Senior CMALT: Open Access research & promoting equality in Learning Technology

Part of my professional development for this year was to take part in the pilot schemes for new pathways to CMALT, ALT’s accreditation scheme for Learning Technology professionals. I acted as an assessor for the Associate CMALT pathway and updated and submitted my own portfolio, which was originally accredited in February 2016, for assessment for the pathway for Senior CMALT. Now that the pilot has been concluded, and I have been awarded Senior CMALT alongside colleagues who also took part in the pilot,  I am updated the openly shared version of my portfolio here as well as on the official CMALT portfolio register. 

In contrast to others, I did not choose to create a new portfolio in order to take part in the pilot, primarily because it is due to be updated in February 2019. Instead, I have added additional sections to my portfolio as follows (the other sections remain unchanged as they are already in line with the requirements of this pathway):

  • Specialist option(s): second specialist option added, Open Access research publishing in Learning Technology
  • Advanced area: new advanced area added, Promoting equality in Learning Technology

As this is a pilot of the scheme, it remains to be seen what the finalised guidance for this new pathway will say, but my portfolio will help provide a baseline of examples for future candidates.

For the first new section, I drew on an area of my work that I had previously not included in my portfolio:

I have led and worked on a number of Open Access projects supporting research in Learning Technology including establishing the ALT Open Access Repository in 2009 (the wALTer Project), overseeing the transition to Open Access for ALT’s journal Research in Learning Technology (for which I contributed to the report on “The Transition to… Open Access”) and in 2017 the second and third transition of this journal from its Open Access publisher, Co-Action, to be sold to Taylor & Francis and subsequently taking independent ownership of the journal, which is now published by ALT in partnership with Open Academia. Since 2012 I have had responsibility for the journal, working together with its Editors and Editorial Board. In 2018 I led the establishment of a new strategic working group of the journal. The new group will help steer the development of the journal with representatives from other scholarly bodies including ascilite, ILTA and the OLC alongside our Editors. The group is chaired by Prof Neil Morris, who also chairs the Editorial Board.

Over the past 18 months I have negotiated the contracts for both transitions, first from Co-Action to Taylor & Francis and then from Taylor & Francis to ALT in partnership with Open Academia. I have project managed both transitions, supporting Trustees in their decision making as well as the Editorial Team. During this time ALT has had to suspend operations of the journal for several months and I regularly communicated with Members and other stakeholders during this time (including a transition announcement, publisher news, re-launch update and thank you). As part of my work with the working group, I have researched current practice for Open Access journals around journal impact factors and alternatives to these, including altmetrics, h index and Eigenfactor, some of which I have shared in blog posts and at the ILTA Annual Conference, EdTech2018, at IT Carlow, Ireland, in June 2018.  Under my leadership, the journal has adopted Open Access best practice and has recently been awarded the DOAJ seal and has also resumed steady operations and is now publishing regularly including a recent themed collection on Playful Learning.

The other new section I have added is the advanced area of practice, and for this I chose to focus on how my practice contributes to promoting equality in Learning Technology. This is something I have written about before and also presented as part of my keynote at ALT’s Annual Conference in September 2018.

From this section, I’d like to share the reflective element in particular – relating how my work addresses the core principles of the CMALT framework:

Reflection

I have not only chosen this advanced area because I think it is really important to the success of my practice, but because in my view it has a particular relevance to Learning Technology professionals. Reflecting on the core principles of CMALT, here is how my area of advanced practice, promoting equality, relates to them:

