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On the Road Again...Oh my, TravelinEdMan's been traveling
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Ok, no blog posts for nearly 2 months. No, I am not terminally ill or stuck grading papers (though there was some of that). Instead, TravelinEdMan has been traveling. Six trips resulted in nine stops and many talks in five countries. As detailed below, each stop was quite eventful. This included the past couple of days in Lubbock, Texas to present to 220 or so K-12 teachers about online learning. Some might consider West Texas a sixth country to add to the list but I had fun there…it was a wonderful experience for me. True America.

Stop #1. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: This latest string of travel stops started with an event at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for an e-learning conference keynote. I left for that conference on Saturday April 10th and returned on Thursday the 15th. I arrived at the same time as perhaps 400 Filipinos and so the line going through customs was especially long. Patience? What patience after logging all those hours in the air. There was a lot I did not know about the conference before I went…for instance, I did not know my hotel or the time of my talk until I was in route in Paris. But I had fun there with a visit to a Saudi Museum as well as a look at an old city near Riyadh being excavated and rebuilt. An authentic Saudi dinner and much tea were also included.

My keynote at Kind Saud U on my World is Open book was well received. Fortunately, the Indiana Jones costume and jokes went over well. Many great pics were taken with my new Saudi friends. It was my 4th trip in a little over three years to Saudi Arabia but the first time I got an official tour of some kind. What was perhaps most interesting was the fact that the women attending the conference did so from another university some 45 minutes away. This included the female keynotes from the USA and Australia. We could hear their voices and see their slides but not see them; in contrast, they could see us via videoconferencing.

The other keynote presenters came from Australia (Jan Herrington from Murdock University) and the USA (Brent Wilson from the University of Colorado at Denver and Colleen Carmean from Arizona State University). It was great to finally meet Colleen (I cited her articles on course management systems in my R2D2 book) and have long discussions with Brent (I have used his constructivist learning environments book for a long time); Jan I met at the University of Wollongong over a decade ago. Other conference presenters came from places like Syria, Oman, and Egypt, in addition to Saudi Arabia.

My talk was on the first day. There was also a panel that day on the future of e-learning in which I participated. Then I listened to others. Fortunately, I was able to say a few closing remarks at the end of the conference. The day before those remarks I met a young man whose nickname was “Triple S.” It stood for the fact that his name was Saud and he was from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. So in his honor my remarks were about the 5 S’s I observed during the conference. But instead of Triple S, it was a Quintuple S. Here they are:

1. Struggles: Many participants noted their Struggles in establishing or conducting online learning in their organizations or institutions. Getting into e-learning is not as easy of some think.

2. Successes: While many noted their struggles, problems, and challenges, there were an equal number of SUCCESSES noted during the three days of the conference. It seemed that the conference participants were interested in innovative learning applications and success stories with Web technology. Emerging technology covered in the talks included virtual worlds, course management systems (CMSs), collaborative writing tools, language learning, and laptops.

3. Smart: Some people talked about technology becoming SMART enough to interpret different languages and translate online content better as well as to make people using them smarter. Smart was definitely a theme.

4. Studies: It was refreshing that many of the presenters discussed research STUDIES that backed up what they were saying. Or they discussed their own research findings and future directions. In effect, they were not just there to hear from the keynotes. Seems online learning research was accelerating in the Middle East. Consequently, they wanted to know the impact of e-learning or get involved in the assessment of it.

5. Standards: Throughout the 3 days of the conference, I heard words like comparison, accreditation, quality, and benchmarks. All these words were in reference to creating STANDARDS of success. While this is not my main area, I was intrigued by the constant focus on it.

So that was my recap (if there was a 6th S, it was systems). The e-learning systems included Moodle and Blackboard as well as some homegrown ones. The systems in place seemed to be evolving.

I promised them a 2 minute closing but I guess I took a few more. Smile. Other topics and terms mentioned included infrastructure issues, financial or administrative aspects of e-learning, cultural change in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, definitions of e-learning and blended learning, acceptability and approval for e-learning initiatives, government approval as well as colleague views about e-learning, and trends toward the understanding and use of e-learning. Suffice to say, the conference covered the gamut of e-learning. Much has happened in Saudi Arabia related to e-learning since my first visit there in February 2007. Yes, new brick and mortar is going up all around Riyadh and the entire country, but, so too, is much thinking about the role of online learning in education there. It is great to see that opening up of the country to virtual learning possibilities.

