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.

#altc keynote preview: Beyond Advocacy at ALT’s Annual Conference

I am really looking forward to giving a keynote as part of ALT’s upcoming 25th Annual Conference, and I am even more delighted to do so alongside the inspiring Amber Thomas, whose work I have followed and admired for a long time and also Tressie McMillan Cottom, whom I can’t wait to meet in person.

So, here is a preview of what the keynote is going to be about and also a link to watch it on the day 🙂

Beyond advocacy: Who shapes the future of Learning Technology?

This keynote poses the question ‘who shapes the future of Learning Technology?’. We will explore current thinking about what drives how we use technology in learning and teaching and questions the promise of tech that never quite delivers. For decades, technology has promised solutions to help us learn, teach, assess and care better, and yet these visions of the future are always just beyond the horizon.

But how do we move beyond that promise?

How do get beyond tech advocacy and realise the potential of our professional practice for the benefit of learners and the greater good?

To start answering these questions I will explore how professional practice has developed charted through new research into ALT’s CMALT accreditation scheme and share examples from recent collaborative work promoting equality in Learning Technology.

See the programme page for more details. 

Beyond hype or dystopia: Looking ahead to ALT’s Annual Conference 2043

No, this isn’t a typo, this post is actually about looking ahead to a conference in 2043, 25 years from now…

The prompt for this post is that Members of ALT are celebrating the 25th Annual Conference of the Association, which makes this year a valuable opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, all the things we have learnt and everything that has changed as well as the big challenges that are still ahead. I have been following and hugely enjoying Martin Weller’s series of blog posts “25 years of Ed Tech” so if you have missed it, go and read it now.

But what about looking forward to the next 25 years?

With the most recent Horizon Report being published this week, I have been wanting to look ahead beyond the future that futurists predict. And I enjoyed the post that Audrey Watters published “The Horizon never moves” in which she sets out some key ways in which the hype in the edtech industry is always about what’s just beyond the horizon, what’s ‘almost there’.  And then I have seen a (to me) new t-shirt appear on my Twitter feed which bears the slogan “tech won’t save us”. Thus prompted, I want to look ahead at the future in a manner that is free of predictions, free of the promise of technology or the solutions that are on the horizon. Instead this post is about stepping outside of hype and dystopia, instead sharing what I hope ALT’s Annual Conference (or an event like it) will be about in 2043:

First, I hope that there will be an independent Association for Learning Technology in the UK in 2043 and that the voice of its Members will continue to have grown in influence and reach as it has over the past 25 years. 

Also, I hope that as a professional body ALT will have as diverse a range of professionals leading it as it has today, continuing to challenge notions of professionalisation, fight for recognition of the value of the work Learning Technologists do and continue to expand our understanding and practice of how technology is used for learning, teaching and assessment. Regardless of what education and training provision will structurally look like by 2043, we will still be using technology to help us learn, develop and accredit. 

Long before 2043, I hope that the business model that supports the work ALT or similar professional bodies do will enable every Member to attend its events, with neither time nor cost being a barrier that prevents professionals to come together either in person or virtually to move their work forward.

By 2043 I hope that sharing critical reflection, pose questions and importantly disseminate failures will have become more common place than it is now. That conference sessions are less focused on reporting success or promoting solutions and geared more towards collaboration, debate and forming relationships. For that to be possible, the way in which language and in particular terminology around Learning Technology are used will have to become less divisive across sectors. I hope that we will have overcome the tendency to dismiss what we haven’t created ourselves or in-house, or what is expressed with different words than those we would use ourselves.

From a global perspective, I hope that the conference will have stronger ties with other events in the UK and across the world and contribute to the wider dialogue that addresses the fundamental questions of how we as human beings relate to technology and how we shape our future. My vision of the future is one of empowered professionalism, not one determined solely by the forces of technological determinism. 

The most powerful part of the conference in my experience is to get a sense of one’s agency within a community, to hear different voices and see contrasting perspectives that help open up new horizons and stop my professional practice from becoming too focused on internal concerns or limited to being relevant only in a cosy echo chamber.

