Last year a University of Pennsylvania @MCDPEL group traveled to Helsinki to study education in Finland. Two weekend ago, three members of this group, Joe Mazza, Martha Richmond and I had the opportunity to attend the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL) Spring 2014 Conference in Anchorage, Alaska.
Our goal at this conference was to share understandings from last year, but also to learn from others from around the world -- Australia, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Guam, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, South Africa, United Kingdom, Canada, and many other countries. Workshops spanned a variety of topics from Creating a Learning-Scape to Explore Digital, Social, and Mobile Media, designing MOOCs and Bridging the Digital Divide.
I arrived late Thursday night.
The conference did not begin until Saturday so I explored part Anchorage. First impressions of the city include the breathtaking landscape, the coastal range, fjords, glaciers, peaks, and off in the distance the Alaska Range.
Photo of the mountains east of Anchorage
Friday morning I walked around the city center. There were messages with a flavor of the frontier town explaining the realities of living in Anchorage.
I rented a bicycle from Pablo’s Bike Rental – a shipping container full of bicycles. The legend on the official bike map of the city displayed unique markings including a yellow cone for construction areas, a little school house for each school and a bear paw for bear activity. The bike map also told me how to share the road and avoid the “door zone” -- when a car opens its door and the bike rider crashes into it. On the other side it explained that with brown bears you must play dead, but with a black bear, you fight back. Ok, I thought, so this was a normal map except all the schools and bear activity locations are noted. I can not think of a map I have seen that chose to highlight these items.
On my ride I came upon a moose right on the path, then later, I noticed a gentleman standing on the bike trail trying to decide what to do. A different moose was lying next to the path, at her side was a calf. He decided to bushwhack, carrying his bike around the sleeping moose. He shared with me that the mother had her ears back which meant she
would attack. He told me to check out the youtube video of a recent Anchorage moose attack. It occurred to me I ought to get ready for the conference so I headed back to the hotel. I registered for the conference and met up with colleagues from #Pennfinn13.
This post is an introduction to my learning and future blogs will share further insights from several standout presentations. As a primer of the conference, I was inspired by Jorg Waltje of the Center for Teaching and learning at the United Arab Emirates. Professor Waltje’e description of his program are highlighted in descriptive slides and the powerpoint. What intrigued me the most about this presentation was cross cultural similarities of implementing any one-to-one or technology initiative. Trying to adopt the SAMR model, where members or the community move from simply substituting their current practice with technology (e.g. using a smartboard as a blackboard) to redefining how they do work using technology (such as collaborating with someone on the other side of the world, in real time using google docs) in the UAE is no different than educational institutions in the USA.
The conference participants were thoughtful, insightful and we will share several more blogs, but I could not help but make the comparison with the SAMR model of the people of Anchorage who have redefined how they ride bicycles, produce signage and live their lives -- to our implementation of technology. While living in New England and my distant travels to Alaska, I realized we are simply individuals trying to learn from one another -- the SAMR model provides a universal theme for learning, no matter what the technology.
~ Jennifer Botzojorns (@JenCESUVT) is a member of Cohort 11 in @PennGSE's Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership.