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Advice on Writing Successful AERA Proposals
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Some Fond AERA Memories:
As happens this time of year, proposals are coming due in a week for the AERA (American Educational Research Association) conference. This year it will be in San Antonio (see call for proposals). It will be held April 27, 2017-May 1, 2017. San Antonio should be a fun venue with the river walk areas and great restaurants.

I have been going to AERA since 1987 when it was in DC. I was a master's student at the University of Wisconsin at the time. I drove from Madison with my colleague Tom Reynolds and one other graduate student colleague. I think it was perhaps a 17 hour drive in my little red 1981 Honda Civic. Tom and I alternated driving down I-94 in Wisconsin, I-65 in Indiana, I-70 in Ohio, and so on. But we got there in time for a Goodwill party (i.e., you had to wear clothes from a Goodwill store). We stayed at my sister's house in Arlington, VA.

In effect, this will be my 30 year anniversary for AERA. My research team and I are fast at work on an AERA proposal (or 2) related to the personalization of MOOCs. We also touch on cultural sensitivity in MOOCs. Yesterday, we sent a relatively short survey in SurveyMonkey to over 1,000 MOOC instructors on this topic. We have 90 replies thus far. I never used SurveyMonkey before but I am impressed which its data collection and analysis features. As the original founder of SurveyShare, I can say that I am unbiased in this regard. I no longer own SurveyShare, however.

AERA Proposal Writing Workshop (University of Houston):
Over two weeks ago (back on Monday June 27), several of my doctoral students (Justin Whiting, Verily Tan, and Najia Sabir) and I presented on an online panel to graduate students at the University of Houston who were in a workshop related to AERA proposal writing. The session was run by my splendid colleague, Dr. Mimi Lee at the University of Houston. Mimi had requested that we come in and present to her room full of CUIN (Curriculum and Instruction) students for about an hour or slightly longer.

Given that I was visiting my son in Portland at the time and my graduate students were in Indiana and Dr. Lee's students were in a classroom in Houston, we connected using Zoom. Fortunately, Zoom worked flawlessly. I love Zoom. The Zoom file from the session has since been converted to a YouTube video. A screen shot from the session is below.

Not only did Zoom work, but the session went superbly as well. And we all had lots of fun and shared many stories and laughs. In the process, Mimi's students asked several insightful questions; most (or all) of which we had answers for. If you are interested in our advice or suggestions, Najia has already blogged (Help! How do I write a good AERA proposal?) on the points that she and Verily and Justin made (which were excellent...again, see the YouTube link above). It was super-fantabulous to have the three of them join me for this event.

I list my items of advice below. Most of these points are self-explanatory. Some are perhaps more important than others.

More AERA Reflections:
I also sent Mimi many of my accepted as well as rejected proposals from the past which she could share with her workshop participants; many included the reviewer feedback and comments. Before sending, I did some digging through my old Word 5.0 files. I found one AERA proposal that I wrote back in 1991. It was on metacognition and writing and the Index of Writing Awareness (IWA) that I had created for my dissertation. I found another AERA proposal from the following year (1992) in San Francisco on a cooperative reading method that Debra Clark at the University of West Virginia and I developed called READERS ("READER, READERS: Who's the Most Effective Reader?" was the title of that particular proposal). At the time, I had done a review of cooperative reading programs around the world and designed the READERS method based on the best practices of several of them.

When searching my desktop files, I also found a rejected AERA proposal from 1993 on keystroke mapping of adolescent writing with my fabulous former WVU student Dr. Kevin Koury. Kevin is now a dean and an endowed chair at California University of Pennsylvania. Quite successful! He flies his plane from West Virginia over here to Indiana from time to time to have lunch with me.

If interested, you can find these three old AERA proposals from the 1990s in Dropbox (1991, 1992, and 1993). I could not find my earlier ones but I did find a my first AERA conference paper from 1988 (see below). Of course, I also found a few proposals from the last few years (some accepted, some rejected). Write to me if you want to see any of these examples.

