Future Creators

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The 2011/2012 academic year was the pilot year of the Future Creators Programme, a joint venture between NCAD and The Digital Hub that aimed to bring together a group of second level students from Dublin 8 schools who shared an interest in digital technology. Future Creators provided the space, facilities and teaching to develop their interests in a variety of digital disciplines including graphic design, web, digital film, audio, photography and app development.  The selected schools included Warrenmount,  St. James’ and St. Patrick’s.

It took two days of interviewing to finally whittle the huge number of applicants seeking a place on the course. My role on the Future Creators programme was lead tutor, it was my job to get the course up and running, to get to know the participants and to steer the course in the direction of their interests by sourcing the facilities and the tutors to make it all happen.

Over the course of the year students got to grips with a variety of projects that required them to learn new digital skills and techniques. The modules were delivered in a sequential provided which, at first, offered basic skills in areas like graphic design, digital audio and web publishing. There was cross curricular application of these skills as the programme progressed, this required students to apply what they had already learned in previous modules as they advanced.

The best example of this approach was the app development module delivered on the course where students used iPads along with X-Code software to develop applications for Apple devices. Along with learning the syntax of a programming language students were able to use the skills they had previously covered to do things like design custom buttons and interfaces for their apps. The were also able to create custom audio files and learned how to pull content from the web into their apps.

One of the most important aspects of the Future Creators programme was the learning methodologies employed. There was a measurable transfer of digital skills but beyond this students had control of the direction of their learning. Students defined a lot about the outcomes of their projects, using the new skills and techniques they had learned and defining what they wanted to do with. At all times the responsibility of learning was emphasised as being with the student. While the tutors on the course were responsible for the delivery of coherent lessons, their roles were always seen as more of a facilitator and tutors constantly encouraged self-directed learning from the students. Future Creators enjoyed a critical factor that second level curriculum often lacks in that there was a genuine interest a desire coming from the students to advance their learning in this field. Put simply, they were interested and thirsty to know more about the topics we taught.

The culmination of the programme took the form of an exhibition and award ceremony where the students’ work was displayed and each was awarded a certificate of completion with some students earning special award for participation and effort. The ceremony was attended by Seán Sherlock, a junior minister from the Department of Communications and also received a good amount of press coverage. What really made the whole thing so successful though was the students. Their dedication and commitment was outstanding and I’d like to say thank you to all of them for their hard work.