2019 was a year for the record books. Looking back, it was basically a constant stream of life-altering challenges (many of which were profoundly unbloggable), but we got through everything and are thriving as we go into 2020.

Looking back at 2019…

Ringing the bell after finishing chemoI went through chemo. But, I made it through and am now stronger than I’ve been in years. And, when it does come back, I know that we have a plan in place and that it works. Hopefully, we won’t have to test that for another 5-10 years.

I turned 50. Which, given what I went through for the whole chemo thing, is pretty fracking fantastic. Hopefully, I’ve got another good couple of decades left in me.

My small but mighty team continues to do amazing work, punching well above their weight. Almost all of my work this year has been literally unbloggable. Manager stuff that has confidentiality implications. Manager stuff that is not confirmed yet and so therefore can’t be shared publicly. And much of my manager-ing has been administer-ing rather than leader-ing this year, which is really just uninteresting as blog source material. I completed the ULead University of Calgary leadership development program (after washing out of the last few sessions due to the chemo thing, and completing make-up assignments by the end of the year). I learned so much about myself, about leadership as opposed to management, and I learned from an amazing cohort of leaders from across the university.

We launched the YuJa video platform and integrated it with D2L. In the first semester, we already have over 330 courses and 2,300 people using it. Amazing. And Curriculum Links launched campus-wide, and has already been used to facilitate curriculum reviews in 3 different faculties.

Although paused for medical leave, I continued thinking about the PhD and am planning to kickstart it in the new year. I started working with a couple of other grad students to share preparations for candidacy, and am really looking forward to working more closely with them and getting reconnected to the ILab as well.

back on the hill after being out of action for a couple of yearsAfter being largely inactive for a couple of years as I bottomed out on that whole no-hemoglobin thing, I started being more active again and it felt great. I went skiing, and didn’t feel like my lungs were going to collapse or my legs were full of cement. Sure, I was sore and tired, but only because I’m old and out of shape, not because cancer is literally sucking the energy out of me. That’s pretty awesome. Looking forward to getting back out to the mountains more this winter, and getting back on the bike in the spring.

My family is doing great, although we’ve had a series of challenges with aging parents and hospitalizations and house-selling and moving-into-long-term-care. They’re thriving now, and are together. It’s been a rough year. Hoping 2020 has less excitement on that front.

I rebuilt my blog after moving it from WordPress to Hugo, and am feeling pretty happy about how it’s set up now. I really dig having a blog that is just a bunch of text files, doing editing in an actual text editor (yay, BBEdit!), and not having to worry about server-side stuff. No updates. Nothing. Just write, run my little “Blog Publish.command” app, and hey presto it’s done. I’m not sure how much more active I will be in blogging, but I hope to be sharing more. I have no idea how many people still read this thing, or which posts are most-read.

Looking forward to 2020…

2020! My god. That’s a made-up science fiction year from some speculative future. And yet, here we are. 2020. One fifth of the way through the 21st Century.

One thing I’ve realized is that I lack clarity of purpose - a personal mission statement, if you will. I’ve kind of been running on cruise control, doing things that need doing and being productive but not necessarily building toward a vision of something that is important to me. I really think this lack of personal clarity is a big part of why I feel like I’m struggling, that my work doesn’t matter, that I’m not making a difference, etc. One of the few projects I’ll be working on over the break is to develop some form of personal mission statement that I will use to drive my work (and to re-energize my PhD work). A huge part of this is feeling like I’m bogged down in the administrator-y parts of being a manager, and I will be working hard to shift toward a focus on leader-y bits of the role.

I’m co-chairing (with our awesome Vice Provost Teaching & Learning) our new university-wide Learning Technologies Advisory Committee - a group of leaders from across the university, coming together to identify ways to develop and implement a cohesive and sustainable strategy for the use of digital learning technologies by our community members. We just formed a set of working groups to start the actual work, and I’m hoping to blog a bunch about that work in the new year. This committee and the working groups is what was missing from the initial Strategic Framework for Learning Technologies developed back in 2013 by the campus Learning Technologies Task Force. Now that it’s in place, I’m super optimistic about the things we’ll be able to do together, and to start to build some momentum and vision - and leadership - as a community.

We have a bunch of projects in the works for 2020 - including a rebuild of the elearn.ucalgary.ca online learning support website, to make it more relevant to pedagogical considerations rather than being predominantly tech how-to recipes. Lots of ideas for showcasing what effective online learning looks like - feels like - and why it matters, in addition to providing the basic info to help people be effective in their work.

My role as “Business Lead” for online learning technologies will be a focus this year - developing processes and guiding policy to make sure people have access to effective tools and that we’re focused on pedagogy and the learning experience first.

I’ll be sticking close to home again this year. Although I’m healthy enough to travel, our provincial austerity budget1 basically means no travel for staff members2. So, I’ll be focussing on local events like our annual conference, possibly hosting a D2L regional community event in 2020, and exploring online conference hosting/participation more.

I will be reading a lot more this year, especially with my PhD candidacy coming up (hopefully by summer 2020) and putting together the core reading list. Likely 30 or so books and manuscripts to go through before prepping for candidacy itself. Also, I’ve ordered a copy of Cow Country and am looking forward to some lighter reading over the holiday break. For fiction, I’ve been plowing through the Expanse novels (and am looking forward to the 9th and final book being released soon).

So. I have a feeling that 2020 will be an epic year. Hopefully for an entirely different set of reasons than what defined 2019 as the most epic year so far. I also have a feeling that things will come out of the blue and make any detailed plans go PFFFFFFFT, so I’ll need to stay nimble in order to adapt.


  1. and an austerity budget at home, as a result of a surprise 5-figure income tax bill due to an audit and reclassification of a huge portion of J’s income over the last few years. so, disposable income this year will be scarce. ↩︎

  2. austerity also means I had to cancel things like our campus GitHub subscription, our WPMU Premium subscription, cell phone coverage, and a bunch of other things to reduce costs. And going into the fifth (sixth?) year of a provincially mandated salary freeze for management staff at the university - but at least we now get 9 personal leave days in 2020 in addition to normal vacation days, as compensation… ↩︎