April 27, 2007

You Can't Get to Providence from Here

I've been in transit for two full days, getting nowhere. It all started out so well, but went downhill fast.

Thursday
San Diego: 9:00 am PT - I'm at the College of Education Honors and Awards Event. It's always a pleasant time, watching this year's outstanding graduates get recognized and shmoozing with colleagues from other departments. I got to stand up there with Karl Richter, our department's honoree.

San Diego: 10:15 am PT - A surprise for our Dean, who is retiring after 7 good years at the helm. Each department is putting on a light-hearted tribute, each more hilarious than the one before. Counseling and School Psychology acted out Kubler-Ross's 6 stages of grieving. Policy Studies did a version of Deal or No Deal. Then came EDTEC's turn.

Space: 10:31 am PT - At this exact moment, Mars transited Uranus on the cusp of Scorpio, thus pissing Uranus off. Nothing good could happen after this.

San Diego: 10:32 am PT - The EDTEC faculty delivered its tribute to the dean in the form of a Powerpoint presentation showing the imaginary new Education building we'll be naming after him, all mocked up in Sketchup on Google Earth as one would expect from the likes of us. No one, unfortunately, had checked out the projector ahead of time, and we stood there flailing around for 8 long minutes in front of the entire College faculty before anything appeared on the screen. The College's embrace of technology has been set back by ten years at least.

San Diego: 10:45 am PT - Escaping any association with our performance, I dashed out the door and headed for the airport. I'm off to do an opening keynote and two workshops for the Rhode Island Educational Media conference, a group of school library/media specialists.

San Diego: 11:45 am PT - After orbiting the airport parking lot for 20 minutes I realize that there are exactly zero open spaces and I zoom away to the off-airport garage. My flight is at 12:54 and I'm beginning to sweat.

San Diego: 12:45 pm PT - I'm the last person to enter the plane. Whew. I nap and polish my presentation over the next four hours.

Washington: 8:48 pm ET - Arrival at Dulles. I go to the screens to see where my Providence flight is and see that it's cancelled. Now what?

Washington: 8:50 pm ET - I join the long line at the United Customer "Service" center. There are two people being served while about 20 line up behind them. This is a significant percentage of the population of Rhode Island.

Washington: 9:05 pm ET - The same two guys are still being "served". I phone June and tell her what's going on and she starts hitting the web. There's no other flight out from Dulles tonight she says, but there's a train that leaves at 10pm that would get into Providence at 7am. My keynote is at 8am. I ponder this while the 20 Rhode Islanders begin to get restless.

Washington: 9:15 pm ET - One of the two "service" representatives comes out to the crowd and points out the banks of customer "service" phones on both sides of the line. They'll "help" you exactly the same way we can up here, she said. You can hold each other's place in line, she added helpfully. "Who's going to do that if we're all over there on the phones?" I asked. Half of us dashed to the phones while the other half held their spots.

Washington: 9:20 pm ET - The carefully cheerful outsourced voice from Bangalore told me exactly what June said, except that she didn't know anything about trains. I step back to my held spot in the line and pondered.... if I leave the line, am I out of the system entirely? Will they not help me find a hotel? Will they dock me some of my frequent flyer miles for insubordination?

Washington: 9:21 pm ET - I dash for the main terminal, grab a cab, and head for Union Station. A $60 ride.

Washington: 10:05 pm ET - The train left five minutes ago, they told me. At least something in DC is being run well.

Washington: 10:10 pm ET -Sitting in Union Station I call United's Bangalore people again and get booked to Providence in the morning by way of La Guardia, arriving at 11am, two hours after my keynote. I fire up the Mac and get a suite near Dulles on Hotwire. I call the conference organizer. She's going to try to swap the luncheon speaker with me, assuming that I can do my thing at noon and the workshop I was slated to give at 2.

Washington 12:05 am ET - After another $60 cab ride, I settle alone into my two bedroom, two bathroom, three TV suite, all for $78 and continue to tweak my presentation.

Washington 1:30 am ET - I go to sleep, knowing that tomorrow will be a better day.




Friday
Washington 5:00 am ET - I get up, pack, call a cab and head back to Dullles for my 7am flight. By the time I get to the gate, the departure time has been moved to 7:35. I go online and see that La Guardia, my first stop, is under FAA flow control orde due to weather. They're only letting 35 planes per hour land.

Washington 7:50 am ET - I board the plane, knowing that there is ample time to make the connection even with this delayed start. The plane taxis out onto the runway. And then stops.

Washington 8:00 am ET - The captain says we're under an FAA ground stop order. No one's going anywhere. Even though the doors are closed, it's OK to use cell phones and laptops. I email the conference person the news.

Rhode Island: 8:00 am ET - Meanwhile at the RIEMA conference, the luncheon speaker is mesmerizing the audience with what was meant to be his luncheon talk. One school librarian nudges another and says, "I didn't think Bernie Dodge was supposed to be this cute."

Washington: 8:45 am ET - They allow us to take off. We're airborne for a 38 minute flight.

Rhode Island: 9:00 am ET - In the room where I was supposed to present "An Introduction to Teaching the WebQuest Way", the conference organizers have quickly rounded up some workers from the hotel kitchen to put on a session on decorative fruit cutting.

New York: 9:50 am ET - I reach the sidewalk at La Guardia and look for the interterminal bus to take me to US Airways for the 10am connecting flight. No bus in sight. Someone directs me Terminal B, and they direct me back out onto the sidewalk to look for the bus. No use. Too late to make the connection.

New York: 10:10 am ET - Back at the United Customer "Service" desk, an actuallly helpful agent named P. Mallatt told me that the next flight would get me into Providence at 2pm, arriving halfway through my final presenation of the day. I think about it for a few seconds and just say no. Get me back to San Diego.

P. Mallatt works his magic. He even walks over to the American gates to try to make something work. He proposes that I taxi over to JFK and get a non-stop on American. Or go to Newark or... and finally found a way home through Chicago. He even got me into the Economy Plus seats, too, where the middle seat is kept empty and there's as much leg room as all seats used to have.

Rhode Island: 12:00 pm ET - The morning keynote speaker gives the same talk as he did at 8am. Since he's barely heard over the clinking silverware and plates, nobody notices.

New York: 12:05 pm ET - I board the plan for O'Hare.

Rhode Island: 1:00 pm ET - In the room where I was scheduled to discuss "Blogs and Wikis as WebQuest Tasks", a quickly assembled team of school librarians is performing a selection of songs from Moulin Rouge a capella, even though everybody knows librarians can't sing worth a damn.

Chicago: 1:30 pm CT to 8:00 pm CT - I wander through O'Hare looking for adventure or at least a power outlet. Find one and send mail. After awhile, I realize that I'm running on 3 hour sleep and close my eyes. I doze, and keep waking myself up as my head drops past a certain angle. Repeatedly. Like one of those birds you put in front of a glass of water. Sometimes when I wake up, people are staring at me with mouths slightly open. This continues for six hours.

Rhode Island: 5:00 pm ET - The conference ends. The conference organizers head for the hotel bar and order boilermakers. They loudly vow never to book a speaker from west of Hartford again.

Rhode Island: 5:10 pm ET - Three hundred school librarians pull into their driveways. (It's a very small state) and head for the medicine cabinet, their ears still ringing with the words to "Spectacular Spectacular".

Chicago: 8:15 pm CT - I board the plane for San Diego.

Space: 10:30 pm MT - Neptune slips into Scorpio, deftly blocking the sour influence of Uranus.

Over Colorado: 10:32 pm MT - After not watching The Pursuit of Happyness since I've seen it
three times already, I look up at the monitor and see the start of an episode of The Office I hadn't seen before. Then 30 Rock. Life is good.

