Musings ...

Here are a few things that have come across my radar but haven't quite made it to full post status. Enjoy ...
Apr 16
Permalink
Sep 07
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This is from the Slideshare presentation Designing, developing, and running (massive) open online courses George Siemens, PhD September 4, 2012 Presented to: University of South Africa, which  I learned about (a presentation given just three days ago) via my PLN on Scoop.it. http://www.slideshare.net/gsiemens/designing-and-running-a-mooc.

I’ve been MOOCing about this morning, running aMOOC more like it, on Scoop.it
http://www.scoop.it/t/edumooc/p/2617742314/designing-and-running-a-mooc.That Scoop gives the direct link to our next event September 9, 2012 on http://learning2gether.pbworks.com. I do a lot of interaction with Ana Cristina Pratas who it appears was unaware until I invited her to come online this Sunday that I was interacting with her at all.

I’m looking forward to the chat on Sunday because I think this approach, where a network forms without anyone’s even being aware of it, is more in line with my vision for teacher training and professional development.

There’s a TESOL Arabia SIG with that name. Photos of most teacher training events (worldwide, I mean) show presenters at the front of a room full of passive participants, and believe me there are several of me like that, standing at the front of a room with a projection screen behind me, maybe a PPT on the screen, participants arrayed throughout the room in desks in squared rows, experiencing what Wesley Fryer calls “sit and get” which he decries as a model we should really be getting away from …

I’m thinking these are images we should try and change.  I’m sure that many share the vision but we should have pictures of people clustered over computers, people for whatever reason, and nothing wrong with it, who wanted to convene in one place on the weekend, while the presenters are back home in Abu Dhabi or London, or wherever, and the participants could be anywhere as well.

This vision highlights a DISTINCTION between teacher training and professional development. I have often mentioned in my work the distinction between training and learning.  For example, I can train people in SCUBA diving by running them through a set program where I guide them through discrete steps designed to make them comfortable enough in the water that they can go on to develop their skills on their own without needing an instructor present. This is training, and what they do on their own is where we might call it learning.

We start SCUBA training in the pool and work up to the ocean.  When we meet passive participants at desks in a room and don’t ask them to DO anything, this is training.  At least in the pool, the students are DOING something (they are motivated at every step to stay alive by breathing under water while practicing more and more complicated skills; they are being trained in the skills but they are LEARNING to breathe without worrying about it).

Professional development begins when participants start to DO things.  They can be trained in discrete skills online or face to face, but when they do this online, they are LEARNING to cope in an online environment.  Just as in diving, they’ll be uncomfortable with it at first, but they’ll soon LEARN to breathe easily.  Once they’ve learned that, their scope for professional development (as opposed to training) is greatly magnified.  

It’s something we do weekly in Learning2gether.  It’s a trivial process as compared to organizing, arranging, paying for a face-to-face event where everyone has to devote a huge chunk of a weekend for it.

People who learn online will travel to conference locations to see their friends, and especially to do something that people who don’t learn online can’t do: meet their recent acquaintances with whom they’ve bonded in the online world.  Potential for interaction at F2F events is therefore magnified.  People who engage in always-on professional development can’t understand what those who don’t are waiting for.

But this is not to say that we in any way wish to belittle such colleagues.  We were all in that position at one time, though only some of us have made the leap from teacher TRAINING into the world of online professional development; i.e. taking control of your own LEARNING.   But it means that those who have made that leap are empathetic and willing to extend a hand to help others bridge the chasm. Being a proponent of learning online means you are constantly seeking opportunities to practice and model what you have learned.  This means that those who have developed their skills online find it helps them improve these skills, and learn more about them, if they can practice them by helping others to learn them too.

So join us.  If you’re looking for places to start, come to http://learning2gether.pbworks.com this Sunday, or any Sunday.  Or get involved with the PLNs and communities of practice at http://evosessions.pbworks.com, or http://edtechtalk.com, or http://webheads.info. You’ll be surprised and pleased at how quickly your affective filter lowers, and you become motivated to meet and learn from your new friends (that is, the professional colleague you’ll meet online). Come on in, the water’s fine, you’ll soon be breathing comfortably in the new environment.


