Don’t think you are brilliant? Think again…

Certified Member of ALT

… and yes, I am thinking about you 😉

But, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s go back to the beginning and how I came to (nearly) write those words on an assessment form.

As a Certified Member of ALT I act as a peer assessor for portfolios submitted by candidates hoping to gain the accreditation. It’s part of my continuous professional development in Learning Technology and in the most part it is a rewarding, equitable and collegiate activity that I really enjoy.

In recent months I’ve graduated from learning about the assessment process and gaining experience in collaboration with Lead Assessors to becoming a Lead Assessor myself and now that I am doing more assessments I have started to reflect on the professional practice I am seeing through various submissions. It’s interesting to see what others do, what they specialise in and how they reflect on their practice or research. Personally, however, I am often taken aback by how little confidence or sense of achievement is conveyed in the work being presented. So much that should be celebrated can be overlooked or left unacknowledged. So few seem to have the confidence or awareness to recognise their own achievements or even present them as such. In short, I often find myself wishing to convey congratulations or compliments alongside more practical feedback.

And then, there are the blog posts or thoughts of others in my field who seem to find it hard to feel their voice is important, that their perspective is worth listening to and that their work goes beyond the ordinary. Like so many before me I find again and again that those who shout the loudest about their own accomplishments are usually least deserving of our time and attention. Which makes it even more critical that those who need encouragement and support receive it.

I think a peer-based accreditation process like CMALT that has a strong element of self-reflection can help you realise that you’re brilliant (and yes, again, I do mean you…).

Why is that you ask?

Here are three examples:

Firstly, making a long list of all you have done can help you gain a sense of perspective. In Learning Technology we often move on from one project to the next so quickly that we forget to pause and recognise what we’ve achieved and what difference it has made.

Secondly, building a portfolio in a format and manner that you choose, that you can tailor to your preferences and style, can help you build a narrative of your professional development that you take ownership of. It’s not someone else imposing a structure or crediting specific actions – you choose and shape what you present.

Thirdly, reflecting on what you are good at might surprise you, might point you in a different direction than the one you thought you were heading towards. You might realise that you are great at something that you never even realised before. You might be able to see your professional practice in a new light.

You might not have time or the inclination to engage with a scheme like CMALT. But you should make time to reflect and recognise your own strengths and achievements.

Celebrating #AdaLovelaceDay 2017 and promoting equality

Ada laptop sticker

Today we are celebrating #AdaLovelaceDay and for me this is a good reminder to acknowledge all the brilliant women I work with in Learning Technology and beyond. We may have a lot still to achieve when it comes to equality, but there is something we can all do to help achieve it. Earlier this year I talked about how openness can be a tool for Learning Technology professionals to promote equality at the ILTA Annual Conference (slides and transcript).

The closing thought of my talk feels very relevant today:

Days like today give us that opportunity, to reflect on how we, as individuals, as a professional community, can take action to achieve greater equality through openness, to harness technology to do so – and then to go and make a difference.

Re-post #altc: my autumn report to Members as CEO of ALT

Maren Deepwell, Josie Fraser and Martin Weller

You can read all my reports to Members of ALT on the #altc blog by following this link. The blog is always open to new contributors, for full details about how to write for the blog, see the information posted here.

Dear Members

I’m starting this report by looking back briefly at the 2017 Annual Conference which took place in Liverpool in early September. If you haven’t already, I’d like to encourage you to explore the inspiring list of posts and resources shared by participants to get a flavour of this year’s highlights and read posts about the conference by keynote speakers and award winners. Equally recommended reading is ALT’s Annual Report which was approved by Members at the Annual General Meeting and this year contains a new report written jointly by Trustees reporting on progress made delivering ALT’s 2017-2020 strategy. I am proud to see how much progress we have made in the last twelve months.

A personal highlight for me was the Honorary Life Membership awarded to Josie Fraser, a richly deserved honour for an outstanding member of our community. As always, I am grateful that alongside the hard work and time contributed by everyone involved, my colleagues, Martin, Jane, Kristina, Tom and Jane, were recognised for their efforts making it all happen. You can read my personal take on organising the conference on my blog.

The Annual Conference sets the tone for the next few months at ALT and one of the outcomes of this year’s event is a renewed focus on policy, which was reflected in David Kernohan’s Wonkhe article ‘Edtech? It’s all about policy’ and my keynote contribution to the FELTAG 2017 Forum, on workforce development to maximise Learning Technology impact . Also this month, ALT Trustee Lorna Campbell and Ambassador Joe Wilson alongside others took part in the 2nd World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia, sharing their insights via social media and reporting back to the wider community. This focus on policy across sectors will continue in the run-up to this year’s ALT Annual Survey and the now established Winter Online Conference in December.

