So that’s 2014

2014 has been a pretty good year for me personally. You can probably read this post as a brag list, but for me it’s a chance to take stock and record what’s been achieved. Achieved is an important word – because this year I got to see effort yield results. The last couple of years have been a pretty hard slog in terms of work, being a new dad and attempting to maintain some semblance of sanity as well as a sense of vitality and purpose. Life is one of those beautiful yet destructive things – so it’s great to be able to pause and look at the balance sheet and realise I’ve come out on top this time.

Vice Chancellors Award

I managed to win my first major award since school by picking up the individual award for Leadership Excellence. It was actually quite unexpected – I was glad to be nominated but never gave winning a second thought. There was a ceremony, an intro video, a handshake and photos allow with quite a large mounted certificate. Getting rewarded was nice, but getting your good work exposed to a broader cross section of the institution is a great side effect. I think sometimes you tend to feel a little isolated working on smallish pilots and project so this was nice to have that effort recognised.

Graduate Certificate + Deans List

I signed up and managed to complete my first proper study since graduation. It was a professional development opportunity to complete a Grad Cert in University Leadership and Management and I got a lot out of the programs reflexive approach. I was able to channel a lot of what I was working on into the assessments which had the added benefit of giving time for some critical review.

Ascilite Workshop

This year I co-facilitated a great workshop with two amazing people at this years Ascilite Conference – and we organised it all online! I was looking for an opportunity to work collaboratively with people outside the university and I happened to stumble into a Twitter conversation with Kim and Joyce and the workshop was born. I’d never done a workshop like this before but we managed to put together a really interesting proposal which got accepted. I put together this website which I’m going to expand on in the new year. I want to thank Kim and Joyce as it was an absolute pleasure to work with two such amazing and talented women!

Trip to Vanuatu

The in-laws gave us a special treat in a trip to Vanuatu. It was an extremely welcome trip after a fairly long, wet and cold winter. I loved exploring Port Vila and the surrounding island full of magic little places and friendly people. It was a great test for Alise and how well she would cope with the flights etc – and she passed with flying colours! I’m hoping we can go back sometime soon.

At Home

Home life has been amazing this year. I’m still enraptured by my wife as she amazes me with her grace under fire, patience and empathy. She keeps us as a family together and functioning.

Although I think what’s made my year is the distinct transition of my daughter from baby to little girl. She has hair now – plus a penchant for pigtails and dresses. Her speech is astounding for her age and she continues to surprise us with the depth of language and understanding she displays. She’s also grown into her own person – independent, strong and sweet – no longer the cute generic mush that babies tend to be. Every now and then she’s bought me to tears – but tears of joy at her kindness, affection and love that she shares with us.

On to 2015

I’m really looking forward to the year ahead. One of the main reasons is that I’m taking up a new role at the university. For the next two years I’ll be working as an Online Learning Technology Leader in the uImagine innovation hub. I’ve been working on setting up the initiative during 2014 but in the new year I’m going full time. It’s going to be a great opportunity to explore and experiment with a variety of new technologies and to reimagine how and why we use the ones we have. I’m particularly interested in looking at distributed systems and tools for education and using them in ways that empower students. I’m keen to start digging into WordPress a little more and start using it’s CMS capabilities to build some experimental and proof of concept applications. I’m also keen to look into developing some API capabilities within the university to help improve our capacity to innovate more quickly. There’s also the opportunity to develop a new physical space that could provide some exciting potential and improve our capacity to collaborate.

There is a bit of a milestone also coming up this year – 15 years together with Clare. It’s quite an achievement to have such a long term and close relationship with someone and it’s one that’s greatly improved me as a person and my life as a whole. We’re hoping to celebrate by making our way to the US sometime in the year for a family road trip. At the moment looking at the Pacific Northwest as a destination – and maybe some beach time in Hawaii.

I’m going into 2015r openly. Open to change and challenges, trials and tribulations, joys and sadnesses that are bound to come in the days and weeks ahead.

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Fourteen Years

Today is a big milestone in my relationship with Clare – fourteen years together.