Departing from Riyadh is never easy; the airport entrance always reminds me of cattle going through gates at feeding time. I wish I could close my eyes and just walk to the gate but that is not possible. But after 2-3 security clearance checks, I made it through. On the way home from Riyadh, I flew through Paris where I had a 4 hour or so layover. My plane departed Paris and 6-7 or so hours later and had to make an emergency landing in St. John’s, Newfoundland for a lady who was pretty ill on our plane. I think she was ok, but it was interesting to see the snow falling there in mid April. I was never in Newfoundland in my life but will be twice in 2010—I go there again in October to keynote an e-learning conference. Cool.

What the guy next to me found out when we briefly stopped there, however, was that the volcano eruption in Iceland closed down Charles de Gaulle and many other European airports 2 hours after we left. Had we left just a little later, I would likely have been stuck in Paris for more than a week. Wow…that was close! I missed my connecting flight in Minneapolis but it did not matter since I got the next plane and made it home. Thank goodness!

Stop #2. Monterrey, Mexico (San Pedro actually): After the trip to Riyadh, I had 2 nights (1 day) at home before flying to Monterrey, Mexico to speak at the Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) in San Pedro (an adjacent city). UDEM is one of the top private universities in Mexico. My hotel was stunning with lovely paintings throughout (even in my room). There were also some exquisite statues, wood floors, and so on. The Universidad de Monterrey is a picturesque campus snuggled between two mountain ranges. On Saturday, my host, Arnaud Chevallier, took me to dinner and a brief tour of the city. On Sunday, he took me hiking up a mountain. It was a good 5-6 hour workout and 10-15k of walking. After the hike, I had dinner with UDEM administrators including UDEM's president—Antonio Dieck. Antonio had seen me present at a conference in Beijing 5 years earlier and was the reason I was in Monterrey. He is great! And so is Arnaud.

My invited talk there was in a beautiful room with a balcony where many of the UDEM undergraduate students sat. The administrators sat in the first few rows. It was quite an awesome place to present in. After a short lunch, I was on my way home. I really enjoyed my stay there.

Stop #3-5. San Francisco, San Jose, and Palo Alto, California (ISPI): Two more nights at home (and one day) and I was on my way to San Francisco at like 4 am for the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) conference at the downtown Marriott there. A huge audience for my talk at ISPI included my good friends Thiagi and Chuck Ferguson as well as several former students of mine who are in the Coast Guard. Other former students of mine, Dr. Yun Jeong Park from St. Cloud State University as well as Dr. Brian Beatty from San Francisco State University were there. Before the talk, Subude (now at Cal State Monterrey Bay) and Rodney Tom (from Genetech) (both former students) joined Brian and I for lunch. Dr. Wen Hao Chuang and Dr. Siat Moy Chong came to dinner (they studied with me at IU in the 1990s). So many former students with me each day…it was quite fun.

The following day, I took the train down to San Jose State University (SJSU) for a talk that my long-time friend Mark Adams arranged. Dr. Mei-Yan Lu from SJSU, who I have been giving e-learning advice to, was also there. Mark’s e-learning colleagues are very smart, caring, and committed individuals. They make a great team in these tough budgetary times at SJSU. Keep in mind that SJSU generates 10’s of thousands of credit hours online. This has likely saved the campus. A very nice campus too. Many great pics there.

After the talk, YaTing Teng picked me up and took me to the headquarters of Adobe. YaTing, a newly minted Ph.D. from the U of Illinois showed Mei-Yan and I around. A few years ago, YaTing was part of my blended learning team and I have been giving her advice on your dissertation since then. YaTing then took me to Stanford for a talk on my World is Open book. It was cool to finally present at Stanford (I have done Stanford, Oxford, and Harvard now…all that is left on my personal to-do list is Cambridge and MIT…someday, someday, someday!). Not bad for a dumb kid from Milwaukee who got a 19 on his ACT.

After the talk, my good friend Paul Kim from Stanford took us out to eat on downtown Palo Alto. After that, he had a friend of his pick us up and take me back to the Marriott. The following day I went jogging downtown in San Fran before heading to the airport. Caught some wondrous views of the Bay area when on that run. Oh, there are days that one does not want to depart a city and that was one of them. I love San Francisco. Always have…always will.

Stop #6. Denver, Colorado (AERA Conference): When I got home, I finally had 7 nights in my own bed before heading to Denver for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) meeting in Denver. The Denver trip started with a new talk on shared online video at Jones International University. My former student, Dr. Michael Thomas from the University of Wisconsin joined me and gave a talk on games, mobile learning, and international education. Glenn Jones, the Chancellor of Jones International University, was so appreciative, he brought Michael and I to his personal office for a catered lunch. The following night (Saturday April 30), Glenn took me and 9 of my former students, friends, and spouses (including Michael and his wife) to the Denver Symphony Orchestra rock performance of the Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. What fun! Glenn also took Michael and I as well as Scott Warren (another former student) to dinner 2 nights later. During the AERA conference, I had a presentation on wikibooks with Nari Kim (yet another former student). On Monday morning, I was co-discussant with Dr. Mimi Lee (yes, a former student) on a symposium on research related to the Web 2.0.