Today on Facebook, Nik Peachey posted about what he’d written two days ago:


(image location http://screencast.com/t/E9LuiVvK)

15 reasons why online teacher development works best
http://nikpeachey.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/online-teacher-development-works-best.html

This is from the Slideshare presentation Designing, developing, and running (massive) open online courses George Siemens, PhD September 4, 2012 Presented to: University of South Africa, which  I learned about (a presentation given just three days ago) via my PLN on Scoop.it. 
http://www.slideshare.net/gsiemens/designing-and-running-a-mooc.


I’ve been MOOCing about this morning, running aMOOC more like it, on Scoop.it
http://www.scoop.it/t/edumooc/p/2617742314/designing-and-running-a-mooc.That Scoop gives the direct link to our next event September 9, 2012 on http://learning2gether.pbworks.com. I do a lot of interaction with Ana Cristina Pratas who it appears was unaware until I invited her to come online this Sunday that I was interacting with her at all.


I’m looking forward to the chat on Sunday because I think this approach, where a network forms without anyone’s even being aware of it, is more in line with my vision for teacher training and professional development.


There’s a TESOL Arabia SIG with that name. Photos of most teacher training events (worldwide, I mean) show presenters at the front of a room full of passive participants, and believe me there are several of me like that, standing at the front of a room with a projection screen behind me, maybe a PPT on the screen, participants arrayed throughout the room in desks in squared rows, experiencing what Wesley Fryer calls “sit and get” which he decries as a model we should really be getting away from …


I’m thinking these are images we should try and change.  I’m sure that many share the vision but we should have pictures of people clustered over computers, people for whatever reason, and nothing wrong with it, who wanted to convene in one place on the weekend, while the presenters are back home in Abu Dhabi or London, or wherever, and the participants could be anywhere as well.


This vision highlights a DISTINCTION between teacher training and professional development. I have often mentioned in my work the distinction between training and learning.  For example, I can train people in SCUBA diving by running them through a set program where I guide them through discrete steps designed to make them comfortable enough in the water that they can go on to develop their skills on their own without needing an instructor present. This is training, and what they do on their own is where we might call it learning.


We start SCUBA training in the pool and work up to the ocean.  When we meet passive participants at desks in a room and don’t ask them to DO anything, this is training.  At least in the pool, the students are DOING something (they are motivated at every step to stay alive by breathing under water while practicing more and more complicated skills; they are being trained in the skills but they are LEARNING to breathe without worrying about it).


Professional development begins when participants start to DO things.  They can be trained in discrete skills online or face to face, but when they do this online, they are LEARNING to cope in an online environment.  Just as in diving, they’ll be uncomfortable with it at first, but they’ll soon LEARN to breathe easily.  Once they’ve learned that, their scope for professional development (as opposed to training) is greatly magnified.  


It’s something we do weekly in Learning2gether.  It’s a trivial process as compared to organizing, arranging, paying for a face-to-face event where everyone has to devote a huge chunk of a weekend for it.


People who learn online will travel to conference locations to see their friends, and especially to do something that people who don’t learn online can’t do: meet their recent acquaintances with whom they’ve bonded in the online world.  Potential for interaction at F2F events is therefore magnified.  People who engage in always-on professional development can’t understand what those who don’t are waiting for.


But this is not to say that we in any way wish to belittle such colleagues.  We were all in that position at one time, though only some of us have made the leap from teacher TRAINING into the world of online professional development; i.e. taking control of your own LEARNING.   But it means that those who have made that leap are empathetic and willing to extend a hand to help others bridge the chasm. Being a proponent of learning online means you are constantly seeking opportunities to practice and model what you have learned.  This means that those who have developed their skills online find it helps them improve these skills, and learn more about them, if they can practice them by helping others to learn them too.


So join us.  If you’re looking for places to start, come to http://learning2gether.pbworks.com this Sunday, or any Sunday.  Or get involved with the PLNs and communities of practice at http://evosessions.pbworks.com, or http://edtechtalk.com, or http://webheads.info. You’ll be surprised and pleased at how quickly your affective filter lowers, and you become motivated to meet and learn from your new friends (that is, the professional colleague you’ll meet online). Come on in, the water’s fine, you’ll soon be breathing comfortably in the new environment.