San Diego: 10:15 pm PT - I arrive in San Diego after spending 30 of the last 36 hours in cars, planes and airports and accomplishing nothing. It's good to be home.

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March 19, 2007

Hong Kong, Compressed

June & I are wrapping up a jam-packed 5 days in Hong Kong today. I was invited by Centre for the Advancement of Information Technology in Education., to keynote an award ceremony. Award for what? It was the first WebQuest competition that i'm aware of. it was a lot of fun watching the excitement of the teachers who won, especially the presentations made by the girls who described what the experience was like for them as students.

I did a couple of workshops as well and in between all that we shopped in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok and toured the fishing village of Tai O with the help of FL and his students. We're about to get on the plane for 21 hours at the start of a very long day. It's Tuesday morning here, and we'll fly first to Narita, then San Francisco, then San Diego in time to teach my 4pm and 7pm classes Tuesday afternoon. The International Dateline is giving us back the day we lost on the way over. I'm guessing I'll be a zombie.

We took close to a trillion pictures. We'll post them here soon

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October 16, 2006

Dutch Treat

June and I are in Holland. Two days in Amsterdam, two days in Enschede and Utrecht and a final day in Leyden. I'm sponsored by SLO, an interesting institution that does curriculum development for schools across the country. Lots of prior experience with WebQuests here and plenty of interest in doing more.

In Amsterdam we visited the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, caught a bit of the Ing Amsterdam Marathon, ate an amazing rijsttafel, and of course window shopped in the Red Light district.

We're having a great time. The food is fantastic and the people we're meeting are great fun to be with. This is a country I want to come back to.

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March 31, 2006

Robotics Again in Las Vegas

We're here for the second year for the 2006 Las Vegas Regional of the FIRST Robotics Competition. This year's competition seems harder than last year and the action is more challenging to follow as a spectator. High Tech High's robot didn't perform all that well this morning, but there's the rest of today and all of tomorrow yet to come. There are about 20 parents and other relatives here and a busload of kids.

Alex is not as much involved in the engineering this year. Instead, as his senior project, he's creating a documentary video about all that took place to get the team here. He's eating through DV tapes at a rapacious pace, so there's lots of editing ahead.

Saw the Blue Man Group at the Venetian last night, and tonight around 20 of us are ooompah-pah-ing our way through dinner at the Hofbrauhaus. June stays here and I fly home to teach the podcasting course tomorrow.

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February 11, 2006

TCEA Reflections

Well, I shouldn't just gripe about presenter rudity without turning the spotlight on my own presentations in Austin. I had two. First up was an introduction to QuestGarden
which seemed particularly appropriate since QuestGarden debuted in very early beta form in a workshop at TCEA a year ago.

I got off to a rough start since the data projector didn't arrive until three minutes before the presentation was to begin. I usually reboot my computer once the projector is attached to clear out any cruft that had accumulated in RAM over the previous few days. But I didn't do that and so midway through the talk the dreaded spinning beachball on screen let me know that Firefox had stopped responding to my wishes. Had to restart and tap dance through the long process of getting back to where I was. Since the demonstration of QuestGarden, the heart of the session, was cut short, it was not a completely satisfying experience for me or the audience. I'd give myself a C+.

The second presentation was called GeoTeleWikiPodBlogCasting for Understanding and this is the first time I've given it. I began with a quick review of some of the coolest applications of geotools, wikis, blogs and podcasting, then cautioned against doing things just because they're cool, and then went on to speak more generally about how these tools and sites can be applied well to teaching and learning. Unfortunately I didn't pace it right and spent too long on the examples. That cut short the time I had to cover designs and strategies for teaching which was really the most important part. No technical problems, though, so I'd give it a B.

I've got a list of things to do to bring both presentations to an A grade next time so it wasn't a total loss.

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January 02, 2006

New Year's in Denver

What a long hard semester it's been. Too much on my plate at work, plus getting QuestGarden off the ground, plus chairing a search committee that had 163 applicants to weed through. With a listless Christmas behind us, the family was ready to get out of here and smell different air.

Off we went to Denver, partly because one of my oldest friends lives there and partly because it's a city we don't know very well. We would have had a great time except for the fact that Alex got hit with strep throat right at the start of it. A half-day in the ER and lots of penicillin got us back on track, but that left a lot of museums unseen.

They end the year in Denver with fireworks shot from the tops of buildings on 16th Street. Very smartly, they do it twice: once at 9pm for families with kids and fifty-somethings too pooped to stay up late... and again at midnight for a second group more full of whimsy and booze. Naturally, we did the 9 o'clock show and went back to Tom's house for dessert.

Happy new year to all. May the news be brighter this year.

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September 18, 2005

Third Day in Santiago de Compostela


What a beautiful city. I just finished speaking at the Congreso Nacional do Profesorado de xeografia e historia. We've been wonderfully toured and fed, but now we're ready to get home again. Last night we saw a WebQuest authoring tool done in the Galician language that was incredibly slick. Nuria Abalde, our host, has just given me a CD by Milladoiro, a very old Galician folk music group. June took some great photos which I'll put up on Flickr soon.

We leave in a few minutes Sunday afternoon and will be home Monday morning in time for a search committee meeting and two classes. Long day ahead!

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July 14, 2005

Amazing Day in Suzhou


Before this trip, I don't think I'd ever heard of Suzhou. Thanks to our host, though, it's now firmly embedded in my lifelong ROM. We got up at 5 in Beijing to catch the plane to Shanghai. After an hour and a half drive from the airport, we first passed through what they hope will be a Chinese version of Silicon Valley: a large industrial park waiting to fill up with high tech companies. Then we drove through the newer part of the city, crossed a river, and ended up at a restaurant that had a surreal combination of Thai, American and Chinese dishes. Then off to the Humble Administrator Garden, which is on the World Cultural Heritage list. Another drive took us to Tiger Hill, a park filled with stories and crowned by a hugh tilting pagoda... the Eastern version of the Tower of Pisa. Then we walked through a very old street where a boat was waiting to take us down a narrow river lined with houses. We could glimpse people making having dinner or washing clothes in the spaces between homes. Finally we arrived at a restaurant where we had yet another astonishing meal done in the local style: light and a little sweet. A long and unforgettable day.

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July 12, 2005

Could they see me from orbit?


I climbed the Great Wall of China today. Hot damn!

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July 01, 2005

No Rain in Spain


We're in our third day in Valladolid, Spain, having a great time with a group from all over Europe. We have participants from Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Finland, Cyprus, Malta, Italy and Poland, and they're giving QuestGarden a good workout. The workshop began with an opening session in what will probably be the oldest building I will ever speak in. The Palacio de Santa Cruz, built in 1491 and now part of the University of Valladolid. See the slideshow here.

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June 25, 2005

Caution: I Brake for Martians


After a pleasant day giving a workshop in Warren County New Jersey, June, Alex and I took the scenic route as we headed south to Philadelphia. The back roads are a lot more interesting than the I-95, and as a bonus we got to visit the Martian Landing Spot in Grovers Mills, a dot on the map near Princeton made famous by Orson Wells in his The 1938 broadcast. We weren't expecting much, and that's what we got: a nicely done plaque at the edge of a deserted park. We'll file this away in our memories along with the trip to Roswell in 1998.

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May 17, 2005

Florianopolis, Brazil

June and I have just finished three days in Florianopolis as I did a keynote for a conference here, the VI Jornada Catariense de Tecnologia Educacional. I'm so glad she's finally gotten to come with me to Brazil. As always, the food and people have been unbelievably wonderful. We've gotten to spend some quality time with our old friend Jarbas.