  • A commitment to exploring and understanding the interplay between technology and learning: Learning Technologists are often at the centre of negotiating an organisation’s, or a group’s, relationship to technology, for example students relationship to a social network or staff engagement with a cpd course. We are able to inform the perspective other, less expert, users have of how technology is used, understand how it affects our lives and our identities. How the data or content we create affects our work. At best, Learning Technologists empower staff and students in their relationship with technology, help them gain a more critical, reflective and thus effective long term engagement with the tools and platforms they use – and hopefully shape or create in future. It is a big responsibility and a big opportunity at the same time. If our practice, my practice, is shaped by values that prompt us, me, to promote equality, create greater equity and so forth, then we can make a real difference.
  • A commitment to keep up to date with new technologies: for me an important aspect of keeping up to date with new technologies is to understand their context: how they are financed and by whom, who has developed or tested them, or what kind of data sets informed their working, whom are they aimed at and what do they promise? What is their business model and how is it sustained? One piece of work I did this year is to collaborate with startups on a guide about how Learning Technologists can work together with start ups and through that project I had many useful conversations with CEOs of edtech startups. They were all young, white males and invariably the conversation about organisational culture reflected the pressure of moving at the speed they needed to whilst trying to have a more diverse team being in conflict with each other. It was an interesting first hand experience of how keeping up to date with technology and the constant need to catch up and adapt does not foster a culture that promotes equality. It is also an example of how our perception to need to keep pace with innovation, to move ahead, is used an an excuse, either consciously or subconsciously, not to diversify.
  • An empathy with and willingness to learn from colleagues from different backgrounds and specialisms: This is the core principles which most closely relates to promoting equality. In my own team I have led to establishing a strong practice of weekly meetings that include a show & tell element for example, enabling everyone in the team to ask questions, share ideas or show each other new tips or tricks from spreadsheet shortcuts to new tools we could use. Together as a team we take part in online cpd courses such as 23Things or a GDPR course on Futurelearn and I value the opportunity to learn alongside my colleagues, gain a sense of their perspective and understanding and to reflect this in my own.   
  • A commitment to communicate and disseminate effective practice: Lending your voice to raising issues around equality is not a task for women, but for everyone and I am grateful to have many male colleagues who play an important part in this. But I don’t think you need to explicitly reference equality at all to effectively promote it. Simply taking a balanced view in whom you reference, whom you include in your perspective, can have a most powerful effect. For me, the OER Conferences are a good example of how to promote equality in Learning Technology, how to amplify the voices of those less often heard.

There is a lot more I hope to achieve when it comes to promoting equality in Learning Technology. I leverage what I have to make a difference and I do my best to take every opportunity I can to do so, but whilst I have a growing network of inspiring allies to work with, there is a multitude of indifference who will ask “So what?”.

For many, equality is something that doesn’t have anything to do with them. It’s not something they want me or people like me to go on about. It’s not a an issue because…”women can participate if they want”, because “no one is stopping them”, because “I haven’t experienced discrimination so it doesn’t exist”, etc. etc. Insert any number of cliches!

CMALT is a peer-based accreditation framework that retains its value because there is a continuous cycle of developing our understanding of what it means to be a Learning Technologist and what we understand to be good or best practice through being assessors and updating our portfolios. I think promoting equality is a big part of what makes me a good Learning Technologist and I hope that this new section of my portfolio demonstrates that.

If you would like to have a look at the full version of the portfolio I submitted for the pilot, you can access the Google doc version and the evidence folder.

How to share credit and praise yourself… reflecting on the value of (deserved) recognition

Recently I have been spending a lot of time writing references, quotes and feedback for colleagues. And I found it easy to talk about their achievements, to praise their outstanding qualities and to describe how they made a difference. It’s easy to do when it’s for someone amazing, it’s easy to do when it’s not yourself you’re writing or talking about, I find.

But then I read something others or I write about ourselves, about our own achievements and what we have made happen and the tone is completely different. There are whole sentences of qualifying statements, there are plenty of “I feel that…” and “I may argue that…” to soften the tone. There are references to other people and their work, acknowledgements of contributions and so forth. Whether it’s for personal or professional reasons, plenty of us struggle to find a way to give ourselves the credit we deserve (self-promoting egomaniacs need not read on…) . And whilst I obviously do not advocate taking credit if you don’t deserve it, it is important to be able to accurately recognise the importance of your own work and its impact on order to develop more mature, reflective professional practice.

In my experience that’s not a gendered phenomenon, and can definitely apply to high achieving individuals as well. Plenty of brilliant people find it hard to accept praise, argue their own cause or believe in their achievements.