The last point I want to add is that I hope that the future Learning Technology will be shaped less by the privileged, powerful and established than it is now. That in 2043 it is no longer unusual for people with fewer resources, people of colour, for women, for young people, for learners and others who find it hard to make their voice heard to play a part in determining what their future looks like. 

So here is to the next 25 years in Learning Technology.

I’ll see you in 2043. And hopefully in Manchester this September where our work to bring about the kind of future we want to be part of continues https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2018/.

My CEO’s report to ALT’s Members, August 2018

CMALT-Principles-with-Title-700px

This is a re-posted from the #altc blog

Dear Members

As I write this we have just one month to go before the largest event we organise each year, our Annual Conference. This year, as we celebrate 25 year of ALT, there is much to look forward to and this report covers some of the key developments across the Association.

Your voice #altc #altc25

First, I wanted to draw your attention to an ongoing project from ALT’s President, Prof Martin Weller, who has been blogging about the 25 Years of EdTech in this series of posts, counting down to 2018! Members have also started writing posts for publication on the #altc blog and we are inviting contributions tagged #altc #altc25 to add to this growing collection of voices and views from across our membership.

Vote for your choice in the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards 2018

As many of year will be aware, we have launched a new category of Award this year, celebrating outstanding achievements in research in Learning Technology. The judging panel, has reviewed, short-listed and interviewed this year’s entries and after careful deliberation the panel has selected the finalists. Now it’s up to you to vote for your choice for 2018 Community Choice Award. There can only be 1 winner, so you select your front runner from all individual, team and research project entries. Good luck, everyone!

Vote https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2018/awardsvoting/

Conference preparations

With over 100 Members involved in the preparations for this year’s event, we look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible in Manchester and online. Alongside our Members who work hard to review papers, shape the social programme and chair sessions, we are particularly grateful for the support from our sponsors this year: Catalyst, VScene, Blackboard, MeeToo, RMResults and UNIwise.

The Trustees of ALT have also made funds available to support 10 participants to come to the conference in memory of ALT’s former President, Doug Gowan, enabling those otherwise unable to attend to contribute and have a voice at the conference.

With 140+ sessions, the programme this year includes research sessions, poster presentations, workshops and many short presentations.

Register https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2018/registration/

Changes to ALT’s Constitution

At this year’s Annual General Meeting on 12 September Members will be voting on a resolution to adopt an updated version of ALT’s constitution. We will write to all Members to set out the proposed changes in more detail when the papers for the AGM are distributed, but the main changes to the constitution are to ensure ALT’s governance has more long term stability and is in line with best practice recommended by the Charity Commission. Thus the terms of service for the Vice-Chair, Chair and President of ALT, which currently are limited to 1 year and rotate annually, will be brought in line with the terms served by Trustees overall under the update constitution.

Read more about ALT’s next Annual General Meeting.

Staff team

As our activities are growing and in particular the CMALT scheme is now being developed to offer new accreditation pathways to Associate and Senior CMALT, we also require more staffing resource and we have just welcomed Susan Greig as ALT’s new Operations Manager. Susan will support ALT’s operations including taking on the overall management of the CMALT scheme and related CPD activities, work with Special Interest Group and enhance communications.

As senior staff Martin Hawksey and I continue to share our experiences of transitioning ALT’s operations to a fully distributed, virtual model of operations and we have now published 6 monthly blog posts and a podcast in this series on open leadership ‘Sharing our approach to leading a virtual team’.

A note of thanks #CMALT

I’d like to end my report with a note of thanks to all who have contributed to the CMALT consultations. As well as informing the development of the new Associate and Senior CMALT pathways, Certified Members led a ‘visual thinkery’ conversation with Bryan Mathers, resulting in these new visuals for the principles of ALT’s accreditation scheme. Thank you to everyone involved.

session 2 – principles of CMALT

We will be holding the first CMALT Ceremony as part of the AGM on 12th September to further enhance the recognition of the scheme. If you have been accredited or updated your portfolio in the past year, we look forward to congratulating you in Manchester.

Beyond advocacy for change – developing critical & open approaches in Learning Technology #LTHEchat 116

I’m excited that we have been invited to contribute a topic to the #LTHEchat, the weekly Learning and Teaching in HE chat created by the community for the community – Wednesday 8-9pm. It’s the only tweetchat I regularly participate in, although mostly in “listening mode” and I find it a very useful forum.

