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eLearn Magazine asks what you would tell President Obama if you were the new Secretary of Education
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
My friend, Lisa Neal from eLearn Magazine sent a few of us the email below.

On Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 2:10 PM, Lisa Neal Gualtieri wrote:

Hi ...

I went to a well-attended event in Boston last week on Transforming Healthcare with an illustrious panel who completely blew the most interesting question they were asked: If you were the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, what is the first thing you would say to President Obama. A lot of the focus of the session was on the economic stimulus package.

I instead will ask you: If you are the new Secretary of Education, what is the first thing you would tell President Obama?

I will post your responses in the eLearn blog.

I hope to hear back from you today if possible.



Lisa Neal Gualtieri, Ph.D.

Adjunct Clinical Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Blog on health:

Editor-in-Chief, eLearn Magazine,
Blog on education:

Here is my response:

Mr. President:

I have not heard back from you on the letter I sent you back on December 1st about the world becoming more open for learning and to see if you wanted to read a preview copy of my book, “The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education.” It is ok, I know you are busy with this economic crisis. I can dust off my CPA license if you need help there but I prefer not to.

I actually believe you can skip those boring meetings with economic advisors. Instead, take a look at the educational possibilities of the Web. As you know from your Blackberry days (which I guess you still have), the Web is transforming education in front of our eyes. When I saw you give your speech here in Bloomington last April 30th, I felt a sense that you realized this and so I voted for you instead of Hillary. Now that you have won, you need people in the Department of Education who can help you (and me) make sense of this transformation. I think that there are ten trends that are of particular importance. They spell the acronym, WE-ALL-LEARN. I list them for you below.

Ten Openers: (WE-ALL-LEARN)

Web Searching in the World of e-Books
E-Learning and Blended Learning
Availability of Open Source and Free Software
Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare
Learning Object Repositories and Portals
Learner Participation in Open Information Communities
Electronic Collaboration
Alternate Reality Learning
Real-Time Mobility and Portability
Networks of Personalized Learning

If any one of these trends would have happened in the past, it would have been a dramatic change in education. In fact, if just one person had learned online in 1959 (50 years ago), that person would have been Time’s person of the year. And that is just one trend or opener (opener #2)! But all ten openers are happening simultaneously. Instead of the new players, playing fields, and management processes that Thomas Friedman discusses in his World is Flat book, in education we have a different set of “p’s”—piping, pages of content, and a participatory learning culture. This is a triple convergence that any of the previous 43 presidents would have loved to see happening in such an economic crisis. Again, I am happy to send you my book if you want to read it.

So instead of more back to the basics and adding still more test scores and assessments, we have to open doors to learning and make that the focus. Active and contributory learning where learners are active in their own learning pursuits should underlie all educational reform efforts, not comparisons to other countries, previous test scores, or some other set of silly statistics. In contrast to smaller countries or those with fewer natural resources which are forced to standardize everything, in the United States we need an educational system that fosters learning that you cannot plan for or preprescribe. Simply put, we need to focus on creativity, innovation, ambition, and perpetual learning and human development. We need motivated younger as well as older learners. To attain such goals, we need educational leaders who ignite a passion for learning. And for those in Asia and other countries who are bored with traditional teach and test educational methods all-too-common in such places, we can open our doors. As Thomas Friedman called for two weeks ago in the NY Times, allow millions more smart people from China, Korea, India, and other countries to immigrating to the USA and build the next Google’s, Livemocha’s, and Yahoo!’s. If we can combine more creative people coming to the country with an educational system focused on nurturing creative talent, watch out world, we will be the ones solving the world’s problems! Is no doubt!

The time is ripe for so many things. Education can lead us out of this economic crisis. For the first time in the history of this country, our education leaders are simultaneously our economic leaders, not the other way around. As the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade suggested, “choose wisely .” If you do, then WE-ALL-LEARN. I wish you well. And I also wish that we, in fact, do all learn.


Oh by the way, my "The World is Open" book is now in Amazon now for preordering!

The book will be out in July and in bookstores in August. Write to me if you want a book synopsis or additional information.

