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.



12 Responses

  1. Barbara, it’s so good to see a post from you again. I’m planning to go to the Faculty Academy, so I’ll get to see you f2f again!

  2. Hi Barbara, your first-year seminar looks so cool! I wish I could take it. Is there a reason why you can’t teach more classes like that for upper-level students??? I’m really excited to hear how the mentoring between undergrads and high school students go. On paper (ok, on the web), the class sounds perfect. I’m working with a friend on a project for our poverty seminar… we’re looking at parent involvement at Mary Hogan. We’re hoping to show that by bridging informal and formal learning by having the kids use their parents as resources for small interview assignments, that schools can help heal the bridge between families and schools. We’re mainly focusing on how students and parents form all socioeconomic levels can participate in some form of involvement. Point being that parents should be able to be involved without the expectation of classroom involvement (due to schedules…). Anyway, it really reminds me of you and your classes in that a focus on interdisciplinarity and wide variety of arts integration (and now technology too)–is key in getting everyone involved.

    Well, I will be really happy to see you next fall. I’d really really like to organize a 500 project with you, perhaps for next spring. Until then, happy travels, conferences, writing, blogging, thinking-about-education, and of course, family time.

  3. Welcome back to the blogosphere! We missed you!

  4. It’s great to hear from you that you had great vacation with your family and then lots of work you have done can be seen through your post. Great to see you back with full of energy. ATB

  5. By the way, do you have any books or articles you’d recommend that discuss what “informal learning” is and why certain educators are believing it to be increasingly important? Anything I can skim over for this paper/project would be great, and I really take to heart your recommendations and advice.

  6. Barbara, what a lovely post, and you sure haven’t waisted much time on your semester off, busy, busy, busy!!!

    It was lovely to meet you in Bergen! Actually, to me it was simply magical, and it all seems almost like a wonderful dream now. Your lecture at UiB was remarkable and very inspiring, and the dinner I was able to attend together with you, Jon, Jill and Scott was simply magical. A moment in my life that I will treasure in my heart for as long as I live!!!! Scott’s cooking truly was exquisite, and the conversations around the dinner table immensely captivating, absorbing, and enlightening 🙂 I sure hope we’ll be able to meet again one day soon. As they say; where there is a will there is a way 🙂 and since New England is an area I would love to visit and explore I may just knock on your door before you know it 😉 However, first I need a job to save some money for travelling!!

    I hope you and your daughter enjoyed travelling in Norway, and that the sun surfaced and kept you warm, content, and happy! I believe our fjords are absolutely astounding, but you need good weather to fully appreciate them, as I sailor I do know this!!

  7. Thanks for the welcome-back messages Laura, ATB and Barbara S. I am now back in the States as well as on the blog and Vermont looks about as lovely as anywhere could in the spring. And I’m looking forward to having the time to put down some thoughts here. Laura–it will be great to see you and have your invaluable input at Faculty Academy. Yay!

    What an interesting project you’ve embarked on this semester at Mary hogan. I would be very interested in reading your project/paper when it is finished. Of course I am not at all surprised to see you moving in this direction! I have an excellent book on informal/formal learning spaces by James Paul Gee, called Situated Language and Learning. I’ll bring it to my office today and leave it for you taped to my door. And a 500-project? Let’s talk!


    I had a wonderful time in your spectacular country. We had incredible weather the entire week we toured the fjords, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. I could picture you sailing along the coast! Meeting you was a highlight of the trip. I very much look forward to following your blogging journey, and hope that you will find your way to Vermont one of these days!


  8. Thanks, Barbara. I will pick it up within the hour. Can you tell me where this concept of “blended learning” comes from? The dichotomy of informal and formal is troubling to me at times, but I like “blended.”

  9. I am impressed by your blog. It is great,amazing and resourceful.I am currently an oversea full-time postgraduate student at University of Bristol in UK, major in Education Technology and Society. Now, i am perparing my thesis which topic is focus on how blogs will enhance teaching and learning.Obversously, you have done a lot of great work around this area and i believe you will be an expert who i should go and interview. If you wouldn’t mind, i would like to ask you few questions about your blogging experiences and your own feeling towards the statement of blog will support teaching and learning.The interview could be held by email.I hope you wouldn’t mind.

    Hope to hear from you soon.Thanks.

  10. My email is: jiaoyang1106@gmail.com

  11. Barbara, thank you so much! I truly can’t believe that meeting me could be a hightlight of your trip, but it has nevertheless gone straight to my heart 🙂

    You will never guess it, but my partner came home yesterday and surprised me with a 9-day trip to New York!!! I’m ecstatically happy to say the least :o) We’ll be visiting his best friend from childhood who has lived in New York for 22 years! Afterwards we’re heading up to New Hampshire to visit my daughter, her boy-friend and his family there. I’m really hoping to get around New England as I really would love to see a lot of New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachussets, and Maine. I’m so excited, and can barely wait to embark, and I know for a fact that I will not be dissapointed 🙂

    So I just may knock on your door sooner than you had anticipated. It truly would be amazing to see you again, and explore the town and state in which you and your family reside 🙂

  12. I’m here to think and to practice making innovative connections.

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