We only got to see a fraction of the island, but it was enough to make us want to return to see more. If you'd like, you can see a slide show here.

Tonight we're in Sao Paulo. Another keynote tomorrow followed by an all-day workshop and the all-night flight home.

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April 03, 2005

Leaving Las Vegas

We're back after three days in Sin City watching the regional matches of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Why were we there? Because Alex is on the team from High Tech High, and he's been spending late nights and weekends getting the bot off the ground. We stayed way way way off the strip... 20 miles away in fact, at a place that June immediately recognized as being similar to the island the Prisoner woke up in: MonteLago Village Resort. When it's completed, it's going to look like a Disney version of a seaside village in Italy. For now, it was pretty but eerie, and it made us glad to have seen the real Italy. For the short drive, though, we got ourselves a large suite for half the price of a single room on the strip. The kids from High Tech High, on the other hand, were stacked four to a room in a Best Western.



The competition was held in the arena at UNLV. Words can't really capture the experience of watching six 120-pound wheeled machines lurching around a basketball court, lifting up tetrahedrons and dropping them on top of larger tetrahedrons, while simultaneously trying to block the opposing team from doing the same thing.

The design of the game was ingenious, requiring strategy, cooperation among teams, and of course, an able robot. The competition went on for a full day of practice runs and two days of matches, all accompanied by a very loud soundtrack aimed at 17 year olds... pretty good music I thought. High Tech High ended up just under the middle of the 38 team pack and made it through the quarter finals.

Things like this make me optimistic about the next generation.

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November 10, 2004

Visited States

I know I blogged about a countries visited site once before. Here's the US equivalent showing the five states I haven't been to yet.



If I were starting all over in life, I'd seriously think about majoring in geography. I love maps and the kinds of things that computers can do with spacial data. If I had the time and talent, I'd tweak this map script so that the colors of the states were dependent on how much time you'd spent in each state. Mine would show 24 years in CA (red), 18 in CT (orange), 7 in MA (green), 5 in NY (green-blue), and and just a few days to a month or so in all the others (blue to purple). My 2 years in West Africa would go elsewhere. It would be interesting to take that information and calculate some kind of measure of nomadicness based on the dispersion weighted by the time spent. Would that number correlate with other things? I'll bet people who have lived more widely vote more liberally (or are on the run from the Law.)

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September 12, 2004

Six Days in Singapore

It's been a busy time here at the lCET 2004 conference. My keynote had around a thousand in the audience, and they dutifully laughed in the right places. Lots of sessions on all the latest topics: learning objects, building online communities, constructivism in all its forms. I did a Saturday workshop at the National Institute of Education for a smaller group and they were very adept at things. Very congenial and smart.



I've been hosted magnificently all week by grad school pal John Hedberg who has the unusual distinction of being blogged about in two places thousand of miles apart during the same week, both here and in Abu-Dhabi.

More pictures here.

Tomorrow (Monday) I leave for home, and though the trip will take more than 24 hours I will, thanks to the International Dateline, be back in time to teach my game design class at 7pm on Monday.

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September 05, 2004

Off to Singapore

The plane is revving up its engines and I'm about to leave for lCET 2004. Twenty-three hours in transit, none of which will take place in First Class. I wish I could take about 12 inches off my height temporarily for days like this. Pictures and tales will appear here soon.

Oh, and by the way, today's my birthday. To celebrate, June & Alex took me to the Legacy of the Popes exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art yesterday. Made us all eager to see Rome sometime soon.

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June 25, 2004

To New Orleans and Back

After a week in a stupor coming back from China, I went off again to NECC, which I guess is the major conference of the year for me. I always use the NECC conference to force myself to push the WebQuest model another step forward. It helps to have a deadline and an audience.

On Monday Philip and I presented some research in progress called When Teachers Blog, in which we're analyzing what our preservice teachers are writing about in EDTEC 470. It was a roundtable session, which meant that we presented conversationally at a table with 10 chairs. By the time we were done, there were an additional 15 people standing around the table chiming in with their take on teacher (and kid) blogging. It was low-key and insightful. We're still working on the data and will continue to watch how many keep blogging for a semester after the course is over.

Monday evening, he and I did the requisite Bourbon Street thing, walking around with mint juleps in hand, watching balconies loaded with guys from Des Moines getting in touch with their inner fratboy and tossing beads down to women from Louisville flashing body parts better left unseen. We stood in line for an hour to swelter for another 30 minutes in Preservation Hall which felt more genuine than the rest of it, though deeply routine for the musicians.

Funny thing happened on the way to decadence. A guy gave us a cheery hello and offered us a wager. Looking down at Philip's spiffy footware, he said "I'll bet you five dollars I can tell you the exact street and the exact city and state where you got your shoes." Philip demurred, wisely not wanting to get involved. Still.... how could this guy know? We weren't wearing anything with "San Diego" printed on it. Alright, Philip said. Where?

"You got your shoes on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana." said the guy, which sure enough was true. Philip didn't pay up, though.

The next day I organized a Birds of a Feather session for WebQuest fans which drew about 60 people and went well.

The next morning was the big session I've been mulling over for months. Blogs and Wikis as WebQuest Tasks. My room held 475 people and there were 30-40 standing in the back and sitting on the floor. It went pretty well, I think, and it was blogged about. Got lots of nice comments afterwards. Think I should write it up as an article.

And now I'm home and it finally feels like summer has begun.

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June 17, 2004

Hong Kong again, then home

An early morning flight from Taipei took me back to Hong Kong. Originally I was then going to transfer from there to my flight back home but then my best friend from college, Joe Doran, intervened. He comes to this area every six weeks or so to check on the manufacturing being done here for his family company in Massachusetts and as it happens he was to be in Hong Kong on the day I was leaving. He convinced me to change the ticket and hang out for an extra day. We had a great time at the Hong Kong Museum of Art and hitting the Temple Street Night Market again where I snatched up chopstick sets, table runners, t-shirts and other gifts and for $12 a new suitcase to carry it all home in. We ended the day at Delaney's, a place so familiar to Joe that I expected everyone to yell out his name as we entered. Joe's getting more Irish every year.



Thanks to tail winds, the flight to San Francisco was only 4 movies long, and thanks to the International Date Line, I arrived on the same morning that I left. I had been completely free of jet lag in China but the Universe balanced that out when I got home. I've been waking up in the middle of the night and falling asleep in the afternoons all week since I got back and thus not getting much done or being much fun to be with.

One highlight of the past week was a videoconference with the people I met in Romania last February. Using iVisit, we managed to hook up 8 sites in Spain, Romania, Italy, Poland and Finland for a 2 hour conversation. There were audio problems that I think we can overcome next time, but seeing the faces added a lot and made it worthwhile. I'm beginning to be a believer in videoconferencing on a shoestring.

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June 07, 2004

Two Days in Taiwan

The blur continues. First a drive through Taipei and a Thai lunch. Next stop was the National Palace Museum in Taipei where loads of treasures from the Forbidden City were brought here by the Nationalists fleeing the mainland. Who knows what would have been lost in the cultural revolution if they hadn't. Lots of wonderful paintings, carvings, and incredibly intricate objects made of jade, ivory, gold, porcelain, and bone.



Then, a highlight of the whole trip, I got to spend some time with Frances and Jasper Wu, friends of the Dodges for over 10 years. We met on the first day of Kindergarten at the Waldorf School as we each dropped off our kids for the first time. Since then they have become members of our extended family. Frances' parents treated us to a feast at a traditional Taiwanese restaurant. Many unfamiliar dishes, all good.