After that, I went jogging down a river walk area in downtown Colorado. I saw Mile High Stadium and many other landmarks. At the beginning of the run, I decide to call my former student, Dr. Frank Sanchez. He returned my call and I got in touch with him at the end of the run. His office was 1-2 minutes from where I ended up. Frank is a high level administrator at the University of Colorado at Denver. It was so great to meet up. Frank has not changed a bit. I miss him. The next morning, I had breakfast with my one of my two advisors at the University of Wisconsin from 20 years prior. His name is Dr. Steven Yussen. He was my human development advisor at the UW. Gary Davis was my human learning advisor….I was a double major. Steve is now at the University of Minnesota. Since leaving Wisconsin, Steve has been dean at the University of Iowa as well as Minnesota. It was so fun to catch up.

Stop #7. Singapore: After flying back to Indiana that day, I had another 7 nights at home before heading to Singapore and Penang, Malaysia for the Global Learn 2010 conference premiere (Global Conference on Learning and Technology). In Singapore, I saw 4 former students of mine at the National Institute of Education-—Timothy Hew, Joyce Koh, Ashley Tan, and Hyo-Jeong So. The only former student I did not see was Judy Lee whom I saw the week before in Denver, Colorado when at AERA. Hyo-Jeong took me around to the new casino (Sentosa Island) as well as the Night Safari and other things. Just 8 hours after getting off the plane in Singapore, I gave a 3 hour workshop on shared online video at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). My friend Dr. Daniel Tan invited me to give that workshop. I also saw my old friend Paul Gagnon before departing for Penang, Malaysia for Global Learn.

Stop #8. Penang, Malaysia (Global Learn): I was picked up at the Penang airport by April Tan and her husband. I had been giving advice to April (as well as her friend Chiew-Lan Teh) on their respective dissertations for a number of years, so it was good to meet. Global Learn, which is the newest conference of the Association for the Advancement for Computing in Education (AACE), was a huge success. I do not have space or time to go through all the details here but there were more than 520 registered participants from at least 48 countries. How cool is that for a premier conference? Having worked to develop this conference for 2 years, it was great to see this happen.

A boat ride around the island made it even more enjoyable as did many late nights at beachside pubs.
Global Learn will take place in Asia or the Pacific Rim each year. Are you interested in hosting the next one? Well, bids for Global Learn 2011 and 2012 are due June 15th (see Want to see some of the 2010 events? You can see many pics taken at Global Learn 2010 at the conference Flickr site:

The conference grew so big, we had 2 hotels side-by-side (the Park Royal and the Holiday Inn). In fact, the conference ended 1-2 hours later than originally planned. The Global Learn conference director, Dr. Gary Marks from AACE, had booked his flight out on Thursday evening (just before mine) so I got to say a few words at the closing ceremony since Gary had left. In contrast to my five S’s in Saudi Arabia, I asked the group to toast to 5 P's of the Penang event:

1. Fantastic keynote and invited Presentations--the invited talks were fabulous (Jan Herrington, Paul Kim, Jon Baggeley, Colin Latchem, Merry Merryfield, etc., all were top notch!). It was geat to meet them all. Much global in their message. I hope we can find as good of invited speakers in the future.

2. Thoughtful Papers. I learned a lot both from the brief papers as well as the full papers!

3. Great Place--The Park Royal in Penang. Lots of P's!

4. The Premiere Global Learn conference. Again more than 520 registered people from at least 48 countries. Wow! Keep in mind that AACE is a non-profit organization--it took a huge risk in extending itself to Asia after many requests to go there.

5. The wonderful People. The last toast ended with a thank you to Tom Reynolds from National University (whom I have known since grad school days) and Mimi Lee (from the University of Houston). Tom and Mimi, in addition to Gary Marks and myself, were heavily involved in many teleconferences and Web conferences in Adobe Connect Pro for nearly 2 years planning the GL conference (before it had a name) and putting together the special issue. They helped with Global Learn mission statement, logistics, topics and subtopics, conference venue selection, exec board nominations, and many other things which are too numerous to mention here. The important thing is that Tom recently was promoted to full professor (in addition to being a Fulbright scholar in Columbia this year) and Mimi found out she got tenure and promotion to associate professor just before Global Learn. Congrads to both of them on their wonderful accomplishments. The final GL toast was to celebrate that fantastic news.

