I’m a professor of Culture and Heritage Site Management (CHSM, a post-graduate certificate program) at Centennial College in Toronto, Canada. So I teach, as we used to say, about museums. There are two qualifications here, however. First, we now know that to effectively ‘profess’ my deep respect for museums and those who work in them, I am mostly a guide and a coach to my students discovering their own learning. And second that the umbrella term ‘museum’ now includes, in the words of the Canadian Museums Association, “not-for-profit museums, art galleries, science centres, aquaria, archives, sport halls-of-fame, artist-run centres, zoos and historic sites.” To these I would personally add a variety of for-profit, highly entrepreneurial museum-like organizations from whom we have much to learn. Our CHSM graduates cover most of the territory covered by the terms ‘museum studies’ and ‘museology.’
All of that is prelude to my reflections on a recent professional development day held for those of us involved in Centennial’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culture.
During our time together we heard from the College president about some of our school’s history and the College’s commitments, and from the new management in our school about a common vision of excellence for our graduates. A panel discussion among representatives from hospitality and tourism organizations focused on current trends in the industry. There was a demonstration of inter-human connectedness using music and another on some of the learner-oriented capacities of the Apple iPad. Finally, the vice-president academic shared some thoughts on the nine themes of the college’s academic plan.
Perhaps not surprisingly, all of the college commitments and all of the academic plan seem have some impact on relevance to my CHSM students. But several features of our PD day together were special stand-outs for me.
Chef Rob Rainford shows us how to prepare beef tenderloin
Centennial’s commitment to digital literacy is one of my own banner issues for all those who want to work in culture and heritage organizations. The entire mandate of those organizations might well be summed up as ‘communication.’ So every staff member, whether in management, public relations, curatorial, conservation, education or exhibit design, needs to have a basic command of the wealth of new, digital communication tools and channels now available. No matter whether they are crafting messages for the public or for their peers in sister organizations, they need to use the most effective contemporary applications. My commitment here is to assure that in my courses, students are given every opportunity and incentive to leverage digital literacy for excellence in all their classwork.
The digital literacy commitment is picked up again and reinforced in the third theme in Centennial’s academic plan. I was especially impressed by the significance of the presentation on the Apple iPad. While many of the speaker’s revelations were pretty basic, there were tips of value to even experienced iPad users. And his quick demonstration of putting together a news-worthy video in about 5 minutes was a spectacular example of the immense potential of the new digital literacy tools at our disposal.
The discussion of academic plan theme number 5, technology-enhanced learning environments was another of the day’s highlights for me. I have had some experience of the College’s e.centennialcollege.ca learning management system (LMS), and a lot of experience with MOOCs using similar platforms. But the day’s revelations have resulted in my resolution to increasingly conduct my classes as blended learning, a combination of online and in-class dialogue, project work and collaborative learning. This approach has been widely discussed elsewhere as the ‘flipped’ classroom.
I could reflect as well on additional significant issues we heard about and their importance to CHSM students – for instance, how increasingly culture and heritage organizations need to regard their work as tourism ‘product’ in order to expand their audiences and achieve their informal learning mandate – or how well museum-like organizations are situated to broadcast and exemplify the messages of equity, of global citizenship and of universal connectedness. On yet another note, my course on financial management in culture and heritage organizations can easily be extended with reference to how students can use the same principles to manage their personal finances.
If I explored each of these thoughts in detail here, however, this blog could go on for very much longer. And it’s already long enough.
PS: That picture of Chef Rob Rainford preparing beef tenderloin for our lunch – yes, the food was great. But after all, we are a hospitality school. Museum dining should be great too!