Why the name – focal fish?

OK, so people may wonder why the name of my blog…and it is a valid wonder.

In my dissertation defense I was giving some background information regarding the way that culture impacts learning. I used as an example of differences in perception a study referenced in Nisbett (2003) where Japanese and American learners watch an aquarium scene and then report on what they saw. The Japanese referred to background objects, even inanimate objects 60% more than the Americans, and they also typical started talking about the context: “It looked like a pond.” On the other hand, the Americans usually started by talking about the focal fish in the animation: “I think it was a trout.”

Well, every defense should have some comedic relief to diffuse some of the tension. In this case, it was provided by a great mentor and friend of mine, Dr. Cliff Mayes, who was on my committee. He said he liked the sound of “Focal Fish” and recommended I start a band by that name.
Everybody laughed.
Then Jeremy Brown suggested that I start a website by that name, having quickly checked the availability right then on his wireless laptop.

I suppose I ended up compromising and at least having a blog by the name. What do you think – is it a catchy name for a blog? Or should I leave academia and follow the path of a rock star?:)

Dissertation Results

Dissertation Results


Before I was in Tanzania, I attended CATaC (Conference on Cultural Attitudes Towards Technology and Communication), held in Tartu Estonia and presented my dissertation research.

A summary of the dissertation has been submitted for publication, but for a sneak preview, you can either email me for a copy of the dissertation or read the abstract for the short paper below…

Abstract. The amount of resources being poured by Western universities, companies, and governments into creating educational content to be exported (via the Internet) to other cultures is astounding. Those assigned to accomplish this task are left with the great challenge of meeting the needs of learners who come from cultures that are foreign to themselves, and who often have very different abilities and expectations than originally assumed. This study explores the cultural competence in the lived experience of 12 professionals who have been involved with such efforts. Often they have had to question their assumptions, recognizing flaws in their own thinking and in the organizations that support them, and tried to alter their practice accordingly. Their awareness of cultural differences and the importance and impact of these differences in their practice will be discussed.

Wiki on Culture and Ed Tech

Wiki on Culture and Ed Tech


One of the results of the CATaC conference was that I volunteered to help Dr. Leah Macfadyen to refine a wiki she created with relevant literature regarding culture and communication in online environments.
Leah asked me to help, but as it turned out it was already pretty developed and she was ready for it to go live (See Link 2).
Anyway, it is a resource that you can access for some review of literature. I highly recommend you go there for resources regarding culture and communication in online environents.

Feel free to either email comments to me or her.

Most Recent Conference – TEDC

Most Recent Conference – TEDC


The TEDC link to the side of this page is the most recent conference that I attended in Tanzania, and was a co-director for the associated PhD Summer School. My goal over the next few weeks is to attach summaries of key learnings from the various conference I attended this summer, and then I’ll move into my current research…