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Eating in Poland

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Food 2012, a set on Flickr.

You can’t visit Poland and not talk about the food! I’m especially enamored with the mushrooms – they are extremely abundant and come in every shape and size. The mushroom soups aren’t anything like I’ve ever tasted in the US. It’s also interesting to see the variations on popular American dishes like Pizza and hamburgers and the “kabob” is not anything like you’d expect.

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The Journey Begins…

The time is drawing near. I will be leaving Boise to lecture at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland on September 10. I have been asked by numerous colleagues and friends to blog about my experiences. So, I will begin a new series of blogs as I venture across the ocean on this great adventure.

It’s not my first time in Poland or in Torun but this time I am traveling to Torun under a Fulbright award to work with the Department of Didactics and Media in Education Faculty of Pedagogy at Nicolaus Copernicus University. I will spend five months at the university lecturing preservice teachers on emergent technologies in education and helping education faculty design curriculum that incorporates Internet and emergent technologies into teacher education. However, my goal is not just to teach. I expect to learn a great deal from my colleagues in Poland and build a partnership that will serve us both well into the future. Wherever possible, I intend to bring faculty and students from my own Department of Educational Technology at Boise State University together to collaborate and partner with our Polish colleagues.

Needless to say, it’s been a hectic summer for me – despite being on sabbatical – or more likely because of it! With the changes in my work responsibilities, I decided the time was ripe to finally bite the bullet and downsize/move to a smaller place. Time has been tight though, especially when simultaneously unpacking from my move and packing for a five month stay in a foreign country. So far everything is on track. There have been a million small details to attend to. Of course there were the obvious details like medical clearances, passport, visa, travel insurance, transportation and hotel transactions which I tackled at a regular pace over the summer. Not to mention the added confusion of change of address and forwarded mail from my move. Now I am left with figuring out how to transport five months worth of clothing, shoes, home goods, textbooks and gifts from point A to point B, how to manage communications with family and friends without breaking the bank, and what to do about lingering print-based mail while I am gone. And there is one final detail that is causing just a little stress – I’m still not sure where I will be staying while in Torun! The apartment hunting has not gone as well as I expected. However, I remain confident that something will turn up soon.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to participate in this exchange and can’t wait for it to begin! First on the agenda is a welcome reception in Warsaw on September 12, then on to Torun for a 10 day orientation before classes begin on October 1. I will keep you posted.

Reflections on the Future of Education

I recently presented a keynote address at the Missouri Online Distance Learning Assocation (MoDLA) annual conference in St. Louis on the role of online education in educational reform. The process of preparing to present was actually what spurred me to agree to do it in the first place. Keynotes are not my favorite thing to do 🙂 But in this case, I was really interested in the opportunity to take a step back and look at the big picture – I’m usually so immersed in my everyday teaching and research activities. What I concluded was that we are on the verge of real change – it’s absolutely unavoidable given the  evolutionary trajectory of technological advancements creating more rapid innovations in learning, and the increasing involvement of the private sector in public education along with their ability to respond quickly to market demand. Whether it occurs as a complete implosion of our traditional educational systems or a swift transition to new models of teaching and learning is anybody’s guess.

Fast forward a week or two and now I am heavily immersed in 3D Game Lab Summer Camp. One of my assignments is to reflect on an interview with Jim Gee back in 2008…

Jim Gee also draws a similar conclusion is his interview with Edutopia (2008) on the role of gaming in educational reform – he refers to the crisis of global competition in spurring innovation and a paradigm shift in how we think about education. Chances are good that the shift will come first in higher education where student choice has a more resounding impact on the economics of higher ed institutions. Jim denotes the same barriers in our educational system that most reformers do, although not necessarily responsible for preventing a paradigm shift, as much as creating the opportunities for one – deprofessionalization of teachers, schools as test prep academies, etc.. And don’t forget, we are still arguing whether or not technology should even be in the classroom in 2012!

What gaming does is take advantage of children’s natural ability to learn (see Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall Experiments), recognize mastery and competency-based levels of advancement, acknowledge kids as producers and co-creators, provide language on demand, promote problem solving, and encourage participation in communities with high standards. I would say that these characteristics parallel those of all effective online learning environments and further argue, it’s not a far stretch to anticipate a convergence of gaming elements into mainstream education regardless of modality. Jim Gee predicted a paradigm shift in 2008. It’s clearly evident we have the tools. The only thing stopping us, is us. And it’s time already!!

Making the Move to K-12 Online Teaching

Yes – it’s finally here! After two years in the making, my text Making the Move to K-12 Online Teaching: Research Based Practices and Strategies was published in November 2011 and made its debut at the iNACOL Virtual School Symposium in Indianapolis. Alas, this is the first chance I’ve had to announce it on any of my networks. The associated website for the book is located here: https://sites.google.com/site/bestonlineteacher/ and includes supplemental materials and updated links to resources included in the book. Take a look and let me know what you think. I look forward to your comments and feedback.

Back in the Saddle Again….

It’s been a busy summer with some some changes to report. I moved on from my role as Associate Chair and am currently acting Interim Chair in the department while Lisa is on sabbatical. I hit the ground running in July and haven’t stopped for a breath since. I’m busy learning all about budgets and such and not missing the AC duties at all.

Also, I’m absolutely thrilled to be back in the classroom again! I never thought I would miss it so much and didn’t really realize I missed it at all until I opened my class up this week. Since taking on the position of Associate Chair last year and Chair this year, my teaching load must naturally be reduced so I am only required to teach one class each Fall. I just hope that’s enough to keep me happy!