Today on Facebook, Nik Peachey posted about what he’d written two days ago:
Nik's Facebook posting
(image location http://screencast.com/t/E9LuiVvK)


15 reasons why online teacher development works best
http://nikpeachey.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/online-teacher-development-works-best.html
Dec 24
Permalink
     I’ve  been meaning to write a New Year’s message for some time but wondering  how to couch it.  Now that the end of 2011 has arrived I’m happy to be  able to write on a decidedly upbeat note.  Just recently, our immediate  family was all together, well not exactly at Christmas, a week before,  but it felt exactly like Christmas.  The timing was due to the fact that  Bobbi was planning to spend Christmas with her mom in Houston, and  Gulya and Gwenny were heading for Uzbekistan to be with HER mom in  Samarkand at Christmas. Dusty was heading to Kazakhstan for skiing and  to give a best man’s speech at a friend’s wedding, and Glenn was going  back to Doha to resume his work teaching at Christmas.  I am doing the  same in Abu Dhabi, teaching Christmas day at the Navy College.
     I  finally got that job in October, barely two months ago. Bobbi and I  have since moved into a new apartment provided by HCT, Higher Colleges  of Technology, my new employer http://hct.ac.ae.  My professional life is getting back on track. I have actually been  working two jobs, one with New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) here  in Abu Dhabi, teaching research-paper writing, and experimenting with  digital techniques in doing that. I’ve carried those techniques over  into work in my new job teaching Academic Composition at the Naval College,  and I’ve proposed to use this as my subject at a plenary I’ve been  invited to give in Morocco in February: http://learning2gether.posterous.com/learner-centred-do-it-yourself-learning-manag. I’ll be revisiting that topic at conferences in Dubai and Sharjah in March and April.  My work with http://learning2gether.posterous.com has got me two presentations accepted, one at the annual TESOL  Conference in Philadelphia, and the other at the TESOL Arabia conference  here in Dubai, UAE.  To top it off, I’m due to submit in a few weeks a  revision of an article a colleague and I have been working on to Writing  & Pedagogy for inclusion in an upcoming issue. I’m sure I’ll make  that deadline now that I’m down to just one job.
     So  I’ve ended the year with apartment, family happy and intact, and job  and career back on an upward turn. In the current world economy that’s no  mean feat. People with any kind of job are the lucky ones these days.  But earlier this year things were not looking so rosy.
     It  started when Dusty and I returned from a winter ski trip to Austria and  Beirut, where we’d gone to help Dusty get over a problem he was having  at the time.  On return, Jan 10, I was told I had an appointment with  the director of my department at Petroleum Institute where I’d been  working the past eight years. Three of us were called in, actually, and told the department was being downsized, and we all were given 5  months to prepare for departure from PI.   
     From that point onwards a lot of my creative energy which had  been going into many worthwhile projects, notably http://www.pimoodle.org/course/view.php?id=69 showcasing work just completed at the PI itself, was sapped in filling  out job applications, which I did pretty assiduously for a while until I  noticed that most were resulting in rejections because the upper age  limit for hiring in UAE is a policy in  flux, and I was passing the 60-year mark as that upper age limit is only slowly being changed to 65. In  many places, not just the UAE, I found that perception manifested in  hiring policy.
     I  had better luck at the TESOL convention in New Orleans where I got  several strong leads, but each fizzled until I finally got invited to an  interview in Oregon, the only posting in the United States that I had  applied for.  I have many dear friends and colleagues there, I appreciate very much their encouragement and support, and would  like to have joined them. But when that rejection came in mid-August, this was a low  point in a tumultuous year.
     The  big problem was that my termination date at the PI was on July 10 and I  was only allowed to keep our apartment where we’d lived since 1997 for  one month afterwards.  It was only through a kind person at PI who  intervened on my behalf with the parent company ADNOC that Bobbi and I  were allowed to keep our apartment until its lease terminated at the end  of September. So at the time of my trip to Oregon we had only just  worked out that we’d have a place to stay in Abu Dhabi for the following  month, and then of course there were the questions of our visas and  Bobbi’s school commitments the coming year, not to mention mine, and the logistics I won’t bore  you with of staying on in a country where you need a residence visa to  rent and to arrange lots of the minutiae of existence in the UAE, like  your telephone, health insurance, it goes on and on. Quite a lot was in  flux and much time was consumed looking at flats we could barely afford  and plotting ways to get visas through a friend’s company or through  starting my own consulting company in the RAK free zone. Meanwhile we  had to leave and re-enter the country each month in order to renew our  tourist visas, which I managed through traveling to conferences where  I’d inquire about work (one in Istanbul, another in India http://www.vancestevens.com/papers/index.html#2011-06-17).  Bobbi and I also crossed the border on frequent diving trips to Oman; e.g. http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.com/2011/09/bobbi-and-vance-fun-diving-at.html and http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.com/2011/10/diving-in-damaniyite-islands-with.html (not that bad a life, really; this must be one reason we wanted to stay here).
 
