Travel Planning 2.0

Over the last few weeks I’ve been putting my tech skills to work planning our trips during the summer holidays. You see, I have this obsession with finding the perfect beach. You know the one: powdery white sand, crystal clear blue water, swaying palm trees, no one else around; and, of course, the perfect hotel to match: small, boutique-style, spa treatments galore, tasty food, and no hideous strip of chain hotel monstrosities looming above.

crystal clear waterAmazingly, I found this perfect place in Malaysia (Redang Island) on our first vacation when we moved there in 2005. Unfortunately, it’s a little too inconvenient to get there from Bangkok and part of the “perfect beach” experience is only having to undergo one flight (maximum) to get there. Plus, I figured Thailand, the land of beautiful beaches, must have something even better!

Normally, I would ask around at school for tips from my colleagues that have been living in Thailand for many years, but all I got was the same old, same old: Koh Samui, Phuket, Koh Samet, Koh Chang. Not that those places aren’t beautiful, but I really wanted something different, something only the local resident would know, yet of course, would meet my needs as an emerging “fancy pants” (as my husband would say).

Now, I realize I shouldn’t really spill the beans here on how I’m doing my super tech savvy undercover exploration of stunning Thai islands, but I figured, despite this being slightly off-topic for this blog, you guys are the only ones who would really understand how cool this little web 2.0 planning experience really was.

So, here’s what I did:

1. I knew I wanted to stay in Thailand, but I wanted to make sure it was one of those perfect beaches (not like some of the other places we have stayed, where the websites looks stunning, but when you get there it’s really nothing special). So, I figured the best place to start was a search of “real people’s” photos: Flickr.

2. I remembered that a friend of mine had recommended a specific beach in Phuket, but I couldn’t remember which one, so I searched on Flickr for “white sand beach Phuket.” A beach that looked suitable was the very last picture of the first page of search results.

3. Once I clicked on that image, the picture description told me that it was taken on “Koh Racha Yai island [which] is located 30 minutes south by boat from Phuket, Thailand.” Aha! This was the kind of place I was looking for, close but not too close, easy to get to, but still isolated.

4. With my new found destination in mind, I headed to my old and trusty friend, TripAdvisor to see what hotels were listed on this island.

5. The top rated hotel looked pretty spectacular, so I checked out their website, and then of course wentKoh Racha back to Flickr for more realistic photos and found this picture with this description: “Racha Resort is a luxurious 5-star resort built in 2004 after Tsunami.” Plus, there was even a comment from another Flickr user enthusing about this island and hotel with even more pictures posted! Yes, this was exactly what I was looking for!

6. Just to get all the facts, I opened up Google Earth, and checked out the beach from above (well, I guess from space, technically) and all the embedded images around the island, thanks to Panoramio.

7. Seeing as all the evidence points to an especially stunning, and quite private, beach on a lovely tropical island, I booked our flight and hotel right away.

Now all that’s left is to actually take the trip!

How do you use your techie skills to plan the perfect holiday?

Edublog Awards Nomination

Oh my! I could not be more flattered or proud to have been nominated for an Edublog award by two of my personal blogging heros: Julie Lindsay and Silvia Tolisano. Both Julie and Silvia have pushed my thinking for years, supported me through some difficult times, and been inspirational in their contributions to the educational blogging world. Thank you!

Not only was this completely unexpected given my totally random bursts of blogging and often quiet spells, but I can’t believe I’m listed among so many amazing bloggers, check them out:

Mobile Technology in TAFE
Education Investigation
Learn Online
Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs
Bionic Teaching
SCC English
Nadstar’s Blog
Teachers at risk
John Connell
Doug – off the record
Mathemetics Learning
The Scholastic Scribe
Newly Ancient
Chrisina’s Classroom Early Childhood blog
Cliotech
ICTlogy
Theology in the Vineyard
Computer Science Teacher – thoughts and information from Alfred Thompson
Darcy’s blog
The Edublogger
Teaching and Learning Design
The Bamboo Project
All teachers are learners – All learners are teachers
Sarah’s Musings
Using Blogs in science Education
Learning with ‘e’s
What It’s Like on The Inside
EFL20.com
Generation YES Blog
Betty’s Blog
Teach42
Creating Lifelong Learners
Always Learning
The English Blog
David Truss: Pair-a-dimes for your Thoughts

Thank you again for this wonderful surprise ladies! And if any of my equally wonderful and thoughtful readers felt like heading over and voting for me, that would just be the icing on the cake!