The next day I did two presentations, one at National Central University in the morning and then on to National Taiwan Normal University in the afternoon. All went well. After an incredibly good Japanese meal with my host, Tak-Wai Chan, we finished the day in a brainstorming session with his doctoral students working on game-like and WebQuest-y applications of EduClick, a device they've developed for collecting input from students in a classroom in realtime. Great fun. We went up close to 11pm. Tomorrow (at 7am) I fly back to Hong Kong.

More pictures here.

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June 05, 2004

24 hours in Guangzhou

It's all a pleasant blur. We took the train to Guangzhou, about two hours north of Hong Kong. Dave Merrill and I were slated to speak to grad students at South China Normal University. When we walked into the auditorium the room burst into applause. I felt like we had just come out of the green room onto the stage of the Tonight Show. Our two presentations, though it wasn't planned that way at all, were nicely complementary. SCNU has a beautiful campus and there were happy vibes in the air because of graduation week.

After the presentations we were treated to yet another amazing dinner with the vice-president of the university, followed by a ride down the Pearl River to see Guangzhou by night.



The next day, three of the SCNU faculty and I visited the Guangdong Folk Art Museum, a sprawling collection of carvings, porcelein, jade and you name it housed in the ancestral home of the Chen family. Another lunch which included my first taste of durian, a fruit so smelly that my hotel lobby had a sign forbidding anyone to bring one in. It was delicious. Then we went trawling through the shopping district looking for fancy chopsticks for gifts.

A zillion pictures may be found, right here.

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June 03, 2004

Hong Kong Day 7

Spent some time shopping but not buying. Went to the Apliu Street Flea Market but none of the fleas looked appealing. Got together with the conference people for one last meal, a Poon Choi feast. You name it, it was in there. Quite good. Tomorrow I head for Guangzhou.

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June 02, 2004

Hong Kong Days 5 & 6

Spent Day 5 doing some SDSU work and tweaking my presentation for Wednesday. The culinary highlight of the day was lunch at McDonald's where, in addition to Big Macs, they have Salmon Poppets... little fish McNuggets that weren't half bad. There's an interesting generational divide here in the fast food world: no one over 18 was at McDonald's either in front of the counter or behind. I felt very august.



The keynote was first thing on Day 6. The audience had the same reserve as I've seen before but I managed to get a couple of laughs out of the more fluent English speakers. It must have gone over fairly well because for the rest of the day people were asking to have their picture taken with me. Really! 20 or 30 times. Towards the end I was asking $10 per picture and they were stuffing bills down my shirt. OK, that last part's not entirely true.

Later in the day we piled into buses and went to Aberdeen for the conference banquet. It was held at Hong Kong Jumbo Floating Restaurant, a combination of a palace and a moored ship that you need to get to by a small ferry. Ten courses of wonderfulness. I really don't think I'll need to eat again for a few weeks. I'll probably have to pay extra airfare on the way home for all the extra tonnage I'm gaining.



41 new pictures are posted here.

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May 31, 2004

Hong Kong Day 4

Today was the official start of the GCCCE conference. I was asked to do a little greeting to a meeting of doc students and then went back to the office they've set up for me here. Got to meet the people who are hosting me in Guangzhou and Taiwan later this week as well as Dave Merrill, who is keynoting here on Thursday. Another big lunch on campus, followed by another offering of my 3 hour workshop and the conference opening reception. The highlight of the day was a trip to Sai Kung, a fishing village in the east side of the New Territories where we picked out a variety of fish and crustaceans from tanks and met them again at our dinner table a few minutes later. Good conversation and food ensued.




Pictures from Days 3 and 4 are now uploaded.

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May 30, 2004

Hong Kong Day 3

A quieter day. I got to relax until early afternoon and then Harrison Yang and I went off to see the Buddha. Five subway transfers and an hour busride later we arrived at the Po Lin Monastery, just in time to have a vegetarian lunch. Then we huffed up 268 steps to The Big Buddha itself. Great views all around.

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May 29, 2004

Hong Kong Day 2

Another busy day. After another multi-course lunch near campus, I did a 3-hour workshop. The evaluation forms from the participants were very positive but it was a very different experience from my end. Emotional restraint, respect for authority, a lack of history of talking in class or working in groups... all these combined to make it feel more like a church service than what I'm used to. Still, my hosts tell me it went well and I'm willing to believe them.



After the workshop we drove to Stanley on the southern end of Hong Kong Island. Did some looking through the open-air market nearby and felt the usual competing urges to buy everything in sight or nothing. I leaned more towards nothing and decided to buy a limited number of nice things each with a recipient in mind. (Now that I'm looking at this picture of pearls, though, I wish I had bought some rather than just staring at them.) After that we had a fabulous Thai dinner in Murray House, one of the original colonial buildings that was moved here from the central city to preserve it.



One more stop after dinner: Victoria Peak. From there you can look down at all of it. Pictures don't do it justice but here's one anyway.



I've uploaded 71 pictures from my first two days, and you can see them here.

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May 28, 2004

Hong Kong Day 1

A very long flight... five movies long! Finally got to see Lost in Translation and The Station Agent. After 24 hours in transit, I slept like a cinderblock.

I woke up at dawn and took a walk around. There were people doing tai chi in the parks, people practicing singing and dancing, lots going on. I'm staying in Sha Tin, a new town in the New Territories. At the center of the city is a huge indoor shopping mall, a train station, and lots of high rise residences. If we were going to build the US all over from scratch to be less dependent on cars, this is the way to do it. One of my hosts, Harrison Yang, guided me from the hotel by train to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, site of the conference. The train system is very slick here. You buy a card and put it in your wallet. When you walk up to the turnstiles you simply put your wallet on the sensor and it deducts the appropriate fare. No need to pull out the card.

I had lunch with the department chair and the IT faculty...a combination of dim sum and main dishes. Much better food than our the SDSU faculty center!



They've set me up with an office on campus so that I can get work done in between things. I spent some time getting tomorrow's workshop finalized and then we were off for a whirlwind tour. First stop, Mong Kok, sort of a cross between Times Square and Blade Runner. Everyone walks very quickly here and when a sudden burst of rain came down the streets were jammed with people with umbrellas moving at breakneck speed. We walked through the Ladies Market, several blocks of stalls selling everything you could think of and a lot more. Then on to an indoor Computer Mart jammed with all kinds of toys. Then back into the car to the harbor where we hopped a ferry so that we could look back at the skyline on Kowloon. Every night at 8 there's a light show with lasers poking the sky from the tops of the buildings.



And from there we had a terrific dinner followed by a walk through Temple Street. More street stalls and fortune tellers... a feast for the eyes. It was getting close to 11 by now and time to get to bed. I felt amazingly unjetlagged all day, but as soon as I lay down I was out cold. I'm going to be here for a total of 6 days and I'm looking forward to it more than on most of my trips. There's an energy here that I haven't seen in Europe or at home. This is going to be a great trip!

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March 07, 2004

Utah, Nevada and Home

It's been a busy few days. I did keynotes for UCET in Salt Lake City (Friday) and NETL in Reno (Saturday). There was snow on the ground and in the mountains around both places. Got a guided tour of Temple Square, met some wonderful teachers and came back with more ideas for the WebQuest to-do list.

While staying in a casino hotel in Reno, I serenely walked past all the slots as usual without being even slightly tempted to play. In the long run, of course, the house wins, and I snortled at those mathematically challenged folks feeding their rent money into the machines.