     By  the end of August things were looking bleak, we were wondering if we  should just pack up and leave for Houston, but then a friend told me  that at NYIT they were short of teachers for the semster starting soon  and it would be easy to get on as an adjunct part-time writing teacher. I  easily got that job and accepted for low pay and no benefits mainly to  keep my hand in my profession. On September 11, the same day I started  teaching at NYIT, I finally got an interview at HCT (CERT) for a  teaching job at the Naval College. Meanwhile I had just started teaching  an online course through TESOL for the month of September http://goodbyegutenberg.pbworks.com.   
     So I was quite busy early in September but at about mid-month things  started spiraling even more out of whack.  The new job had still not  materialized in time for Bobbi and I to move smoothly from one place to  another.  Instead we had to prepare to vacate the 4 bedroom flat where  we’d accumulated a lot of junk in 13 years and arrange to have it  collected and stored. Plus we had to find temporary accommodation and  move what we’d need into that by the end of the month and then vacate  our flat.
     Fortunately  we were rescued by a very dear friend whose business had rented properties near  the airport for his employees and had one or two flats vacant.  He  handed us the key to one of them and at least we had a place to move  what we couldn’t live without into while the rest went into storage in  Sharjah. It was a big relief when the movers finally left us a vacant  flat (it took them two days to wrap and box all its contents). Bobbi and  I had a last weekend in our old flat at the end of September, with  nothing there but our computers, a mat to sleep on, and a live Internet  connection.  Up to then there had been much disruption in our personal  and professional lives but at least our virtual connections were being  maintained.
     When  we left the flat and handed over the key, we knew we were entering a  period where Internet would be hard to come by for a while. Fortunately  my online class ended Oct 2 and was not much affected.  We thought we  would have Internet in our new location but the provider was never able  to connect Internet there because the flat we were in had been illegally  subdivided and it was impossible to specify the location from the photocopied first page of the rental agreement provided me, so we were living under the radar  in a nether world as non-residents in the UAE. For that month we  scrounged for Internet at Costa Coffee and at my office at NYIT, the  best thing (apart from my students) about my part-time job, which was  fortunately available to me at any time, I just had to go there.   Meanwhile I was told I had got the job at HCT, but there was further  delay in starting the job awaiting outcome of security clearance.  Finally, I was able to assume the job mid-October, working at the Naval  College during the day, and teaching writing at NYIT two nights a week,  in order to preserve my commitment to the students in that class.
     Having  just passed through ten months of uncertainty and unpredictability, and  then a month of restricted Internet, my priorities had shifted away  from blogging, reflection, etc into where all the time I used to grab  for my muse was going into working hard from 7 to 1:30 each morning  (they start early at the Naval College), often going by HCT for meetings and visa  processing after that, and two nights a week staying on to teach my  classes, plus having to do all the admin, marking, and preparation in  two teaching jobs.  As a result, this posting is the first time I have  blogged since leaving my old apartment at the end of September.  I had  two book chapters due in mid-October and 1st of December, but both fell  by the wayside as I had no time for serious reflective writing. To make  matters worse, the UAE authorities needed my passport at a time when I  was due to fly to Manilla to give a talk at a GLoCALL conference in late  October, and I had to bow out of that as well.
 