Since I was awarded CMALT, I keep writing updates to my portfolio and as part of that process (and beyond it) I am trying to improve how I apply this in my own practice and I have come up with a couple of rules for myself:

Acknowledge contributions: in my case nearly everything is a shared undertaking. So I start by giving credit to my collaborators, to everyone’s who has contributed and say thank you.

Mention my own role: once I have acknowledged what others have done, I also describe my own work, what I made happen, what I achieved.

Reflect on impact: whether it is good or bad, I reflect on the difference what we or I did has made. It’s a useful opportunity to ask for feedback, to acknowledge lessons learnt, to bring achievements into perspective.

Accept praise: genuine praise can be hard to accept, particularly from people whose opinion you value. Some people love being applauded, others don’t feel they deserve the credit. Accepting praise is a skill like any other and I find it is important to remember that sometimes others can see more clearly when we deserve it. If they make the effort to bestow upon you, accept it.

Hopefully this approach will help me find the right balance between sharing credit, celebrating what I do well and getting and giving others the professional recognition we deserve.

Trying out new online courses: GDPR and online engagement

I have been trying out new online courses, starting with a Futurelearn course ‘Understanding the General Data Protection Regulation‘ which many colleagues are also taking part in. I am a Data Controller and responsible for my organisation’s compliance with the GDPR framework when it comes into force, and this course forms part of our way to becoming compliant.

I have been taking part in the course mostly by reading and absorbing the material rather than discussing/exchanging ideas with other participants – I have plenty of debate around these issues in other contexts.

The course is clearly structured, easy to follow and has plenty of references and articles to follow up on specific issues further. I found the video component of the course, which is usually more engaging for me, less interesting in this case. I found I prefer to read the more detailed articles and lists.

After one more week of GDPR, I am really looking forward to starting a completely different kind of course, the upcoming ‘Engagement in a Time of Polarization‘ run on edX led by Delia Deckard and Bonnie Stewart. The course is described as follows:

How can we work together in a society where our communications channels have become so polarized? Can we engage in active, effective collaboration in a media ecosystem designed to make money from driving us apart?

This two-week course convenes a conversation on participatory engagement models, and on building understanding and relationships even within the very real limits of contemporary social media. The course will enact the same participatory ideas it explores, and will feature input from leading voices in media literacies, disinformation, and polarization. Participants can engage on their own time and in real time, and if they wish, can build towards action in their local communities.

The focus of this course closely relates to some of the work I do day to day, in particular around enabling engagement in online communities at scale, supporting effective open, online governance and reflecting on the skills required to participate.

It’s also a topic I am interested in for my own practice, and I am looking forward to learning more about how debate gets polarized and how we interact online.

The ‘digital’ Trojan Horse and the rise of Learning Technologists (2017: part 1)

Snapshots from 2017

With the end of the year around the corner, I’m adding my contribution to the many excellent reviews and reports reflecting on Learning Technology in 2017. I work at the intersection of policy, research and practice, focusing not on technology as such, but on the professionals, the human dimension of technology in education. As such, it’s been an interesting year as the relationship between people and machines evolves. I hope that there will be three posts in this series, starting with this on on…

The ‘digital’ Trojan Horse and the rise of Learning Technologists

This year ‘digital’ was everywhere, specially in education. In the UK Matthew Hancock MP became the Digital Minister (incidentally, it looks like equality still has a way to go when it comes to ‘new paradigm’ Ministers in the G7), I was involved in a UK-wide open course to Develop Digital Skills led by Diana Laurillard and Neil Morris, we read much about the digital skills gap, there were a number of digital policy developments (UK Digital Strategy, Digital Skills and Inclusion Policy, Digital Skills Partnership to name but a few) and everyone from High Street banks to executive training providers is offering to train and educate… everyone in ‘digital’ including teachers.

