Back to Blacksburg

Well, I’m back in Blacksburg after an incredible global adventure.  Many more pictures and stories will follow, but for now I have two goals: (1) to express how incredibly enriching of an experience I had, and (2) to report back on all of the excitement that has occurred since I have returned.

It’s difficult to enumerate what I learned through my travels, but it was certainly a great deal.  Some involved simply learning new ways of doing everyday things (like turning on the water at the sink with a foot pump– brilliant!).  I was exposed to three new languages as well.  However, at a more complex level, I learned a new culture of education.  For 10 days, we, as a group, visited multiple universities in Switzerland, Italy, and France, learning about how each dealt with a vast multitude of responsibilities, including teaching, outreach, tenure and promotions, research funding, fundraising, alumni relations, examinations, and more.  Oftentimes it was easy to find similarities between the European and US systems.  Other times, the differences were more apparent.   In both cases, it was clear that institutions of higher education could benefit by keeping a global dialogue and collaboration of ideas alive.

It certainly was a life-changing experience.  The Chronicle of Higher Ed recently released an article to solidify this feeling– they say that studying abroad can change one’s brain!

Life since I’ve returned has been equally enriching.  With the help of two trusty research assistants, I am preparing to collect data for my dissertation.  With IRB approval standing behind me, I’ve charged head-first into recruitment.  We’re all reviewing and practicing research protocol, and are looking forward to soon swarming in 4-year-olds.  Meanwhile, the lab remains busy in the midst of many other projects with a variety of age groups.

It’s an exciting summer.  I can hardly wait to report back on all of the excitement to come!

Continuing the global perspectives adventure

This morning I find myself on a train on the way to Strasbourg, France in order to continue my exploration of higher education abroad. After visits to several Swiss institutions, I’m excited to today visit two institutes of higher education in France. I’m interested specifically in exploring self-regulated learning, which has, thus far, been a bit tricky in our visits to research-focused institutions. However, I’ve enjoyed getting creative in this exploration and I look forward to what today will bring.

Hello from Zurich!

Hello all!  I am happy to check in from the Hotel St. Joseph in Zurich.  I have spent the last week on the whirlwind trip of a lifetime across Switzerland.  Across the span of a week, I explored Zurich, Lausanne, Fribourg, Zermatt, and much more!  Now it’s time for business.  Tomorrow starts our exploration of European higher education with trips to the University of Zurich and ETH.  I learned today that Einstein studied at ETH and that U of Zurich is the biggest university in the country.  What a treat to see them both!

Oxford Blocks Google Docs

I hope that everyone is toasty and enjoying this beautiful dusting of snow.

In light of all of the conversation about technology that has been had in the Future Professoriate classes as well as in the majority of pedagogical workshops and conferences I have attended, I thought I’d share the following issue.

Within the last few weeks, Oxford University has blocked from campus the popular online collaboration tool, GoogleDocs.

Clearly, there are enormous benefits to integrating technology such as this into our students’ learning experience.  GoogleDocs, in particular, is a fantastic resource for real-time collaboration among students.

There are drawbacks, too, of course.  Generally, however, discussion that I’ve heard about the drawbacks of technology revolve around student tendencies toward distraction.  I’ve heard much less about upholding student privacy and safety online.

So I’d be interested in everyone’s opinion on this matter.  Has Oxford made the correct decision here?  How can we best provide students with a 21st century education while also protecting them from scams and hoaxes?

Traveling with Technology

Happy Valentine’s Day, all!

I’m writing today with a Chronicle article that is relevant to our discussion at Tuesday’s Global Perspectives meeting about the benefits and drawbacks of traveling this summer with our (relatively heavy) laptops.

While this piece is written with a focus on those traveling to developing countries, I believe that it addresses very well the importance of allowing one’s self to become immersed in a new culture.  It can often be too easy, it explains, to travel abroad but to remain immersed in our familiar world of favorite music and television, for example.  But, it argues, if we can disconnect ourselves just a bit, we can focus on the new culture surrounding us.

I, for one, fully intend to bring some technology to help me to document my experiences, but here’s my pledge that I’ll take some time away from Netflix and my iPod to focus on the incredible journey that we’re about to experience.