     Our  trials were still not over. It was not until November that HCT was able  to provide us housing in the city, and mid-month before we were able to  get the moving company to bring our boxes from storage.  Now we had a  2-bedroom apartment choked full of boxes shipped in from a 4-bedroom  one. It took us weeks to get around to opening enough of the boxes and  shifting enough furniture that we could clear some space for ourselves to  move comfortably around our flat. It was at this time I was so exhausted  that I found out only the night before that I had been designated lead  marshal in a half marathon being run next day, only no one had notified  me beforehand, so I missed that as well.  Crunch time came mid-December  when we were barely able to clear the second bedroom in order to welcome  our dear son and his wife and daughter to stay with us and take the  photo that you see at the top of this posting.
     So  Bobbi and I will be pleased to see the end of 2011, but having survived  it, if we’ve not exactly landed on our feet this time, we’ve at least  dusted off and kept on truckin’. And we are very much looking forward to  moving on in the coming year.  Bobbi can continue with her work with children, where she is assuming greater responsibility, and I was made  teacher coordinator in my new position, where my skills in educational  technology are being put to good use in finding ways to engage Naval  Cadets who come to class carrying laptops but were using them to  sometimes ignore teachers with books and handouts. I’m trying to get  them using Google Docs in the academic composition class I’m teaching.  So far it’s working, slowly but surely.
     Bobbi  and I are too resilient and persevering to complain about these things,  but I mean here first of all to THANK the many people who have helped  us through this, because by and large this was an experience where we  found out who our best friends are, so thank YOU.  Secondly, to those to  whom I had made commitments but was unable to meet them, I’d like to  explain what happened, partially by way of apology, and partly to get it  off my chest because I finally met a wall I could uncharacteristically  not scramble over.  And finally, to those friends to whom I have not had  time to write all year, I’d like to let you know (at this traditional  time for such things) that we are fine and overcoming our temporary  setback, and that we feel we are back on an upward spiral, positive  outlook restored.
     And to all, a happy holiday season and end of year and all the best for the next one.

     I’ve been meaning to write a New Year’s message for some time but wondering how to couch it.  Now that the end of 2011 has arrived I’m happy to be able to write on a decidedly upbeat note.  Just recently, our immediate family was all together, well not exactly at Christmas, a week before, but it felt exactly like Christmas.  The timing was due to the fact that Bobbi was planning to spend Christmas with her mom in Houston, and Gulya and Gwenny were heading for Uzbekistan to be with HER mom in Samarkand at Christmas. Dusty was heading to Kazakhstan for skiing and to give a best man’s speech at a friend’s wedding, and Glenn was going back to Doha to resume his work teaching at Christmas.  I am doing the same in Abu Dhabi, teaching Christmas day at the Navy College.

     I finally got that job in October, barely two months ago. Bobbi and I have since moved into a new apartment provided by HCT, Higher Colleges of Technology, my new employer http://hct.ac.ae. My professional life is getting back on track. I have actually been working two jobs, one with New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) here in Abu Dhabi, teaching research-paper writing, and experimenting with digital techniques in doing that. I’ve carried those techniques over into work in my new job teaching Academic Composition at the Naval College, and I’ve proposed to use this as my subject at a plenary I’ve been invited to give in Morocco in February: http://learning2gether.posterous.com/learner-centred-do-it-yourself-learning-manag. I’ll be revisiting that topic at conferences in Dubai and Sharjah in March and April.  My work with http://learning2gether.posterous.com has got me two presentations accepted, one at the annual TESOL Conference in Philadelphia, and the other at the TESOL Arabia conference here in Dubai, UAE.  To top it off, I’m due to submit in a few weeks a revision of an article a colleague and I have been working on to Writing & Pedagogy for inclusion in an upcoming issue. I’m sure I’ll make that deadline now that I’m down to just one job.

     So I’ve ended the year with apartment, family happy and intact, and job and career back on an upward turn. In the current world economy that’s no mean feat. People with any kind of job are the lucky ones these days. But earlier this year things were not looking so rosy.

     It started when Dusty and I returned from a winter ski trip to Austria and Beirut, where we’d gone to help Dusty get over a problem he was having at the time.  On return, Jan 10, I was told I had an appointment with the director of my department at Petroleum Institute where I’d been working the past eight years. Three of us were called in, actually, and told the department was being downsized, and we all were given 5 months to prepare for departure from PI.  

     From that point onwards a lot of my creative energy which had been going into many worthwhile projects, notably http://www.pimoodle.org/course/view.php?id=69 showcasing work just completed at the PI itself, was sapped in filling out job applications, which I did pretty assiduously for a while until I noticed that most were resulting in rejections because the upper age limit for hiring in UAE is a policy in flux, and I was passing the 60-year mark as that upper age limit is only slowly being changed to 65. In many places, not just the UAE, I found that perception manifested in hiring policy.