Below I have re-posted the description of the topic coming up this week:

#LTHEchat 116: Beyond advocacy for change – developing critical & open approaches in Learning Technology with Maren Deepwell @marendeepwell and Martin Hawksey @mhawksey

The next #LTHEchat on Wednesday 6th June 8-9pm (GMT) will be hosted by Maren Deepwell @marendeepwell and Martin Hawksey @mhawksey on developing critical approaches in Learning Technology.

With the 25th Annual Conference of ALT, the Association for Learning Technology, just around the corner, we have been looking forward as well as back over how things have changed (revisit some of the developments with Prof Martin Weller, President of ALT, in his ongoing blog series “25 years of EdTech”).

We define Learning Technology as the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching and assessment. ALT’s membership is made up of people who are actively involved in understanding, managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of Learning Technology. Using technology for learning, teaching and assessment hasn’t been a ‘new’ thing for a long time. But one thing that remains constant is the pace with which innovation moves forward, learner expectations develop and our constant need to evolve our pedagogical approaches. This creates demands/pressures and staff development needs for academics to develop competencies with digital pedagogies/approaches.

Regardless of where we are, or indeed where our institution is, in spreading or scaling up use of technology, we now have research, case studies and practice to move beyond advocacy, beyond enthusiasm for shiny gadgets or dashboards to developing a more critical, nuanced relationship to Learning Technology and to share our work in order to build a stronger, more diverse and robust discourse.

hTIIXeJq_400x400Maren Deepwell @marendeepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and leads its work on professional recognition and development. Martin Hawksey @mhawksey leads on innovation, community engagement and technology for ALT.

ALT represents individual and organisational Members from all sectors and parts of the UK. Our Membership includes practitioners, researchers and policy makers with an interest in Learning Technology. Our community grows more diverse as Learning Technology has become recognised as a fundamental part of learning, teaching and assessment. ALT aims to increase the impact of Learning Technology for the wider community, strengthen recognition and representation for the Membership at a national level and lead professionalisation for individual Learning Technology professionals in a broad range of roles.

xu6aptqy6a8rb2h2w5by_400x400As the senior staff team of ALT Maren & Martin work with Trustee and Members on a diverse range of projects including ALT’s conferencesannual surveynational policy development and professional development. Sharing their approach to open leadership is a monthly blog series on running a virtual organisation and both actively disseminate their independent professional via their personal sites https://mashe.hawksey.info/ and http://marendeepwell.com/

Which direction to take… researching alternative ways of measuring impact in Learning Technology

This is the second post about my current work on researching alternative ways of measuring impact in Learning Technology. Go back to the first post in which I have set out the context of my work and what I am particularly focused on.

Alongside the practical work with the ALT Journal Strategic Working Group, I am pleased that my proposal of a short session The quality of metrics matters: how we measure the impact of research in Learning Technology’ has been accepted for ILTA’s Annual Conference in Carlow, Ireland later this month. 

In the meantime, I have been doing more reading and research into innovative ways of measuring impact and this time my work has come up against some very practical questions, not least because as a UK-based publisher we are in the process of ensuring the the journal’s operations comply with the incoming GDPR legislation. Open Source journal systems are not at the forefront of compliance and like other independent publishers we work as part of the community to move towards compliance.

At first glance factors like GDPR may not seem to be closely related to how impact is measured, but my thinking links them closely as a lot of the opportunities around developing the journal are dependent on technical solutions that have data processing implications:

A convincing alternative
Discussing how important having an impact factor is quickly runs into the question of what the alternative looks like. As well as the technical challenges in implementing innovative tools or mechanism for measuring impact (to which the new GDPR legislation adds another level of complexity), the sustainability and longevity of both tool and data storage need to be examined. For example, introducing a tool like Altmetrics requires us to educate all stakeholders and ensure that the level of digital literacy required is not a barrier to making the tool useful. The user interface and experience needs to be robust and practical, building confidence in alternative or innovative ways of measuring impact. With new tools and platforms being created all the time there is a certain amount of churn and in order to really build a convincing alternative there needs to be a certain level of consistency.

