2019! Goals, Aims and Dreams

By 02/01/2019 September 30th, 2019 Professional Development

The Year for Adventure, Goals and Fresh Challenges

And I'm Back!

Well that happened pretty quickly didn’t it?

2018 I mean! My last post was published on 13th November 2018, and I intended to write more, but a perfect storm of work and life, plus little to no energy/inspiration meant that nothing got done as I might have originally planned. Here is what has been going on since my last post:

  • In college, we went through our revalidation programme with Ulster University, who approved our proposed Foundation Degree in Computing programme, that will commence in September 2019. This was presented in a 150 page document which considers all aspects of the course – from what modules we will teach, to the regulations regarding how we are to ensure transparency and fairness to our students. When this ended, I was pretty exhausted and kind of floated with the speed of the river for a while!
  • Cyber Security Summit & Expo in London – I was fortunate to be able to attend this exhibition and learned a lot about what is going on in the world of cyber security. The only negative was that it filled my already full projects schedule with new ideas!
  • College duties – paperwork, administration and marking – everything a growing lecturer needs
  • Christmas – more specifically, a Nativity play! My wife and I were in charge of this, and was a huge undertaking, which took a lot of time, effort, energy and preparation. We’re both happy this part of Christmas went well!

New Year, New You?

2019 is as much an exciting challenge as 2018 was. I am excited about the potential of new challenges – both personal and professional:

My Personal Goals

  • Lose weight – this is not just because of Christmas, but because I’m getting closer to 40 (OK, I’m 37 and this makes it a tad more dramatic than it initially sounds, but you get my point), but I want to get rid of the waistline once and for all!
  • Cycling – I love cycling and find it a great way to try to maintain fitness, but also for meditative purposes – it really clears my thinking and helps to de-stress and unwind. This year I’m thinking of cycling from the West coast of Ireland to the East coast, Bundoran to Bangor, or a similar route. It will be over 200km and my longest distance by quite a stretch, but a worthy challenge to be undertaken for charity. I would also like to cycle to each of the NRC campuses for charity, but again a bit of training and warmer weather would be needed for these!
  • Maybe (!) try a triathlon. as part of seeking out new challenges, on a physical level, this one definitely fits the bill, but would need a good foundation of training in the first half of the year in order for me to think seriously about it. There are sprint triathlons which might be more achievable, so watch this space I guess!
  • PhD study – this is as much a personal aim as a professional one. It will certainly not be completed in a year, but in 2018 I had set myself this target and so in the coming months I will be deciding on a topic and getting down to it.

My Professional Goals

  • Complete my CMALT training. This began in September 2018 and so is now nearing completion. I will hope to have it finished by February.
  • Higher Education Academy Fellowship training – this is training that has been listed within college as an area for development, and it will help aid my own professional development in teaching at Higher Education level.
  • Publish research – it’s linked to the point below, but has been something I’ve been building towards. Now other tasks have been completed, this is an achievable goal for 2019.
  • PhD study – I’ve already listed this, but it works in both camps. I want to take the next step up the academic ladder, having completed my Masters back in 2007, and since went back for further post-grad study. This will be a huge step forward for me in my career and the idea of studying again excites me!
  • Write a book. There are a few topics I’m exploring for this – project management and cyber security are two I’m currently exploring.
  • Build a search engine – this is a personal project, but the aim of this search engine will be to present knowledge for specific areas of professional interest. A hybrid mix of Google, Wolfram Alpha and Pinterest.
  • Build a course administration area for the Foundation Degree. This will incorporate all aspects of marking, moderation, deadlines and administration. The main aim is to streamline the administration process, make life easier for the lecturing team and create a central area that is reliable and fit for purpose.

Why Improve?

It’s a loaded question really isn’t it?

On one hand, we might not feel the desire to improve, but if we’re honest (even just with ourselves), there is plenty we would like to change about ourselves – there are several industries who make their living of people being unhappy with how they look or what they don’t know.

Self-improvement is generally a good thing, a healthier, fitter you should mean less health issues. A friend recently told me of a knee injury he sustained while playing football. The physiotherapist he visited told him his injury would have been much worse had he not been so physically fit already – his muscle mass prevented this.

Intellectual self-improvement is also generally a good thing. In most cases we do this to be better at our job, or help us to get a new job. Personally, I want to lecture in Higher Education and a PhD is required for this no matter where I look in the world. In other cases, better qualifications will mean a better salary, and this can’t be overlooked as a motivating factor either.

Whatever our motivation for doing a thing, it must be important to us, and sufficiently motivating to help us through the darker moments when motivation and energy is lacking or at a low ebb. This is what you need when you can’t get back to your feet, back on the bike, or to keep writing. The reason you started is what is needed to be remembered. It doesn’t matter what it is, or who it’s for, what matters is that it holds enough power for you to not quit.

Then there is continuing professional development. I’m a great believer that the teaching profession in Northern Ireland needs to do more here – and I get the financial constraints that many schools are under – which is why I believe the greatest people to look to are those doing the job and more importantly, still in love with the job. Our CPD doesn’t need to cost the earth, but it should improve us, challenge us to do better, or at the very least cause us to reflect upon what we do in our daily jobs with a little more critical evaluation. Is there something we can do better, differently or in a new way we hadn’t thought of before?

The job market also demands it of us. If our skills are out of date, last date of training before we took up our most recent job, then there will be little attractive about what your application form can say. I was asked recently to discuss my CPD in the last three years and how it has improved how I work. First of all, the list of CPD activities was nearly 2 pages long, and how it has improved me as a professional took longer than what the person wanted to read. My point here is that there is a lot we can do to improve. Nearly all of my CPD hasn’t cost me a penny. Microsoft Innovative Education, Udacity scholarships and Lynda.com have all played their part. Others like Udemy and my post grad study at Queens did obviously come with a price tag, but it can be sourced for free if you look.

A solid answer to this question is this: why improve? Because everyone else is, and it’s a competitive market out there. If I don’t keep improving, I will get left behind and my skills will eventually no longer be required. Then I will be available in a job market that has no use for me.

There is no failure here...just when you quit.

This is a U2 lyric from the song Miracle Drug (live version available here) of the ‘How to Dismatle an Atomic Bomb’ album. Bono tells of the inspiration of the song in the intro (I won’t spoil it), but it sets an important lesson for us – no matter the obstacles, we have a place in this world and our failure only comes when we actually quit. That doesn’t mean that every time we get knocked down we fail, it means when we don’t get back up – that’s when we lose. But we lose for ourselves, no one else.

I’m a great believer in resilience. I’ve had to be. I’m not going to share the story here, but there are times in life when quitting isn’t an option. For many people it will never be an option and these people are the ones I look to. The people who keep going; who deal with more than most (and don’t let on) and don’t make an issue of it. It is these who will enjoy success most.

The greater the sacrifice, the sweeter the victory.

Michael Johnston

About Michael Johnston

I'm a Lecturer in Computing and the Foundation Degree Director in Computing for the Northern Regional College in Northern Ireland. My research interests in the areas of technology enhanced learning, how we interact with technology, blended learning and professional development. Michael currently specialises in the computing areas of web development technologies, cyber security, software development and IoT. Michael has worked in a range of different roles in IT-from teaching roles to running his own web design company, Michael is equally at home working with theory, as he is conducting research, or building a bespoke IT solution. Michael is currently studying a PhD in Cyberpsychology.

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