     I had better luck at the TESOL convention in New Orleans where I got several strong leads, but each fizzled until I finally got invited to an interview in Oregon, the only posting in the United States that I had applied for.  I have many dear friends and colleagues there, I appreciate very much their encouragement and support, and would like to have joined them. But when that rejection came in mid-August, this was a low point in a tumultuous year.

     The big problem was that my termination date at the PI was on July 10 and I was only allowed to keep our apartment where we’d lived since 1997 for one month afterwards.  It was only through a kind person at PI who intervened on my behalf with the parent company ADNOC that Bobbi and I were allowed to keep our apartment until its lease terminated at the end of September. So at the time of my trip to Oregon we had only just worked out that we’d have a place to stay in Abu Dhabi for the following month, and then of course there were the questions of our visas and Bobbi’s school commitments the coming year, not to mention mine, and the logistics I won’t bore you with of staying on in a country where you need a residence visa to rent and to arrange lots of the minutiae of existence in the UAE, like your telephone, health insurance, it goes on and on. Quite a lot was in flux and much time was consumed looking at flats we could barely afford and plotting ways to get visas through a friend’s company or through starting my own consulting company in the RAK free zone. Meanwhile we had to leave and re-enter the country each month in order to renew our tourist visas, which I managed through traveling to conferences where I’d inquire about work (one in Istanbul, another in India http://www.vancestevens.com/papers/index.html#2011-06-17).  Bobbi and I also crossed the border on frequent diving trips to Oman; e.g. http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.com/2011/09/bobbi-and-vance-fun-diving-at.html and http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.com/2011/10/diving-in-damaniyite-islands-with.html (not that bad a life, really; this must be one reason we wanted to stay here).

 

     By the end of August things were looking bleak, we were wondering if we should just pack up and leave for Houston, but then a friend told me that at NYIT they were short of teachers for the semster starting soon and it would be easy to get on as an adjunct part-time writing teacher. I easily got that job and accepted for low pay and no benefits mainly to keep my hand in my profession. On September 11, the same day I started teaching at NYIT, I finally got an interview at HCT (CERT) for a teaching job at the Naval College. Meanwhile I had just started teaching an online course through TESOL for the month of September http://goodbyegutenberg.pbworks.com.  

     So I was quite busy early in September but at about mid-month things started spiraling even more out of whack.  The new job had still not materialized in time for Bobbi and I to move smoothly from one place to another.  Instead we had to prepare to vacate the 4 bedroom flat where we’d accumulated a lot of junk in 13 years and arrange to have it collected and stored. Plus we had to find temporary accommodation and move what we’d need into that by the end of the month and then vacate our flat.

     Fortunately we were rescued by a very dear friend whose business had rented properties near the airport for his employees and had one or two flats vacant.  He handed us the key to one of them and at least we had a place to move what we couldn’t live without into while the rest went into storage in Sharjah. It was a big relief when the movers finally left us a vacant flat (it took them two days to wrap and box all its contents). Bobbi and I had a last weekend in our old flat at the end of September, with nothing there but our computers, a mat to sleep on, and a live Internet connection.  Up to then there had been much disruption in our personal and professional lives but at least our virtual connections were being maintained.

     When we left the flat and handed over the key, we knew we were entering a period where Internet would be hard to come by for a while. Fortunately my online class ended Oct 2 and was not much affected.  We thought we would have Internet in our new location but the provider was never able to connect Internet there because the flat we were in had been illegally subdivided and it was impossible to specify the location from the photocopied first page of the rental agreement provided me, so we were living under the radar in a nether world as non-residents in the UAE. For that month we scrounged for Internet at Costa Coffee and at my office at NYIT, the best thing (apart from my students) about my part-time job, which was fortunately available to me at any time, I just had to go there.  Meanwhile I was told I had got the job at HCT, but there was further delay in starting the job awaiting outcome of security clearance. Finally, I was able to assume the job mid-October, working at the Naval College during the day, and teaching writing at NYIT two nights a week, in order to preserve my commitment to the students in that class.

     Having just passed through ten months of uncertainty and unpredictability, and then a month of restricted Internet, my priorities had shifted away from blogging, reflection, etc into where all the time I used to grab for my muse was going into working hard from 7 to 1:30 each morning (they start early at the Naval College), often going by HCT for meetings and visa processing after that, and two nights a week staying on to teach my classes, plus having to do all the admin, marking, and preparation in two teaching jobs.  As a result, this posting is the first time I have blogged since leaving my old apartment at the end of September.  I had two book chapters due in mid-October and 1st of December, but both fell by the wayside as I had no time for serious reflective writing. To make matters worse, the UAE authorities needed my passport at a time when I was due to fly to Manilla to give a talk at a GLoCALL conference in late October, and I had to bow out of that as well.