In education the term has become shorthand for anything to do with using or being influenced by technology, added to existing terms to make new meanings, for example digital education, digital leadership, digital teachers and digital degrees. Beyond education we operate in a digital economy and try to engage with digital democracy. We leave digital footprints, manage digital identities and sign up for digital detox. Digital is a term that has left its clearly defined roots so far behind that it is challenging to unpack its meaning even when there is a clear context – and most of the time it is a convenient way for the ill informed to describe something perceived as new or disrupted or innovative without being specific about what’s actually involved.

Many times this year (for example taking part in the Department for Education’s edtech stakeholder group alongside colleagues from the Learning and Work Institute, the Ufi Trust, Nesta or Naace, in conversation with industry leaders like Panopto’s CEO Eric Burns or working with Aula’s CEO Anders Krohn on a guide to working with edtech start ups, writing about skills development and accreditation on the Efficiency Exchange or talking about FELTAG and workforce development or discussing professionalisation at Online Educa) I have found that the term doesn’t help when discussing learning, teaching or assessment with technology. That’s because it encompasses infrastructure and hardware just as much as having basic digital literacy and goes on to include learning design, purchasing decisions and strategic planning or governance of technology. Digital can mean many things to many people. Deciding how to ‘fix’ problems or address challenges requires more definition to begin with.

From Mozfest 2017: http://marendeepwell.com/cpd/talking-peer-based-accreditation-mozfest/

Understanding professional practice

I try to unpack what we mean when we talk about digital in education, for example in the context of skills needed in a professional context: whether we mean basic digital literacy that everyone needs to use technology effectively, or the specific skills required to support the use of technology in the classroom informed by pedagogic principles and subject-specific requirements. Or whether we are talking about a professional who takes decisions about which technology to use or buy, how to implement it, how to support the use of it for staff and learners alike. Or indeed whether we are talking about senior professionals who need to take effective strategic decisions about technology, associated risks and how to make intelligent use of it for their organisation.

The vagueness of the term and how it is used can be problematic because it leaves much open to interpretation and doesn’t push us to define and agree on what we actually mean. The language we use when we formulate national policies, when we set institutional strategies, when we define personal responsibilities matters. It shapes our understanding of the world and our part in it. In Learning Technology the language we use helps us understand how professional practice is changing and critically reflect on it.

And yet I find that the ubiquity of the term digital is extremely helpful in many ways. It builds a bridge between Learning Technology and wider social, political and economic developments. It is easy to use and less of a mouthful than other terms like technology enhanced learning. It is used widely across sectors and nations. It feels contemporary, modern, new. And that is attractive to many people.

Like MOOC before it, the term digital helps raise awareness of technology being used for learning, teaching and assessment. We can use it to foster a broader, critical discourse. It can be our Trojan Horse, to open gates in the minds of individuals and institutions who have their heads buried in the sand. We can use its ubiquity to help illustrate the scale of the challenges we are facing and how we might meet them not only in education, but the workplace and beyond. Often having a digital strategy or a post with digital in the job title can be a useful first step to starting a conversation about more complex issues.

The rise of Learning Technologists

What gives me hope in this ‘digital age’, is that there are now more professionals working in all different contexts and sectors who play a part in shaping how technology is used for learning, teaching and assessment.

With over 3000 Members for the first time in its 25 year history and Members Groups all across the UK, ALT is a good example of how this professional community is growing. More and more roles in education now have a Learning Technology component and we see ever more senior roles demand such expertise also. On the one hand I still meet too many people who are looking for a magic box they can buy, plug in and which has a little green LED light that blinks and assures them that their organisation is now ready for ‘digital’. One the other hand more and more institutions invest in their people and create specialist roles to make effective use of Learning Technology.

Image from the ALT Annual Strategy 2017-2020. Images created by @BryanMMathers CC-BY-SA ALT

In many cases these professionals aren’t called Learning Technologists and instead have a whole variety of job titles. They may be based anywhere from the library to the IT department or their own department. In some cases they might be on their own, or work across all areas of their organisation. Or they might work independently as a consultant, trainer or manager. From schools, to colleges, private providers and universities, everyone needs more and more know-how in Learning Technology. We have seen a rise in the demand not only for training, but accreditation and professional development from all sectors. Projects like expanding ALT’s accreditation scheme and mapping the CMALT framework to other UK and international standards are a response to the rise of Learning Technologists. The breadth of professional practice that is showcased in the growing register of accredited CMALT portfolios meanwhile highlights that we now have an understanding of the skills and competencies required for this kind of work that is independent of platforms and tools and that remains relevant as we retrain and adapt to new technologies. My personal experience of gaining professional recognition as a Learning Technologist in a leadership role adds to my understanding of how the profession is evolving.

