Author Archives: admincj

Reflections from Cottage Country

Catherine’s off being a writer in a cabin in the woods. Me? I’m on holiday, so I volunteered to write this month’s post. (Wow. Automatic spellcheck is amazing—especially when you’re not a great typist.) We’ve been here a really long time. It’s rained almost every day, so it’s been perfect for napping.

Even inside, there’s lots to see and do. There are lots of windows, so I can see all kinds of birds. One day, the lilac bush was alive with them! And I’ve seen all kinds of animals outside too! Some of them are about my size, but they look very different. One of them lives under the cottage; I hear her scratching or grunting sometimes. Her whole body is covered with these long sharp-looking spines. Early one morning there was a family of five little animals about my size staring in at us. They sat up on their hind haunches with their front paws hanging down like little hands. There’s an animal that looks a bit like a small dog, but he has the most amazing tail!

And there are these huge animals—bigger than a human! I hear them snorting in the trees. Sometimes they come out though and they’re enormous! One of them had little antlers growing from his head! They’re not very brave though. The smallest movement or noise and they snort and stomp, then run back into the woods.

 

 

 

 

Catherine’s here all the time—well, nearly all the time. It’s great because whenever I get a bit peckish, I ask her for treats; sometimes she complies. When there’s sun, she lets me go outside. She makes me wear this stupid string thing, and won’t let me go under the cottage or into the woods. The other day, I took her around the whole cottage and then down the road. I decided to turn back before the cottage was out of sight; I didn’t want her to get lost.

I’m loving the quiet and the sweet air and the moss for stretching in and the grass for eating and so much to see and experience! And lots of cuddles when it’s cold. I hope the weather gets better so we can go outside more. Not sure when we’ll be home; I’m not the driver!

Signed The Mystery Cat in Black aka Baboo aka Fawkes Jenkins

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

Ah, Paris

Paris, Ontario, that is. Since it was settled in 1829, and incorporated in 1850, the town has grown to a burgeoning population of over 12,000. But size isn’t everything. Paris has sometimes been called the prettiest town in Ontario. Built on the shore of the Grand River near its convergence with the Nith River, it’s easy to see why.

Paris on the Grand

There’s a Public Library, and a variety of churches. Some people even canoe and kayak on the Grand, but there’s quite a current and rapids, so it’s not for the faint of heart.

Paris Public Library

Boating on the Grand

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is also the home of Mary Maxim crafts, so there’s lots to do on those cold winter nights. When all else fails, one can always relax and watch the lights of Paris. Enjoy!

The Lights of Paris

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

California, Here I Come!

California’s been on my list for a while, so when a San Diego conference opportunity presented, I jumped on it. After attending numerous conference sessions, I set out to explore the city. My first walk was along the harbourfront.

San Diego combined Work and Play

Setting out from my hotel, I wandered through the very commercial Seaport Village and kept walking. Although it’s possible to board the now-decommissioned USS Midway, I declined. Its size is truly awesome, dwarfing the numerous helicopters and planes on its decks. I walked all the way to the Maritime Museum, which allowed me to board and walk through classic tall ships, as well as a submarine. I’ve always wondered how I’d do in a sub, and now I know. Having done it once, I’m glad that I’ll never be asked to do it again.

After several more conference sessions, I headed out the next day to explore the Gaslamp Quarter. I’m always amazed at what passes for old on the west coast. Although charming, there are many much older buildings in Toronto or Peterborough, and here, the gas lamps are electrical. I made it as far as the Chuck Jones Gallery and spent a long time looking at original pieces by Chuck Jones, Dr. Seuss, Charles Shultz and others. It’s a delightful time capsule for connoisseurs of 1960s cartoons.

Balboa Park, San Diego

On my last full day, and after a few more conference sessions, I headed for Balboa Park. The round-trip walk took me three hours, but the weather was warm and clear, like every other day in San Diego. The main attraction at the park is a series of buildings constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, a Worlds’ Fair celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. The buildings are perfectly preserved and rest among lush greenery and fountains. The park is obviously popular with families.

San Diego is beautiful and the weather was consistently perfect. It’s also expensive. I was stunned at the number and population density of homeless people everywhere I walked.

The perfect image for San Diego; beauty on the surface sometimes hides unpleasant truths.

Between the time I planned and accepted my conference invitation, and the actual trip, the American political landscape changed drastically. Although I considered cancelling, ultimately, I decided to go. And I’m glad I went, but I may take such decisions a little more cautiously in future.

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

Fun with MOOCs!