But then I had some time to kill at the airport and having run out of magazines to not buy and fast food to not eat, I settled down in front of a video poker thing and fed a dollar bill into it. Poker, I figured, requires at least a little bit of skill and so it should be possible to do better than chance. So over the course of a half hour I spent $10 and when it came time to catch my plane I was up to $13. I cashed out and started to do the math: I made $3 in 30 minutes. That's about minimum wage. If I'd bet $2000 instead of $10, I would have cleared $600 per hour. I could work one 8-hour shift a week and clear $240,000 a year which should be enough for now. Why doesn't everyone do this?

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February 25, 2004

Groundhog Day in Missouri


Having a great time here in Columbia, Missouri doing workshops for eMINTS. This is the seventh or eighth time I've been back here, and each time I am impressed by the solidity of the organization and the with-it-ness of the people in charge. eMINTS has set up technology-rich classrooms and trained hundreds of teachers all over the state and now it's poised to go national. Already there is an eMINTS spinoff in Utah and there's interest elsewhere.

For me, it's fun to come back here each time. The structure here is that for each of three days a different group of about 70 teachers comes and cycles through three different sessions about WebQuesting. I'm doing my hour and a half on design patterns nine times and I feel a little like Bill Murray every morning when I wake up, though in a good way.

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February 10, 2004

What Time Zone is This?

I've made it through the day without major mishaps, but this is roughly how I feel.




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February 08, 2004

Day Three in Targoviste

Today was mostly about getting a look at Romania's mountains. No official work until evening. We piled into the mini-bus and headed upward.

I'm still jetlagged and achy and sitting in one place in a mini-bus designed for shorter legs didn't add to the fun. But the show outside the window distracted me from all that. Images slipped by so quickly my eyes couldn't parse them: a winding dirt road with two old women carrying bags; an old man in a fur hat solemnly saluting the minibus in welcome; a family in a horse drawn cart with auto tires; wooden houses with sharply pitched roofs; a gypsy village by the river; a whiff of wood smoke, twin domed church spires clad in metal. If I were driving this road by myself there were a dozen National Geographic-worthy pictures I could have taken; but the mini-bus hurtled onward.



One of the highlights was Bran Castle, the official Dracula destination. This is the one they're setting up as a tourist attraction, but Vlad the Impaler never lived here. It was a garrison for his soldiers guarding the border betweek Transylvania and Wallachia. One thing I learned from the guide was the etymology of "Dracula". Vlad Tepes' father was called "Drac", which means devil. The "ul" affix means "the", and the "a" affix means "son of". Romanian adds all these things to the end of words. So Dracula = son of the devil. I think I'll refer to our president from now on as "that Bitchula".



And all the Disneyesque commercialization that was absent at the castle ruins in Targoviste was there in spades at this one. I picked up a Dracula t-shirt for Alex and a handstitched table runner for June (that had flowers, not fangs).



After yet another big meal and a long drive, we made it to Brasov, a beautiful old city with buildings dating back centuries.

With night falling, we zoomed back to Targoviste with a couple of hours to spare before dinner. I slept like a corpse for an hour. And dinner was great. It was a celebration of the professional relationships that were deepened during these three days and looking ahead to the next part of the project. These are fun people and I'm happy to be getting to know them.

Even after the long day of tourism, we somehow managed to prolong dinner past 2am. There was dancing involved and even I, a notorious stick in the mud disco-wise, got up and boogied some.

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February 07, 2004

Day Two in Targoviste

Sometimes while sitting in committee meetings at SDSU I begin to have an out-of-body experience. From my position floating near the ceiling I entertain myself by thinking of something completely different while the discussion grinds on to a conclusion that should have taken half the time.

The morning working group was like that, only off-the-scale more-so. The agenda was simply to discuss having a videoconference involving all the institutions working on the project. What could be time-consuming about deciding on that? Nailing down a date! Easter vacation affects things, and there are two Easters involved here: one for the Romanian Orthodox and another for the Catholics and Protestants. That pushed the date towards late April, but there we run into Pentecost and Italy's national day. Back and forth it went until finally a good day was found.

Then there's the language problem. The meeting is being conducted in English, which is a second or third language for everyone here but me. This constrains communication to the lowest common vocabulary. Humor and word play are just about impossible, at least at an adult level. It's like trying to speak through a mouth stuffed full of peanut butter. And even when the words are understood, they don't mean the same things. "OK, we need an example from the high school level." "What's high school? Do you mean secondary?" "High school is for ages 14-17." "Oh, for us, there's lower high school for 12-14 and upper high school for 15 - 18". And so on and on and on. It's a wonder that anything gets accomplished in the EU, but somehow it does.

Turns out that I'm going to be one of the points in this multipoint videoconference. That was a surprise to me but the challenge should be interesting. Challenge is the operative word, too. This group hasn't ever put a videoconference on before, let alone one with 6 languages and 2 continents. Yes, April 27 should be interesting.

Since we were meeting on the Valahia University campus, I finally had a chance to sneak out, plug an ethernet cable into my Powerbook and check my mail. After three days of my being unplugged, I knew the intestines of cyberspace would be jampacked with fascinating new information addressed to me. True enough: there were 725 messages, of which 5 were personal and important, 100 were from lists I belong to, 150 were generated by the MyDoom virus responding to infected attachments I never actually sent, and 470 were spam. I'll be disconnected again until Monday and will have to go through this again with the same odds.

We left the Engineering building just as the sun was starting to set. I heard a loud rustling in the sky and looked up to see a flock of crows so thick you could barely see any blue behind them. Straight out of Hitchcock. I wondered if it was some kind of north-south migration but soon learned that it was a daily phenomenon. These crows commute to a garbage dump outside of Targoviste every morning, eat their fill, and return home each night. The explanation made it seem less majestic, but only by a little bit.

Back into the minibus for a long ride to dinner. This time we went to a vineyard and clambered down steep stairs into its chilly cellar. We started with a tasting of 8 wines decanted for us on the spot with a lecture about the qualities of each. Most of them were claimed to provide new energy for older men. Maybe I'm not "older" yet since I didn't feel any different. I suppose that's good.

After the tasting we left the wine cellar and drove a short distance to the restaurant on the premises. By the way, Romanians don't designate bathrooms by gender. (The huge lineup before dinner involving 30 people and two unisex toilets makes this seem like a good point in the story to report that.)

Dinner was again, tasty and too much. There must have been six courses.

I'm going to have to have a leg amputated to get back to my pre-Romania weight.



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February 06, 2004

Day One in Targoviste

What an incredibly long day. The mini-bus picked up the 12 of us from the hotel and we went to Valahia University for a welcoming ceremony. We were seated at tables arranged in a U-formation with the flags of each country at each place setting: 5 from Spain, 2 from Romania, 2 from Italy and 1 each from Finland, Poland and the US. The University is clearly happy to be involved in a project like this and in general I get the impression that the whole country is doing whatever it can to join the larger world after 50 years being stuck in the Soviet bloc.


That was followed by a visit to the ancient part of Targoviste: the castle and church built by the princes of this part of Romania during the 15th century. One of those princes, Vlad Tepes, was the inspiration for Dracula. The walls of parts of the castle are still standing.

There is a church that's in much better shape with its inside walls completely covered with paintings of saints. We climbed up a tower that was used to watch for marauding Turks on the way. From there you can take in all of Targoviste: snowy mountains to the north, oil wells in the distance and lots of smokestacks and apartment flats. In the gift shop by the castle, there were mostly religious pictures and statues for sale. They had the good taste to resist the temptation to fill it up with bat wings and bloody fangs and Bela Lugosi t-shirts.