 

     Our trials were still not over. It was not until November that HCT was able to provide us housing in the city, and mid-month before we were able to get the moving company to bring our boxes from storage.  Now we had a 2-bedroom apartment choked full of boxes shipped in from a 4-bedroom one. It took us weeks to get around to opening enough of the boxes and shifting enough furniture that we could clear some space for ourselves to move comfortably around our flat. It was at this time I was so exhausted that I found out only the night before that I had been designated lead marshal in a half marathon being run next day, only no one had notified me beforehand, so I missed that as well.  Crunch time came mid-December when we were barely able to clear the second bedroom in order to welcome our dear son and his wife and daughter to stay with us and take the photo that you see at the top of this posting.

     So Bobbi and I will be pleased to see the end of 2011, but having survived it, if we’ve not exactly landed on our feet this time, we’ve at least dusted off and kept on truckin’. And we are very much looking forward to moving on in the coming year.  Bobbi can continue with her work with children, where she is assuming greater responsibility, and I was made teacher coordinator in my new position, where my skills in educational technology are being put to good use in finding ways to engage Naval Cadets who come to class carrying laptops but were using them to sometimes ignore teachers with books and handouts. I’m trying to get them using Google Docs in the academic composition class I’m teaching. So far it’s working, slowly but surely.

     Bobbi and I are too resilient and persevering to complain about these things, but I mean here first of all to THANK the many people who have helped us through this, because by and large this was an experience where we found out who our best friends are, so thank YOU.  Secondly, to those to whom I had made commitments but was unable to meet them, I’d like to explain what happened, partially by way of apology, and partly to get it off my chest because I finally met a wall I could uncharacteristically not scramble over.  And finally, to those friends to whom I have not had time to write all year, I’d like to let you know (at this traditional time for such things) that we are fine and overcoming our temporary setback, and that we feel we are back on an upward spiral, positive outlook restored.

     And to all, a happy holiday season and end of year and all the best for the next one.

May 19
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Apr 24
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Vance Stevens, Nellie Deutsch, Sandy Wagner, and Snea Thinsan at the TESOL Conference in New Orleans, 2011.  The picture was lifted from Nellie’s facebook page.

Vance Stevens, Nellie Deutsch, Sandy Wagner, and Snea Thinsan at the TESOL Conference in New Orleans, 2011. The picture was lifted from Nellie’s facebook page.

Mar 23
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Here is more nice feedback on my article here:
Stevens, Vance. (2009). Modeling Social Media in 				Groups, Communities, and Networks. TESL-EJ, Volume 13, Number 3: 				http://www.tesl-ej.org/wordpress/past-issues/volume13/ej51/ej51int/
I tried to embed this in the following post but it didn’t work.  If you don’t see it directly below, you can click here to continue this saga:
http://vancestevens.tumblr.com/post/3230173781/on-the-day-after-i-was-informed-that-the-computing

Here is more nice feedback on my article here:

Stevens, Vance. (2009). Modeling Social Media in Groups, Communities, and Networks. TESL-EJ, Volume 13, Number 3: http://www.tesl-ej.org/wordpress/past-issues/volume13/ej51/ej51int/

I tried to embed this in the following post but it didn’t work.  If you don’t see it directly below, you can click here to continue this saga:

http://vancestevens.tumblr.com/post/3230173781/on-the-day-after-i-was-informed-that-the-computing

