Policy making heaven: a look back at Pasi Sahlberg’s OEB keynote

Pasi Sahlberg at OEB17

I have been working on some articles about effective education policy this week and that prompted me to look back at Pasi Sahlberg’s contribution (slides available here) to the Opening Plenary at last December’s OEB conference.  It was an inspiring 20 min or so that combined hard hitting policy insight with a global perspective from the Finnish expert and culminated in a sing-a-long that makes the YouTube video worth watching!

In his talk there was a clear juxtaposition between making “successful education policies for the future we don’t know” (with examples from the UK, US and Australia amongst others) and “shaping the future we want by making successful policies that create equitable public education for all”. Some of the hallmarks of these kinds of policies are that they award trust-based responsibility, encourage professionalisation, reward risk taking and creativity and that they create cooperation. Not a lot to get right, but a stark contrast to the familiar examples of market driven competition we are seeing every day.

Sahlberg explained how we can get to education policy heaven by achieving the right balance between excellence and equity. Thinking about that made me go back to the call for action for openness in education ALT published late last year. It shows how we could take forward the kind of ‘heavenly’ policy making Sahlberg advocates in all education sectors in the UK in a very practical way.

With the OER18: Open to All conference only a few months away, there is a lot of work ahead to try and build on the successes of last year, the Year of Open, and make this kind of change happen on a national scale.

Better, faster, stronger… why I want to avoid following my digital shadow unquestioningly

This time of year I come across a lot of statistics, from national to organisational or even personal. Most read articles, number of books read, fastest running times in the last year, furthest travelled, most often cited… and that is not even mentioning the academic insights or administrative dashboards that surround you in Learning Technology. No, there is no limit to how many quantifiable insights or measurable achievements work and life can be expressed as, particularly online.

Which is why, when I acquainted myself with my ‘digital shadow‘  recently and put it through a ‘digital detox plan’ I felt like the prompts I was getting online, even the well intentioned ones, led me in the wrong direction. From tracking activities to following feeds, this time of year is dominated by what feels like a race to improve, to do more, better… faster… stronger!

I am not one for new year resolutions, but I think this year I may break with this tradition and resolve not to be seduced by the dashboards, graphs, league tables and charts. This drive to increase, to ensure trends point upwards, is not necessarily where I want to be heading.

Instead of being prompted by the next badge I can earn if I take a few more steps or the citations I may gain if I publish one more article, I’m going to ask myself “why?” first.

If I don’t have a strong reason for doing something, I am going to save my energy for other things. Saying no is a healthy habit I do my best to cultivate and making sure I don’t commit to anything without a good reason should help with that.

I found myself using very few of the hints and tips that the data detox plan suggested. The shadows I cast online are more or less what I expected, manage and largely try to control already. Obsessively updating privacy settings, even the most laborious ones, is probably a good foundation for this kind of process and I am fortunate that I have been doing that for years. Unlike many other professionals I know, I don’t delete old posts from most networks, but I try and ‘clean’ what remains as far as I care to. I am sure I could do better in this respect, but at least I have thought about what I am not doing.

In order to avoid following my online shadow and the myriad of ways in which all kinds of measurements are trying to encourage me to improve, do more etc, my resolution is to take a step back, and start with why.

  • If I track something, does it serve my purpose?
  • Do I need to quantify what I am doing in order to achieve my aims?
  • Do I need to work harder (better, faster, stronger…) to achieve my aims?
  • Even if I can measure it, why am I?

In Anthropology there is an interesting discourse on different cultural understandings of numbers, or the concept of numbers. How we arrive at an understanding of numbers and their values, how this is shared across different cultures and periods in history and so forth. One idea that you come across again and again is that our sense of self, of being an individual, is fundamental to our understanding of ‘oneness’, of there being one thing different from others and that we start counting at one. We take our understanding of being a human being as a starting point for making sense of the world.

My online shadows, particularly if I can track or analyse the traces they, I, leave, can make me feel that my sense of self is becoming more distributed. Having too many opportunities to focus on different things, too many different goals to achieve or milestones to hit can distribute or lessen my sense of why I am doing something, of what is actually important. So this is the direction in which I intend to develop my own critical literacy and skills, this is what I hope my new year resolution will help me achieve – to not follow all the different directions into why my shadows get pulled online without thought or question.

Welcome 2018

Snapshots from 2017

Before the year gets properly underway, I’ve had a bit of a tidy on this site:

As it’s the start of a new year, I’ve also been reading about and following some of the advice provided in Mozilla’s helpful data detox kit.