Then we went on to a working session in which each of the participating institutions reported on the activities of the last year. They have designed an online course to teach teachers how to create WebQuests and have implemented it once already and are about to offer it a second time. It's interesting to see the snags involved in implementing a project in five countries simultaneously. One of the deliverables for Think, Construct and Communicate is the creation of WebQuests that will be published on the web and made freely available to everyone. In Finland, however, a recent law makes it illegal to require students to publish their work, so we'll only be able to see four of WebQuests created there.

After lunch it was time for my session about improving the quality of the WebQuests created in the project. It seemed to go over well. Then we continued on to Ion Chica Economic College, the high school that's involved in the project. Several teachers who took the online course described their WebQuests and kids demonstrated the products they created. One teacher came up and thanked me for coming up with the idea. She said her kids have already done two WebQuests and they love them. Nice to hear!

A choral group from the University was next. Nothing moves me to the edge of tears more quickly than hearing a well trained group of kids singing. It's a combination of admiring the self-discipline that made them so good at it, along with the innocence still in their faces. It always leaves me feeling that the future will be in good hands.

And the grand finale couldn't have been grander. The school has courses to prepare kids for all aspects of running a restaurant and to cap off the celebration, they brought out a WebQuest cake. The second line is hard to translate. Apparently it means something like "many happy returns".

Coincidentally, the ninth birthday of the WebQuest model will be next week.







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February 05, 2004

The Last Time I Saw Paris

The 7 hour flight from Chicago to Paris was only 20% full, which meant that I could pick out a seat with no one on any side of me and stretch out a bit. I guess all the anti-French ranting by Republicans last year has finally paid off. No one's going there.

Put Terminal 2B at De Gaulle on your list of places to avoid. There are only a dozen or so places to sit down before going through security and getting ready to board. The only place to eat is also the only place to smoke, and you can still smell the smoke at the other end of the terminal under the no-smoking sign. With a 3 hour layover, that got old fast.

I do like the sound of French, though, and the ongoing PA announcements gave me plenty of opportunity to hear it. As a non-Francophone, to me it mostly sounded like "Mes Dammes et Monsieurs, blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah bah-GAHZH." They make baggage sound romantic.

I think Europeans are different from us in terms of gender exclusivity in bathrooms. I headed into the "toilette" and there were two women in there mopping the floors. Other men skirted breezily around them and took care of business without missing a beat. I, on the other hand, suddenly decided I didn't have to go after all.

After another three hour flight I landed in Bucharest and was met by Gabriel Gorghio, the host for this event. We waited for two more planes to arrive with other participants and then piled into a mini-bus for the hour and half drive to Targoviste. Gabriel told us that the many potholes we were bumping over were part of a national program to keep driving speeds down. After 24 hours in transit, I arrived.

The whole group had dinner in the hotel restaurant, which began with a strong Romanian liqueur and went on to a cabbage salad, a chicken schnitzel with ham and cheese inside, vegetables and then crepes wrapped around ice cream for dessert. After a day of airplane food, it was terrific.



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February 04, 2004

Bound for Romania

I'm getting on an endless plane ride this morning, headed for Targoviste, Romania. Thanks to 10 timezones working in the wrong direction, I won't actually get there until tomorrow night. I'm participating in a meeting for the Think, Construct and Communicate project, an effort that involves universities from Spain, Poland, Romania, Finland and Italy. They've been hard at work for the last year developing an online course to help teachers learn to create WebQuests. Should be fascinating!

I'll be posting pictures daily, I hope. Stay tuned.

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November 22, 2003

Saskatoon

This must be a wonderful place in the summer. A pretty skyline along a river under a big blue sky, interesting architecture, lots of open space. The river was partly frozen with mist rising out of the liquid part. Even at this time of year I could see its charms.

I did two workshops and a keynote for SACE, the Saskatchewan Association for Computing Education. Very receptive audience.



On Friday I was toured around by Daryl Koroluk, the tech coordinator for the city schools. The high point was a visit to the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a museum and interpretive center place at the edge of a cliff where Cree and other tribes used to get buffalo herds to jump off and leave this mortal coil and enter their hungry stomachs. The picture above depicts the creation myth that the first buffalo emerged from the rocks.

Ended the day with the best Indian meal I've had in years at the Taj Mahal: samosas, pakoras, stuffed parantha, nawabi badami murgha, gosht palak, and some outstanding ice cream spiced with cardamon and rose water. The family that runs it comes from Punjab via Kenya and they're all there working. If I lived in Saskatoon I'd be eating there at least once a week.

More pictures here.

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November 19, 2003

Back in Wisconsin

I'm in the Wisconsin Dells, today, doing a second keynote for an Invitational Institute for educational leaders in the state. Great audience. I continue to be impressed by midwestern personality, though I can't fully put it into words.

I had a chance to drive around the Dells a bit. Most of it is closed for the winter, so I got to savor the spooky quiet of deserted amusement rides and empty attractions. I explored a bit further from all that and got a look at some duck-filled lakes, too.

More pictures here!

Tonight I'm off to Saskatoon where there's snow in the forecast and a temperature down near zero. My Californian wardrobe isn't ready for this!

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September 01, 2003

Five Years and Three Days in Syracuse

Came back last night from my first trip to Syracuse since defending my dissertation on a snowy day in 1982. It was a kick to return to the IDD&E program where I spent five years learning instructional design, motivation theory, research methods and generally growing up somewhat.

They kept me busy for three days starting with a presentation in the same classroom in the Newhouse building where I was a teaching assistant in my first semester. It seemed cosmically weird to come full circle to exactly the same place exactly 28 years later. Then on to a brownbag lunch presentation for students and faculty in the School of Information Studies followed by a Q&A webcast for a joint IST/IDD&E course. On Saturday morning I did another Q&A with students and faculty of the IDD&E department. Pretty good turnouts all around given that it's Labor Day weekend.



Then, finally, I had some free time to wander and reminisce. Walked up the hill past the architectural marvel of the Toilet Bowl Dorm and gazed awhile at 560 Allen Street, 925 and 940 Westcott Street... three of the five places that I lived in. Due to 70s wackiness or maybe just bad luck, I had an unbroken chain of amazingly bad roommate experiences. One programmer roommate smoked continuously, never showered or washed his clothes and filled the apartment with a ghastly stench; one was arrested for shoplifting and accused the rest of us of rifling through his stuff; three were such emotional rollercoasters that everyone within 100 feet of them suffered vertigo. One exception, though, was sane and smart and went on to become a pioneering author of hypertext fiction.

The best part of the trip was spending time with my sponsor Ruth Small, Tiffany Koszalka, Ray and Gisela von Dran, Don Ely and especially Phil Doughty, who took me out to his camp on Lake Oneida and boated us to a restaurant. It was great to see the IDD&E department stabilizing after almost being wiped out by the previous Evil Dean.

What did I learn from this journey back in time? I guess I'm surprised at how little it felt like coming home, how unattached I felt to a place where I spent five years. I was also surprised to realize that in all that time I probably went into only six of the dozens of buildings on campus, and that I hardly ever went downtown or anywhere else. That's partly because my car was a rolling deathtrap and partly because I focused on courses and flailing my way towards a dissertation. Still, if I could have a serious talk with my Disco Era self, I'd advise him to get out and live a little more. I wonder if my 2031 self would say that to me right now.

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July 30, 2003

Live from North Dakota

I'm spending this week in Minot, hosted by Craig Nansen. Craig is a major contributor to the EDTECH discussion list, so I felt as though I'd already known him forever when I came out here for the first time last year. He has a crew of technology support teachers that work with the schools in Minot Public Schools and they are absolutely terrific.