Scrutiny of new vs. established ways of measuring impact
The kind of scrutiny with which we are examining alternative ways of measuring impact isn’t easily applied to the established method. There is a critical discourse, for example this recent blog post on the LSE impact blog, which argues:

Many research evaluation systems continue to take a narrow view of excellence, judging the value of work based on the journal in which it is published. Recent research by Diego ChavarroIsmael Ràfols and colleagues shows how such systems underestimate and prove detrimental to the production of research relevant to important social, economic, and environmental issues. These systems also reflect the biases of journal citation databases which focus heavily on English-language research from the USA and north and western Europe. Moreover, topics covered by these databases often relate to the interests of industrial stakeholders rather than those of local communities. More inclusive research assessments are needed to overcome the ongoing marginalisation of some peoples, languages, and disciplines and promote engagement rather than elitism.

It’s really helpful to read this kind of perspective, but in my experience there is a strong sense that institutions and senior management place much importance on the established value of the impact factor. We have decided to carry out consultation with stakeholders, but in the absence of a convincing alternative (which in our case we simply haven’t had time to implement as yet) I am not sure what we would be asking our stakeholders to compare or comment on. There is such a range of options being implemented by Open Access publishers, that we can a learn a lot from their example and work towards putting in place improvements that will help establish what might be an alternative or a complimentary perspective to the traditional impact factor.

Measuring beyond impact: peer review
Through our Editorial Board, the working group has now also begun to look at platforms like Publons, which promises to ‘integrate into the reviewer workflow so academics can track and verify every review and editorial contribution on the fly and in complete compliance with journal review policies’ (read more). It’s clearly a widely-used platform and some colleagues seem to be enthusiastic users, so it’s made me consider what this kind of platform could add to the user experience alongside innovative tools to measure impact. As a journal that does not charge any APCs, the value proposition for authors is clear, but resources to improve the experience of reviewers are limited. More work is needed for us in this area to examine whether we can compliment our efforts to improve the ways in which the impact is measuring could be complimented by enhancing the experience of peer review.

 

Read more (with thanks to everyone who’s sent me comments or links):

Information for publishers from DOAJ: 
DOAJ does not believe in the value of impact factors, does not condone their use on journal web sites, does not recognise partial impact factors, and advocates any official, alternative measure of use, such as article level metrics.

There is only one official, universally recognised impact factor that is generated by Thomson Reuters; it is a proprietary measure run by a profit-making organisation. This runs against the ethics and principles of open access and DOAJ is impact-factor agnostic. DOAJ does not collect metadata on impact factors. Displaying impact factors on a home page is strongly discouraged and DOAJ perceives this as an attempt to lure authors in a dishonest way.

Full information here.

Re-post #altc: My Chief Executive Officer’s Report, May 2018

This is my report to Members of ALT for May 2018, originally published on the #altc blog here.

Dear Members

As I am writing this we are just beginning a particularly busy period for the Association, so my report to you this time will be a whistle-stop tour of what’s happening across our community. I am pleased in particular to welcome new member organisations who have recently joined ALT: Staffordshire University, Ajenta, MyKnowledgeMap, TES, Northern Regional College, University of Dundee and Wrexham Glyndwr University.

A global perspective on professionalisation in Learning Technology

On 3 May 2018 I was honoured to join the BOLT project organisers and partners at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University at their blended learning Symposium @PolyU,  a celebration and culmination of the BOLT project. As this 4-year University Grants Committee-funded project draws to a close, the Symposium celebrated at its impact so far – evidenced by its shortlisting for the Reimagine Education 2017 awards – and also looked to the future and its sustainable legacy. A particular highlight for me was being invited to present two members of staff, Seth Neeley and Arinna Nga Ying Lee, with their CMALT Certificates.

Congratulations to Seth, Arinna and the 20 other individuals who have achieved CMALT accreditation so far this year.  

Launching a new Award for the Learning Technology Research Project of the Year

One of our strategic priorities for this year is to enhance recognition for research in Learning Technology and the launch of this year Award helps us achieve this aim. The ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Awards celebrate and reward excellent research and practice and outstanding achievement in Learning Technology. Established in 2007, the Awards have established a benchmark for outstanding achievement in Learning Technology on a national scale and attract competitive entries from the UK and internationally. All entries are reviewed by an independent judging panel chaired by the President of ALT. We gratefully acknowledge the support from our sponsors Catalyst, open course technologists, for supporting the Awards this year. The Awards are now open for entries.