My last post in June (sorry) mentioned the legislative approval of the Idaho K-12 Online Endorsement. I just wanted to share that the last stamp of approval came this August from the Idaho State Board of Education. The Department of Educational Technology is now, officially, a state approved program for the endorsement. We’re busy strategizing and planning for implementation and are very excited about the flexibility in the language that allows for a competency-based assessment process – something very new to all of us in Idaho.

In addition to the endorsement, the department was also given the green light for an online doctoral program in Educational Technology! We have worked many long years on this initiative and the stars finally aligned. Since we were just given the go-ahead, we are working very hard now on planning for a start in Fall 2012. Contact Dr. Ross Perkins (RossPerkins@boisestate.edu) for more info.

I participated in 3D Game Lab Summer Camp3D Game Lab is a gaming environment for learning developed by Lisa Dawley and Chris Haskell. 3D Game Lab Summer Camp hosted about 200 educators and others in technology related fields in August. I have to say, I was absolutely addicted from the first quest.  The feelings, the behaviors, and the actions are very game-like. I found myself constantly focused on trying to level up and receive badges, awards and achievements – and all the time I was learning!! It was really quite incredible and very hard to describe. If you have the opportunity you have got to try it! I predict this will be the next new wave learning environment!!

On a more personal note… I’m happy to report that both of my children and their respective spouses are now located much closer to home. My son and his wife have been stationed at Bangor, WA and now live in Poulsbo – a lovely, quaint town in the perfect location. You can read about all of their adventures in the A Day in the Life blog that Kristin maintains. Thanks Kristin!! My daughter and her husband have also relocated from Cheyenne, WY to Vancouver, WA. I am just so thrilled to have my family close to me again!

Idaho’s K-12 Online Teaching Endorsement

Yes – the endorsement in Idaho is a done deal. The whole process encompassed over three years of very hard work by a collaborative team of stakeholders around the state. I was recently invited by Christina Linder, Director, Professional Standards and Certification at Idaho State Department of Education to help share our process at the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) 83rd Annual Conference. To facilitate the sharing, I created a wiki containing all pertinent documentation from beginning to end so thought I would share it here as well: Idaho’s Online Endorsement.

Catching up….

It’s been a while – but hey I’ve been really busy. I just returned from the ASCD Conference in San Francisco. I have been invited to present at this conference for the last couple of years with my colleague Barbara Frey, who was the founding principle of Colorado Connections Academy. It’s an interesting venue in that it is fairly mainstream and traditional, and does not have a focus in K-12 online. Our sessions have been very well attended, so much so that in the last two years they have had to turn people away. Perhaps it is because we bring a perspective to teaching and learning that is outside the norm. However, what I noticed this year and last, and this always happens at the very beginning of the session, is a real need for clarification about what K-12 online is all about. There is a general lack of knowledge about online instruction in mainstream education – what it is, what it looks like, how students can attend school without entering a physical building – what I would consider the most basic information. This tells me is that we still have a long way to go in educating the public about quality online learning environments. We should never forget that the vast majority of the public has literally no background experience to draw upon when it comes to online learning. I don’t find this particularly disturbing, it’s just a fact of life.

The remainder of the conference was interesting as well. I spent some time talking with Karen Parker, Program Manager for the newish Google App Inventor utility. We are offering a workshop this summer and a full graduate course this fall in Mobile App Design using this tool and will be extending our conversation later this month. They had the best booth at the conference and had free google pens with strobe-lit globes in some of the great google colors 🙂

I missed visiting with one of the attendees in my session, Alex Morrison, from Discovery Education. We’ll be talking later this month as well. As I admitted to Alex, I’m somewhat embarrassed by my lack of knowledge about all of the great and wonderful products they have to offer educators  so I’m quite interested in speaking with him. My only excuse is that I can’t know everything. Right?

I will be presenting next at the Midwestern Regional Robert NOYCE Conference on April 8. For a change, I will conduct a hands-on workshop titled PBL in a Digital Age. The goal is to model project planning and development using the Buck Institute for Education PBL model. Of course, the workshop centers on technology supports. I hope to demonstrate the power of Wikis and the collaborative aspects of Google Docs. I’ll throw in some collaborative brainstorming with Bubbl.us and reflection activities using voicethread as well. I only have an hour so we’ll see how much I can actually get done!

Attention K-12 Online Teachers

I would like to invite K-12 online teachers – whether you teach in a full-time or blended environment – to participate in an educational book project.  The title of the publication is tentatively “Strategies for K-12 Online Teachers” and publication is scheduled for next year with Pearson Education. Included with this invitation is a link to a short form that asks a variety of questions about online teaching in K-12 virtual schools. I am asking you to look over the questions and respond to any or all of them. If you choose to participate, your responses may be included in the text as vignettes representing “voices from teachers in the field.”  It is important to include your name (for proper credit, an email address where you can be contacted and the name of the school where you teach if you think it is appropriate.

Form Link: http://tinyurl.com/k12onlinestrategies

If you have any questions about this request, please feel free to contact me. Also, please feel free to pass this invitation on to others who might be interested in participating.

Thank you in advance for your time and for agreeing to participate in this exciting opportunity!

Kerry Rice, Ed. D.
Boise State University
Department of Educational Technology
krice@boisestate.edu