Mobilize This!

Another amazing conference begins next week (in addition to the K12 Online Conference, of course). From the wiki:

MobilizeThis 2008 will be held on the 22nd – 24th October 2008 and is about getting connected, exploring and resolving challenges facing organisations as they seek practical means to realising social dividends with clients, creatively engaging in real learning experiences that embrace the horizons and enable others to access what we would otherwise take for granted.

The purpose of MobilizeThis2008 is to bring educators, e-learning technologists, managers, tech-heads and cross-sector organisation representatives together in a program that fosters conversations, workshops and online experiences to inform practical examples of employing ICT’s in an open and global context.

Thanks to Alex Hayes, I’ve been asked to present a session via VoiceThread (since I’ll be in Bhutan during the actual conference). If this conference is anything like the Future of Learning in a Networked World unconference, part of which was hosted at ISB last year, it will be amazing. It is also, entirely free. All you need to do to participate, or even present, is to register. All voices are welcome – please don’t hesitate to offer a session or simply participate!

Image from the conference wiki.

Hello Summer!

Phew! Time flies when you’re busy! It’s hard to believe we’re on week three of summer holidays already and our first trip back to Germany since we last lived in Munich three years ago is already over. Clearly I’m going to be doing very little writing over the next six weeks or so (not so unusual for summer break for me – once I slow down, I really slow down).

FrauenkircheThis summer is especially busy with our trip to Munich, a few weeks in Connecticut with my family, a few weeks in Oregon with my husband’s family, then back to CT for another week so Alex can take a Praxis exam for his English teacher’s certification, before we head back to Bangkok at the end of July. I guess I lost my mind for a few minutes there when I was booking all those flights. The price you pay for living internationally – the cost, time and effort to visit all relatives must be borne by those residing outside of the country.

Sadly, with all this traveling to and fro across our rather large country, I am not going to be attending NECC this year (actually, I’ve never been!). But somehow, thanks to the wonderful Carolyn Foote, I will be presenting (remotely, of course) at a panel session with the brilliant minds of Carolyn, Joyce Valenza, Cathy Nelson, Diane Cordell, Judy O’Connell, and Anita Beaman.

In all honesty, I’m not even sure I’m qualified to be on a panel with these amazing ladies, but I’m so happy to be able to offer a brief (seven minutes to be exact) video introduction to the process of developing our 21st Century Literacy program at ISB. Just in case you’re interested, and you’re not going to be at NECC, check it out here:

Of course all the information shared in the video is the result of the work of our fantastic ISB21 team: Justin Medved, Dennis Harter, Rob Rubis, Ida Kesley and myself. It’s hard to believe that we’ll have two new members to our awesome team come August: Jeff Utecht and Chad Bates. Does it get any better than that?

And, that just might be all the school-related thinking I’m going to do this summer…

A Little Light Reading

Ah, vacation is finally here!

This year has gone by so fast, I honestly can’t believe it’s already Songkran (Thai New Year). Amazingly, this is the first vacation where we haven’t either had friends visiting or been on our way to visit friends in new exciting countries. Tomorrow we head out to Phuket for a week of eating, sleeping, swimming, and enjoying the antics of the hotel’s baby elephant.

I’m definitely looking forward to the extensive relaxing sleeping (on the beach, at the pool, wherever I can get horizontal) I plan to do over the next week.

Just in case I can muster up the energy to do a little old-school reading, in between naps of course, I’m bringing along a few must-reads:

Actually, these books serve a dual purpose, not only are they entertaining for my “awake time,” but they do a mighty good job of reserving a table at the all-important breakfast buffet. And, truly, what kind of vacation is complete without the breakfast buffet eat-a-thon? Either way, I’m pretty sure that 90% of these books will end up accompanying me on my next vacation, but a girl can try right?

See you in a week!

