One of the first major projects I was tasked with when starting my position at the Centre for Continuing & Distance Education (CCDE) at the U of S campus was to begin monthly sessions for Professional Development directed at the various program managers, instructors, and support staff. These sessions were intended to rock the steady ship of what used to be the Extension Division to get the various units at CCDE thinking about innovative solutions for the immediate future. My fellow ID and I were to assume the roles of change agents and make change happen swiftly. The expected deliverable at the end of the first four months was to have three pilot projects in development which showcased some of the technological and pedagogical innovations presented in these sessions.
The format was essentially predetermined for us; pre-lunch, formal presentations, and a question and answer period at the end. We could see change agency was needed in more than just curriculum design. We began by surveying the various groups as to their current levels of comfort in technology, their presumed needs, areas of interest and so on. We were pleased to find one or two champions among the crowd who were obviously keen to try something new.
We developed a few Schedules of Presentations and tried, whenever possible, to make the sessions hands-on learning experiences within the computer-lab. We tapped into other divisions on campus to deliver guest presentations and to promote a more collaborative spirit between the Learning Centre, Information Technology Services, the Media Production group and us at CCDE. Many of these presentations were streamed live on a CCDE PD Presentations Ustream Channel.
Aside from the schedule, the formal presentations, the collaborations, and the flexible streaming aspects of the project we added one more element to fill the time between the monthly presentations. We added the “Paddling Pool”. Promoted as a no obligation play station, the Paddling Pool was quite simply a public access computer station located outside my office. Each month, one week before a scheduled session the Paddling Pool would give people the opportunity to try whatever technology would be discussed in the upcoming session. We removed the need to install anything on your own computer and any need to sign up for something which was a real concern for many people. The location was also important – being outside my office they were able to poke their heads in and ask questions as they learned. Just in time training was literally right in front of them. A short summary, simple instructions and a few suggested activities were posted on the wall in front of the monitor and participants were able to dip their toes in and get as wet as they liked. The featured technology or tool would remain on the work station for three weeks after it was presented at the PD session allowing people to come to it once they had a better sense of what it could do.
These PD sessions were delivered from March of 2009 until June 2010. The sessions were not continued after the summer of 2010 as our Director shifted our priorities to other projects. The PD sessions were, however, considered a successful endeavor as the expectation of three pilot projects was far surpassed.
- Presentation Schedule One – March 2009 – June 2009
- Presentation Schedule Two – Sept. 2009 – June 2010
- CCDE PD Presentation Ustream Channel