Yet as we move further into a world, and an education system where everything is ‘digital’, one question I get asked frequently is “How we know if or when we’ve arrived in the future that Learning Technology promised?”.

I discuss this questions again and again with policy makers or leaders, in consultation responses or with other experts for example on Wonkhe (here and here). Over the past 10 years I have worked with people who have thought about this question from many different angles. And we return to it frequently as we compare ourselves to what’s happening in other countries, other industries and at other times throughout history.

“How”, they ask, “can we have made progress when there are primary schools without WiFi, bans on mobile phones or laptops in the classroom, inspection/funding/accreditation bodies whose policies often don’t even mention the words technology or digital?”.  

“How, and when, will we arrive in the vision of learning that the potential that technology has offered for so long?”.

From my perspective the answer is that we have long since arrived. The promised land of Learning Technology has simply turned out to be no less messy, inconsistent or challenging than what we had before. The forces of global capitalism still shape our education systems. “Are things better with technology in education?” is the wrong question to ask in my opinion.

Instead “How can we best use technology to achieve our aims for learning, teaching and assessment?” is a more useful way of thinking about the future.

And we need a diverse, critical and empowered Learning Technology community to help find the answers. I am glad that the work I do for ALT plays a part in making that happen in the UK and beyond.

Recent posts by me on professional practice

Thanks

I take a collegiate, collaborative approach to leadership and my work in general. I am lucky to have so many people to work, think and make things with. As you’re reading this you are likely to be one of those people, and I’d like to say thank you. You made all the difference to this year for me.

Coming up #oeb17: Re-articulating what we value – a new vision for Learning Technology professionals

I am looking forward to a panel discussion at Online Educa Berlin 2017 this week, as part of the Business EDUCA: Learning L&D Needs session. The session is about:

Creating learning solutions which enable workforce development is no easy feat. And becoming an effective instructional designer will often require a degree, courses and field experience. This session will discuss the skills practitioners need for the L&D department of the future, as well as how we can learn the profession and remain relevant to our organisations.

You can view the full programme of the conference and more information about the session here.

My contribution is focused on professionalisation of Learning Technology in the UK informed by results from ALT’s Annual Survey and the development of the CMALT accreditation framework (slides).

Forging new pathways to professional recognition

This past month I’ve been doing a lot of travelling and contributing to a number of face to face and virtual consultation sessions about ALT’s accreditation scheme for Learning Technology professionals, CMALT.

From Mozfest to Committee Meetings and from webinars to individual focus groups I’ve been hearing why fellow professionals value CMALT accreditation, what could be improved and how we may expand the scheme to offer valuable and robust peer-assessed recognition for a broader range of professional achievement. You can read more about the project on ALT’s website and also sign up for more information and to take part in the pilots.

It’s been really interesting to hear about how the scheme could be developed and people’s experiences of their own journey to accreditation and then onward as a peer assessor.

Last week the consultation coincided with a celebration of recent accredited staff at the University of Edinburgh and I was honoured to take part in giving out the awards.

It reminded me once again how varied a professional landscape we have in Learning Technology and to how many different roles all across an institution the work of making intelligent use of technology for learning, teaching and assessment extends.

Talking peer based accreditation #Mozfest

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about how ALT contributes to this year’s Mozfest together with my colleague Martin Hawksey. It was the first time for us to take our work to this event – one of the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world. Mozfest brings together a unique and diverse community from across the world and everyone gathers at Ravensbourne College in London over a weekend packed with all kinds of sessions, activist talks, making and discovering. 