Minot is a nice little city. Craig proudly toured me arround when I arrived on Sunday. People don't lock their doors. Kids play in the parks late at night and their parents don't need to worry about what might happen to them. There's a Scandanavian Heritage Park that brings together all things Norwegian and Swedish, and a huge Norsk Hostfest in October that I hope to see someday.

I'm here to give a five-day workshop that Craig rounded up funding for. We have 18 teachers here from Minot, Bismarck, Grand Forks and Williston and they've been hard at work all week. The goal is to create a stellar set of WebQuests that focus on the Lewis and Clark expedition. With the bicentennial coming up soon, there is a lot of attention being paid to this and lots of raw material to work with.

We got started on Monday and generated a lot of ideas. Then on Tuesday we piled into two vans and toured Fort Mandan, where Lewis and Clark wintered, and the Knife River Villages nearby, where Sacagawea lived before joining the trip. We took lots of pictures and got a snootful of history so that by Wednesday everyone's heads were buzzing with possibilities.

And that's where it stands. Friday afternoon we'll have a showcase of 6 new WebQuests in pretty complete draft form. With a bit more polishing and fleshing out over the next few months, I know we're going to have some dazzling work to share. Pretty cool!

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May 22, 2003

Back from Wisconsin

Just got back from a little luncheon talk at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. I met some very cool faculty and students. They'd just finished creating a WebQuest that teased apart the concept of Patriotism and were doing it just as the Iraq war began. It was part of a larger project with three other UW campuses and clearly the kids learned all the right stuff: taking on perspectives other than their own and learning to appreciate while disagreeing; divvying up the work of creating curriculum; keeping it at the level of analysis and synthesis. It makes me optimistic about the future when I see new teachers thinking this way with such enthusiasm.

Something uniquely Wisconsinish: at lunch the servers gave us a choice of iced tea or milk. MILK?! Later when I mentioned this to the faculty, they didn't think it was all that uncommon. Life in the dairy state!

The city of Oshkosh is divided fairly equally by the Fox River. Penny Garcia, my host, told me that Oshkosh was actually founded as two cities that became one. Wow, I thought, Osh and Kosh, just like Buda and Pest... but that would be too good to be true. Turns out the two halves were named "Athens" and "Brooklyn" so naturally they named the combined city after a local Native American Chief.



Wisconsin seems like a pretty place this time of year. The lilacs, my favorite plant in all the world, were blooming everywhere and filling the air with that sweetness. Today before heading to Green Bay to fly out, I drove around some back roads trying to get a sense of the place. I stumbled on a big place off the side of Rt. 110 that had giant mooses, statues of liberty, other amazing kitsch, all for sale. I've never seen anyplace like it.

Pictures of all that and more are here.

Only 6 more states to go: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota and Arkansas. Time to start keeping track of Canadian Provinces I've been to!

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May 16, 2003

Alberta and Back

Life continues. The rest of my trip to speak at the ATACC conference went well. Lots of WebQuest fans there, and the design patterns idea was clearly a hit. It snowed while I was there, and on the way back down from Jasper I had to stop twice to let a herd of moose or elk or goats or something take their time wandering across the road.



More pictures available here.

The next morning in Edmonton, I was generously taken to brunch and interesting conversation by Pete MacKay, creator of the very cool Teacher List. For years he's been sending out one link a day that teachers would find interesting. I'm always learning about great pages from Pete's list and it's well worth signing up for even if you're trying to trim back your in-box.

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May 01, 2003

Long Day's Journey into Canada

An endless and interesting day began with my carpooling Alex and the two Jeffs to High Tech High, then on to the airport. I managed to sit directly in front of the screamingist baby ever to lift off. Two hours of non-stop primal yelping. As soon as we hit the ground, every guy under 30 opened up his cell phone and called to make a vasectomy appointment.

They've added wireless net access to the airport in Seattle, just in time for my 2 hour layover and a great lunch of beer and Dungeness crab while answering email. Then on to the flight to Edmonton. No screaming babies. Canadian civility and calm filled the plane, and something rare (for me) happened: I got talking with my seatmate. Her name is Martha Kent, same as Superman's mom in Smallville, and she's a neuropsychologist in Phoenix. She's going to the University of Alberta to do a presentation based on her autobiography describing her childhood in post-war Europe. As ethnic Germans living in Poland, her family experienced the largest scale ethnic cleansing of the last century, something I'd never been aware of before. From 1945 to 1949, they lived in concentration camps until finally being allowed to enter East Germany, bribe their way into West Germany, and finally settle in Canada. Now she works with Vietnam-era veterans and tries to get them to recreate her trick of turning a traumatic past into a new, positive life. We had a great chat. Especially the Bush-bashing part.



Jasper is a five hour drive west of Edmonton. Mostly flat with scattered forests until the last hour or so. Then the Rockies appear on the horizon slowly getting larger. Because we're so far north, the twilight lasts for hours and it was still a deep blue dusk at 10pm as I finally climbed up and into the snow-covered mountains. Beauteous!

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April 27, 2003

Zooming Through Portland

Spent parts of Thursday and Friday in Portland for five hours on stage at the Northwest Council for Computing Education. It was my second quick trip there, and now I've spent a total of 48 hours in Oregon. Seemed like a very liveable city: good food, beautiful rivers and bridges, courteous, positive people, and a light rail system that took me all the way back to the airport for $1.55. Hope to spend more time there someday.

In the dead time between my two Friday sessions, I wandered through the vendor area and saw nothing new except Mediator 7 which collected quite a crowd of paying customers. What does it do? It claims to let you create interactive presentations in a jiffy and export them as DHTML or Flash for CDROM or web delivery. Just what I need to get EDTEC 570 ready for going online over the next three weeks. Unfortunately it's Windows only, but I'm willing to stoop in order to get the job done. The box should arrive Wednesday. We'll see!

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February 23, 2003

Back from the Show Us State

I got back Friday from three days of workshops in Missouri with the EMINTS project. What a great group of people: smart, well organized, hard working and congenial. They're using WebQuests as part of a larger effort to promote contructivist teaching in a network of tech-rich classrooms [see video]. Each EMINTS classroom has a computer for every two kids, a smart board, and videoconferencing capability. Each participating school has two such classrooms, usually in grades 3, 4 or 5. The important part, though, is the overlay of ongoing support and motivation provided by a team that has had no turnover over the years.

I've been a regular visitor to EMINTS since late 1998 and I'm proud to be associated with them. Of all the large scale change efforts I'm aware of, this one is my favorite. Missouri has something to teach the rest of us.

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February 16, 2003

Afternoon at Arecibo

Today was another one of those days in which I deeply appreciate the life I have. By visiting the radio telescope at Arecibo I was making real something that was previously only a picture in magazine articles. I don't think I ever imagined actually being here. The observatory is about an hour and a half away from San Juan, the last third of those miles along twisty one-lane country roads. When over the farms and flowering trees I first glimpsed a gray spire poking the sky far away, I thought that couldn't be it... it's too big. When I arrived, finally, I was blown away by the size of the structures. Four concrete towers hold the cables in place that house the instruments at the focal point of the of parabola. Most amazing, there was a walkway strung like a rope bridge over the bowl so that the people here can get to the instrumentation. Not a job for phobics..







More pictures here.

Arecibo was one of the hotspots for the SETI project before Congress killed off public support for that. More recently it's been mapping Venus, Mercury and various asteroids as well as deep space quasars, pulsars, whoknowswhatsars. Someday the first hello will cut through the noise. Maybe here.

