Sweden and Norway : Talking and Touring

The Sognefjord

Yes, I’ve been away from the blog for a month now, first with my family, and for the past almost three weeks, in Scandinavia for a workshop and a couple of talks and a bit of touring. I left home the day of the Virginia Tech tragedy and have relied on blogs for much of my contact with the U.S. since then; it is a strange time to be away, with disturbing reports streaming across the Atlantic.

Out of the distance; blog reading; travel; and stimulating talk with people at the Humlab in Umeå, the conference at Skelleftea, and the University of Bergen talk are stirring my next series of talks and workshops this month, at The University of Mary Washington”s Faculty Academy, Webheads in Action Online Convergence and the Vermont State Colleges’ Academic Retreat. I am convinced that while it’s important to keep talking about change in education writ large, the most important work occurs day by day in our schools and in our communities writ small. Especially now. Will’s discouragement by the rate and depth of change is to be expected–absolutely–. I find people get quite excited about rethinking teaching and learning — during and just after conferences–but to return to their schools and really make profound shifts takes an unusual level of energy, commitment and, well, bull-headedness. It takes time. Passion. (Someone in Sweden called me a tsunami after my Skelleftea talk.) The kind of change I’m talking about bubbles up from the trenches, one teacher at a time, one classroom at a time, one school at a time, something I wrote about for a talk in England a year ago: Losing Hope to Effect Change.

After a semester spent partly on the road urging people to examine teaching and learning practices, shifting our thinking about what goes on in our classrooms, I am looking forward to getting back to day-to-day practice once again. I’ve got a couple of new courses that will push my thinking and test my practice, including a new first-year seminar:

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Exploring the Far Reaches of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

As twenty-first century writers capturing our experience of place and time, we choose from a smorgasbord of media, forms and audiences, both traditional and emerging. In this workshop-style course designed for students interested in creative nonfiction, we will explore the far reaches of writing today through exercises, research, field trips, presentations and collaborations, We will read John D’Agata’s The Next American Essay as we also examine and engage in blogging, hypertext, radio stories, and/or multimedia essays. At semester’s end we will publish our work online. We will also mentor Vermont high school writers, online and /or in person.

It will be interesting to see if the course description entices any incoming students into joining me in this exploration. In the meantime, I’ll post more thoughts on the upcoming talks and text/audio versions of recent talks, once I’ve returned to Vermont. For now, from Bergen Norway, here are links to my talk slides and wiki.

The workshop at the University of Umeå’s Humlab
It was great to meet Patrik Svensson and to see Stephanie Hendrick again and to think about guest blogging at some point for them. What a terrific facility, and more important, a magnificent concept for collaboration between faculty from across the university:

The basic idea behind it is to stimulate innovative cooperation in a dynamic interdisciplinary setting. Here the humanities and culture on the one hand and modern information and media technology on the other interface and collaborate, both in real terms and virtually. HUMlab attracts students, lecturers, researchers, artists, engineers, media people and others. The aim is to bring together a diverse range of individuals and groups in a creative, stimulating and innovative milieu and – via new methods, new technology and interdisciplinary projects – do things that have never been done before.

From the Humlab blog

From what Patrik said, and what I felt in the room, Bryan’s presence is still very much about the place! Of course, knowing he’d been there helped put me at ease from the get-go. I very much enjoyed working with the teacher educators
deep learning exercise umea workshop, and engaging in such stimulating conversations about blended learning with my gracious host
dag and peeter from Umea at SkellefteaDag, and Peter and their colleagues.
I created
a wiki for them and a practice blog, based in part on the wiki Bryan Alexander set up for our Educause workshop, and the one Barbara Sawhill and I made for our NAIS workshop in February.

The Skelleftea Conference
brought 120 or so educators from throughout Sweden together to discuss the future of blended learning. The day introduced me to Chuck Dzubian
chuck dzubian at Skelleftea
and his research on blended learning,
and Brian Hudson
brian hudson at Skelleftea
and his experience with a blended learning, inter-campus Masters’ program.
Useful talks both, with lots of supporting data and literature. The talks were recorded and will be available on the conference site at some point–(the one thing I would change about their site, now that I am looking at it, is the Dr. next to my name, a title I don’t own, though is often assumed to be mine in Europe as I am a Lecturer–which of course means something different over here–and I have the good fortune of teaching in such a fine undergraduate institution.)

Slide1 skelleftea
Here are my slides from the talk. Once the audio is available I will create a file that weaves them together.

Then it was on to Bergen where I met the remarkable Jill Walker and Scott Rettberg (and ate his amazing cooking), and the wonderful Toril Salen and her blogging cohorts.
Bergen bloggers
I also saw Jan Hoem again, who had given a great presentation at Blogtalk2 in Vienna.

Slide1 Bergen

Here are the talk slides; I’ll post the audio when I return.