The work of ALT is largely led by Members who give up their time to get actively involved and lead ALT’s governance and activities across sectors. It is always important to acknowledge how much Members contribute, but sometimes a special thank you is in order. That is why I’d like to join the Trustees of the Association led by Prof Neil Morris, Chair of the Editorial Board, would now take this opportunity to say a thank you to the Editors of the journal, Lesley Diack, Amanda Jefferies, Peter Reed, Fiona Smart and Gail Wilson. Throughout the unprecedented difficulties with the journal the Editors as a group have played a key part in supporting the journal during this year of transition and their tireless efforts have ensured that we have weathered the transition as well as possible and supporting authors and readers throughout. Having published eight articles since July and processed dozens of new submissions I am glad to say that the journal is now operating fully.

In October we convene ALT’s Operational Committees and the Editorial Board of the journal as we begin the work of the new academic year. More Members are now actively engaged in the work of the Association, taking part not only in our governance, but leading activities and establishing new Members Groups across the UK, most recently in the North East of England.

This year’s Annual Report reflects that alongside our efforts to meet our strategic aims, we must continue to put our values into practice. In addition to what we set out in our strategy, that we value participation, collaboration, openness and independence, we also work to achieve greater equality and diversity in our community of Members and helping us champion this are this year’s winners of the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards.

Leading professionalisation in Learning Technology is about setting standards and recognising achievement on a national scale. It is also an opportunity to shape our professional identity and this year’s conference really brought home to me how powerful an example our Members are setting.

“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.

Talking about #FELTAG: keynote on workforce development in Learning Technology

This week I am contributing to a conference called FELTAG 2017: Embracing Digital Technology in Further Education and I am pleased to have been invited to give a short keynote as part of the programme. My talk (slides) will focus on workforce development to maximise Learning Technology impact in three ways: first, I set out what questions we need to ask about skills and capabilities, second, I explore how and open online course can support workforce development and third I showcase how ALT’s accreditation scheme, CMALT, can help increase intelligent use of Learning Technology.

This sets out the context for the talk and draws on other things I have recently written, first for FE News in an article about Digital Skills development in the workforce , and then also on the Efficiency Exchange in a post called Accreditation fit for a (digital) purpose?

ALT Strategy Aim 3 (visual thinkery)

The ALT strategy places a form emphasis on professional development and recognition for different roles in Learning Technology and the broad range of professionals who need different levels of skills and capabilities is something I am particularly interested in. CMALT, ALT’s accreditation framework is one of the topics I will be exploring in my talk.

One of the projects I am involved in via ALT is the development of the Blended Learning Essentials courses, led by Prof Diana Laurillard and Prof Neil Morris. These open online courses run on the FutureLearn platform and the next one to launch has a focus on developing digital skills.  It’s a useful example of how such initiatives can support individual and institutional CPD across the sector.

 

As I was part of the original Ministerial FELTAG Group and a contributor to the recommendations made in 2014 the opportunity to speak about what’s happened since and how much progress we have made is welcome. However, while I can see much positive change, there are also mounting challenges not just in relation to Learning Technology, but the FE system more generally.

Using technology for learning, teaching and assessment continues to be of increasing importance and its potential grows  each year. Yet technology by itself is no answer to some of the larger, structural challenges facing learners, teachers and providers and those continue to mount. So whilst I am looking forward to being part of a conference that encourage participants to embrace Digital Technology in FE and look forward to contributing, I think it is the people, the teachers and trainers, that we really need to focus on.

Making it happen… leading a community conference

Where do we go from here

It’s the weekend before the biggest face to face event that the organisation I lead runs each year. It’s our Annual Conference and between an inbox that doesn’t sleep, aching feet and a planning spreadsheet with a row for every detail my excitement is mounting. This is the week of the year when both online and in person our community comes together.

