My blog has been inactive for a little while since I have been traveling in Europe, experiencing global contexts firsthand. Traveling is, of course, still one of the best ways to learn about other cultures. A visit to a different culture always involves active learning as we engage ourselves through seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and speaking, often in situations that inspire, if not demand, our keen attention, challenge our limits, and surprise - and sometimes even humble - us with new insights and discoveries.
Although I have traveled a great deal over the years, I am constantly amazed at how much one learns from any new travel experience, at any time, anywhere. My recent visit to University of Tromsø in the Arctic Norway is a perfect example! Admitedly, I had been joking about a May visit to the Arctic. Why experience snow in May? Why seek the ever-present company of seagulls? Why give a lecture at the northern most university in the world? Why sunbathe wearing a Russian fur hat?
Many of the answers can be found in the following photographs: The Arctic is incredibly beautiful in May. The Arctic waters provide flavorful fish and whale meat. Even the seagulls provide eggs for breakfast (just remember to boil them for about 20 minutes!). And the best and most magical of all, the midnight sun appears in mid-May and rewards the Artic region with constant sunshine for weeks and weeks. Why not visit the Arctic Norway in May?
Finnish sisters Hanna and Minna against the backdrop of Norwegian Arctic beauty
Welcoming the Midnight Sun at a writer's hut overlooking a fjord - it stayed this light most of the night!
One of many old fishermen's houses
A fishing village in the fjord
Cod on a rack
Beware of reindeer - we saw plenty!
Every fjord reveals a treasure
No kidding, this picture was taken at midnight on May 18!
A humbling moment: wearing Russian fur hats to stay warm at midnight
Besides admiring the Arctic Norway's geography for its remarkable beauty, I also discovered that the region is an opportune location for online teaching. My presentation titled "Quality Online Education: A Shared Responsibility" attracted good attention and feedback from a variety of sources, from enthusiasts, skeptics, and curious newbies alike wanting to learn more about online teaching. University of Tromsø offers some online courses, but so far, there appears to be more enthusiasm for expanding the online programming than actual works in progress. I also witnessed some understandable, but I think largely unfounded, nervousness about the potential negative impact of online education on the unversity's traditional course offerings. These are the same concerns we faced in Minnesota about 8-10 years ago and soon afterwards discarded as largely unwarranted concerns. I think a major Norwegian university that attracts students from a wide, remote Arctic region (just see the pictures!) would be wise to invest in more e-learning. I understand that more support services, especially for students, would need to be created, but I trust this could be done. I encourage my colleagues in Tromsø to keep exploring e-learning opportunities and to solicit feedback from those of us who have already been involved with e-learning for many years. Let's keep these global connections alive!