Karon Beach, Phuket image from yeowatzup

Tags: travel, Thailand, Phuket, reading, books, personal

Discovering Taipei

Not too many people travel to Taiwan for vacation…

And I have to honestly say, that I wasn’t expecting much when we went last weekend, but I was quite pleasantly surprised. Taipei was exciting, trendy, vibrant city with tons to do, a strong cultural connection, and a real cosmopolitan energy.

We stayed with our fabulous friends in a neighborhood called Tianmu just at the base of the mountains:

View of Tianmu

enjoyed a fabulous night market:

Night Market

saw some scary meats:

Innards

and some cool traditional snacks:

Steaming

went to the beach:

Quick Trip to the Beach

went to the top of the tallest building in the world, the Taipei 101:

Disconcerting

and hiked in the mountains to see some active geysers:

Steaming Geyser

All in all, it was a very cool place to visit! Check it out if you get the chance!

To Ed.D. or Not to Ed.D.

I’m having a little mental dilemma that I can’t seem to work myself out of, and I’m hoping you can help:

Have you ever felt like you were in the right place at the right time? And by being in that right place in the right time, you totally changed the course of your life or career?

Well, I’ve had quite a few of those experiences lately:

One was moving to KL and finding out that just in the year I arrived, a nearby school, ISKL, was starting an Educational Leadership certificate cohort through SUNY Buffalo that would take two years (the length of my contract, and the length of time I ended up staying in Malaysia). Going through those course changed the way I teach, and eventually led to my second example here.

My second “right place, right time” experience was actually being online at the same time as Justin Medved was writing an e-mail about the availability of a certain 21st Century Literacy Specialist position to the NextGen Teachers group and starting a very quick dialog that resulted in a trip to Bangkok 24 hours later, job interview 48 hours later, and position offered and accepted a week later.

So, you can see how I might be inclined to trust the “right place + right time = just do it” equation.

Here’s my latest:

ISKL (quite a leader in the whole PD department, as you can tell) is now, in January 2008, starting an Ed.D. program through NOVA Southeastern University with an actual cohort in KL (the professors will actually teach on site at ISKL).

Interestingly (as you begin to watch the fates align) my best friend, and educational technology superstar, Lisa, is also completing a Ph.D. program through NOVA (she works at Yale and lives in New Haven, CT). Lisa has been pushing me to do this Ph.D. program since she started. I’ve successfully been able to postpone the whole seven-years-of-my-life commitment thing by explaining that Florida is much too far for me to fly to several times a year. Not only could I not afford it, but I certainly don’t have that many school holidays that I could find my way to Florida in February, July, and November – not possible.

Now, ironically, almost the exact same program (except for the Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. debate) is being offered in KL. A mere 2 hour flight away. A mere 2 hour flight away that usually costs about US$50 roundtrip on the fabulous AirAsia. A mere 2 hour flight away that usually costs about US$50 roundtrip on the fabulous AirAsia, in the city that I lived in for two years, loved like my hometown, and where I have tons of friends with comfortable couches.

This very program is coming at a time when I am looking to study educational technology more in depth. For the last year, or so, I’ve been thinking about a Ph.D., weighing the pros and cons, looking for just the right program, thinking about what, exactly, I am interested in, but nothing has jumped to the forefront.

And then, this program comes along. The degree is actually Instructional Technology and Distance Education, which initially I was not at all interested in. Then, I got to thinking…. Isn’t distance education what we’re doing when we design globally collaborative projects? Isn’t distance education what all of our students will be doing in the future when we’ve finally adapted to life, web 2.0 style? Then, isn’t distance education the future of education? And, by golly, if it is, I want to be there.

Oh, and have I mentioned that because this program is an Ed.D. (not a Ph.D.) it will only take three years, and because it’s an international cohort it’s about a quarter of the price of a traditional Ph.D.?

So, you can see how this program might just be appealing to me.

But I’m still not sure. For starters, it’s not a Ph.D., and there’s just something about the prestige of a Ph.D. that I like. Secondly, it’s still mighty expensive – no free rides here. Thirdly, and most importantly, I’m in my first year at a new school, a new, intense, busy, school, and this is going to eat up my free time like nobody’s business. Lastly, I’m currently in an online course to get my library certification – a 30 credit certificate program – almost enough for another masters!

So, brilliant edubloggers, what do you say? Should I Ed.D. or not?