Feb 11
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On the day after I was informed that the computing unit where I work at the Petroleum Institute was being downsized for the next academic year, and half the faculty positions there, mine and those of two colleagues, would not be renewed this summer, I found this direct message from Russell Stannard in Twitter.  What a morale booster!
The article he is referring to is Stevens, Vance. (2009). Modeling Social Media in 				Groups, Communities, and Networks. TESL-EJ, Volume 13, Number 3: 				http://www.tesl-ej.org/wordpress/past-issues/volume13/ej51/ej51int/
I tried to embed the screencast.com link here but it didn’t work:
http://screencast.com/t/oSYujWh7
On the downsize front, it seems likely that the computing unit at PI will be subsumed under science or math. There was no explanation given for selection of those who would stay vs. those who would go, but my teaching credentials are not in science (despite my BS in Biology from long ago) so this would be a logical enough explanation for ‘why me’. Quite possibly, I had got myself far enough out the cutting edge that when the blade fell I was simply on the wrong side.
One corroboration of this is that my most innovative teaching materials (on Delicious for example), where I had been trying to move the focus in our unit away from proprietary apps running on standalone PCs and more into cloud-based, collaborative environments, are being dropped from the curriculum next year.  My idea to write these materials in such a way that they would teach the teachers while they were using them with students didn’t really ‘take’ with my colleagues where I was working.  When I offered training in 2009 and 2010 it attracted more students than teaching peers.  My academically crafted suggestions that our institute look into simulations and alternative assessment schemes were politely ignored. Apparently the context where I was working was not right for me and what I was trying to achieve.
Meanwhile I’m looking forward to finding work where my passion for social networking in conjunction with my expertise in educational technology can be  utilized and appreciated.  This might take some time, but I’ve revised my CV accordingly.

On the day after I was informed that the computing unit where I work at the Petroleum Institute was being downsized for the next academic year, and half the faculty positions there, mine and those of two colleagues, would not be renewed this summer, I found this direct message from Russell Stannard in Twitter.  What a morale booster!

The article he is referring to is Stevens, Vance. (2009). Modeling Social Media in Groups, Communities, and Networks. TESL-EJ, Volume 13, Number 3: http://www.tesl-ej.org/wordpress/past-issues/volume13/ej51/ej51int/

I tried to embed the screencast.com link here but it didn’t work:

http://screencast.com/t/oSYujWh7

On the downsize front, it seems likely that the computing unit at PI will be subsumed under science or math. There was no explanation given for selection of those who would stay vs. those who would go, but my teaching credentials are not in science (despite my BS in Biology from long ago) so this would be a logical enough explanation for ‘why me’. Quite possibly, I had got myself far enough out the cutting edge that when the blade fell I was simply on the wrong side.

One corroboration of this is that my most innovative teaching materials (on Delicious for example), where I had been trying to move the focus in our unit away from proprietary apps running on standalone PCs and more into cloud-based, collaborative environments, are being dropped from the curriculum next year.  My idea to write these materials in such a way that they would teach the teachers while they were using them with students didn’t really ‘take’ with my colleagues where I was working.  When I offered training in 2009 and 2010 it attracted more students than teaching peers.  My academically crafted suggestions that our institute look into simulations and alternative assessment schemes were politely ignored. Apparently the context where I was working was not right for me and what I was trying to achieve.

Meanwhile I’m looking forward to finding work where my passion for social networking in conjunction with my expertise in educational technology can be  utilized and appreciated.  This might take some time, but I’ve revised my CV accordingly.

Apr 20
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Family update

My uncle wrote and asked what we were up to.  This is what I wrote back, in case you’re interested:

If you have an Internet connection and a browser you can find out quite a lot about us.  If you Google Vance Stevens the first hit there that’s not about me is way back on page 5 (all the rest for 5 pages are hits to something about me) and there are some good links in the right sidebar of my blog http://adVancEducation.blogspot.com. If you want to see me in action recently try http://connect.pi.ac.ae/p81499505/ .  

Glenn’s website is at http://www.glennstevens.biz/glenn.htm.  He’s a traveler and documents his trips well. He’s living in Doha with his Uzbek wife Gulya and their daughter Gwen.  We often visit there and they sometimes come here and stay for weeks.  Grandkids are indeed wonderful.  

Dusty is in Korea with his long time girlfriend Joan.  He’s living in a town near Pusan now.  Both boys are teaching English.  Dusty doesn’t have his MA yet so he doesn’t have a job that takes care of him as well as Glenn and I do.  His facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/keahi.stevens  

Bobbi is still teaching kindergarden at American Community School here in Abu Dhabi.  I guess a good place to catch up with her is her facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/people/Bobbi-Stevens/510341719  

I still teach diving here in Abu Dhabi.  Bobbi and I just got back from Tubbataha Reef Philippines, http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.com/.  I still run, 10 km once a week plus some lesser runs.  Haven’t done a half marathon yet this year, but did one last November.

Feb 21
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Feb 16
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