Of Vinyl Signs and Other Signs

I am lucky to be able to walk to work. I do. Everyday.

I walk along a river and through a park. It is beautiful.

Today, when I reached the campus I made a short detour and stopped by the beautiful roses blooming in the gardens of our Teaching and Learning Center. How wonderful is that! A teaching and Learning Center with a garden! It is beautiful.

I recorded the moment. I shared it.

What a glorious beginning to the first day of summer here on campus.

Even in all that beauty, I left the garden with an ache that I have had most every time I visit the garden. It is this: The sign for the Teaching and Learning Center is a piece of vinyl strung up mostly strait across the front of a lovely old farm house.

It does not seem like an integral or permanent part of the building. It is an after thought. It reminds me of the level of support I have seen at most teaching and learning centers. It reminds me of lip-service to trends in education. Of an award given reluctantly. That is not beautiful. It does not seem as if it is there permanently. It is a temporary sign.

There is a story in there. Enough said.

I wonder how long that vinyl banner will last.

When You Plan for Fun Activities but Just Keep Talking

Last week, I attended the Building Bridges conference in Spokane, Washington. The conference is regional, always located in the Pacific Northwest states, and it brought a variety of people in the education landscape to the beautiful downtown area of Spokane. I had never seen the Spokane Falls or the beautiful Centennial Trail that covers about 50 miles along the Spokane river.  One afternoon I took a nice run along the river and ran around the Gonzaga University campus for a bit.

The conference had good attendance and the venue was beautiful.

I tried out a new presentation about ways we may better engage faculty in development opportunities as educators.Conference Website banner

Here is the website I used as a presentation. No PowerPoints allowed for me these days. I figure I am the presentation, and I can make the website do all the work I need for visuals. As usual, I shook the hands of all who entered the session and joked about the Harry Nilsson playing in the background. There were about 30 attendees and I had some good activities for them to complete during the session. Sadly, I never got to them.

I had in mind an active session, but I got caught up in explaining the ideas I was presenting. As a presenter, it is an interesting thing to have grand plans that are instantly recognized as impossible. I knew after about ten minutes that I had too many damn things to say and I was going to choose telling them stuff rather than to have them do stuff.

I told them as much. At least I was honest about my plan and my choice to follow a new path. No one seemed too upset. Some of the things I shared were kinds catchy and fun, and I did ask if people had questions a number of times during the session. There was some interaction and some participants did do the activities I had prepared. Generally, the message I had was received.

Without going into much detail, I tried to share some of the professional development activities I have been involved in that were variations on the hour-long workshop, a PDF file, or website with some information on it. You can see those listed along the top navigation on the presentation website listed above. Essentially, trying to find formats, timeframes, and content that fit together in a way that make them things faculty want to do. That is tricky.

I got good feedback from some participants saying that they may use some of the ideas expressed in the future. I suppose that is a win!

I struggled with the room set up as usual. I almost got the nerve up to move the tables into a large horseshoe, but wimped out.

I met some really good people from all over the PNW and hope to be able to attend the event again next year.

Our New 20 Minute a Day Canvas Workout!

This should be fun! Along with sort of moderating it, I just finished two presentations for next month.

One is about changing our professional development model from a static resource and one hour workshop to some longer events. The other is about making workshops you do have more interesting.

event banner decorative

Beginning Monday, February 27th!
20 Minutes a Day – 5 Days

Join your colleagues for a fun and fast paced five-day Canvas Workout.

It is all online, so you won’t even have to get out of your chair! In just 20 minutes or less each day we are going to stretch your Canvas muscles and make you feel great about your capabilities using Canvas.

Each daily workout contains a short reading and an activity to complete. After the workout, you can hang out and chat with your colleagues or just dry off and head home. Either way, you’ll have stretched yourself a bit and that will make you feel good!

To register, please add your name and email address here. You will be added to the workout course as an instructor and it will be available at 8:00 am on Monday the 27th.

See you at the workout!

If you have questions about the workout, or Canvas in general, please contact Todd at tconaway@uw.edu or 425.352.5334

Your personal trainers for this workout are your friendly partners at UWB Learning Technologies.

Story: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

A huge hero of mine has taken the day off from all this electric rectangular bright and chaotic mumbo jumbo. In fact, he is taking the year off. That is an interesting idea. To me anyway.

I remember thinking as he was sharing his thoughts about leaving, how remarkable it has been these past several years to disciver digital introductions to people and then have those turn out to be something more. At first Jabiz was just some guy playing along with #ds106 and we somehow survived that. He is an artist in every definition of the word. He inspired me. He still does. He says of himself:

Jabiz Bio

The relationship went from tweets about #ds106 to having him talk via Skype to a class I was teaching on educational technology. He was brilliant. The students in my class were inspired. I was inspired.

In fact, I am hoping to wind the most recent inspiration from him into this networked narratives course. More on that later, but I am excited and thankful for the inspiration. I need that stuff and I know there is more out there. It is likely, that you are it. You know that? It is what you are here for, you know…

For this day I will share a recent addition to a story that has been told before. It is about a book and about a kid and about an old lady and a Rumi quote turned into art. On an island.

I will call it “Yes.”

It begins with Alex. Alex began his junior year at a small boarding school where I taught English. I took a lot of trips outdoors and he ended up backpacking with me to Yosemite, the Redwoods, the Grand Canyon many times, and into the beautiful West Fork of Oak Creek. He walked out there in the wilderness and loved it. He wrote about it.

Alex was killed a month after he stood beside me as I “gave him away” at his high school graduation. I was teaching summer school when that happened and many of his friends from the year before were there with me. It was awful.

I had a hundred pictures of Alex in really beautiful places and video of him walking in the Grand Canyon. And I had words he had written in those places about his experiences.

I made a DVD for his mom that included images, video of him, and some of his writing spoken by his friends. We added some of his favorite music to the video. It was the best I could do at the time and it helped me to make it. His mom sent me a card and an offer to fly my wife and I anywhere we wanted. It took me nearly two years to accept the offer, but we did.

It was 2003, and I only knew a little about computers and stuff. Here is a low res version of some of the video.

His mom flew us from arid Arizona to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington. We stayed at a bed and breakfast there and ended up going back most every summer for over 10 years. It changed our family. One trip, in a small art store called Olga Artworks, I bought a card with a painting of kids flying through the air with balloons. On it was a quote from Rumi.

I put the card on my desk at work and I looked at the card for two years. Everyday. I finally gave it to my daughter on her 16th birthday.

On a trip to Orcas after that, I purchased several more of the same card. On the back was an email address. I sent the person an email asking if they might enlarge the print for me. I was willing to pay. The person send me back an email saying they would send me the original. In 2013 I wrote this part of the story here.

This is the new part of the story.

This is the part that has some soft hugs and a walk outside in a light rain. It is the part that has hearing the laughter of an 80 year old. This is the part of the story I can touch.

I never met the artist of the painting above on the island. By the time I actually got around to contacting her and hoping for a short visit, she had become ill and was not interested in meeting new people. Through the Olga Artworks I learned she had to be sent to an assisted living facility in Anacortes on the mainland. I called her there when we moved to Washington eight months ago to be closer to Orcas Island.

I have visited her three times now with our family and bring her pastries. She is beautiful. Through her generosity she has made me hopeful. And inspired. We are headed up there again soon. She will be happy to see us.

I am trying to say “Yes” more. I am saying “Yes” more.

Those are some words for this day.