Sidenote: My first AERA conference paper was from 1988 in New Orleans. It was related to my master's thesis at the University of Wisconsin wherein I attempted to enhance student's critical and creative thinking used computer-assisted instruction (CAI) software and other prominent software packages and "cutting edge" learning tools (the link is below to that ERIC Document). See Table 1 at the end of the paper for some mind-blowing memories of what was available at the time for divergent and convergent thinking (e., Moptown Hotel, Newsroom, Recycling Logic, Rocky's Boots, Logic Builders, Facemaker, Certificate Maker, Story Maker, Think Quick, Puzzle Tanks, The Factory, Dazzle Draw, Kid Writer, The Print Shop, Songwriter, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, The Pond, Gnee or Not Gnee, etc.). These were interesting times. I talk about this phase of educational technology in Chapter One of my book, "The World is Open."


I had high hopes of impacting children's critical and creative thinking from a short summer computer camp. But such hopes were justified, at least to some degree. I had accumulated some 22 divergent thinking skill software packages (for Group 1) and 22 convergent thinking skills packages (for Group 2). It took me a couple of months to obtain all of these packages. Amazingly, I knew how to use all of these software tools...back in the day. Fortunately, all of these packages were donated by the various companies/vendors (e.g., Sunburst, Scholastic, Mindscape, DLM, The Learning Company, Broderbund, and Spinnaker) to the schools that I was working with at the time. I rotated between 3 of the 4 summer camps for kids which were using them (schools in Lake Mills, Lodi, and Belleville, Wisconsin). I had to drive about 60-75 minutes to each of the 3 camps each day; Lake Mills in the early morning; Lodi around lunch time; and Belleville (the land of flying saucers and beer) in the late afternoon. What a day! The 4th computer camp was held in Ripon, Wisconsin to the northeast.

What a fantastic learning experience! And the paper is still available as an ERIC Document after all these years. Wow. My very first AERA paper. And, hence, technically, it is my first publication. Humm...

My very first AERA paper (using research from my master's thesis):
Bonk, C. J. (1988). The effects of convergent and divergent computer software on children's critical and creative thinking.  Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 296 715.)  Available:

Check it out! That was my first AERA presentation. I gave that talk around April 7, 1988 (Note: I had defended my master's thesis a few months prior back in December 1987).

My very first AERA presentation:
     Bonk, C. J. (1988, April). The effects of convergent and divergent computer software on children's critical and creative thinking. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting, New Orleans.

I remember that conference well. For one session, I sat in the back of a gigantic room with my colleague Tom Reynolds for a hugely attended invited talk from the famous instructional psychologist Robert Gagne from Florida State University. It was a highly memorable talk, in part, since he arrived late and was not in a happy mood. Many educational psychology dignitaries like Gavriel Salomon were in the audience and also in the back of the room near me (I was reading Dr. Salomon's work on the Reading Partner and Writing Partner at the time...which impacted my dissertation).

Time flies. Just 15 months after that first AERA presentation of mine in New Orleans, I defended my dissertation and my son arrived from Korea (three days before my defense back in mid July 1989). Oh the memories. Suffice to say, I tried to be in grad school for as short of a time as humanly possible (more specifically, it was 3 years, 6 months, 19 days, 14 hours, 32 minutes, and some odd seconds...for my master's and Ph.D. degrees).

AERA Proposal Writing Resources:
If you are looking to create a similar workshop, please note that AERA has some advice on writing successful proposals. They also have some tips and examples. Back in 1999, my colleague from grad school days at Wisconsin, Dr. Cecil Smith, wrote a valuable article on the strategies for writing successful AERA proposals. It was published in the Educational Researcher; a prominent journal in education. Cecil is now an associate dean for research at West Virginia University where I used to work a quarter century ago. He continues to do great things.