Ok, what if you were the new Secretary of Health and Human Services? What would you tell President Obama?
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 11:21 PM   2 comments
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TravelinEdMan has been traveling
I realize that I have not posted to my blog in nearly 2 months. As my blog name indicates, I have been traveling.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE): On January 25, I went to the United Arab Emirates including Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I gave talks at Dubai Men's College and visited Abu Dhabi Men's College that week. These are both part of the Higher Colleges of Technology in the UAE (see Wikipedia for more). I also saw the Burge Dubai (the world's tallest building) and the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. I forget how many billion they spent on this place but it is definitely a cool place! My friend, Paul Mace from Abu Dhabi Men's College seems to know everyone in this hotel. They are all recorded in his Blackberry. Here is a pic or 2 from it.

Just driving up to the Emirates Palace Hotel is an exillerating experience.

Camera looking up in the middle of the Emirates Palace Hotel. What a cool shot that was. Thanks to Paul Mace for suggesting that!

How would you like to hold a conference event here? What a place that is! And sometimes Paul, in fact, does run events there.

Future expansion plans in Abu Dhabi are pretty amazing too!

This is just the entryway into Abu Dhabi Men's College (ADMC). Wow! What a place.

A view of the Abu Dhabi Men's College campus.

And they bring in very famous people all the time. Here is a picture of soccer great, Pele, who recently visited. I remember doing a paper on him in ninth grade oh so long ago! He was my idol at the time even though we never played soccer in the USA then. If the Higher Colleges of Technology have a conference, they will undoubtedly bring in some famous people and very cool laser light show and perhaps some camel rides.

ADMC is technology rich. Paul Mace demos a few new devices to me for language instruction.

The director of ADMC show me his mobile device. They are moving in a mobile diretion there.

They are creating a new podcasting studio. Again, they are highly planful about technology use in education.

Like I said, lots of technology there.

Paul Mace knows the world is open:

I saw many friends in the UAE including Mark Curcher in Dubai and Bob Craig and Paul Mace in Abu Dhabi. Mark showed me around Dubai so that was fabulous. He works at Dubai Men's College which is about the host the Education Without Borders Conference in early April. I presented at that conference six years ago.

The road and buildings across from Dubai Men's College.

The entryway at Dubai Men's College. The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) people sure have supported this place. it is really nice!

Here is a picture we took outside of his college entrance.

I gave 2 talks at his place--one on blended learning and one on my upcoming World is Open book.

A review of my talks was posted to a few news releases under the title, "Learning at Dubai Men's College."

It was also posted at AME Info (Middle East Business Resource).

When in Dubai, I also saw Dr. Robin Mason from the Open University, Dr. Robert Wisher from the Advanced Distributed Learning Lab within the Department of Defense (DOD), Elliott Masie from the Masie Center, Professor Carmel McNaught from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Badrul Khan from Granato Group at an e-learning conference in Dubai outside the sailboat hotel. I used to report to Bob when I was a senior research fellow with the Army Research Institute and then later at the DOD. It was some event!

Here is a pic of Bob, Mark, and I during the conference:

Here is the sailboat hotel at dusk:

Bob Wisher realizes that the world is open now:

View from hotel window in Dubai. Seemed to be a lot of haze and smog in the morning (perhaps just sand in the air from all the construction).

The Burge Dubai (the world's tallest building) stands impressively in front of me as most of the cranes in Duabi have come to a halt.

Building after building in Dubai.

Mass transit is being added. But so many cranes (many of which stand idle right now in this economic crisis).

After a couple of days in Dubai, it was on to Abu Dhabi. I have done that trip a few times before back in 2003 and 2004. It was hard to believe that it had been 4-5 years since I had been there.

Need to see a mosque? No Problem. Plenty of those on the road to Abu Dhabi from Dubai, such as this one.

My wonderful friend, Bob Craig, drove like 8-10 hours from Oman with his new wife, Alexandra, to meet me in Abu Dhabi. You can see the skyline of Abu Dhabi faintly behind them in the distance in the pic below.

