Weeks 9 & 10: Ode to the joy of learning

Oct 19, 2014

Europe and European teachers were in the focus of my activities over the past days. The fourth learning event, Augmented eTwinning Reality, developed and run by the compagnons de route, as Bart likes to call us, took place in the eTwinning learning lab.

Our first event was great, our second event was even greater and the third one was the greatest (so the participants!). So, yes, after the third event, as Bart wrote in his post :

"This is the third Learning Event Arjana and I organized, but this one is really special. We have never seen so much enthusiasm, so much creativity, so much innovative attitude. It’s a learning roller coaster."

and while preparing this fourth event I felt rather panicky because 200 hundred seats for the event were taken in just a few hours. I didn't know if we would live up to the expectations of the participants, who, I was pretty sure, expected us to push the limits even further, beyond the superlative ... to the augmentative or to the super great.

And now that it's over, I think we made it!  I think we enthused and inspired the participants, boosted their creativity and originality and encouraged them to let their imagination run wild with augmented reality. Most of the teachers had little or no experience with these new technologies before the event. But in just a bit less than two weeks of intense learning about the pedagogical use of augmented reality, they became more confident and have already implemented these innovative approaches in their classrooms, not only with their students, but also in collaboration with other participants and their students. Their work represents great examples of best practice of augmented education.

Today Bart and I were invited to talk about our learning events at an online conference for the eTwinning ambassadors. We talked about the "ingredients" that we use to create a place where 200 teachers feel welcome, comfortable and happy to share the joy of learning with us.

European word translator
In the meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, things keep going at their usual, super fast pace. We were greatly honored to have Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of  Meteorology and a 2007 Nobel prize winner along with other IPCC authors, as a special guest at our office to answer all our questions and concerns about the climate change.

With Dr. Michael Mann. Photo by Leila
Yosra, the fellow from Sudan prepared a super delicious Sudanese luncheon for 80 people and I was one of happy helpers.
Yosra giving a presentation about Sudan. Photo by Marc.
We were interviewed by a Collegian reporter and the interview is published here. Our official photos finally arrived and are published on the HHH website at Penn State. I put my official photo on Facebook and it got a record number of likes and comments .... because it's so, so.... so much like a yearbook photo.

The October surprise activity and dinner for Humphrey Fellows took place at Jane's, where we went on a hayride up and down the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania.

Humphrey Hayride. Photo by Jane.
Beautiful Pennsylvania. Photo by Jane.
Fellows and Pei Wei on Jane's porch.
We went to a jazz concert at the Palmers Museum of Art and were impressed with the phenomenal performance by the Penn State Student Ensemble. And last but not least, I went to a meeting organized by the Altrusa Club to listen to a presentation about Croatia, which made me very homesick!

Weeks 7 & 8: At the speed of light

Oct 9, 2014

I really do my best to write my HHH diary on a weekly basis, but it's been almost  three weeks since my last post because I simply didn't find the time to sit down and write. The things are busy, very busy here, what with the regular classes that I attend, the meetings that I'm invited to, the presentations that I give, the proposals that I write, tons of emails that I  reply to, the eTwinning learning event that I'm right now co-hosting, the potlucks that we organize in my apartment, the talks I attend are just a few of my activities here at Penn State.

Next to all of that, I got to go places over the past two weeks! First, we all went to West Virginia on a team building activity. There I did two of my firsts - roasting marshmallows and horseback riding! Both were amazing!

Then my sons arrived for a visit and we went to Niagara Falls, Atlantic City and Philadelphia. All wonderful trips. We saw a lot of sights and enjoyed it immensely.

Back in State College, my sons and I were among the 2500 Humans of Penn State who got to hear Brandon Stanton, founder of HONY - Humans of New York, give an inspiring speech as part of Distinguished Speaker Series at Penn State.

I  also had a wonderful opportunity to take part in a Q & A session with Bryan Alexander who was visiting Penn State to give a talk as part of COIL Fischer Speaker Series. It was interesting to hear his thoughts on the future of education. And I was delighted to hear that Bryan speaks Croatian, that he has visited Croatia several times and that he thinks Croatian women are beautiful.

Week 6: The Great Gatsby

Sep 23, 2014

On Saturday we were invited to the President's Tailgate at his residence. This tailgate was completely different than the one I wrote about two weeks ago. It was held in his beautiful lush garden. The tables and chairs were all white, the table cloths white and blue, the colors of the Nittany Lions.

There were lots of people there and at the beginning of the Tailgate the President introduced his special guests, and among the special guests were we - the Humphrey Fellows! Oh how proud and honored I was to be there wearing my Penn State T-shirt and waving at the other invitees.

After the cheerleaders' performance accompanied by the Blue Band we watched a stunning performance of the Musical Theatre group. They danced and sang the songs from the 1920s and the songs, the dance and the setting made me feel as if I was at a fabulous Gatsby's party. The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books and I felt great!

After  lunch we were bussed to the President's private reception in his private lounge which is on the top  of  the Beaver Stadium. Our seats were in the first row and we immensely enjoyed the view, the food, the Berkey Creamery ice-cream, delicious chocolate chip cookies, chatting with other people, and the game of course. I'm not very much into football, but I believe I could go to games like this every Saturday. I even started to learn the cheerleading skills.

Apart from being introduced at the Tailgate by the President, we introduced ourselves to the Penn State faculty at two occasions - during the Fall Meeting of the College of Education and at the Comparative and International Education Program Brown Bag lunch.

Delicious food was served at all these events, but the real treat was Berkey Creamery. Their Death by Chocolate ice-cream is the best chocolate ice-cream I've ever eaten (and I've eaten a lot of chocolate ice-cream all over the world). No wonder it is the best, because, they say, only 4 days pass between milking the cows in the University's Dairy Production Research Center and selling the ice-cream in the University creamery.

As for the classes, this week I had a wonderful and long-awaited opportunity to try the Google Glass. It was an amazing experience and despite its many flaws, I could get used to wearing it and using it every day. If only it wasn't so expensive.

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