AERA Proposal and Other Advice

Professor Curtis J. Bonk

Indiana University

June 27, 2016


AERA Paper/Roundtable/Poster Proposal Advice:

1.      Follow Directions: Submit completed proposals, not partial or hopeful ones.

2.      Plan Ahead: Create a writing plan or deadline; don’t wait until the last minute.

3.      Don’t Wing it: Ask for sample proposals; ask for feedback.

4.      Meet Word Limits: Hide extra stuff in tables, charts, figures, and references.

5.      Find a Fit: Target SIGS over divisions; main thing is to get accepted, not prestige.

6.      Form a Team: It is good to be apprenticed by experts and subdivide the work.

7.      Frame Proposal: Indicate how research drives theory; don’t get bogged down in details.

8.      Capture the Reader: Include the purpose or rationale; offer insightful implications.

9.      Sound like an Expert/Scholar: Put current references, trends, and data in lit review.

10.  Don’t Overwhelm Reader: Title in 15 words or less, simple to understand visuals.

11.  Report Your Data: Collected data is vital, not just hypothesized or future data.

12.  Give It Some Polish: Reread the proposal several times; make the format attractive.

13.  Get More Eyeballs: Ask for feedback from friends and colleagues.

14.  Be Creative: Think carefully about educational significance and future studies.

15.  Reconnect to Paper Themes/Titles: Remind reader of key themes/title at proposal end.


AERA Symposium Proposal Advice:

1.      Organize Symposium: There are many roles with symposia; get well known discussant.

2.      Symposia Recruitment: Think carefully about whom you know and invite the best.

3.      Data Over Big Names: Having data and a catchy title is more important than big names.


Revision and Completion Advice:

1.      Don’t Bounce from Conference to Conf: Submit for publication before conference.

2.      Address the Feedback: Other readers will have similar concerns.

3.      Make Your Final Paper Accessible: Post paper to a website for downloading.

4.      Resubmit Next Year: If rejected, try again. Persistence and grit wins the day.

5.      Share: Always share final paper or drafts with others—adds to reputation as a scholar.


Other Ways to Find Success at AERA:

1.      Know the Audience: Join 2-3 SIGs/divisions; volunteer review papers, discussant, etc.

2.      Network: Attend 1-2 business meetings to meet people; attend major talks.

3.      Be Strategic: Treat the conference like a graduate class you never had.

4.      Practice Your Talk: It takes effort to be a high quality speaker. Practice with others.

5.      Ok to Jump on the Bandwagon: Reviewers tend to favor current topics.

6.      Arrange Meetings: Network, network, network during the conference.

7.      Collaborate: People who work in teams have greater opportunities to find success.

8.      Find some Rituals: Find events, activities, etc., that you enjoy and do them each year.

9.      Don’t Go Every Year: AERA is great, but you need to take a break from it at times.

10.  Forgive and Forget: Sometimes you just can’t figure out why you were rejected. Move on.

Final Thoughts:
It was a great experience presenting to students at the University of Houston. I heard from Mimi Lee that the session went well. It is always great to reflect on one's life journey. This event definitely fostered such reflective processes.

I hope that some of the people reading this blog post can use some of the ideas above. Of course, there are many more that I could list and share. Feel free to write to me with questions. Best of luck with your AERA proposals! I hope to see you in San Antonio. Or perhaps in New York in 2018 or Toronto in 2019 (see Future Annual Meetings for AERA). Till then...

Bye bye...

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Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. It's an Instructional designer dream world.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
There is a lot of attention paid late to instructional design position. Why? Well, simply put, there are jobs. Many jobs? Don't believe it...well, see my educational technology and instructional technology jobs portal or the one for my department in Instructional Systems Technology (IST jobs portal). (Sidenote: I had a blog post back in April 2008 on job searching in the field of educational technology. It was likely my most accessed blog post ever.

