Palace in Abu Dhabi. So much food! Anyone like goat, donkey, or camel? Well, if not, there is plenty of watermelon to go around.

And after lunch, was a business meeting of sorts.
As others have noted in their Twitter posts (se Jane Hart's "Twitter Tributes to Jay Cross") and blog posts, Jay definitely traveled well.
In the final pictures below, Jay Cross and I were joined by another keynote speaker--my good friend John Hedberg (from Macquarie University in Australia). We closed out that conference on the afternoon of September 5, 2004 with a reflective drink in the hotel lounge. Speaking of John, he will remember me out on the balcony and getting locked out of my room one very hot morning during that conference and not being able to get back in (after waking up the first day with jet lag and not remembering what my room number was so no one could find me and let me in from the heat). What a nightmare that was!

Seems a good picture to end on...(unless I find a better one later). Goodbye Jay. Missing you even more now after posting these fond memories.
Short Addendum: Learning Trends from Elliott Masie today (11/11/2015) mentioned David Kelly's excellent curation of the stories about Jay Cross: An Industry Remembers Jay Cross, November 11, 2015. And Jane Hart's Twitter Tributes to Jay is now up to 286 comments. And this "In Memoriam: Jay Cross" piece from Learning Solutions also from November 11th is worth reading. He certainly had many fans, friends, and fellow Web-based learning travelers.

It might also be useful to post the obituary (My Obituary) that Jay wrote for himself back on June 20, 2015 as well as what seems to be his last blog ("plog"--or his "Personal Progress Blog") post written the day he died about going back for his 50th college reunion at Princeton this coming May 2016 (Going back, going back, going back to Nassau Hall by Jay Cross). Indeed, Jay had a multitude of writing outlets. He serves as a role model not just for being a highly productive writer and thinker, but on how to be a genuinely caring and helpful human being who wants the world to learn in whatever ways possible and in an effort to help others not only be more productive but to be happy in the process. I truly am blessed and quite happy to have met and worked with Jay Cross.

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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 11:08 PM  
  • At 6:26 AM, Blogger Vance Stevens said…

    Brilliant tribute Curt. Thanks for including me in an expanded post, and for helping project a sense of what we've all lost, a thoroughly likable and creative colleague.

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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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