We seek Member input for UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources (OER)

ALT is collating a response for the following UNESCO consultation. Please use this shared doc to provide input https://go.alt.ac.uk/2FsAbBA . If you would like to provide input for the response, please use the heading structure provided. Alternatively you can also email your contribution to maren.deepwell@alt.ac.uk . The deadline for responses is 1 June 2018.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

As I’m sure many of you are aware new data protection regulations come into effect at the end of this month. We welcome these regulations as they will hopefully permit greater transparence in the use of personal data including in learning and teaching. In preparation of the new regulation we have updated ALT’s own Privacy Policy and carried out a number of actions in-line with guidance from the ICO.

We have also been supporting Members with a series of webinars to raise awareness around GDPR in learning in teaching. As part of this we were delighted to host Martin Dougiamas, Moodle Founder and CEO, along with Gavin Henrick, Moodle Business Development Manager to highlight actions the Moodle community have taken, Stephan Geering, Blackboard Global Privacy Officer and Associate General Counsel, and Mark Glynn, Head of the Teaching Enhancement Unit at DCU. If you missed any of these sessions recording and resources have been added to the event pages accessible from the past events section of our website.

ALT Annual Survey data & report

I will conclude my report with a reflecting briefly on the findings from this year’s ALT Annual Survey, the report of which was published in March by my colleague Martin Hawksey. As with previous years the Annual Survey is designed to:

  • understand current and future practice;
  • show how Learning Technology is used across sectors; and
  • help map the ALT strategy to professional practice to better meet the needs of and represent our Members.

With the survey in its fourth year we are able to record and report and number of changes. This year some of the biggest changes are in the enablers and drivers for use of learning technology. The insights gained go beyond the trends in technology and organisational change, but help us understand the needs of staff enabling students and building a more empowered relationship with Learning Technology. Themes that we can look forward to exploring more at ALT’s Annual Conference this September.

Maren Deepwell

 Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), @marendeepwell

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member

 

Critical Perspectives on Blended Learning: Hong Kong Polytechnic University BOLT Symposium

This week I contributed to the BOLT Symposium at Hong Kong Polytechnic University as keynote speaker. The symposium brought together colleagues from universities in the region to disseminate outputs from the BOLT project, showcasing successful collaboration, shared provision of staff development and initiatives to ensure that the sustainability of what has been achieved. As part of my work for ALT I have supported the project in a small way for a number of years, mostly around the CMALT accreditation framework and it was very rewarding for me to be able to meet the project team in person. 

In my talk I focused on critical perspectives on blended learning, using some common technology focused reports and frameworks as a starting point, including the recently published preview of the 2018 Horizon Report. Using insights from the findings from the ALT Annual Survey 2017 I went on to examine the enablers and drivers being the adoption of learning technology, and shared an update on the developments of new pathways to CMALT accreditation. In the last part of my talk I looked at the bigger picture, drawing on historical perspectives to assess the validity of the claims made for technological innovation including sharing the work of Audrey Watters’ Teaching Machines timeline. My talk concluded with a reflection on the importance of equity for the future of blended learning and empowering staff and students in their relationship to learning technology. We had time for a brief Q&A session and I was grateful for the engaging questions from participants.

I also want to mention a particular highlight of the trip for me, which took place the day before the symposium, as I was able to present two members of staff with their newly awarded CMALT accreditation.

As well as a warm welcome and great hospitality I was inspired by the many conversations with colleagues from the different institutions taking part in the event. It was interesting to hear and see how each institution contributed to the collaborative project as well as finding strategic alignment with organisational priorities.

Whilst the context may be very different, there seemed to me to be a lot of commonality between what is being achieved here in the provision of staff development to help scale up use of blended learning and the kinds of projects I am familiar with in the UK and elsewhere. I returned with a suitcase full of ideas to take back and share with the community here, having gained a new perspective on how the work of ALT can be of value to Members all across the world and inspired by the shared questions we have about the future of learning technology.

