Growing up in the Fifties and Sixties on a rural farm pointed me to a life of learning and a career in education - - nothing quite like the motivation of both strenuous farm work and the isolation of country life! Ask me about "walking soybeans", "baling hay", and "corn-shelling crews" sometime. Maybe NOT, I am a descendent of a long line of yarnspinners so I'm likely to talk your ear off.
I graduated with a class of thirty-two classmates from a small central Illinois school. (A few years ago, the Findlay Illinois School District ended as it consolidated with a neighboring farm community to form a new Okaw Valley district.) An Illinois state merit scholarship provided me the financial start to complete my undergraduate study at a nearby university.
Teaching had always been the goal and once I was established in a position, the acquisition of a MS in Education degree made both practical and financial sense. As I was completing the Masters degree, I took one elective class in instructional media. Living and working in university towns (separate city/town about fifty miles apart) led to completing a Specialist degree in Instructional Media in a few years. My first marriage to an elementary teacher led to buying a house, followed by three children (See and learn more about the kids at our Family section http://www.eduscapes.com/family/), and school and community life led me into the Eighties. By then I had left classroom teaching and was working as a school library media specialist.
My public school experiences have included years as a classroom teacher of industrial arts, several years as a department chair, and more in school library media assignments at building level (both middle school and high school), plus multi-building and district-wide positions. I also spent a year as a media consultant for a district's Title IX project. My public school jobs were in Illinois; almost all were at Urbana School District #116. A few of my special assignments at Urbana that stretched beyond the typical library media position included several years involvement with a system-wide staff development program, instructional television distribution, and video production for the community's education cable channel.
From public schools, I moved to work at a community college for a few years and then on to a university position. From that job base, I finally returned to graduate school and completed my doctorate at IU-Bloomington in Instructional Systems Technology with a minor (cognate area) in Business Management. If you are interested in more details of my professional and educational background, visit my Resume webpage.
Life In School and Out
Except for the last few years, I've spent or worked most of my life in a school building of some type. After college, I moved away from my agricultural roots and the small-town school background to work in urban schools and then a college and university. As a young teacher, I spent time in night classes and summer terms. But not all my education has been in a formal environment.
In high school, I worked as a student janitor as well as many temporary farm jobs. My first college summer, I worked at a grain elevator. Throughout the college years, I held a job at a campus restaurant hangout - - by my junior term, I was the student manager doing worker scheduling, bookkeeping, ordering and the like. I've never regretted that experience (Pre-fast food chain days), but I also made the right decision in not accepting an offer to continue in the field. In my early teaching days after completing the Ed.S. degree, I worked a number of summers as a carpenter, then a lumber yard salesperson, and finally worked in a manufacturing plant. All those made me better appreciate my school work.
Acquiring newer technology skills sometimes required training and experiences outside the normal classroom. Two examples that come to mind are (1) video editing and production and (2) desktop computing. At the time I updated the former skill, I learned by becoming involved with the community access facilities at the local cablevision station. Computing skills have largely been gained by exploring and learning by doing (a sometimes inefficient process) or by working in a collaborative tutor/mentoring process. In some cases, there was no one teaching exactly what was needed. And I have picked up skills by working with students, friends and relatives, and many sharing colleagues. As most of you know, this process is never-ending. There are always interesting things to learn, new developments needed to explore, and tasks seeking good solutions.
Mid-Nineties rolled around and pointed life in new directions. First and foremost a second marriage. Together wife, Annette Lamb, and I developed our personal and professional lives. We began writing and speaking / presenting together; we started our own small publishing company (Vision to Action http://eduscapes.com/v2a/index.html). We both worked at the same university for a few years and lived in a log cabin home in the rolling lands of southern Indiana. A delayed honeymoon trip to Australia and New Zealand sparked a new idea.
We arrived in Auckland in the early morning, an hour before the car rental agencies opened. We stretched our legs by walking around the airport several times. In making those loops, we passed several large advertisements for camper van rentals. An hour later, we have thrown our suitcases into the back of a 19' "compact runabout" Mitsubishi unit. And I'm quickly catching onto driving on the "wrong" side of the roadway, negotiating through "roundabout" intersections, while listening for Annette's navigation directions as she directs us out of the city during morning rush-hour traffic. Oh yeah, did I mention that the steering wheel is on the right side of the vehicle too with a manual shift lever on the left side of the column. No farm or elevator trucks were ever like this! Need I say that we both had a fantastic time, traveling all around the North Island, and the thought of RV travel and life was planted.
We returned to our jobs and life in southern Indiana. But now we began to notice RV's (recreational vehicles) that we passed on the roads. We subscribed to a few RV magazines and occasionally dropped in at an RV dealership to see what was available. At first, we were thinking of retirement plans several years down the road, but the next few years brought a shift in our viewpoints. We realized that both of us were ready for a job change. We had made changes and improvements within both of our assignments, but were also aware of inherent restrictions and limitations, and had a vision of greater possibilities and expanded impact. Some of these aspirations did not match our job base. It was time for another shift.
Gearing Up and Life On the Road
After brainstorming possible scenarios and exploring our options, we mapped out new plans. First off, how much income would be needed? - - well that all depends on this or that factor! What type of RV, how much does it cost, what are typical living expenses, and how do we connect to the Internet? There was much research revealing different choices, and finally we made several decisions. A new motorhome was ordered in August 1998, we turned in resignations in December, and finished our then university positions in May 1999. You can learn more about our full time RV lifestyle and experiences at the Mobile Mavericks section (http://eduscapes.com/mm/index.html) of our website.
As we were preparing to leave the University of Southern Indiana, we established our eduScapes website (http://eduscapes.com/ Summer 1998) and also began the 42eXplore project (http://42explore.com/ January 1999). For the next few years, we were "free agent" educational entrepreneurs conducting presentations and workshops, partnering with schools and universities in multimedia, staff development, and grant projects, expanding our website, and continuing our publishing enterprise.
Today, we still move around North America in the motorhome, finding locations where we want to park and work for awhile. Then after a few months, we become restless or the weather/season begins changing and we move on. One winter we did settle down for several months near Phoenix, AZ while I finished writing my dissertation. Favorite RV park locations often garner a return visit, and we continuue to find interesting people and things everywhere we travel.
Recent technology changes have made our lifestyle easier. For over two years we have used a high-speed 2-way satellite system that enables us to send and receive email, upload files to our website, and access Internet resources. We have also added Internet phone capabilities to provide outgoing communication in remote regions outside our cell phone range (common occurrence in some western regions).
Shifting to a New Gear
As my dissertation committee chair, Jim Pershing, observed a few years ago, "You guys must be pretty good friends." I believe he was referring to our living in the small confines of a motorhome. Absolutely, Annette and I are great friends. We have similar but different educational and professional backgrounds and interests and work in the same or related fields. We collaborate effectively and love brainstorming plus developing and expanding ideas and projects. We enjoy living and working in the RV lifestyle.
The past few years have been exciting and rewarding. Unexpected opportunities have returned us to university teaching. Both Annette and I are now professors in the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) (http://www.slis.iupui.edu/) at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) (http://www.iupui.edu/). We are developing and teaching all of our classes on the Web.
Finally, I will share a few of my personal interests. In addition to pride in the kids and their activities and accomplishments, I enjoy our visits and contact with extended family. When not working at a computer, I consider myself an avid reader - -some fiction, a few mysteries, science fiction, biography, history, nature and travel . . . I usually have two or three books in progress. Of course , I love travel and exploring, driving backroads, hiking, canoeing, tent camping, national parks, public lands and wilderness areas, and photography.
Created by Larry Johnson, 12/03.