If you are keen to find out what we talked about at Mozfest when we were joined by Bryan Mathers who contributed his Visual Thinkery to the workshop, have a look at our slides & links at http://go.alt.ac.uk/Mozfest17 which also include Bryan’s capture of participants’ contributions:

Slides from our Mozfest workshop
Contributions captured by @BryanMMathers

Both Bryan (link to Bryan’s session on The Seven Co-operative Principles ) and Martin (link to Martin’s session: Machina a machina: An introduction to APIs through Google Sheets) also ran other sessions during the weekend and I am including links to them so you can explore a bit further.

For me, my own first experience at Mozfest, which I thoroughly enjoyed, can best be summed up in these photos. It was an amazing experience – a big thank you to everyone involved in making it happen!

VConnecting with Josie Fraser, Martin Hawksey & co
The BEST badges
Not a view out of the window our workshop participants were prepared for…
I wanted to go to this session
One of my favourite discoveries #Mozfest

“How to…” heroes – or how to do CPD at a micro scale.

Hey! How’d you do that? by @bryanMMathers is licenced under CC-BY-ND

In my organisation I lead on providing CPD for a small team and providing meaningful, cost-effective opportunities for learning and gaining know how at a micro scale can be challenging.  We’ve taken part in open online courses like Blended Learning Essentials and 23 things, we have a regular ‘show & tell’ slot at weekly team meetings, we take part in events and the networks we support and we sometimes have guests who share their work with us.

Still, I am always on the look out for new ways to learn and resources that teach me and my colleagues “how to…” do anything from using technology to improving governance. Over the years I’ve assembled a whole list of places I go to and people I follow from whom I learn beyond searching for random tips on the internet. People or communities who are experts at sharing their thinking, their way of working and helping you learn for yourself.

To me those tutorials, walk-throughs and case studies are invaluable resources. But even more importantly, I find that how someone shares their work and thus enables you to discover or do something yourself tells you much about their values. It can really inspire you and give you confidence for learning new things.  That’s an important part of cpd in general and particularly true in my context.

With this in mind, I generally want to find more than instruction, and ideally I am looking for these three things from my “How to…” heroes.

I want to:

  1. Find out why I should care/explore/spend time on something
  2. Examples that I can relate to and that are more generally applicable
  3. References and further reading, things I can share and that are accessible for people who aren’t experts

So I’ve started making a list of whom we’ve learnt from a lot over the years to say thank you and acknowledge the power of openly sharing know-how:

API Evangelist Kin Lane introduced me properly for the first time to the world of APIs, what they are and why they matter. His API 101 was my place to get started and Kin’s writing is both accessible and inspiring.

Amy Burvall’s Graffikon site is really inspiring and opened my eyes to how visual thinking and expression can really become in a digital, black and pink kind of way. Education meets technology meets creativity in her recent book Intention: Critical Creativity in the Classroom.

Bryan Mathers and his Visual Thinkery meanwhile represents for me a masterclass in thinking. Bryan not only shares his thoughts and what he captures from others, but also inspiring insights into his own creative process [the image heading this post Hey! How’d you do that? by @bryanMMathers is licenced under CC-BY-ND]

Catherine Cronin starts her site with the motto ‘learning | reflecting | sharing” and is often a starting point for me when I am looking to reflect on or think about complex issues. Her examples remind me of how to critically examine my own perspective and the forces that shape it.

David Hopkin’s meanwhile was one of the first blogs I discovered, and there is a wealth of “how to” posts (like this one) that are clearly written, useful for lots of professionals and easy to follow!

Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, shares a huge amount of knowledge about how to use Wikipedia and I discovered that you can listen to Wikipedia being edited through him. Magic.

FOS4L  is an open course on flexible, open & social learning for professionals in higher ed & others. I’ve taken part and audited the course and will do so again at the next iteration. It’s an excellent way to discover all the things you don’t know about (yet).

Cable Green’s work and posts are one of the strongest examples of how to influence policy and make change happen in (open) education. In his posts, like this recent one on open licencing, he shares his reasoning and evidence for policy makers and educators alike with extensive references and materials licenced for re-use.