For the uninitiated, MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course (not to be confused with Mouk, a globe-trotting cartoon bear). Over the last several years, educators have been trying to figure out how to leverage the internet pedagogically, with varying levels of success. Some have developed online simulations for various specialties; others have created hybrid or flipped courses involving a combination of in-class and online learning. MOOCs offer completely online, free, open access learning, often with students numbering in the thousands across multiple countries.

MOOCs have a Canadian connection, having been developed by George Siemens at Athabasca University in conjunction with Stephen Downes of the National Research Council for a University of Manitoba course on connective knowledge in 2008. According to Downes, MOOCs fall into two categories: those that essentially follow a traditional course hierarchy with video lectures from one or more experts (sort of a digital correspondence course); and those that encourage greater peer connectivity via message boards, blog posts, or even virtual reality using a platform like Second Life. This second, more connected and creative option, is the one preferred by Downes, and it clearly supports Henry Jenkins’s theories of participatory media culture, in which users co-create online.  (Not sure if Henry and I are related, but we clearly share numerous interests.)

Lots of MOOCs exist. I’ve only played around on a couple of them, but as a dedicated life-long learner, I’m loving them! They’re open access (to anyone privileged enough to have access to a computer and the internet) and usually free (unless you want a piece of paper upon completion). So far, I’ve completed five courses through Coursera and FutureLearn, all created by different universities. I started with a medical humanities course from the University of Cape Town, moved on to a fascinating course on medieval magic from the University of Barcelona, simultaneously tackled two courses on forensic science (one from the University of Dundee and the other from Nanyang Technological University), and finally got around to filling the psychology gap in my education with a course from the University of Toronto.

Each course has taken a slightly different approach. While all have included short video lectures, usually from five to twenty minutes, some have included mini-check-in quizzes, while others demand longer tests; all have required a little bit of writing, along with the need to peer-evaluate written assignments by other students. Most have included links to other fascinating online resources. The level of required engagement with other students has varied from regular to none. Often, I can adjust my level of engagement to my available time. Some courses have been organized thematically week-to-week, while others have used more of a narrative arc. Right now, I’m working on an amazing course on ancient Rome that includes a virtual reality model students can explore.

Not sure what I’ll tackle once this course is done, but I’m sure it’ll be new and exciting! Hope you’ll join me. In the words of Odd Squad’s Dr. O, “What’s next!”

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved

My Less-tech Experiment

I’ve been doing this (very informal) social experiment for the last six months. My cell phone died—again—except this time I couldn’t find a replacement battery. So I decided to go without for a while, just to see what that was like. Overall, it’s been very liberating. I feel lighter. I still have a landline (old school, I know), as well as e-mail and limited social media, so it’s not like I’ve vapourized completely. It’s just that for some periods each day, I’m less readily available. Given that I’m teaching some part of most days, I can’t have my cell phone on anyway.

I hate the sound of it ringing, and I hate vibrate mode even more, so most of the time I’ve carried a phone, it’s been completely muted. I check it when I think of it, and that’s been a much better way for me to relate to a cell phone. In the last six months, there’ve only been three times when having a cell phone would’ve been convenient. I’ve also noticed, however, that some of my friends, especially some of my younger friends, are less inclined to get in touch now that they can’t text me. Texting has clearly superseded phone conversation, although verbal communication is often more efficient. I find tech services in Canada outrageously priced for the use I get out of them, so I’ve also enjoyed the savings.

This less-tech experiment also caused me to ponder my relationship with cell phones, as well as when and why that relationship started. After about three months without, I remembered that I got my first cell phone when my Dad was dying. I was freelancing and often out of reach of my home phone, but I knew that at some point I’d get a call and that I’d need to get somewhere. A cell phone made a lot of sense for the kind of urgency I was experiencing. I kept it through my Mum’s similar fate. And then I had it, so I kept it. But now I’ve realized that because my introduction to cell phones was surrounded by anxiety and hypervigilance, these emotions have impacted my relationship with this technology.

I think it’s good to have taken a break, and to have figured out why I have tended to relate cell phones with anxiety. I have some travel coming up, and it’s now assumed that everybody travels with a phone, in part so airlines can inform you of delays, you can change or make last-minute bookings, and so you can show e-Tickets. (I once saw a woman arrive late at her boarding gate suddenly discover that she didn’t have her e-Ticket because she’d left her phone at security. I wouldn’t have pegged her as someone who could run that fast, but she made it, thanks to a short flight delay.) So I’m beginning to move in the direction of reinstating my cell phone, but with a shifted awareness that will hopefully make my new experience a little less stressful.

©Catherine Jenkins 2017 all rights reserved