I’m looking forward to a year of sharing practice and reflections as a Learning Technologist in a leadership role.

A good New Year 2018 to you!

A year in socks and shoes and stickers (2017: part 3)

This is the third and final part in this series of posts. If you’ve missed them, you can go back and read part 1 and part 2 of this series of posts, looking at my year Learning Technology in 2017.

I’ve already covered some of the highlights of my work for ALT, big issues we’ve encountered in Learning Technology this year and talked about the professional community I am part of. As a Learning Technologist I spent most of my time working for ALT, but I do get involved in other projects, support other causes and learn new things as part of my professional practice.

I benefit greatly from using Learning Technology to manage, implement, support and learn. I embrace it with a healthy dose of critical reflection. Yet I experience its limitations and drawbacks like everyone else who has ever stood at a lectern, in front of an expectant audience, desperate to be rescued as the inevitable technical glitch occurs. And this year has certainly brought with it the usual amount of things going wrong!

To ‘do it properly’, Learning Technology calls for a paradigm shift or a culture change. It requires you to win hearts and minds. It needs buy in from everyone, new skills and continued support for all, including senior staff. It works best when it’s embedded, strategic, well funded. It isn’t a panacea. It is transformative. It has enormous potential. It entails thorny questions and ethical implications. It requires constant renegotiation. It often goes wrong. It demands that we takes risks.

Each year since I started working in Learning Technology has brought me face to face with things going wrong. Whilst I know what it takes to make things a success I can’t avoid risking failure. I can’t stick to what’s tried and tested because the goalposts keep moving. New technologies are developed, new possibilities explored and new approaches required. So, like the wider, global professional community I am part of, I rely on my network to achieve the best I can. I learn from the successes AND the failures that others share and in return I give back and contribute what I can.

So in that spirit, and to end my review with sharing practice openly, here are snapshots of some of my favourite moments of 2017: 

Snapshots

"Week Five: Google Hangouts, Collaborate Ultra and Wikimedia" flickr photo by interactive.content https://flickr.com/photos/interactive-content/29187670640 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
“Week Five: Google Hangouts, Collaborate Ultra and Wikimedia” flickr photo by interactive.content https://flickr.com/photos/interactive-content/29187670640 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

At the start of the year I wrote a guest post on the #altc blog, reviewing the #23things course called #23things – how taking part turned into a digital knowledge habit. The post was about an open online course run by the University of Edinburgh that I took part in together with my colleagues at the end of the previous year. Nearly a year on, a weekly show and tell slot in our meeting meetings continues to encourage us to share tips and tools regularly and this course set a lasting example of how we could expand CPD within a small organisation.

Visual Stickery by @BryanMMathers campaign https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/visual-stickery-laptop-art–2#/

Also early in 2017 I supported this brilliant campaign by Bryan Mathers, offering a range of options to support the work of Wapisasa CIC (Community Interest Company). I am a great fan of Bryan’s work and the causes he champions and as well as supporting a worthwhile cause I got the best laptop stickers anyone could wish for.

Emergency Rations, edited by David Hopkins http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/books/edtechrations/

In March a new book edited by David Hopkins was published and I was delighted to be able to contribute one of the chapters. It was a really rewarding collaborative writing process (read about it) and I wrote about the things that I can’t live without, professionally speaking (my edtech rations outtakes).

Appraisal via laptop… from left to right: Maren Deepwell, Josie Fraser, Martin Weller

I have a lot of support, many people who help me achieve what I do and one of the ways in which I develop my practice further is a robust annual appraisal process. This year I met with Josie Fraser and Martin Weller to discuss progress and set goals for the coming year – a thoroughly inspiring day that set out some very ambitious targets and got me thinking about how I could develop further in a new way. As you can see from the picture, plenty of stickers were involved… . Having heard many others’ experiences of appraisal and mentoring in their roles, I think I am fortunate indeed to have had many exceptional individuals to work with over the past five years and each of them has contributed to my work. You know who you are. Thank you.

The KingPin Bowling Alley in Bloomsbury, OER17 Conference social

The OER17 Conference in London in April had a rather unusual social programme, with an evening at the KingPin Suites in Bloomsbury, where there was karaoke (which I stayed well clear of), table tennis (again, not for me) and plenty of drinks, snacks and music…. as well as bowling. A good time was had by all, I believe. And I was comprehensively out-bowled by my colleagues Tom and Martin. 