Melissa Highton’s blog for me is less about how to do and more about how to think and lead. It’s especially valuable as only very few senior leaders share their thoughts in the way Melissa does and that makes it even more powerful.

Joel Mill’s iLearning UK blog even comes with its own glossary and its this depth in the excellent resources he shares that I find particularly valuable. He showcases work from different educational contexts and connects all the dots. Always reminds me of what is possible.

James Kieft produces and shares edtech resources including videos that I’ve often recommended to others and that link to many other resources and tools to explore.

Alice Keeler is probably the one of my most frequently used sources for tips when it comes to using Google Apps for Education and her tips, while specifically aimed at teachers, are handy far beyond the classroom.

LTHE twitter chat is the only chat I lurk in regularly, sometimes contribute to and always find interesting. It’s a practical demonstration of peer learning that leads me to discover a huge number of ideas and resources.  Thank you!

Martin Hawksey could run a  masterclass on how to write easy to follow tutorials, but his blog showcases inspired innovation in practice far beyond technical “how to…” . A treasure trove for those looking to push the boundaries of edtech.

OUseful Blog by Tony Hirst has become even more rewarding to follow since I learned more about open data and although quite a lot of it is beyond my technical knowledge, it’s a place where I never fail to find useful inspiration.

Oliver Quinlan works at the intersection of learning, digital and education and was one of the first practitioners I discovered when he was still working in schools. He is now at the Raspberry Pi Foundation and shares everything from reading recommendations to practical tutorials. Prolific output.

Rhizo… in the past one of the most usefully challenging and inspiring learning experiences and one I continue to revisit as the conversation continues even long after the course has finished.

Chad Sansing’s work with Mozilla is a more recent discovery for me and I found his posts particularly helpful for gaining strategic “how to…” in the context of the web and education more generally. Posts like this one on successful facilitation I found very practical indeed.

Amber Thomas’s blog is a must read for the bigger picture on Learning Technology and institutional change management, particularly as a lot of what I work on focuses on the relationship between technology and people and its wider impact.

Santanu Vasant shares insightful thoughts and practice and I like the mix of thought pieces and practice approaches. I’ve discovered many new things through his consistent blogging and helpful tips.

Audrey Watters‘ work is where I turn to when I need “how to…” think critically, question, analyse and examine. Consistently brilliant scholarship that poses difficult questions while examining the financial, political and social realities of the edtech industry.

ALT’s #altc blog and in particular the case studies section I use frequently when I am looking to learn lessons from others or point someone else in the right direction. It helps me avoid trying to solve problems that other people have already mastered and keep up to date with current practice.

Last, but not least, I often dip back into the open course I originally helped create, ocTEL. Many of the course materials, like this module on leadership and management, don’t loose their currency and it continues to be a valuable resource to build on.

There are so many more entries to add to this list, or the next list on inspirational reading. But this one focuses first and foremost on things I find invaluable leading and sharing CPD and continuing my own learning.

Creating a #cpd #cmalt portfolio as a solo undertaking

Drawings for cmalt portfolio

At a recent session with a group of Learning Technology professionals we discussed how to best compile a portfolio for CPD and accreditation such as for the CMALT scheme. One of the options we discussed was to join forces either as a group within an institution or with peers elsewhere. In many instances that involves meeting up for writing sessions, progressing through the process at the same pace and sharing work in progress. There are a lot of advantages to this, but what if you don’t have that option? I wrote my own portfolio pretty much in isolation until it was very close to completion (full disclosure: it did take me three attempts over a 5 year period to actually complete it, so my approach is not necessarily the one to follow. On the other hand, I’ve learnt from the mistakes I made). So this post contains a brief overview of how to compile a CMALT portfolio as a solo undertaking.  

Step 1: I started with the structure, copying the heading structure that’s required into a blank Google doc. At the start is the contextual statement, the future plans section is last and in between are all the required Core Areas as well as a placeholder for the Specialist Area.

