Friday, January 11, 2008

Week 1: Brush Clearing

Log: It has been an exciting week in spite of the requirement to clear obstacles and diversions from the work I am leaving to start laying down track, framing up and clarifying the project, and surveying the landscape to ensure the paths I am taking will provide appropriate value. I am really "pumped" about this opportunity and about the Nova Scotia Community College, who offer the chance to any of its employees to take up to a year to pursue professional development. This being a short-term leave of four months, I am also very aware of how fast time goes by - this first week having whizzed by at an amazing pace. Of course I am even more surprised that more of my colleagues don't take this opportunity!

Whistle stops: Between transitional tasks, I have had two valuable meetings: one with my colleague/mentor, Maria DesJardins -coordinator for PLAR and Portfolio at NSCC; the other with Colin MacLean, VP -People & Planning at NSCC. With their help I have validated the outcomes and developed some new ideas about how to get there. With a four-month window and a lot of secondary research to cover in the early going, it is important to maintain tight focus on the goals (not my strong suit - see reflection below). The key activities haven't changed much either: creation of a new ePortfolio website on my SharePoint mySite to house the library and reference repository; interviews; site visits; surveys; and analysis/reporting. What has changed somewhat is the scope of the research and the format of the output.

Scope - I had been intending a visit to the Netherlands' college system to see Digital Portfolio in some of the best implementation in the world, but I was cautioned that the relevance to NSCC may be difficult to promote when the EU has those well-developed National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) allowing for strongly referenced competencies across countries and institutions, unlike the situation in North America. I have been advised to stay closer to home and to deal with the realities of our National policy (or lack thereof) when considering the potential at NSCC. Meanwhile, at NSCC we are developing our own Competency-Based Curriculum Database that may act as an internal set of Vocational Requirements providing the same context, albeit at an institutional- rather than national level. We also have many sector-based occupational profiles that can provide competency systems comparable to Europe's NVQs. So I will have to give some further thought to visiting Europe and may have to hold that plan pending progress at the mid-point.

Format - I have also begun to structure the key sections of my research presentation itself and have proposed that ePortfolio could break down laterally into "e" (Educational Technology) and "portfolio" (Educational Pedagogy). Mapping this against a vertical matrix to identify alignment on one end of the map, and implementation logistics on the other, I think I may have a good visual of the work. Colin MacLean provided some useful input regarding connecting ePortfolio with established Educational Theory, and also presenting a visual so that audiences will get the "place" ePortfolio holds in contemporary Educational practice. He proposed that it would be valuable to develop a good map similar to the Learning Landscape presented at a recent symposium in Halifax by the Adult Learning Knowledge Centre. I'll post a visual or two shortly to help frame the work.

Reflection: I have spent some time in the past taking photographs in rail yards. I always think that the rail beds through the yards, with their myriad switches and sidetracks create an intriguing view. I may be challenged to resist exploring all the alternate pathways in this journey as is my wont, but I have an improving grasp on the destination for this project so far. Perhaps, as Frost suggested in his poem The Road Not Taken, I'll have the chance to explore alternate paths in the future:

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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