Friday, May 25, 2007

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Today marked the end of our Spring semester here at NSCC, the end of the academic year for our learners. It's the end of one academic year and the beginning of looking at a new academic year starting in September.

What did we accomplish this past year and what do we need to do to get ready for the Fall? Like each and every academic year there were both highs and lows, successes and failures, but at the end of the day there was learning happening and that is the most important thing. For most learners I suspect, based on their third semester projects, the bulk of their learning was informal, peer-to-peer, and occurred outside of the classroom. If this is in fact the case (and I am still confirming this, but truly believe that it is), then it was very much a successful year. It means that learners began to develop the skills and knowledge to start on their way as life-long, self-motivated learners and to successful careers in industry.

We also had our failures - not all learners were successful and not all learning tools, technologies, and opportunities worked as planned. But this is OK and is part of the learning process. As I keep telling my programming students "Errors are good and mistakes are your friends, learn from them". If that works for them, it applies to me too - there were learning resources that did not work and they will be dropped or modified for the Fall.

All in all a good year - I started using social software in my learning environments more and have started using Facebook as a learning tool and way of maintaining contact with graduates and current students. In fact, two of out current graduates have found employment from opportunities posted on Facebook by other students, a very cool thing.

So what does next year hold? Foe me it's a greater use of Web 2.0 and social networking software in my learning environments - blogs for reflective and critical learning, podcasts as additional learning resources, wikis for sharing and disseminating course resources and content, and RSS feeds for current, topical, relevant information. I am also going to place more responsibility on my learners for discovering course content - I will stop providing mountains of information and resources and instead foster learners to proactively seek out materials and resources that will become their course content (a much higher level of engagement I hope). I will continue to "scaffold and fade" - providing support and guidance where necessary and then fading when learners are capable of doing things for themselves. In my opinion this is the best approach to take for my learners, allowing them to develop the professional and technical skills to be successful in their chosen fields.

Bring on Summer, then the Fall, and a whole new year of wonder...

(Photo - Janus Coin by Livius)

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