(Seriously late) UPDATE:

Thank you to everyone who offered advice here – it was so good to hear all the different side of the issue. In the end, I decided not to do the Ed.D. It was a tough decision, but I’m glad I finally decided, now I can stop thinking about it!

Basically, given my new job, the fact that I’m currently pursuing another degree,  the location of the program (KL is close, but I’m not sure it’s close enough) and the reality that the actual program specifications don’t exactly exactly match what I’m interested in, were all reasons I decided against this particular program.

However, I did just meet a colleague from ISKL who is going to do the program, so I should get the inside scoop on how it works – just in case they decide to run the same course through ISB here in Bangkok. Either way, I still think I’ll go for another degree, eventually, but this one just isn’t quite right enough to spend all that time, money and energy…

The International iPod

Until Silvia tagged me for this multilingual iPod meme, I never really realized just how international my little red iPod nano really is! For those interested in participating, here are the rules:

The question is “What languages are on your iPod?

ipod languages

  1. List the languages that are represented in music, video or podcasts in a post on your blog.
  2. Add your favorite song and artist of each language. (Maybe someone else will use your suggestion)
  3. See how diverse your list is.
  4. Reflect on how global you are.
  5. Check out some World songs in a language that you normally don’t listen to by following someone’s suggestion from step 2.
  6. Tag as many people as you wish

After a quick scroll-through, I have songs in:

  • Yiddish: The Klezmatics
  • Spanish: Shakira
  • German: Mozart
  • French: Stereolab
  • Japanese: Pizzacato Five
  • Italian: Carmen Consoli
  • Bahasa Malaysia: Traditional music by various artists
  • Yoruba (a local dialect in Nigeria): Babatunde Olatunji
  • Icelandic: Sigur Ros
  • Gaelic: Sinead O’Connor

It’s hard to pick a favorite song because, honestly, all of the albums I have by these artists are great, and these are my top choices in each language I’ve listed. I really had no idea how international my playlist was until Silvia asked. I guess I tend to pick up music from the countries I live in or visit and the songs become part of my memory of that place. Every time I listen to my tracks in Italian I am thrown right back into my semester abroad in Florence and The Klezmatics always reminds me of Germany.

As I think about it, I’m an auditory learner, so I love listening to music and language just adds another complexity to capture my attention. When I first discovered Pizzacato Five in college, it just blew my mind – Japanese pop! I feel like even the pop music of a country can really provide a glimpse into local culture. Alex and I have started to listen to Thai music too… I guess I need to add some to iTunes now!

This meme actually brings to mind a novel I read last year called Tokyo Cancelled. The story is about a group of airline passengers that get trapped overnight in a desolate airport so they tell stories reflective of their individual culture to pass the time. Although it was quite fantastical, each story really captured the stereotypical essence of the storyteller’s culture. It seems that my iPod is like my very own, portable, airport departure lounge!

If you’re interested, please play along! I’m ready to add a few more new languages to my iPod’s repertoire!

Vacation Mode

Ocean View

Summer relaxing begins…. now!

For the next six weeks I’ll be living out of a suitcase, traveling from one coast of the US to the other, visiting friends and family along the way.

Thankfully I just picked up a fancy new digital SLR (well, fancy for those of us that have used only a point and shoot in the past), so the trip will be well documented on my Flickr page. Here’s a little preview of the gorgeous Oregon coast for you…

Enjoy your summer holiday!

Saying Goodbye

It’s that time of year again. Students, teachers and administrators are wrapping things up and getting ready to say goodbye to the place they have called home for the last few years. Although I am so excited about my move to Thailand, I am still sad to leave Malaysia. There are so many things I will miss about this wonderful country and this school community.

Most of all, I am sad to leave:

  • The absolutely amazing students we have. They are friendly, helpful, motivated, energetic and best of all, excited about learning.
  • The wonderful faculty. Every single teacher is so dedicated and enthusiastic about education that it has truly been a pleasure to work with them.
  • This fantastic city. Life is so easy in KL – everyone speaks English, the city is quite small and easy to get around, there are beautiful, green parks everywhere, and we have pretty much every comfort of home, even all the way on the other side of the planet.

As the many leaving parties begin to make life extremely busy in these last two weeks, I will be savoring every moment of my time here in KL – putting off that last goodbye until the absolute end…