This past year, Tom, Mimi, and I edited a special journal issue of the International Journal of E-Learning on E-Learning in Asia which is now a print-on-demand book. The book is called "A Special Path Through Asia E-Learning." This evolved from a special symposium we ran at the E-Learn conference in Las Vegas in November 2008. People from the symposium and then the special issue who were in Penang for the conference included Zoraini Wati Abas (the Open University of Malaysia), Okhwa Lee (Chungbuk National University in Korea), Ke Zhang (Wayne State University), Siew-Mee Barton (Deakin University in Melbourne), Thanomporn (Toh) Laohajaratsang (Chiang-Mai University in Thailand), Katsuaki Suzuki (Kumamoto University in Japan), Yayoi Anzai (Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan), Tom Reynolds, Daniel Tan (Nanyang Technological University), and myself. That is 10 of the 15 people from the symposium and special issue on e-learning in Asia. It was so great to see everyone! Perhaps next year a few of the others will come to Global Learn.

I must point out that Zoraini (mentioned above) was the most instrumental person in making this conference happen. She did a ton of work! She got us the venue at the Park Royal and arranged a good price for everything. But there were many others. Joe Luca from Edith Cowan University in Perth, Siew-Mee Barton from Deakin University, Insung Jung from International Christian University in Japan, Sanjaya Mishra, Indira Gandhi National Open University in India, and so on.

Here are a few conference highlights involving the people above. First of all, Katsuaki Suzuki was on a special invited panel (Research Trends of Learning and Technology in Japan: A Critical Review of Two Journals by Japanese Society for Information and Systems in Education). He also brought a few of his students. There was a huge contingent from Japan. Katsuaki also announced that his organization (Japanese Society for Information and Systems in Education …JSiCE) will be giving away monetary awards at Global Learn to best grad student papers in the future. Katsuaki is great!

Second, Yayoi Anzai bravely put together a mobile learning panel that was quite special (Opening Up Learning With Mobile Technologies). This was an extremely engaging panel. After Paul Kim wowed everyone with his projects and Elliot Soloway and his colleague Cathie Norris dazzled people with their ideas and persuasive powers, it was Ke Zhang who highly impressed the entire panel with her data on mobile learning. Ke was, in a word, PHENOMENAL. I do not say that just because we have a book together (Empowering Online Learning: 100+ Activities for Reading, Reflecting, Displaying, and Doing). It is true! Fortunately, her son Arthur was in the audience next to me and got to witness his mother in action. She identified all the current trends and gaps mobile learning, thereby giving people a sense of where the research in this field has been and where it is going. Congrads to Ke and Yayoi for this session. I hope others can propose similar sessions next year.

In addition to that, Tom Reynolds had a poster on the open educational resource movement in South America and Thanomporn (Toh) Laohajaratsang had a couple of excellent papers. And it seemed each day Siew-Mee and her husband Greg had 1 or 2 wonderful papers and presentations. We also heard proposals from people planning to put in bids for Global Learn for next year but I cannot say from where just yet. Stay tuned.

Finally, it was great to see Elaine Khoo from the University of Waikato in New Zealand win an outstanding paper award. I have been sending Elaine stuff of mine (and others) to read and corresponding about her dissertation research since 2002 when I visited Hamilton, New Zealand and her campus. And now 8 years later, she has passed her dissertation (all 550 pages of it) and is winning awards. She has also become a mommy 2 times in that span. It was great to see Elaine (now Dr. Khoo) and her entire family in Penang. Suffice to say that Global Learn was a blast! I miss everyone already.

Stop #9. Lubbock, Texas: So after all these visits to places in the United States as well as Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Singapore, and Malaysia during April and May, I was off to Lubbock, Texas on May 31st. I had to take an early (6:25 am) flight from Indianapolis due to the fact that the Indy 500 race was the day before and all other flights were booked. But I am glad I did. I got to see more of Lubbock and Texas Tech as a result. It was my first appearance in west Texas; a truly unique and enjoyable place. I stayed in a hotel across from Texas Tech University. It was a brand new hotel and convention center called the Overton Hotel. Running on campus late afternoon on Memorial Day was quite a treat.

Fortunately, my talks in Lubbock went well. But I am happy to be home…home at least until June 7-9 when I go to Las Vegas for the EduComm Conference. Then comes Syracuse University and a community college in Troy, New York, followed by Ohio State University and Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio…all in June. MoodleMoot in Melbourne awaits in July as does a K-12 conference in Sydney. I can’t wait. TravelinEdMan will be back on the road soon…real soon. Till then.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 10:32 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.

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