I’m not sure if there’s something mystical about multiples of seven but for some reason I really feel this anniversary. Maybe it’s because there’s enough space at this moment in my life to catch my breath and contemplate. Maybe it’s because multiples of five and ten are too busy with planning and celebration. Or maybe the universe is letting me know to stop and remember this one in particular.

Fourteen years is a long time for any relationship. I’ve never spent this amount of time with someone and never so intimately. In fact, I would go as far as saying that this relationship is my life!

It’s the place where I’ve grown up and shaped who I am.

It’s got me through some of the toughest and most painful passages of time that I will have to endure.

It’s also gifted me with the happiest and most joyous moments I will ever experience.

It’s taken me to the ends of the earth and back.

It breathes life into my lungs and sparks my mind with the desire to know and seek and feel.

It gives me comfort and shelter from the world around.

It lets me recharge and gives me power to get up and face the day.

And while it seems to have a life of its own – it is just the shared experience with one person – my love, Clare.

Happy anniversary!

The Changing Context of Learning

In 2013 Charles Sturt University, my workplace, decided to develop a new project aimed at creating a space and forum to think through some of the issues, challenges, problems and opportunities we face as an institution. The Think Pieces Project was born and I was asked to contribute, which is a real honour. Initially I just needed a title so seeing as I was working on mobile learning I figured that “The Changing Context of Learning” sounded like a good fit.

When I actually came to sit, think and write-up the presentation it became a little harder than I thought. For starters there was a time constraint which I was determined to stay within. I needed to ensure I was concise and I was starting to realise I already had way too many ideas to stuff inside the presentation – the result being that everything was touched on but nothing was explored to any depth. I needed to think harder!

After a number of drafts, slide revisions and a lot of practice I really felt like I was getting to the heart of the problem – a single, simple idea that I think goes to explain some of the issues we face in Higher Education. My talk evolved into discussing the need to shift the perspective through which we view the context of learning – away from the campus and onto one more centred around the student. This reframing and changing of perspective allows us to rethink the role of the university and as well how we think about pedagogy, practice, content and technology. 

I would love to get some broader feedback – as hopefully it does provoke and prompt some thinking to occur! If it does, even if there is disagreement, debate and conjecture, I think I fulfilled the task at hand.

The Think Piece is available as a Slideshare with audio or as a video if you prefer. Feel free to share and comment here or on twitter @timklapdor

A New Learning Opportunity

For the last decade (or more truthfully and scarily decade and a half) I’ve been working at what I’d call ‘front end design’. I made things work and made them look good with a minimal amount of effort or thinking required about what happened behind the scenes. I dabbled in programming – I learnt Lingo (remember Director?) and then watched it die as Flash took over and I never really picked it up again.

I’m not afraid of the code view – I’m quite happy to write some HTML or CSS by hand. I’m also fine discussing programming because I understand how code works, what it can do and the intricacies of writing it. Just don’t get me to actually do it.

That attitude has worked for some time. Life has been going along fine in the front end, but I think that it’s coming to an end. I need to up-skill and overcome my fear of the backend. I can feel a chasm opening up between what I know and what I need to know. At the moment I’d say I’m straddling the chasm and have a foot on both sides. If I don’t do something now it’s going to get uncomfortable.

Why is this happening? I’d suggest that while hardware has been getting smarter software in general has been getting dumber. New versions seem to come out every other week (or everyday if your Acrobat Reader) with new features added and in general things run faster. At the same time there seems to be little improvement in workflows. It’s a chore to move files and data from one program to another, move content from one ecosystem to another. It’s a constant task to transition, translate and transcribe. I seem to spend more time doing this kind of crap at the ‘front end’ and less on the creative, fun challenging bits.

This week I’ve been playing in InDesign again (which I’ve missed) but working from content from InCopy. The structured markup from InCopy has meant more time being spent on design and less fixing issues with content and working across a range of applications. It’s taken some time to get my head around it but I have a taste for it. The other big reason is the next round of work on the mLearn project — finally being able to spend some time on TADPOLE (find out more here). I won’t be the one building and coding the system but I want to be in there poking around and seeing whats what.