You might see it better here:

Bob has met me in many places over the past 7 years including Auckland, New Zealand, Dubai, Abu Dhabi,and London.

Of course, if you are in the Middle East for a couple of weeks you are bound to run into a camel or this one eating my hair:

My friend, Vance Stevens (from the Petroleum Institute and Webheads), and his wife, Bobbi, joined us on my last night in the UAE at an outside pub connected to the Hilton. I stayed with Vance one night during this trip.

Here is a pic I took with Bob Craig before I left Abu Dhabi for Saudi Arabia.

The UAE is an interesting place. But the cranes have stopped. It is sad. The economic crisis seems to have hit them hard. People are leaving their cars at the airport and going home.

Abha, Saudi Arabia: On January 30th, I flew to Abha, Saudi Arabia to speak at King Khalid University (KKU). I gave 11 talks there in 5 days. I stayed in a hotel room there for 6 days and got out two times. Once I got out to speak at their new "temporary campus" and once I got out to meditate on top of a nearby mountain called "green mountain."

Entering my hotel in Abha. It is an incredible feeling; especially after flying in all night from Dubai after stopping in Riyadh. Nice to have a place to put my bags.

A view from the restaurant in my hotel in Abha. What a site to see at each meal!

More views from hotel restaurant.

Views from my elevator.

A view from my room.

The houses off in the distance. Cool views in Abha! Colorful houses--the mayor of the city encouraged a colorful community. Thus, it is different from other parts of Saudi Arabia.

The pictures below are just of the temporary campus for KKU. The temporary campus is amazing and they are just moving into it now. They are building a brand new campus to be done in a few years, which, from the drawings I have seen, is spectacular! Billions spent on it I think. Wikipedia can tell you more about KKU.

On the way home, they did take me to Pizza Hut for dinner (not my selection but ok). Smile. I also got to watch the second half of the Super Bowl using free Internet TV (connected online to some station from Canada). This was my third trip to Saudi Arabia. Abha is a resort town in the southwest corner in the mountains. There are even pine trees there (see pic below).

During the week, I gave 11 talks at KKU. My first one was on how the world was becoming open for learning. By the 11th talk, I had a few people believing me. Perhaps some will be interested in my "The World is Open" book.

This instructor came to all my 11 talks at KKU. Apparently, he had a high tolerance for pain.

Even the camera man for this one week event at KKU found the world was getting more open.

And so was the e-learning program manager who had just arrived from Jordan.

This English teacher from Yemen came to all my talks as well. His name is Aziz. Aziz is great!!! We are still corresponding.

These instructors came to most or all of my 11 talks. What makes it even more amazing is that these were mostly 4 hour talks and it was finals week. Yes, 4 hour talks. Typically from 8 am to noon and then from 4 to 8 pm. The Abha Palace Hotel had great views. It also had a great restaurant where I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. It was about all I saw since I presented in the hotel as well.

At the end of my 11th talk, no one wanted to say goodbye. These people are so much fun! Many instructors at KKU are from India, Yemen, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, and other nearby countries.

I could not say goodbye without KKU people reminding me that the world is truly open for learning now!

KKU is a wonderful place. This is Dr. Abdullah Alwalidi who got his Ph.D. at Kansas State University. He brought me to KKU. He is transforming teaching and learning at KKU with many ambitious plans and goals. Unfortunately, my week was up and it was time to say goodbye.

Stopping in two countries in one trip is hard and even more difficult with customs and such. I would not recommend one do it too often. Carrying luggage and keeping track of my schedule is always difficult. It becomes a tad more so when flying a long way by yourself. But that is often the life of TravelinEdMan. A few years ago, I was giving more than 100 talks a year. It seems I am on pace for that again this year though I do not think I will make it. We will see.

Phoenix and Glendale, Arizona: I got home on February 6th and then flew to Phoenix to speak at Thunderbird School of Global Management on February 11th. I saw my good friend from Arizona State University, Dr. Jim Middleton, when I was there. ASU is putting all faculty on 10 day furloughs and administrators on 12 days ones. Amazing. Jim helped me with my dissertation a long time ago. It was his birthday when I saw him. Jim was just happy to be alive after being hit by a car while crossing the streets of Tempe a couple of years earlier. The story of his survival (flying 20-30 feet) with blood gushing all around him was enough to tell me that my travel schedule is pretty easy and I should have no complaints. And the weather in Phoenix was grand for running.

