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.