Being grounded in itinerant professional practice

Recently, I have started writing a series of blog posts with my colleague Martin Hawksey. It’s an interesting undertaking in which we take an open approach to leadership, to sharing our perspective on leading the organisation we work for through a period of change towards adopting a virtual mode of operating. And it’s got me thinking on parallel lines about my own professional practice and how it’s developed over the last 20 years, from being a practising artist making stuff, to being an anthropologist studying cemeteries, to being an academic and learning technologist and now to working in a leadership role.

My work has been on the move constantly. I have changed countries, cities, institutions, offices, roles and colleagues. I like change, and having new challenges, but I also take things with me. Some things remain constant, part of my routine no matter where or how I work.

That isn’t too say that my environment, technology or company doesn’t have a big impact. They do. But they don’t define my practice. What really matters, what makes me work well, what helps me achieve, that I take with me. A bit like the suitcases I used to create as a sculptor or draw in my sketchbooks, I think I have a carry-on of essentials that I don’t leave behind. They help ground me and my work when things change or I do. In my experience everyone has an equivalent of those types of things, but here are my top 5:

Reflective writing
Whether it’s in a journal, on loose paper, on my private blog or digital doc, at least once a week and often more frequently I sit down, reflect and write. It doesn’t matter where I am or how busy things get, reflective writing forms an essential part of my practice. It helps me gain perspective, empty my head and make time to enjoy what’s gone well or give myself a break for things that have gone awry. I write around 80,000 words a year, so cloud storage is a good thing. 

Long term list
No matter what shape my daily to list may take, I always keep a list of ideas, links and actions to consider in the long term. It’s a dump for anything important, but not urgent, as well as more creative ideas or plans. I review it periodically, maybe once a month or so, to mark things as completed, delete and re-order. Some items take years to complete… .

Pictures
A visual record of what I am working on, where I go or whom I meet is really important to me. It’s useful to be able to look back, revisit particular conferences or trips or lunch. That also includes images or artwork I (help) create – in particular if I have been working on something for a while.

Making time to listen
Harder to make the suitcase metaphor work with this kind of thing, but still an essential. It sounds very obvious that listening is important, but so few people actually do. Most of the time, it’s all about talking, transmitting, being heard. The busier things get the more difficult it becomes to find time to listen and make space for others to find their voice, share their thoughts. So from train journeys to coffee breaks, I make a point of putting my laptop or phone to one side and really focus on the people I am with.

Complete something fun
As often as I can, I dedicate some time to doing something fun. For example, I enjoy making a web page and publishing it. Or making an image for something. Or reading/writing something. It doesn’t really matter what it is, it’s about completing it and getting a sense of achievement from it. A quick win. A lot of what I work on is a) long term, b) invisible or c) collaborative and so in order to balance these with feeling that I have accomplished something I often do ‘something fun’ and see it completed. It reminds me of how good I am at making things happen and often helps me see bigger, more complex things through to completion with a greater sense of confidence.

#femedtech #OER18 #OER17… because equality matters for all of us

#femedtech #oer18

If you have been following the reporting on the gender pay gap in the UK, then this has been a sobering week indeed. You can search for the reports from different employers here. I have had a look through many of the education providers and sector bodies that I work with and the scale of the ‘gaps’ highlighted in some of the reports is staggering. Not a surprise, given my day to day experience of the sector, but still – staggering.

As a chief executive I have reflected much during this week on how we can change things across the system. There are so many aspects to the problem that there is definitely no shortage of things we should tackle and there is much to do in relation to the professionalisation of Learning Technology.

But on a more personal note this has also reminded me of how important it is that we continue to work towards achieving greater equality – in all its forms. So with a large international conference on openness in education just around the corner I hope that there’ll be much to learn and discuss from different, global perspectives. I also want to help give a voice to this conversation together with colleagues, and make sure that we consider equality in the context of openness.

Powerfully, Catherine Cronin spoke of criticality, equality and social justice at OER17 in London last year. In the closing plenary we were asked to respond to a call to action… #Iwill #OER17 and many participants in the room and on social media joined in, making their voices heard and sharing their aspirations, making a commitment to taking action. I think it’s time to renew our vows to take action #OER18.