It was Jim's birthday. So glad to be there for it.

Jim is not sure if the world is open as ASU is facing significant budget cuts.

It took me all day but I think I convinced him:

The Thunderbird people seem perched in an interesting spot--they specialize in training for global managers and leaders and are exploring innovative global ways for doing so (i.e., teaching on the Web). Their MBA is ranked #1 in many quarters and they have excellent instructors and program developers. Of course, the cost is not cheap as I think their online MBA is only second in price to Duke. Thunderbird also has a partnership with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University; actually with our Kelley Direct (KD) program. They have many other partnerships (e.g., with those in Asia and South America) and are seeking more.

Houston, Texas: I came back from Phoenix on February 13th and then a few days later flew to Houston to speak to the University of Texas School of Public Health. I was in Houston February 17th to the 20th. Many great meals were eaten there. I have been to Houston 6 times since November 2006. I got the Houston Museum of Modern Art for one of my final meals. The medical complex in Houston is immense as is the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. People from the UT School of Public Health, School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, School of Nursing, and healthcare informatics people came to both talks. They also sent them both live to their campuses in El Paso, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Brownsville, and perhaps 1-2 others. I think that this was my last time in Houston for some time. It was a make-up for a talk I was supposed to do back in September just after Hurricane Ike. I have also been there in October and December. When I was there in December, they had snow. Weird weather in Houston this year.

I could see almost all of Houston from my hotel room at the Hilton near Rice University. Like in Phoenix and the UAE, it was wonderful weather to run in. And Rice is a lovely campus.

I just missed this sunset in Houston. Stupid me for checking my email.

Once I was done with picture taking of Houston, it was time to speak and earn my keep. You can see the video monitor above my head signaling that there were remote campuses also watching. Ok, the pressure was on to perform. Smile!

Former master's student in IST, Rachel Barrera, now a doc student at the University of Texas in Austin, came to my talk on Wednesday. She drove 3+ hours each way through snarling traffic to be there.

Always important to raffle off some R2D2 books at the end of my talks; may the force be with whoever wins to figure out how the hec to use the ideas in them.

A few top banana help too.

There were a few people from the UT School of Public Health who now think the world is actually open.

Youmei Liu and Brian Plankis who stopped by from the University of Houston after my second talk also think the world is open.

Ok, talks were done and I get a 3 break from speaking. Finally! Body very tired. On my way out of town, I stopped by the University of Houston to see some friends. What a great day to stroll through campus.

Hard to believe that back in December (2 months earlier), it was snowing here and I have pics of that as well.

I also had a late breakfast at the University of Houston Hilton since airport food is no good (especially the terminal I typically fly out of there). That meal was delicious! So many berries!

Time to go. There is a bus there I could take. No wait, get a taxi! Ok. I had a cool taxi cab driver who discussed politics, culture, geography, etc. with me for the next 30-40 minutes. Great way to end my travel. I should have taken his picture! Smile. I thought about it. He fought in the Vietnam War (2-3 tours of duty).

Recap and What is Next: Well that makes 20 talks in 23 days. Too much, too much, too much!!! I do not recommend it. Ok, next week is the eLearning Guild 2009 Conference in Orlando and then Las Vegas the week after that. I must see the Beatles Love performance with my son, Alex, and his friends, at the Mirage once again (I have listened to the CD 200 times since I saw it in 2 times in November during eLearn). More travel! Oh well. 2 trips to California (northern and southern) in April (including AERA in San Diego) and then Korea for the Korean Society of Educational Technology Conference in May and Hawaii for Ed Media in June. As I said, too much, too much, too much!

There are many more pics. I have a file of pics from the UAE and Saudi. If you want to see more, just send me an email.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 10:55 PM   5 comments
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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

See my complete profile

Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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