Back home

Back home
Where do path’s lead

Back home again after the semester away. It is good to be home, though I am not relishing the freezing cold and snow. A new semester has started and looking forward to my classes. This semester I will be navigating a host of different projects.  I find that I am on one path with many choices.  This is synonymous with motivation and decision-making in tourism as well as understanding the intricacies of organizational behavior.  We all have a choice on what to do and what not to do.  There is not just one path, one way of accomplishing goals and objectives. 

I’ve been struggling with technology lately.  The application and use.  The interplay of the sheer number of choices presented and delivered, and in which to choose from.  The quantity of information to wade through and digest.  Perhaps I’m yearning for something simple.  I’ve reached that point that I can feel what Marshall Mcluhan hinted at–“that technology will become an extension of ourselves.”

The medium is the message ~ Marshall Mcluhan

This quote expounds on the fact that technology influences how a language, information, voices, images, reality may be misconstrued.  That we need to research extensively to understand behavior, to understand thought, choices and to develop strategies.  We become lazy in our diligence to understand the complexity of the world.

That it may ‘steal’ a portion of us.  We think we are ‘smarter’ for having technology, but in reality, maybe (maybe not) it is erasing a portion of our own intelligence.  A whole new simplicity and complexity that we can’t see or understand. 

Technology plays an important supporting role in both my classes.  But does it hinder both teacher and student in grasping the full breadth of understanding?  Does it cripple our thinking?  Have we become too reliant on the crutch?  How do we walk this path, know where it leads with and without its aid? 

A cup of teaAs I stand before the students, each with a laptop open, my own open beside me, I can see the barriers to communication.  I can feel the tension that lingers in the shadow and may impose articulation.  I want to have honest conversations.  I want discussions that spark broader understanding.  One that travels from a limited awareness to a greater awareness.  I am left with questioning the facilitation of that goal.  How do we have a cup of coffee, cup of tea and mutually beneficial discourse without the potential angst that can exist?

London, before and now.

London, before and now.

London Bridge
London Bridge, October 2018

I haven’t been in London since 1993. And it has changed just like everywhere else. Seems more claustrophobic then I remember.  The skyline is a chessboard of old and new buildings.  A host more glass and steel structures that I like and not.

Maybe those old memories are now regulated to the depths of my subconscious.  Transformed into veiled illusions.  Snippets to be recalled for comparisons.

Last month, September marked module two in our study abroad program.  I facilitated the learning of our introduction to tourism class.  There we learned the breadth and depth of tourism, some of the most important concepts and theories.  Stressing how important it is that we in the industry craft a memorable experience.

Only a few memories stand out from my first visit to London.  A nice chap that did our

The White Tower
The White Tower

tour of the Tower.  He wasn’t one of the Beef Eaters, but a tour guide with a black bowler and black coat.  That is all I remember, except the crows and some of the tower itself.  I know I saw the crown jewels, but can’t recall individual pieces. Sparkle, nothing more.

Returning this past fall, it is like a bright shiny penny.  All new and glistening, beckoning to be claimed.  I set out for traitor’s gate, then the medieval apartments, and finally the White Tower to see the armor and examples of weaponry.  All for research and references for my writing.  And it struck me how tourist have changed.  How behavior has changed.

Everyone jockeying for that perfect position for a selfie.  Navigating through the apartments with several tour groups, wall to wall people.  I don’t remember it being this crowded last time.  Definitely not the technology.  Back then it was analog, or SLRs, no cell phones or DLSR.

This time it was about movement.  Moving quickly through the landscape, gain as much information as possible before moving on to the next.  I was caught up when I wanted to spend hours.  Hours to examine and study, both cultural assets and the people who populated the attraction.  But I couldn’t.  I couldn’t enjoy the Tower as I wanted, caught up in the flurry.  Move, move, move and move again.

Tourism has changed in the last twenty-five years.

Inside the Medieval Apartments in the Tower
Inside the Medieval Apartments in the Tower

Do tourist really see what they are looking at?  Do they know their history or the meaning behind the attraction?  Do they take the time in the place to understand and talk to the guides?  Do they appreciate what they are viewing?  How important the structure is to our cultural heritage, our past, our present and our future?  Or has these attractions come to mean something else?

