Road Trip!

In 2012 I moved from Wisconsin to California for my new job. I decided it would be fun to do another road trip and see some more of this wonderful country. My dad and my trusty dog Laika accompanied me on the journey, just like the last long road trip when I moved from Arizona to Wisconsin. This time, we decided to take a more northernly route on our way west and headed through Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and then finally California.

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[We missed the Utah sign.]
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Rotterdam

In August 2004 I went to Rotterdam, the Netherlands for a conference. I was presenting my work on a recent meta-analysis of STEM simulations for learning. (You can read more about it here and can download the report here.) The conference was a meeting for two special interest groups of EARLI (the European version of AERA) – Instructional Design and Learning & Instruction with Computers. It was a small conference with no concurrent sessions (i.e., we were all in the same room for the entire conference) which was really nice because a) I didn’t have to make any decisions and wonder if I chose the wrong concurrent session and b) I was exposed to a bunch of interesting research that was a bit outside my normal area.

some cool architecture in Rotterdam
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My Year in Review: 2013

This post is meant to serve as my non-existent holiday card for interested friends and relatives, as well as a completely biased recounting of my year.

Travel

Airplane sunset
Well, I traveled a lot this year. More than usual. I flew 46,601 miles, going to about 22 different cities. I went to North Carolina twice, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Madison, Chicago, Chile, and a bunch of places in Southern California. Most of those trips were either work-related or family-related (my brother got married this summer!). But I did finally take an actual vacation – two weeks in Chile (I promise a post about this is going to happen).
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Whale Watching in SF

This past weekend my dad and I went whale watching off of San Francisco. We went with San Francisco Whale Tours on a six hour long boat ride that went all the way to the Farallon Islands and beyond.

Saturday morning was extremely foggy. And when I say extremely foggy, I mean it. When we were directly beneath the Golden Gate Bridge we could barely see it:

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We saw a harbor porpoise and lots of birds and some sea lions on our way out of the Bay. It was still very foggy by the time we got to the Farallon Islands.

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some thoughts on AERA 2012

I just got back from AERA 2012, which was in Vancouver, British Columbia during the past week. It was my fourth AERA, and I hadn’t attended last year because I had basically sworn off the conference and decided I wasn’t going to go very frequenly anymore. Luckily, I was invited to a session at NCME (the sister conference to AERA that was co-occurring) and decided to go (it also didn’t hurt that the conference was in Vancouver). It turned out to be a great conference all around, and I went to a few good sessions and met with lots of old and new friends and colleagues.

The best thing about AERA usually is that everyone goes to AERA. I heard that this year there were over 13,000 people registered. That’s a bit crazy. This huge zoo is people is usually one of the reasons that I don’t like AERA, but for some reason it didn’t seem so bad this time around. Perhaps it was the way the conference center centre and hotels were located/configured, which forced people to walk around and run into people more than in other places. Or maybe it was that many of us chose not to get international cell/data packages and were reliant on congregating in certain places having wifi (and then consequently spreading around the passwords for the wifi). Whatever it was, I ended up running into lots of people that I wanted to talk to and had lots of interesting discussions.

I think also that one difference this time around was that I felt that for the first time I was able to help start connecting other people together, instead of relying on my advisors and professors to connect me to people they knew. That type of thing still happened, of course, and is an essential part of academic networking, but I was taking on that role for other, younger researchers now. And that felt kind of nice.

One particularly interesting set of conversations centered around using games in classrooms, how students might be viewing educational games within the context of a classroom setting, and how that context might (a) change how the student views the game/simulation and/or (b) change the type and amount of learning that is possible in that game (versus an out-of-school, informal, or student-directed session). This could possibly be highly dependent on what educational value the student might attach to the game outside of the classroom in the first place. For example, a commercial game being used in the classroom might have a larger “learning differential” than a game specifically designed to be used for learning (either informally or in a classroom). Definitely something to think some more about.

Vancouver was also a great city to visit. We had wonderful weather almost the entire time, which just highlighted how beautiful the city is. There was lots of great food to be eaten, especially seafood (yum!).

On my last afternoon, I (along with some others) went to the Vancouver Aquarium. It was a really nice facility and I would totally recommend going there if you are visiting and you like awesome things. Here are a couple pictures of the aquarium and Vancouver. More pictures will be posted soon (somewhere).

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Part of the Vancouver skyline, from Stanley Park.

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Awesome jellyfish at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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Part of the sea lion feeding/training non-show.

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Baby clownfish. Awww.

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Totem pole exhibit in Stanley Park.

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Watching sea planes land from the Convention Centre.

[side note: all of these pictures were taken with my iPhone 4 because (a) it’s what I had with me the entire time and (b) my better camera just broke.]

last day in Hong Kong

I am leaving to go back to the states very early tomorrow morning, so today is my last full day here and of course it’s rainy and gross (although, I suppose I should be happy that it wasn’t like this the entire time). Luckily I had a bunch of work to do anywhere, so staying in my hotel room was kind of the general plan for most of the day anyway. (I decided against going to Ocean Park for many reasons, most of which were confirmed when I woke up still exhausted this morning and then also looked out the window.)

The last two days were filled with many awesome things which I will delve into more with future posts. Highlights include: going to Lantau Island (awesome cable car ride, giant Buddha statue, amazing view of some islands in the South China Sea), awesome (and inexpensive) sushi, amazing dim sum with the locals, watching the final horserace of the season with about 80,000 of my closest friends, and stores that sold only old school and/or hard to find LEGO mini-figs and other related geeky products. In short, it was a good weekend. I am also now really tired and looking forward to getting back to my normal level of exhaustion. :)

The conference was also really great and I was able to reconnect with old friends/colleagues and meet lots of new people and hear about all sorts of interesting projects and ideas that were floating around. This conference was especially great due to the great diversity of researchers, both in terms of intersecting and complementary fields of study but also in terms of backgrounds and countries and educational contexts. I think they said the conference had about 400 attendees from 38 different countries! Pretty cool.