Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric World

Retirement is like being on sabbatical – only longer

As my first “academic” term as a retiree draws to a close, I’m reflecting on what it actually was like to be retired. We hear all the stories (about men especially) who get terribly bored, follow their wives around the house, get addicted to golf or some other bad habit – but it hasn’t been that way for me – yet!

I know some of my colleagues have basically “moved on” and completely dropped the academic and scholarly parts of their lives once finally “packing it in”. But I didn’t think that would happen to me. I guess I still find lots of things of interest in education, lots I don’t know, technology improving AND I don’t need an expensive lab, grad students or postdocs to feel a part of it.

I also didn’t really experience (yet) what Merrill Lynch describe as a ‘career intermission’


Mostly retirement is like being on sabbatical. When I’ve been privileged to go on sabbatical, my teaching and administration roles have been eliminated but I’ve always kept my grad students, done the odd key-note, travelled a bit more than usual, done more hiking and biking and had more time for reading and music – both for fun and academically. However, usually I have some big sabbatical project hanging over my head- like a book that NEEDS to be finished or a garage that NEEDS to be built.

This fall has been like that. I did three keynotes (Brazil, Oklahoma and Denmark), a fair bit of biking (despite having my favorite bike stolen (sigh)) and tried to play my hammer dulcimer every day. I managed to get one of my remaining grad students through defense, and yes, there were two big projects – both of which finally draw near to conclusion.

First of these was a 2 day-a-week consulting job leading a task force to develop a teaching and learning plan for the School of Business at the University of Alberta. I had worked for the University of Alberta before coming to Athabasca University as an academic, EdTech type, change agent – with little real success in the change department. When I returned fifteen years later I found not much had changed – despite or in spite of networked pedagogy, crowd technologies, open access, MOOCs and lots of other potential. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the experience and produced what I hope is a visionary but DOABLE agenda for enhancing teaching and learning at the School.

The second big job was to lead a task force on financial issues for our small Unitarian congregation. Unitarian- Universalists are the mostly highly educated religious denomination in North America, but among the lowest per capita contributors. We have been running deficits for years and it was time to re-think giving and spending. We haven’t resolved the issue but produced 20 pages of facts and comparisons to other social and religious organizations and discussions on various methods to balance the budget.

What I really like about December on sabbatical or retired, is that I have no term papers, essays or final projects to mark and no grades to submit.

Finally, I think I forgot to mention that I’ve become a cover boy for the senior set here in Edmonton. I know it’s not Time Magazine or the Rolling Stone, but I made the front cover of the Edmonton Senior.

So retirement has been great. I look forward to the Solstice Celebrations now fast approaching and wish you a very relaxing and invigorating holiday season.

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