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February 15, 2003

Manifestación contra la guerra en San Juan

I'd estimate that there were around 500 protesters here in San Juan today. Interesting combination of middle aged socialists and college kids and a few like Normal Me. They did some kind of guerrilla theater with a birdlike guy on stilts (America? War?) assaulting a woman on stilts (Innocence? Peace? Iraq?) and then the parade began. We marched in a block-long loop behind barriers so as not to disrupt traffic. There were drums and whistles, and drivers honking their support as they went by; the protest was driven by a samba beat. Much more fun than the kind of marching and chanting I did against Vietnam led by Massachusetts college boys with no rhythm at all.








More pictures available here.

Just as in the 60s, I soon got tired of being part of a mass, danceable though it was. I was glad to be there to show my support, but with ears ringing I moved on after an hour. June and Alex marched in San Diego, too. I think the next protests are going to be even bigger now that the silence has been broken.

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February 13, 2003

San Juan, Day 1

I'm here in Puerto Rico for the first time to do a seminar for faculty at Sacred Heart University, or... more accurately, Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. For once, instead of just seeing the airport, hotel, conference room and airport again, I've arrived a day early and will be staying a couple of days afterward.

After a breakfast meeting with my host, Antonio Vantaggiato, I went out exploring. Old San Juan is one of the most photogenic places I've ever been. Here's a sample of what I saw.








I've uploaded two pages with dozens of thumbnails and larger pictures. More tomorrow after my presentation.

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January 10, 2003

Hawai'i Day Six

This was the best day of the trip. After checking out of the hotel, we had lunch at Zippy's, an old-fashioned kind of place as common here as IHOPs. Then on to the 'Iolani Palace, the only royal residence on American soil. How it got to be on American soil is a sad story. The palace was almost torn down to build a parking lot for the Capitol building that replaced it after statehood. Luckily, people rallied around to restore the palace and begin to retrieve the furniture that was auctioned off. What a loss that would have been! The workmanship of the place was amazing.


Then we went to the Honolulu Academy of Arts and looked over their collection of Asian statues, armor and paintings. Alex was fading again by this point so we cut it short and drove up into Diamond Head's crater. Didn't look much like a volcano; just a flat plain with military contraptions perched along the rim. We continued to drive around the eastern end of the island and on to Hawai'i Kai. More beautiful shoreline, islands and mountains with suburbia beginning to encroach. We finished off the day with another dinner at Keo's: green curried fish, shrimp in peanut sauce, grilled chicken and sticky rice. Yum! A great way to finish our visit to Hawai'i. We'll be back.

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January 09, 2003

Hawai'i Day Five

Finally, a day in which we all felt well enough to tour. We drove up H2 toward the North Shore, stopping every time something seemed vaguely interesting. First stop was the Dole Plantation, the epitome of tourist trappitude. Pineapple pot holders, pineapple shirts, pineapple softserve cones, pineapple quilts, a maze of pineapple plants arranged like a giant crop circle.... you get the picture. And here, as in many places in Waikiki, there are vendors where you pay to pick an oyster out of a pile and then watch as they open it up to see if you got a pearl while ringing a bell and calling out "A - Lo - HA!". The original natives of this island must be spinning in their tombs.


We then stopped at the Waimea Falls Park, a Disneyized version of a verdant valley, and then lunched at Giovanni's, a place that's famous for its shrimp. It's just a white truck parked on the side of the road and they only serve shrimp in one of three ways, but it was very good. Small world: we bumped into one of the 25 people who were in my session at the conference yesterday.


We dropped in at the Polynesian Cultural Center, but the $40 per person minimum entry fee was a deal killer since we really didn't feel like $120 worth of Polynesian culture. Spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the view of the coast, as well as a botanical garden. Then back to Honolulu to kick back and then dinner. With our aesthetic sense and any trace of frugality already beatenout of us, we picked up another 2 muumuus and a shirt on the way back to the hotel. We ended the day watching Japanese soap operas on TV. Wish we got that channel at home!

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January 08, 2003

Hawai'i Day Four

Not an eventful day. Alex, poor kid, was ill all night with a fever and cough. June stayed with him while I went to the conference. I did my part of a panel discussion about best practices in education and got lots of nice strokes from some of the participants. One said that WebQuests were serving as a rationale for schools around her in Connecticut getting themselves wired. Another said that it was being widely adopted for teacher education in Singapore. Still another said that she'd been doing something similar in Manitoba until she happened on my site and has since been teaching teachers the WebQuest way with great success. The best question from the group asked about maintaining the quality of the links on the site and continuing to scale it up. I said a few things about the forthcoming WebQuest Portal that are specifically there to address that problem. It verified to me that I'm working on the right stuff.


June and I walked down to the beach and then went to Keo's, a Thai restaurant highly recommended by Diane Lapp and Doug Fisher who I bumped into at the converence. Had a green papaya salad, deep fried whole red snapper in green chile sauce and opaka opaka. Yum!

Tonight Alex gets Nyquilled into oblivion in hopes that rest will put him in good stead for more tourism tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

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January 07, 2003

Hawai'i Day Three

I woke up at 7AM to watch Steve Jobs keynote at MacWorld. Couldn't get the QuickTime stream, but I joined a chat room where others were able to see it so I got each bit of news 10 seconds later. It was more eventful than I'd been expecting. The Keynote software looks terrific and I ordered it immediately. They've also added the Ken Burns-type feature into iMovie that I've been lusting after. That will serve me well in my EDTEC 470 class this semester. The new 17 inch PowerBook looks great, too. I think Apple is ahead of most in realizing that there's a growing number of people like me who never use a desktop anymore.

By the time we were all up, it was clear that Alex and I weren't feeling that well. After a late start we headed toward the north shore, but (we HAVE to get a better map) we missed an exit and ended up having lunch near the western shore of Oahu. By this time I realized that I'd left the camera battery charging back at the hotel, I was feeling achy and grumpy, and we decided to postpone the circuminsular expedition until Thursday.

Instead, we took a more modest tour of The Contemporary Museum, a very nice spot overlooking Honolulu, then headed back and crashed. It was dinner time before I felt well enough to venture out again, and J & I explored Waikiki while Alex stayed in. Tomorrow I'm at the conference for my panel presentation. A good night's sleep will remedy things, I hope.

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January 06, 2003

Hawai'i, Day Two

Got a lot packed into one day. One of the virtues of going west is that you wake up earlier in the morning, so even sleepaphilic Alex was up for breakfast at 8. First stop, thanks to a missed exit, was the National Cemetary of the Pacific, a vast and pretty set of fields with tombstones set flat into the ground.


Then on to the Bishop Museum, where a demonstration of various forms of Hawaiian songs, chants and dances was just starting when we arrived. The museum covers the natural and social history of the islands, and includes a planetarium that we might go back to later in the week.


Then on to the USS Arizona Memorial which was a moving and well designed experience. You see a film about Pearl Harbor, then get onto a boat to enter the memorial itself which is anchored over the wreck of the Arizona. It was (ironic? bemusing?) to see Japanese tourists having their pictures taken with the rusting shell of the ship in the background. Next stop, Hilo Hattie's, a megastore for all things Hawaiian. We got caught up in the moment and bought a muumuu for June's Mom, 5 shirts for the rest of us, and salted macademias. Finally, dinner in Chinatown with pretty good seafood and dirty water glasses.

More to see tomorrow.

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January 05, 2003

Hawai'i, Day One

Thank God for the extra leg room on American Airlines. We were all bushed for the flight, having spent all the previous day making the house presentable for the catsitter and finishing up a lot of old business. Six hours sitting in one place is a long time. We got to the hotel and crashed, and only ventured out later for dinner and a stroll down through the Waikiki shopping area. So many Japanese tourists! I guess their economy hasn't tanked completely. Looking forward to a fresh start in the morning.

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