My job as CEO, at least on paper, is to carry the responsibility. To manage risk, to keep oversight, to make decisions and provide leadership. But alongside this, after nearly a decade of Annual Conferences, I have also developed my particular approach to leading the way through this busiest and buzziest of weeks in my calendar. This year again I have tried to improve what I do, so in this post I want to share with you some of what I do to get ready #altc:

Everyone has a voice, so listen: one of the most valuable aspects of the conference for me is to hear all the different voices from across sectors, different institutions and professional practice. Whether it’s an apprentice just starting out in Learning Technology whom I sit next to during dinner or an Awards winner from a prestigious institution, I try to listen.  It’s critical discussion of current issues that I am most interested in – finding out how we are approaching some of the difficult questions around ethics, consent, equity, skills or policy.

Only 400-500 people can participate in person, so this year I have worked directly with supporters to open up the conversation further, for example via podcasts, radio broadcasts, virtual participation, articles and tweet chats in which speakers, organisers and participants can all get involved openly.

Make time to enjoy meeting people: the most common way in which my conference conversations start is by someone saying “I know you must be busy”… or “I know you don’t have time…” – and sometimes that is true. If there is a problem I need to deal with, then you will have to excuse me. But that’s not usually the case and I try to make myself as visibly available as I can and meet as many people as I can, both in person and virtually (and you can always tweet @marendeepwell and say hello). I serve the Association and its growing membership of over 2500 individuals as well as the interests for the wider community we work with. I am here to meet you, find out how your first presentation went, what product you are pitching or what research you are looking for. During most breaks you will find me at ALT’s stand so look out for me and say hello. On the last day of the conference you can also meet me virtually via VConnecting.

Conferences are not about perfect: together with a regular army of volunteers, Co-Chairs, Trustees and a small team of colleagues I get to host hundreds of people next week and we have worked for 18 months to try make everyone have the best possible experience – but conferences are not about perfect and more likely than not I will be the recipient of any grumbles or complaints so that we can deal with them and improve. There’s always small things that can go wrong and so I try and pick a handful of things for each day I really focus on and if they go right, then the day is a success. I use the same approach when I attend an event as a participant, and it works well for me. Meet 2-3 specific people, get to a few particular sessions, ask a question – have some fun… and you have had a good day. I have read many of the blog posts others write about preparing their presentations, planning their programmes and getting ready to network, share and connect. If you are contributing, good luck to you and I hope it is a rewarding experience.

‘C’ stands for Community: for me, our conference is all about community, a community of shared values. Yes, there is a rigorous peer review process, an emphasis on research and academic knowledge sharing, networking and showcasing innovation. But with 24 years of leading professionalisation in Learning Technology behind us we also get to influence and shape our part of education. We help set the tone, we colour the future, we point the way to what Learning Technology is through research, practice and policy – but also through how we put the values we share into practice. Values of openness, independence, collaboration, participation and, at the heart of it all, the Members of our Association.

Earlier this year when we launched our new strategy, Bryan Mathers helped us articulate these values afresh through visual thinkery, and for me the conference is the biggest opportunity I have to put those values into practice. So while you may not see me wearing actual ALT trainers (although I may have some of those…), I will be doing my best to walk on the path that our vision set out. And I am really, really looking forward to it.

P.S. If you’d like to read what I have written about in the run up to the conference, including recent articles on skills development, accreditation and professionalisation, see my previous post.

Interiority in the landscape: using running to create space inside my head

Photo of sunrise over a field pathWhen I discovered that I love running it wasn’t because of the actual movement. It took me over 6 months to be able to jog gently and over a year to actually run. What I did enjoy straight away as being outside, moving through the landscape at my own pace and having time to get to know my thoughts within it. Over the past 18 months it’s become part of my everyday to head outside, mostly in the mornings, to get that time with myself  in the world that surrounds me.

Last weekend I went for a run in the fields, surrounded by butterflies and bees and listening to the sound of thousands of insects busily enjoying the sunshine. It felt like running through summer.

I try and take a picture each time, and I can track the seasons as well as my occasional encounters with cats, deer and other wildlife as the years goes on. It’s good to feel the seasons and the weather, even if that sometimes means getting very wet indeed. Running gives me time to reflect and put my own thoughts into perspective, to feel connected to the world around me and the landscape.

As the weather changes I have to adjust, putting on more layers (lots of them), going more slowly and adjust where I go as paths become wet or icy. When it’s cold running dominates my senses more. I love the moments when the whole world is silent and all I can hear is the sound of my own footsteps. Having read a lot of anthropological theories about the relationship between human beings and their landscapes it sometimes feel like I am reclaiming that relationship for myself, on my own two feet,  and with it a sense of context and belonging.

I take my running with me whenever I can on my travels and I have discovered places I visit for work on foot, but while it still feels rewarding it’s not the same. There isn’t as much time for thought when you have to check a map or get up an unexpected hill.

