Today is the Opportunities and New Directions (OND) conference at the University of Waterloo. I just learned that we’re expecting almost 160 participants, most from Waterloo but lots from other institutions, too. When I realized my blog date was the same as the conference, I thought it would be exciting to blog from the conference. Instead, as I began to think about what to post, I realized there are a few stories I’d like to share as a participant for the past five years. If you’d like to check out a play by play of the conference, there’s a Twitter feed that I understand will appear on the OND web page (the hashtag is #OND2013 – oh, I just noticed the Twitter feed is already there!). I’d like to share two opportunities and a new direction with you today.
Opportunity – Presenting my research
For a variety of reasons, disseminating my research was not on my radar as a grad student. I’m sure that sounds strange but grad school was a part-time affair juxtaposed with family (two toddlers), a full-time job and all the other things life throws at you. I was in a professional program that many would consider a “terminal” degree. As such, sharing my results beyond finishing my thesis wasn’t a priority. The OND conference gave me the chance to share my findings in, as a new researcher, a fairly safe place. It was just a short research presentation (I think it was 20 minutes with 5 minutes for discussion) but it was an important first step, which led to opportunities at larger conferences, both within my discipline and beyond.
Opportunity – Finding a community of practice
Having completed my degree, I felt a bit lost. My work did not necessarily afford opportunities for research and yet I was left with many unanswered questions thanks to the “future considerations” area of my thesis. How would I find time to answer these questions? What I discovered at OND that many of my colleagues shared the same tension. Research on teaching and learning was an add-on to a plate already full of scholarship, teaching, and service. Yet, there they were, sharing new findings or best practices. Their efforts encouraged me to continue to pursue research, particularly action research, despite a perceived lack of opportunity.
New direction – Becoming an educational developer
Finally, the most significant impact OND has had on my career was my decision to join the Centre for Teaching Excellence. Strange how we spend so much time “planning” our lives yet never realizing what hidden opportunity might arrive at our door suddenly. I think it’s fair to say that I stumbled into educational development, having every intention of staying with the Professional Development (WatPD) program for a very long time. Then a role as instructional developer came along and, having met some lovely CTE folks through the conference, I took a closer look and I’m so glad I did. I love my job, which shares many attributes with OND. I spend time with colleagues from across campus and beyond, who genuinely care about the success of their students and strive to make things better for them. I’m encouraged to use a scholarly approach in all aspects of mywork. And, most importantly, I get to spend my day focused on every possible aspect of teaching and learning.
Many, many, many thanks to everyone who has supported and contributed to the conference. Best wishes to my colleagues today who are presenting, collaborating, sharing, investigating, and just plain enjoying!