I am down to seven days and counting!
As students and teachers head off to the Christmas break on the 23rd, I’ll be heading off to enjoy the holidays with my family as well. However, when everyone heads back to school on January 10th here in New Brunswick, I won’t be returning.
Over the past year or so I have been working on my MEd. I just finished my fifth course, taking them one at a time in the evenings and during the summer. Some of these courses were face-to-face, some on-line. All were great learning opportunities, providing an opportunity to augment the more informal learning I do everyday, primarily through Twitter and other social media, with more formal “academic” pursuits.
Now comes the real exciting part. Beginning in January, I have been granted a sixth month educational leave by our Department of Education. This is a wonderful program whereby teachers can apply and, if lucky, be granted up to a full-years paid leave (at 70% salary) – I only applied for six months – to pursue personal learning opportunities. While most are formal programs (like me) some use it to travel and expand their understandings by writing, research, etc.
So, what will I be doing? For the past several years I have been teaching introductory level learning technology courses in an undergraduate education program at the University of New Brunswick. This program, run by the Mi’kmaq-Maliseet Institute, is designed specifically for First Nations (aboriginal) learners throughout New Brunswick and the Gaspe region of Quebec. Through the wonders of the web, video-conferencing and, more recently, web-conferencing many students in remote communities (remote in terms of geography, economic opportunities and many other factors) of our region have had the opportunity to access post-secondary educational opportunities while remaining in their home communities to fulfill family and employment commitments. I have been absolutely blown away by the hard work and dedication of these adult learners towards themselves, their families and their communities.
I will be continuing my work with the Mi’kmaq-Maliseet Institute through graduate studies and a thesis in the area of First Nations education. The plan is to conduct qualitative research in an attempt to capture the story of these students and the impact that technology-based distance education has had on the lives of the individuals and the communities involved. As an active participant in the delivery of these programs, I am very excited to see what stories evolve that weave together the collective narrative of how the new information environment can change lives by flattening the educational landscape for this specific population.
I am excited about this opportunity. While I will definitely miss the bustle and excitement of working with teachers and students everyday, I know I will be back to the classroom again next September. In the meantime I look forward to the change, for the conversations with colleagues and fellow learners in a different setting; for the opportunity to engage a new audience (within the university Faculty of Education) in discussions of change; to reflect, write and share through this blog more (and maybe Tweet less??), to spend a bit of time travelling with my wife, to hopefully participate in a couple of conferences, to continue my teaching at the undergrad level but most of all, to have the chance to get very messy in learning through research.
I have to admit, this is new to me. I am anxious and uncomfortable, but know there are wonderful people who will guide me through the process.
It’s almost noon now – down to six and a half days left!
Photo credit: Time in the Sky, by Matt Westoby, from Flickr, CC licensed.