As I have become a better runner and as the distance I can cover increases, the rewards of heading outside have become greater. There is more to discover, more to observe and more time to feel the sun (or rain or wind) on my skin. I now enjoy the occasional burst of speed, and I’ve discovered that being organised, an early riser and self motivated are all really helpful when it comes to this hobby. Yet it’s the sense of moving and thinking in the landscape, of being part of the world and feeling it through my feet and seeing, smelling – sensing the seasons change, that gets me out of the door.

Catching up ahead of ALT’s Annual Conference

snapshot of a mic and presentation slide

This is my busiest time of year, not least because it’s the run up to  ALT’s Annual Conference.  But however busy things have been, I have been writing and talking about all things Learning Technology and ahead of September here is a quick catch up:

Yesterday I took part in a Radio Edutalk broadcast presenting an ALT Annual Conference preview together with Sheila MacNeill and Lorna Campbell. I really enjoyed talking to the host John Johnston and his audience as Lorna, Sheila and I were reflecting together how many people contribute to making this event happen over the course of a year. I felt the same when I read James Clay’s guest post about the conference – there are so many aspects of the community getting together that I am really looking forward to.

One of the things we talked about on the show was skills development and accreditation and I have been writing quite a bit about that recently, first for FE News in an article about Digital Skills development in the workforce , and then also on the Efficiency Exchange in a post called Accreditation fit for a (digital) purpose?.

With so many new fellow CMALT Holders getting accredited just now, my own interest in developing the accreditation framework further is growing stronger and I really hope I’ll get to catch some of those sessions at the conference. There are plenty in the programme including a CMALT Zumba class. Better pack my trainers for that one!

But the last month started really with my visit to the Edtech Podcast: where I joined host Sophie Bailey as a guest on episode 76 talking about ALT,  Open Education and Star Trek. Like Radio Edutalk, the Edtech Podcast is one of the supporters of the conference this year, and as part of that community initiative there is still have more in store, so plenty more writing for me to do.

Talking edtech, ALT and Star Trek on the Edtech Podcast

Logo of the Edtech Podcast

For my first podcast I was invited by Sophie Bailey to talk about ALT, our upcoming Annual Conference and what’s happening in the industry more generally on the Edtech Podcast.

I really enjoyed doing the recording and we ended up talking about Star Trek, cats and a few other things besides technology and education.

Thanks to Sophie for the opportunity to spread the word about ALT and what we do, and happy listening #altc.

Crowns and cartographers: equality in the imagination

Photo of the book "Frogkisser" by Garth NixI have been reading a lot of stories recently and two of them in particular really inspired me: Frogkisser by Garth Nix and The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Both are beautiful reads suitable for younger readers as well, but that shouldn’t put you off.

Both books take you on adventures, in one case following the perilous journey of a cartographer’s daughter across an unexplored floating island, in the other the footsteps of a princess who is leading a band of companions through danger to defeat evil and establish a universal bill of rights. Both books are excellent examples of accomplished, playful and lyrical story telling at its best – perfect for getting lost in new worlds of the imagination.

What they also do is to challenge the readers conceptions of established character types, such as princesses, wizards and heroes more generally. They talk of sisters, mothers and daughters – female leads are everywhere. In the Frogkisser for example, we visit the Tower of the Good Wizard, who turns out to be a young women with a preference for red boots… whilst Snow White is a retired wizard (complete with detachable long white beard). Garth Nix displays such playful mastery of the fairy tale tropes in the story that it makes you wonder where your earlier mental images came from and how they were fixed. As someone who has read A LOT of fantasy and science fiction I appreciate the flexibility and equality of stories such as Frogkisser especially.

Similarly, in The Girl of Ink and Stars, the narrative is wound around the process of reading maps, charting new territories and mapping out a lost, unknown place (saving everyone and the world in the process). The girl, our heroine, is at once capable and relate-able. She (re)writes history, shapes the narrative and her world through her work as a cartographer and through her eyes and measurements (explained in loving and scientific detail as her journey progresses) you can participate in the adventure. Stories, particularly poetic ones like this one, can create a world of greater equality, can change perceptions so much more elegantly, so seemingly effortlessly, than we can through policy or even direct action.

Like the women pioneers and activists and leaders and voices in our reality, the heroines of these stories help shape our imagination and our understanding of the world we live in. Get reading… or reading out loud to the younger listeners in your life.