Instructional Designer Jobs Hot: The Gates Foundation has a new 16 page report (April, 2016) on Instructional Design in Higher Education (full report or appendix). Tthere are also many upcoming free webinars on instructional design. Interesting data. Seems that the field of educational technology is getting much attention. According to this report, there are 13,000 instructional designers in the USA alone. Of these 13,000, most of them (i.e., 87 percent) at least have a master’s degree and 32 percent have a Ph.D. More interestingly, perhaps, most are females (67 percent). The sample size is solid with 780 respondents. The average age is 45.  See the Intentional Futures website. A figure from the Gates report is below.
More recap data from this report from Gates was published a day or two ago in Campus Technology. Survey: Instructional Designers 'Pivotal' in Tech Adoption, Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology., May 9, 2016 Here is a quote from it:
                "Respondents said they wear "many hats," doing design, training, support and management activities during a workday. For example, 54 percent reported that they manage projects multiple times a day, and another 19 percent do so at least once a day. Sixty percent said they perform technology training at least once a day, and 49 percent said they performed pedagogical training just as often."

The Gates Report is one of many reports lately signaling the high demand for instructional designers as well as those in the field of educational or instructional technology in general. There are jobs!
For instance, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a trends report. Back on February 29, 2016, they had a series of articles on ten key trends. One of those trends related to instructional design. Instructional Design: Demand grows for a new breed of academic, The Chronicle of Higher Education by Dan Berrett.
In it, there is a chart showing that the percent college students taking at least one online course grew from 9.6 percent in 2002 to 28 percent in 2014. And membership in the flagship organization for the field of instructional design--AECT--grew from 1,646 members in 2006 to 2,490 in 2016. That is quite a jump! My friend, Dr. Phil Harris, Executive Director of AECT, was quite pleased with these trends when I talked to him about the data below.

Again, jobs...there are jobs! In fact, of the ten trends mentioned in the report from the Chronicle of HE, this is the only one related to jobs (see The Trends Report: Ten Key Shifts in Higher Education). The others relate to things like faculty productivity, digital transcripts, leadership, marketing of the university, outsourcing aspects of college, the scrutiny of research today, university governance, restrictions on speech, and so on. So the highlighting of instructional design as one of these mega-trends is particularly salient.
Jobs. Yes, there are jobs today in instructional design and educational technology. When I visit a college campus it is not unusual for someone to tell me that they have gone from 2 or 3 instructional designers back in the 1990s to 15 or 20 or more today. Jobs. Yes, there are tons of jobs! Now do we have the flexibility in the training programs out there to find ways to ramp up the number of professionals graduating in this field in the coming decade to meet the demand?

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This week in health (shaking a leg...pain?)
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Some Health Issues: As some of you may know, I have been dealing with calf, knee, and foot pain for nearly two years now. I have overcome planta fasciitis a little over a year ago (right foot). But last August, I developed severe knee tightness and leg pain. After much physical therapy, I finally had a cortisone shot and then an MRI. I had torn the meniscus in my left leg. I had surgery on my left knee Monday morning for a torn meniscus.  My guess is that much of this had to do with a sedentary lifestyle from sitting editing the MOOCs book and special issue project. These two big projects took their toll on my body. Smile.

My surgery went well two days ago. After I was knocked out by the anesthesiologist, my doctor (Dr. Fox) placed a mini-camera into my leg to have a look. It revealed that, other than the meniscus tear, my knee is generally in good shape with little wear and tear. I am now at home recovering and grading papers. I will be doing regular walking in a week. Exercise bike (and hot tub) in 2 weeks and running in 5 or 6 weeks. I go to Tyler, Texas May 22-23 and Korea May 26 to June 8th. I should be fine to travel by then.

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Two Tidbits of TOOCs, I mean MOOCs...
2 MOOCs article tidbit recaps are below:

1.      Inside Higher Ed, April 27, 2016, Georgia Tech’s Next Steps, by Carl Straumsheim (Article key Points: most people signing up are from USA and males (unlike FTF program); they are going to expand their number of MOOC related master’s degrees; they are profitable but not growing as fast as expected; they recently had their 10,000th applicant; and the average cost of developing each computer science MOOC is $350,000. Yes, $350,000 for each course. Wow! I now that we did not spend that on the MOOC that I did for Blackboard four years ago on how to teach.