So here’s my proposal-

  • I want to learn how to use GitHub.
  • I want to learn to use GitHub for the web specifically. Setting up, running and maintaining sites.
  • I want to deploy a server (I’m looking at Digital Ocean) and get my head around what’s required and get acquainted with a range of new technologies (node.js and a range of others)
  • I want to automate some of my work and complement my ‘front end’ toolset with some logic. I want to be able to push and pull content around services with the minimal amount of effort.
  • I am happy to go into the command line — but I refuse to live there. So I want to adopt new tools that give me the GUI I crave and require just to placate my aesthetically focussed brain.

Here’s my issues:

  • I have to find time. Work can be a little oppressive sometimes but also I’m a Dad and there is someone who I would rather be spending my time with. That said she’s in bed by 8pm so there’s plenty of time if I’m motivated.
  • I need to switch off. I don’t want to be technology’s bitch — if anything I want to switch that relationship and have technology start to actually work harder for me. So the thought of spending more time at the computer isn’t as appealing as it might sound.
  • I want to do this socially. This might sound bad — but I don’t want to do this on my own. I want and need someone to talk to. Most of the time I’m fine as a self-directed learner, but for this I want some hand holding. Mainly because I’m nervous and I am going out of my comfort zone. Doing this virtually might be a happy compromise but I want to spend some time working together, face to face or as close as I can get.

So that’s the plan… I’m open to suggestions or possible collaboration but I feel I’ve got to do this!

Bring in the new

Spring is here and the world around me is blossoming and blooming. I don’t remember a spring like this since 2004 when I travelled for a single day to Edinburgh from Dublin. I arrived to spring sunshine, blue skies, freshly mowed grass and flowers whose scent filled the air – a stark change from the stark and gloomy Ireland I’d left just an hour before.

I love the passing of the seasons, they signify a change in priorities and channel my energies. Spring and Autumn are my favourites here in Wagga. They are mild, comfortable, breezy and bright. They coax you outside, to wander and wonder at the world around you, to take delight and pleasure in the natural world. Winter is just cold and grey and summer is too hot and dazzling.

So this spring is an awakening from what seems like a long winter. With a new baby we’ve been more insular this year. It feels like we’ve been hibernating more than any other year – excluding a few northern hemisphere winters.

When the sun is as bright as it has been this weekend it draws you out like a moth to a flame. The last two days seem to have been crammed full of activity and movement which I have loved, squeezed and treasured. We had our first babysitting date that resulted in our first child and distraction free meal in 8 months. We walked and basked in the sun and the scent of blossoms and I have been in awe at the display of colours this spring – it has been so many years since I have seen the town exude such fertility and virility. We ate outdoors, quaffed wine, enjoyed  an afternoon G&T, a cider on ice and sipped coffee in the sun.

While I don’t think the forecast is set to last, it’s weekends like this that make life worth living. I welcome Spring with open arms and welcome in the new!

Update to About page

Whoa, realised I need to update my blog more often – so I’ve updated my About page. I’ve added a nice new pic and new sections for Publications and Presentations.

A recent addition to my professional life is the need for a Publications section when my first co-authored paper was published. I’ll hopefully have two more additions before the years out with a bit of luck!

I’ve put up a couple of my old Presentations, but it’s coming up to conference season, otherwise known as November, so I’ll be working on a few presentations over the next couple of months – which I’ll post here too.

Why all the posts?

Hey I’ve been lazy and left the blog untouched for a while. Not unloved or forgotten – I’ve still been writing, just not publishing. I’ve finally got a few moments to re-read, edit and hit the publish button.

And what a time and place to do it – my first Fathers Day as a Dad and in spring weather that arrived on time so I can sit out in the sun in my unkept backyard – who’s wildness only adds to the pleasure and personification of Spring!

Moving the Blog

Just a quick note to let you know that I’ll be moving some of the content here to a new blog being set up for the mobile learning project.

I’ll be renaming this blog and focusing more on my personal opinions. The new blog will focus on mobile technology and the mobile learning project I’ll be heading up.