The Awards: 12

It was my pleasure to be invited again to the ISSS (Interdepartmental Science Students' Society) Instructor Appreciation Night. Apparently, some nice person (or persons) nominated me, and ISSS decided to give me an award ("for excellence in teaching" and "In Recognition of Your Dedication to Undergraduate Teaching"). Thanks! On the left is a pic of the nice plaque I received. Congrats as well to the other 17 instructors and 13 teaching assistants who received awards. Special shout-outs to my psych department colleagues who also picked up awards, Dr Anthony Singhal and Dr Erik Faucher.

There was a nice reception in the PCL Lounge, followed by an even nicer dinner at the Faculty Club. I don't go to the Faculty Club often; I don't have a membership. (Contrary to what many people think, no one automatically gets a free membership. Membership costs $25 a month. And I'm a cheapskate.)
This dinner was the culmination of a big week for ISSS: Science Week! If you're not aware of all the services that ISSS provides to Science students, you should check out these services.

Somehow, I managed to get a seat at a table with a couple of Associate Deans. You've got to be careful in a situation like that. (It's not good to spill a drink on an Associate Dean.) There was some interesting information going around the table. Apparently there are some rumours going around about me, but I couldn't get any details. Does anyone know anything? Is there something in my teeth? Should I be looking for a new job? Are my ties not cool enough?

Why aren't you studying?

The Conference

On Friday, I was away at a conference. I don't go to conferences often. (OK, so I was away 11 months ago. But I called that a "business trip.") It wasn't a scientific conference--that is, it was not organized by a professional organization like the Association for Psychological Science or the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. (I'd really love to go to one of those conferences--but I've have to cancel a lot of classes. APS is in May, and HFES is in October. It was bad enough that I had to cancel my intro class on Friday. I feel so guilty...)

At a typical scientific conference, a lot of researchers present their findings as talks or posters. Plus, there are opportunities to meet with the researchers and with students. Usually, a notable person delivers a keynote speech. This conference was organized by a publisher (like my business trip last year), but it was filled with scientists (psychologists, mathematicians, and physicists) and people from the publishing company, Pearson. The conference was billed as a "Digital Innovation Summit."

Instead of presenting research papers, people discussed their teaching, with an emphasis on how digital technology is changing pedagogy. There were opportunities to talk with others over breakfast and lunch (I bumped into a colleague who, like me, is teaching in Science 100 this year), so that was nice. And the keynote was given by Professor Eric Mazur, who is on the forefront of innovations in teaching. (He is "author or co-author of 288 scientific publications, 36 patents, and several books" and has contributed to a number of startup companies, like Learning Catalytics.) He was amazing to hear, and I think his talk on changing how we assess students made all of us think about teaching in a different way.

There wasn't a lot of time for fun, but I did get tickets for Flyover Canada with my hotel room, so I checked that out. (Verdict: Fun; much like Soarin' Over California. The older ladies sitting next to me sure had a hoot.) Beyond that, though, there wasn't time for anything else. I had to zip back home for one daughter's soccer game (they won, and are now in city finals, yay!), and another daughter's birthday party. Still, if you're jealous, it rained. A lot. Like a 90-mm-severe-rainfall-warning lot.

Here's a photo out the window of the plane, and a crummy shot of Canada Place, where the conference was held:

Part of the conference was slanted toward the publisher showing us that they are serious about changing education for the better using digital tools, which is good to know. Will going to this conference influence me, making me more likely to pick their textbooks in the future? I try to be objective in selecting a textbook.

Full disclosure: although the conference--including breakfast and lunch--was free, I had to pay for my own airfare, hotel, and transportation. (I didn't have the breakfast.)

Why aren't you studying?

What I Did on my Winter Vacation (2014 edition)

In Fall term, the stars aligned and my finals were scheduled to be finished relatively early. As soon as my wife heard that, she said, "Hawaii." So my family went to Hawaii over the holidays. (Yup, again. Hey, it's been three whole years.)

There's a joke that every tour guide in Hawaii tells. If it's your first time to the islands, you're a malihini. "That means you're a newcomer," the tour guide says. If it's your second time to the islands, you're a kama'aina. "That means you're rich," the tour guide jokes. Har har. (Kama'aina actually means "child of the land," but it usually refers to someone who is a resident of Hawaii.) The joke isn't too far off the truth: it's expensive--expensive to go, expensive to stay, expensive to do anything. And the Canadian dollar being worth USD$0.85 also hurt. Ouch.

Here's the lagoon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village:

I love the flavours of Hawaii. Macadamia nuts. Having Kona coffee and a papaya for breakfast. And check out the cool flavours of yogurt (haupia is like coconut pudding):

I'm also a sucker for cereal--there are all kinds of wacky ones. Cap'n Crunch Oops! All Berries! Peanut Butter Toast Crunch! Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme!

 My wife liked going to the beach, but the kids preferred the pool (no sand between your toes; no salty seawater getting in your mouth--yuck!). Me? I'm more of an iced-coffee-and-a-book-in-the-shade kind of person. What I like best, though, are the cultural experiences--the opportunity to learn about different cultures and showing that to my kids. In Hawaii, there's no better place for that than the Polynesian Cultural Center (having great food and enjoying an amazing show are great, too!):

Finally, there was Pearl Harbor, a poignant reminder of the human consequences of war:

How did you spend your winter vacation?

Why aren't you studying?

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