That is what I cover in module 3–tourism, culture and place.  Tourism’s effect/affect on destination, the host-guest relationship and their impact on place.  Cultural tourism is one of the reasons people travel to places.  It pulls and tugs at you to make a choice, and move.  It may be the only reason.  For instance, ancestral tourism.  The want and need to find those places associated with our ancestors, our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents.  Answers the age-old question–Where do we come from?  Who are we?  What were they like?

Concepts discussed include authenticity, culture, identity, place, place attachment, place dependency, sense of self, sense of belonging, etc.  A lot to cover in just three and half weeks.  I traveled to London for two reasons, well three.  I wanted to see the city again and what it looked like now.  I wanted to visit key heritage sites for my writing research, and finally, I wanted to see the places associated with my genealogy research.  The Tower is just one because I have may or may not have a link back to William the Conqueror (apparently my 27th Great Grandfather).

So, London holds this place of interest for me now.  Or maybe it is the type of place.  Not just the destination.  Maybe my choices, my needs and wants have shifted to something more.  It happens throughout our lifetime.  I see London in a different light.  Every trip will be different because of the variety of choices.  But the mainstay for me at least is the history in one form or another.  The cultural heritage of the place.

 

Reflection Poem.

Reflection Poem.

Dad studying
Dad studying

So, I was working on my page today for the students, and of course, my mind is running amok with other ideas while I manipulate code and try to create what I need. WordPress doesn’t really give great help for what I wanted, so it took awhile.

Now my mind focuses on the upcoming week of new classes. But let me backtrack a bit and explain. I am in Scotland with Wisconsin in Scotland Program this fall, and we teach on a modular system. I have fourteen days to squeeze and cram sixteen weeks of information. Not an easy task by a long shot. It can, and is overwhelming.

My first class is a 100 level course, jam-packed with a host of information. I will have to focus on the most influential concepts while expecting the students to be highly reflective and rigorous with the info. So, I contemplated how to explain reflection best. I thought a poem. It’s a brainstorm in five minutes, thinking about being in a coffee shop and focusing on the process. Apologies.

I sit and think, understand
Watch and observe
Listen and hear, more than words
I dip and dabble, postulate
Wondering the connections
The pathways explored
Past, present and yet, to be
I soar on ambiguity
Coast on reality
Dribble without syntax or grammar
Various viewpoints, arguments, my own
I write gaining speed, opening doors
Organize and snip apart
Structure
Rebuild, reconstruct
New, even old
Gaining ground and more
Clarity
And questions
Always questions
Left in my wake, before me
Tangents and diversions
Yes, even frustrations
And extrapolations
Reflections
Inward, outward
Lost on the Journey.

That’s five minutes.

As a researcher…

As a researcher…

Physics
Physics

Numbers…yesterday I saw a post on Facebook from a few fellow researchers about research methods, and design.  It was an old debate about experimentation, utilizing either quantitative or qualitative methods.  It brought back memories of grad school in the 1990s when I was working on my Masters.  Friday afternoons were devoted to seminar, and discussion.  And I can remember the heated, feisty debates, and it always seemed one gender against another.  There was the rock solid numbers on one side, and narrative on another.  At least in my mind now, that is what I recall.

Where was I at that time?  Arguing for mix-methods, for a triangulation of methods because one supported the other, and vice versa.  I knew from my methods courses that the prominent and preferred design, aka quantitative (especially in the USA), couldn’t get at the heart of explaining phenomenon.  I questioned drawing generalizations and affixing them to a general population.  To this day, numbers in this sense, can only describe that specific sample, unless the sample is so large that it can explain behavior of a greater whole.  But how big does that sample have to be?  Again, the debate continues to this day.

For some reason something clicked in my mind back then, and the ambiguity, to a degree, clarified.  Everything fell into place, and uncertainty diminished.  (Ironic using terms associated with statistics…isn’t it…)

Statistics
Statistics

Quantitative methods exist in time and space.  Numbers confine you to a particular snapshot of behaviors.  They are myopic, and lack flexibility.  They really don’t get at the heart of understanding.  You’re locked in a box, not of your own making, or perhaps it is, and the walls have no give, or even a door, to allow you to explore beyond all those walls.  Intuitively, you know that there is something that lies beyond your self-imposed entrapment, but your stuck.  Numbers have more finite qualities than you think, even if we go to that largest number possible.  There is always more…always more.

