And back to the real world…

2013 has started with a bang – or at least that is what my head feels like when I enter my office every morning and look at the growing to do list on my whiteboard :)

I finished my study leave on the 31st December, and since returning to work, I’ve been readjusting to that delicate balance of getting ready for teaching in our first semester, working out what has changed in our policies and processes in the year that I have been away and keeping my research projects going. There are several projects that I am currently working on that I am quite excited about.

The first is rebuilding our introductory programming course around media computation. This is going to be huge fun, and I am looking forward to getting into the classroom with our new materials. We rebuilt this course in 2011 – restructuring our teaching approach around collaborative learning and cutting down on the traditional lecture slots that we used to have. In this latest restructure, we will be keeping the collaborative approach, but building media computation around it. A large part of the way that we teach this course is through weekly collaborative workshops, and I think that the media computation style will lend itself well to this interactive, lab- and group-based approach. We also build a large project that threads together the collaborative workshops with the more assessment focussed practical sessions, and I think we can do something nice here. At the moment I am thinking of a movie-based project – building on some of the work that already exists in collage construction, text inclusion and animation, and allowing the students to develop their own short films.

Another interesting aspect of the way that we teach this course is by adopting contributing student pedagogy – where students are partially responsible for teaching others, and are assessed on how well they do so. We have done this in the past by sharing test cases, and swapping partially developed algorithms and designs, and also through an essay on an innovation in ICT. I think I’d like to do something different this year for this last part – perhaps something that looks more explicitly at ethics and legal issues in ICT, which can be focussed quite easily on media if the students wish.

The second major thing that I will be working on this year is the curriculum restructure of the final year of our core undergraduate CS programme. We have actually been scoping this out for a couple of years, leading on from our restructure of Level 1 and Level 2, but we are now at the point of pinning down our intended specialisation areas, and drafting our course proposals. This will be fun and a great chance to work with my colleagues, and our students.

And my research is always something I am looking forward to. I have some new projects that I am just starting now with some new colleagues, and my work with our local defence industry focussing on software architecture is really building to a significant project – we have enough knowledge now within the group, and enough critical mass, to work on larger, more interesting projects within defence. On the CS education research side, I am really looking forward to spending more time here with my group – we have a couple of journal papers that we need to work on to complete some existing projects, but also some new projects within the online learning space that I am itching to get started on.

Which brings me back to my first point – where do I start!

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