Final Project Reflections:
As a requirement of our ECI831 course is the creation of a Major Digital Project. In preparing for this project, I had two ideas which I contemplated. The first was to experiment with social media tools related to career development from a personal perspective (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). I am still extremely curious about exploring these tools in more detail, but felt the project would be more about myself and my own personal investigations than it would be about attempting to explore tools that might have a more direct correlation to my work with colleagues, teachers, and students. As a result, I decided to pursue my other idea of considering how open education and social media tools might enhance an idea I had for a project which allows for the creation of a resource for Career Development Practitioners within my school division.
The creation of an interactive Career Practitioner Resource for Career Development Teachers within my school division.
Our school division’s Action Plan for Career Development began in the 2007-2008 school year. The plan was very involved and included a number of outcomes. A portion of the plan focused on the hiring of Career Development Itinerant Teachers to service the division’s rural schools and the identification of a lead Career Development Teacher in each of the 4 larger schools in order to help students improve career management competencies.
Additionally, the action plan identified supports in terms of regular in-person meetings for Career Development Teachers (as led by the Career Development Consultant). The purpose of these meetings was to help students improve career development competencies by designing teacher professional development sessions in order to:
- develop a common language for career development
- establish, develop, and ensure consistent career development practices
- improve knowledge of Blueprint for Life/Work Designs
- improve access to resources in support of career development
- create a career development teacher network
Until recently, there has been low turnover in terms of the roles of the Career Development Teachers within our division. However, change is constant and new people are beginning to step into these roles for various reasons. This presents both opportunities and challenges as there is now quite a range of knowledge and comfort levels in relation to the above listed criteria as there are experienced and inexperienced career development teachers all possessing varied levels of knowledge and prior learning/experiences related to this field.
Currently, there are various certificate and degree programs available for career development practitioners but formal training is not an option for all teachers. Also, there is no mandatory training for career practitioners within our province or formal teacher certification for teachers in such a role.
As a result, it has been determined there is a need to develop a professional development resource to support current Career Development Teachers in their roles and to help new Career Development teachers come on board with basic Blueprint understandings and sound career development practices.
Format and Design:
Initially, the idea involved the creation of a document with various modules that would support teachers new to this role and also allow for mentorship and continued learning of seasoned career development practitioners. As I progressed with this ECI 831 course, however, and began experiencing with social media and open education tools, I started to think perhaps we should take a risk and put ourselves in cyberspace in relation to our work, thoughts, resources, and such in order to make what we do more transparent and also allow for the resource to stay ‘current’ and take the direction we need it to as time progresses. (I must admit, this concept still scares me a little, but I think it will be a worthwhile endeavour).
It is hoped the development of this interactive professional development resource will:
- Improve the effectiveness of the service our Career Development Teachers offer to our school division students by supporting ongoing professional development.
- Improve the delivery of our program and ensure our division students receive consistent messages and support of the career management process.
- Support continuity of our career development program especially during transitions due to natural processes such as retirement, job change, relocation, sickness, etc.
My project is still in its infancy. As a result, I am posting my FINAL (Work-in-Progress). What I think I have done is created a sound plan and experimented with various technological tools in order to decide which would best be suited for this project. I believe the use of a wiki in combination with a blog are web 2.0 tools which will enhance the project and keep with my other goal of choosing technologies that will be relatively easy for contributors to use.
On November 24th, I was able to collaborate for a ½ day with a number of Career Development Practitioners within my school division to discuss the concept of this resource. We had a wonderful session and they are willing to dive into this adventure with me. (Thankfully!) During our meeting, we brainstormed a number of key concepts we wish to be incorporated from a school division perspective, we also performed some internet searches and located a number of resources and websites we wish to investigate further. We wish to create a wiki with a number of sections that people new to their role or even those who have more experience can access to learn more about key concepts pertinent to us as professionals. We want to include an opportunity for discussion and reflection without burdening people with lengthy assignments. We have created a timeline for completion of our project and have agreed to being open to learning how to operate a wiki, blog, and possible recorded ‘hot-topic’ sessions pertinent to us as Career Development professionals. It is hoped that our sharing , collaboration, and openness will be of benefit to other school divisions within the province as we progress with this project.
Although the wiki and blog will focus on our work as Career Development Practitioners within our school division, it is hoped that longer term there is potential to expand the resource and increase the supportive career development network. (Another reason for choosing a blog and wiki rather than internal technological tools or paper-based medium).