2.       eCampus News, May 2, 2016, Developing county MOOC users not like those in the U.S., by Ronald Bethke (Article Key Points: developing world MOOC participants (a survey of 1,400 MOOC users ages 18-25 and 2,250 non users from South Africa, the Philippines, and Columbia); MOOC users have lower levels of education (less than half completed college) than studies in the developed world; and more are getting certificates (49 percent) and 30 percent are completing at least one MOOC course. Around 70 percent of employed respondents are getting certifications. The biggest problems for those in the development world that they surveyed) were not the lack of access (4 percent) or the lack of tech skills (2 percent, but lack of awareness of MOOCs (79 percent) and lack of time (49 percent).

Given that lack of awareness was the key problem, I would hope that my recent book and special journal issue on MOOCs and Open Education Around the World can help in this regard even if in a minor or modest way.

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Been there (New Zealand), Done That (Korea...but going again)...
Some updates are below.

I was in New Zealand April 16-25. I was mainly there for the DEANZ (Distance Education Association of New Zealand) conference. I had a great time at the Hobbiton Movie set for the conference social as well as in Rotorua to see the geysers and sit in the Polynesian hot spas. I also loved my time in Hamilton (the gardens, pubs, the conference, the University of Waikato campus, etc.). Auckland (the city of sails) was also delightful. What a view from the roof of my apartment in Auckland and the Sky Tower (see below).

After a very long plane ride, the trip started in Hamilton (that is where the conference was held--the University of Waikato):

My "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY" co-author, Dr. Elaine Khoo, and her husband Jik.

We got to the Hobbiton Movie set on Tuesday April 19th for the conference social. Cool!

Check out my elf ears!

I got to be "Gandalf the Blue" for the Great Debate--whether online and face-to-face pedagogy were identical or not. My team lost, unfortunately. Stephen Bright was Gandalf the White and the host of the debate.

My long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Grace Lin from the University of Hawaii, came to the conference. Grace helped me with my World is Open book long ago.

Marie Bountrogianni Education Dean from Ryerson University in Ontario, Canada met with me for breakfast during the conference.

Elaine Khoo and her husband Jik took Grace Lin and I to Rotorua after the conference. It was grand.

Finally, I ended up in Auckland for a few days. A couple of people from the conference joined me there.

Views from the Sky Tower my final night, Sunday April 24th.

Views from my apartment in Auckland Monday morning April 25th, 2016. I was on the 30th floor of the Metropolis. A lovely and huge place which was one the tallest building in all of New Zealand. AirB&B comes in handy.

Upcoming Korea Trip: There may be a book launching of the Korean version of my new MOOCs and Open Ed Around the World book on Saturday May 28th after the KAIEM conference at Kyung Hee U in Seoul. The translators have worked fast for us! I will meet with many of the Korean translators for dinner that night after speaking about the book and perhaps the special issue at the conference. I guess I should send a few copies of the English version over to the conference. I will speak at 8 places over the first week I am there. I have sent over some of my Adding Some TEC-VARIETY books to give away at each stop (even though it is free online as a PDF).

My Korea stops will include in this order:
Saturday May 28th: KAEIM (an ed media conference; 1 pm talk);
Monday May 30th: Ewha Womens University and the Korean National Open U (KNOU). The KNOU talk will include people from a company called Tekville; Techville builds products for K-12 teacher communities;
Tuesday May 31st: Chosun University (in Gwangju in the south). I will see my former student Dr. Jieun Lee;
Wednesday June 1st: Korea University (2 talks); I will see my former student Dr. Minyoung Doo;
Thursday June 2nd: Chungbuk National U (2-3 hours south of South where my long-time colleague and friend from graduate school days, Dr. Okhwa Lee works. Also there is my former student and close friend Dr. Paul Byun)
Friday June 3rd: Starting at the Institute of National Lifelong Education and ending at Seoul National U (organized by my good friend Dr. Ilju Rha).
After those talks, I will take off 4 or so days to travel around with different friends each day. Perhaps I will get a new suit. I need a blue one and perhaps another white one or maybe a green one.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

See my complete profile

Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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