Whoa, Einstein, you’ve placed a picture of physics equations up there hot shot…come on…explain.

You know the symbol for infinity?  ∞, the one that is usually associated with numbers.  Yeah that one. 

Well, way back in eleventh grade chemistry I stumped Mr. Lantz when he was trying to discuss the atom.  I remember sitting there listening, and then raising my hand, as probably a host of students do at this point, and asked, “What else?”

He looked at me quizzically, and I repeated the question.  “You’ve given us all the parts, but what makes up them?”

He tried to answer, and I still shot back, “And what makes up that?”

Trying not to sound like a broken record here, but you get the gist.  I was the two-year old asking the ‘but why’ question.  Frustration thickened the air, and I can still see Mr. Lantz’s red face.

Back to .  The universe innately has that complexity.  We don’t know if it exists beyond a certain point.   We assume so, and affix that darn symbol.  It’s the best explanation we’ve got so far.  We don’t know beyond a certain boundary, even at the micro levels, or the inner spaces at the neutron level, the nano level.  And to me infinity is not a number.  It is that complexity that exist beyond the confines of numbers.  It is the unanswered questions.  It breaks the walls apart and gives flexibility to what could be a concrete form.

It allows us to imagine, and envision potentiality beyond normalcy.  Beyond what we do know.  It is answers, and more importantly it is questions.  It reaches the fringes of the mind, and reverts back to its starting point to tease out currents of thought, and devise explanations.  Sometimes the simplicity of the answer is hidden in the complexity of the question.

It demonstrated the connections, and the elasticity of integration, interfacing ideas.  It is a window, exposing the landscapes beyond the walls that we might dare to explore, and see that we may have just skimmed the surface of potential.

Okay, back to my original thought.  Research has to be more.  It has to be more than just quantitative methods.  But a triangulation of methods that exposes the soft underbelly of thought.  That gets to the heart of hypotheses, but more importantly, breaks the walls, and sees farther, further than what one method allows.  That there is breadth, depth to explaining phenomenon that numbers can’t explain alone.

Nothing is concrete.  There is too much dynamic functionality to this world to compartmentalized or even marginalize.

So the debate continues…

Sense of Belonging…

Sense of Belonging…

Understanding Sense of Belonging

Lost in Tourism

Stormy skies over Ring of Brodgar
Stormy skies over Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

So my tourism class has finished up for the most part motivation and I am sitting here reflecting on what we talked about.  I tried to convey to the students that they have to develop their own understanding of the functions of motivations for their own career aspirations.  To apply what we learn to their own passions, and how this will aid in becoming a better overall manager.  Yet, I continue to ponder the questions in my own life as a tourism researcher, as a tourism educator.

Why do people travel?  Why do we feel a kindred spirit with certain destinations?  Why are we tugged towards something that we have never really been before, and feel at home?  Why do we have a physiological, psychological, and cognitive response to a destination?  Finding out those answers is gold for a destination marketing organization.  If…

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What about tomorrow….

What about tomorrow….

I just got back from ICHRIE in St. Louis, MO and technology was a big part of the conference.  I found one video that encapsulates what I have been telling my lodging students for the past 7 years here at Eastern.  As well as the students I had in Glasgow.  Technology will enable us to greater proficiency, effectiveness and efficiency.  Traditional values will return, evolved into a higher art form.  Personalized service will take on greater depth with the application and integration of technology applications, both platforms and software.  We will not be tied to a machine, to one place.  Marshall McLuhan’s postulate that ‘technology will be an extension of ourselves’ will be realized.

In one of the novels I have just finished, technology is one of the support characters and plays an important role in catching the bad guy.  One line I wrote:

The movement of his eyes had the document scroll upward so he had uninterrupted viewing.