Beginnings of Career Connectors Wiki and Blog:
Career Connectors Wiki: We have been seriously thinking of using a course management tool such as Moodle for this Interactive Career Practitioner Resource. We may end up going back to that idea, but for now we are going to continue to post ideas to this wiki and see if we can find a way to make the use of it interactive from various perspectives. At this point, anyone can view the wiki, those of us with permissions will be able to add to the wiki, we are looking at ways to include investigations and reflections in the Discussion Tabs in order to encourage future reflection, idea sharing, thought processes, etc. Any suggestions as to whether or not this might work are welcomed. Also, I connected our blog to the wiki using the Blog link under Manage Wiki. However, I am not certain that it will update feeds, any suggestions? :-)
Career Connectors Blog: – our plan is to have our school division’s core group of Career Development Teachers sign up for wordpress accounts and become contributors to the blog. At our December meeting, we will brainstorm ‘content’ categories to give us some idea as to what topics we want to post on. We have been inspired by the amazing Connected Principals blog at http://www.connectedprincipals.com/ and hope we can create something similar with focus on ideas and content relevant to us as Career Development Practitioners. In a conversation with @gcouros, he suggested Posterous as a great way to create a collaborative network especially if technical knowledge is limited. Since we haven’t progressed very far with our blog yet, I plan to investigate this and let my group of educators decide which route we should go with this. @gcouros also suggested the move to WordPress.org may be a good idea of there are a couple of us in the group that are technologically inclined. I am somewhere in the middle and am wondering if anyone with some experience on this would care to provide me with some advice. For now, we have our blog set up using WordPress.com (different from WordPress.org). It seems as though it will work for now, but if this blog actually ‘catches’ and ‘take off’ like we hope it will in the future, will WordPress.com be able to handle many contributors and such as in the Connected Principals website? Feel free to comment…
Again, my project is in its infancy but I would love for some feedback as I will be progressing with it in much detail over the coming months. Although I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see it through to completion, I believe every sound project must begin with a creative idea, a solid rationale, an outline of learning outcomes, an initial plan, and a reasonable timeline. I think I have established these components keeping in mind it is always a good idea to be flexible. My major project is all about professional sharing , continual collaboration, and opportunities for sharing and reflection as career development professionals. I have learned much from the transparent dialogue/posts of other classmates which I think will help as I see this project through upon completion of this course.
The FINAL ‘Final Reflection’ on ECI 831:
It is hard to believe our EC&I 831 class has come to an end. This is only my fourth class at the Graduate level and I must say that all the classes I have take so far have been extremely enjoyable yet different in structure. The first class I enrolled in was a Research Methods class from the University of Saskatchewan. This was a ‘blended’ class where we met in-person most Saturdays and communicated via the course management system between visits. During my Research Methods class, we reviewed professional readings, delivered a group presentation based on textbook content, created a research proposal, and completed a final exam. Overall, the class was fairly ‘traditional’ in design. The EC&I 804 class I participated in this summer was a face-to-face class three-week class. There were only about 14 students in my section and I enjoyed the relationships that quickly established between us. Relationships are a big part of any learning environment, and I must say the facilitation by our instructor and the trust the developed between all of us made for a positive face-to-face learning environment.
This EC&I 831 class and the ECI course I took last semester, were structured differently from the ones mentioned above in many ways as they both were designed using online tools. I was extremely nervous during our first EC&I 831 class when Alec mentioned the course would challenge us and push our boundaries in relation to social media and open education. I am a beginner in terms of my knowledge and use of these technologies and wondered if this class was for me. It took some time, and a significant amount of “lurking” to get my bearings in the class. I had to invest needed time into exploring tools on my own and to investigating ideas posted by other classmates in their blogs. I particularly appreciated the synchronous sessions as I feel they truly contributed to the sense of togetherness which developed as the course progressed. I very much appreciated the fact that our blogpost reflections could take on whatever content needed in order to further our own learning and connect to our own practices. But, at the same time, I appreciated the “Content That May Be Relevant to this Week’s Session”, “Weekly Tasks”, and “Media to Get You Thinking” sections as they provided some guidance and possible focus to our discoveries. Given the limitless content on the internet, I valued being pointed in the direction of some relevant food-for-thought.
For me, the most valuable portion of this class has been the connecting, sharing, and collaborating with classmates, mentors, and our instructor. This continual contact whether it be during synchronous sessions, email, Twitter posts, blog comments, etc. kept me motivated and focussed. I am certainly richer for this learning experience and am continuing to reflect on how I can extend my learnings in my educational setting upon the completion of this class. I commend Alec for his insight and initiative in creating this mentorship project. As Angela mentioned in her final reflection, her students were very excited when authors and ‘others’ commented on their blogposts as they didn’t ‘have to’. I must say I felt much the same way in relation to mentor comments as I felt they were really going out of their way to provide meaningful feedback throughout the course and this added level of support added depth to our discoveries.
As I leave this class, I am still investigating the answers to some of my questions. For instance, I am still slightly unsure as to how to properly link/reference information located on the internet, I am continuing to learn more about the Creative Commons and attributions, etc. I leave this class with a shift in thinking and a true appreciation for the power of social media but also with a continued sense of the need to be critical of these tools as I move forward as a professional. There is still so much to learn!
Finally, as I mentioned during my presentation, I came across an article titled Combating Myths About Distance Education by Todd Gilman which explores the challenges of online and distance education programs. To briefly summarize, Gilman contends that many “problems” noted in online programs can also exist within face-to-face or mixed mode delivery courses. He says, “any classroom, whether it’s the face-to-face, online-only, or hybrid variety, is only as good as the people in it. If both teachers and students are prepared, responsive, and engaged, things run remarkably well.”
I must say that comments and collaboration from you as mentors, classmates, and guest presenters and from Alec as our instructor, has been an extremely valuable part of this class. Distance learning really is only as good as the people involved (similar to what Linda mentioned in one of her blogposts about online communities) and you have been FABULOUS! Thank you, everyone.
This has proven to be a truly authentic learning experience and one that was enhanced with the use of technology. I know I need to keep you in my network!