Another semester over – what have I learned?

Monday the 29th marks the last official teaching activities, barring the exam and associated marking, for my grand challenges in Computer Science course. It’s been a very busy time and I’ve worked very hard on it but my students have worked even harder. Their final projects are certainly up where I wanted them to be and I believe that the majority of the course has gone well.

However, I’m running some feedback activities this week and I’ll find out how I can make it better for next year. At this stage we look like we’re going to have a reasonably large group for next year’s intake – somewhere in the region of 10-20 – and this is going to change how I run the course. Certain things just won’t work at that scale unless I start to take better advantage of group structure. I’ve already learnt a lot about how hard it is to connect students and data and, in our last meeting, I commented that I was thinking about making more data available in advance. Well, maybe, was the reply from students but we learned so much about how the data in the world is actually stored and treated.

Hmm. Back to the drawing board maybe – but also I’m going to wait for all of the final feedback.

Do I have students who I would happily put out in front of a class to run it for a while, doubly so for a community involvement project, with the confidence that they’ll communicate confidently, competently and with passion? Well, yes, actually – although there’ll be a small range. (And now I’ve just made at least three people paranoid – that’s what you get for reading my blog.)

There is so much going on that the next two months are going to be pretty frantic. Next year is already shaping up to be a real make-or-break year for my career and that means I need to sit down with a list of things that I want to achieve and a list of things that I am and am not prepared to do in order to achieve things. The achievement list is going to be a while coming, as goal lists always are, but the will/won’t/want list is forming. Here’s a rough draft.

  1. I still want to teach and be pretty involved in teaching. That’s easy as I’m not senior or research-loaded enough to get out of teaching. (I don’t really have a choice.
  2. I need to have more time to work on my non-work projects. I’ve just spent all of a Sunday working and the only reason I stopped was that I couldn’t spell constructivist reliably any more. (Yes, that just took three tries.)
  3. I want to have enough time to spend time with my students and not looked rushed or feel guilty about the time.
  4. I want to have the time to be able to help out any colleagues who could use my assistance AND I want to have the time to be able to seek help from my colleagues!
  5. I don’t want to take on anything that I have to give up on, or push to the sidelines for next year.

So, obviously, it all boils down to time, planning and allocation of priorities. With that in mind, I’ll wish you a happy Monday or good weekend. I’m going to have some dinner.

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