The hero has set his SMART phone down on a sink and has projected his emails up onto the mirror above the vanity.  He uses his eyes to scroll through his messages as he hastily scans the information.  His cousin has developed this app that highlights key words so the hero’s brain can process the information faster, filling in the blanks and leaving him with no question about what is said.  It is taking the acronyms used in texting to a new level, utilizing the power of the brain to formulate patterns of decisive thought using the visual dexterity that it is capable of.  These thoughts of mine are based on Human-Computer Interaction theory.

The future of technology and innovation
The future of technology and innovation

I really feel that the next few years will see an exponential growth of interfacing our day-to-day activities, physical and psychological, with that of machines.  Design and use will be more transparent given cultural specifics.  We will truly extend our abilities, capabilities by extending ourselves into our environments.  We will be linked physically into our environments, physical, natural, economic and social even more so.

Do I see a future as portrayed in movies such as iRobot?  Will the machine become more?  Yes, I do see it becoming more and I do see a time when the machine will have a brain.  Independent thought, yes.  Will they become a new species?  A new culture?  Sure.  When, I can’t pinpoint an exact moment.  But we are all evolving, immersing ourselves within this new cultural environment.

More later….

Addressing technology and education

Addressing technology and education

Technology
Examining technology and innovative culture–close up.

So as I await and prepare for an interview, I am thinking about technology and education. I strive to create within my classroom an innovative culture, where the students utilize several tools, techniques and traditional forms of technology to extend their book learning or foundations. The digital natives of today need to become proficient in collaboration, communication, and critical/creative thinking. I have probably blogged about this before, but I am revisiting this map with this interview in mind, my upcoming conference and several thoughts rolling through my mind.

I spent some time with my co-presenter while attending the National Restaurant Show and we had a rather heated debate about our forthcoming presentation.  He suggested a book to read, Generation on a Tightrope: A portrait of today’s college student.  I purchased the Kindle edition and started to read not soon after.  And I have to admit, given the understanding that it takes such a book at least three years in development and publication…well, I’m not sure…outdated seems the wrong word, insightful, sure; enlightening, no; helpful, jury’s still out.

I knew when I started into a true role as an educator, from my own personal experience within industry, there have always been problems faced by college students.  (I raise my hand with pride here, freely admit to being lumped in with everyone else.) We all need to have the initiative to attain to a higher level of collaboration, especially in such a diverse universe.  My education abroad opened my eyes to the need for understanding diplomacy and culture, even more so than what I thought before.

Communication must be constantly worked and re-engineered to become proficient at all forms.  Especially the written form.  This is has, I should say, been my hardest crux of my time in academic. Motivating my students to tackle writing, and not just writing for the sake of writing.  Critical and creative writing that conveys important thoughts and analysis to those requesting information.  Day two, after going over the syllabus and assignments, I dive into explaining why I do not conform to the tradition modes of multiple choice and true/false tests.  I can hear the groans now.  I simply state, because you will be required, out there in the real world to demonstrate your ability to effectively and efficiently communicate to your bosses about the current state of affairs of the business.  How do I know if you have learned anything unless you communicate through analysis and rigorous dissection of material and application your depth of knowledge and understanding as it applies to the material and your current state of awareness?

Nose dive right into the trenches from that point on.  Sometimes, I wonder if we shouldn’t hang the old traditional form of the syllabus out to dry and utilize some other tool to communicate need, direction, and expectations.  Is there another tool, technique, technology to deliver on the aforementioned areas?  Umm…

I have put forth and discuss my business environment:

A snippet of a bigger picture
Mind-map of business environment, main drivers information, promises, money both tangible and intangible

Proceeded to tell them that analysis, application and adaptation of the dynamic form could answer most of their questions, if they can synthesis each level of the form and evaluate to each guest and business contact point. This form could answer 75%-80% of their essays.

I even take a class period to explain mind mapping and the use of the tool in gaining greater awareness of what they are studying. So, students are one step ahead, or I hope.

Yet, I have to now address the educator. And I am having a hard time reconciling my thoughts to the task at hand. I’ve hit a brick wall, and realize that maybe, instead of examining the digital native, as in Levine and Dean’s book, we should also address one specifically for the educator. Maybe I am barking up the wrong tree. Maybe I am thinking too much. I have to let my thoughts coalesce and incubate for a while.