Step 2: I then looked at the structure and tried to write down 1-2 examples of work I had done in each section. I added no details at this stage, just enough information for me to be able to identify what I meant. It was very quickly apparent that I had a lot of examples in some sections, none in others. So I moved some around which could fit into other sections. Once I had covered all Core Areas it was easier to decide what to pick for my specialist option, basically something I hadn’t already covered.

Step 3: Once I had the structure and at least 1 example in each area, I started with the section I thought would be easiest (1b in my case) and added a description and some evidence. Once I had those, I added the reflection at the end. That’s what I did for each section in turn. Some took longer, usually because evidence was time consuming to collect or reflection felt harder. Because I already had a scaffold (i.e. the heading structure and at least 1 example for each section), working on the portfolio moved ahead at a much better pace. In previous attempts I hadn’t planned ahead and found the blank pages ahead daunting each time I moved on to a new section.

Step 4: Once all the required and the specialist areas were complete, I took a step back and started writing my contextual statement and the future plans section. That was a lot easier with the rest of the portfolio in place because the examples I used shaped what I wrote. Also, having reflected on my work made thinking about the future much more straight forward.

Optional step 5: Because I wrote my portfolio in isolation, without peers or feedback or someone to compare it with, I felt some feedback would be useful before I submitted it. I sent it to a few people and they came back with useful comments which were incorporated. I also shared it with colleagues who were directly mentioned.

Hearing about the sharing and support that groups or peers provide sounds like a great way to undertake CPD. In my case, writing my portfolio was mainly confined to odd anti-social hours and I needed to progress at my own pace. If, like me, you are on your CPD or #CMALT journey in a solo capacity, I hope this post is helpful and good luck!

CPD #cmalt as a springboard into openness and ownership

Water colour drawing of a pool and diving board

Recently there have been a lot of interesting posts on Twitter #cmalt about how compiling a portfolio of your professional practice can be an open process (if you have not come across the #cmalt accreditation scheme, have a look at the ALT website or watch this).

My own portfolio was accredited through CMALT in early 2016 and since then I’ve shared both posts about the process and the portfolio itself. But reading the recent posts made me think afresh about how undertaking CPD like compiling a CMALT portflio can be a springboard into openness and ownership – and some of the considerations I had when deciding on these issues.

Considering others: in the context of a portfolio that describes and reflects on professional practice taking colleagues into consideration is key. Even though the CMALT process requires you to focus on writing in the first person, to reflect on your individual practice, anyone with management responsibilities or who works as part of a team, needs to consider how others are portrayed in what they share. In my case, I asked colleagues for permission if it was necessary to refer to them directly and I chose examples of practice specifically because they were suitable for sharing.

Continuous reflection doesn’t have to be open: one of the key benefits of gaining CMALT for me is that it prompts me to continue my reflections on an ongoing basis as I collect evidence of practice for the update to my portfolio every 3 years. Some of this is work in progress or hastily written, so I don’t share it. I choose what I share, when and with whom and it’s valuable to have safe, closed spaces within my CMALT folders and documents that encourage critical reflection as well as recording achievements. The process of deciding what is open and what is less open in itself is a valuable experience.

Contributing to our understanding of professional practice: as well as sharing my portfolio I have also added it to the sharing initiative run by ALT. It’s not openly accessible to everyone, but only to members or individuals registered for the cmalt scheme. I think this offers the advantage of being able to contribute to a wider picture of what professional practice in Learning Technology looks like as well as helping others find useful examples in their sector, job role or specialist area. It also provides an alternative way of sharing practice instead of putting your portfolio out on the public web.

Taking ownership of what you share: I compiled my portfolio using Google Apps for Education (more info) and I use the same tools now to track my CPD and collect evidence as I go along. Loosing access to portfolios or evidence on institutional systems is a real risk for many and I wanted to keep my content for the long term. Recently, I have decided to take that a step further and started transferring my portfolio onto this site, my own domain (thanks to Reclaim Hosting!).

Some of it is already available now at http://marendeepwell.com/cmalt/  and in the fullness of time it should enable me to take even more ownership of my professional practice and the recognition I gain.