Bon Stewart ‘beaming in’ to the Future Happens workshop at the LSE

I also took part in one of the excellent Future Happens workshops run by Donna Lanclos, David White and Peter Bryant this summer, at the LSE in London. It was a great day of thinking and doing that really inspired me both in helping to promote this particular work but also because it gave me great pleasure to see Bon Stewart in action. Bon took part remotely, intervention style, from her base in Canada and it was an impressive example of how much can be conveyed by a remote speaker if they are as good as Bon Stewart! Of course, I had the pleasure of witnessing the electric ‘real life’ keynote Bon gave later in September at ALT’s Annual Conference.

During the summer I also recorded my first podcast as a guest on Sophie Bailey’s Edtech Podcast. I really enjoyed it and we ended up talking about quite a few things besides Learning Technology.

Exploring further into different recording media, I joined Lorna Campbell, Sheila MacNeill and our congenial host John Johnston on Radio Edutalk. Together we discussed ALT’s Annual Conference and a lot of other things. As I am not a fan of being on video, I found myself really enjoying this kind of recording, chatting in the evening with colleagues on the other side of the country to an unseen audience.

Running to support Learning Technology across ALTerrain… with thanks to Bryan Mathers

Inspired by the visual thinkery from Bryan Mathers and together with a few of my fellow running colleagues, we created a t-shirt that helps support the cause we work to advance in a completely different context – on pavements, trails and at races up and down the country. Still work in progress, I think, but no doubt it won’t be long before you can spot a running Learning Technologist near you 😉

VConnecting at #PushingHE in Barcelona

One of the most memorable moments of my year in terms of conferences was a VConnecting session I joined at the #PushingHE Conference in Barcelona. The session was packed with excellent speakers from Tony Bates and Yishay Mor to Rikke Toft Nørgård and Allison Littlejohn. It was an amazing line up and a really interesting discussion. However, what made this session stick in my mind is that it took place the day after the Catalan Independence Referendum. The impact of what was going on in the conference host city was so palpable it really framed the discussion and made our thinking about pushing the boundaries of Higher Education and Learning Technology much more political. It really demonstrated the power of Virtually Connecting. 

Image result for uncommon women colouring book

Another one of my conference highlights of the year was going to Mozfest where I met Kelsey Merkley and Ryan Merkley and received a copy of the wonderful uncommon women colouring book. Thanks for the kind gift (my own portrait is still work in progress). 

I also discovered the feminist internet this year, thanks to Charlotte Webb and her talk at Online Educa. It’s been a great year to meet many outstanding women from all around the world who work in education and technology and work, like me, to achieve greater equality. 

I’ve come to the end of this series of posts, and I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my thoughts with you, some insights and hopefully some useful links and ideas for further reading.

I ended my last big event of the year, taking part in a virtual fireside chat, hearing the crackling of (real) marshmallows being toasted over flames whilst colleagues were sharing their fears and hopes for openness in education and Learning Technology. It was a reminder of how much the human dimension matters when it comes to what we do, what I do.

So on that note, thank you for reading and to you a peaceful end of the year. I am looking forward to 2018.

The Open Education SIG fireside chat, at the ALT Online Winter Conference

The rise of the robots and the power of shared values (2017: part 2)

This is part 2 of my look back at my year in Learning Technology in 2017 (read part 1).

The rise of the robots and the power of shared values

Another story that has shaped my work this year is the ‘rise of the robots’ with headlines once again prophesying a future where every job is under threat and where, in education in particular, robots will soon replace teachers and lecturers all together. From gleefully pronouncing the ‘uberfication’ of education to examining the potential efficiencies that can be gained by an automated system for delivering learning and accreditation, this past year has had it all. And many eloquent writers and researchers have dedicated their efforts to examining what is actually happening and what impact it may have.

In my previous post I wrote about how we can make use of the ubiquity of ‘digital’ to raise awareness of Learning Technology and the work we do. I argued for the need to define clearly what we mean when we talk about all things ‘digital’. When it comes to talking about intelligent or learning machines (or indeed teaching machines), language is even more important.

When we talk about robots coming to take our jobs what we are really talking about is human agency, human decision making to replace human workers with machines. Just because we may be able to make machines that are ever more sophisticated doesn’t necessarily mean that the ‘rise of the robots’ is inevitable. Those in power have choice. We have choice.

By talking about machines like human beings we transfer to them a sense of being similar to our own. We talk about how they learn, how they feel or what they need. As an Anthropologist I specialised in the study of Material and Visual Culture, more specifically the relationship we have as human beings to objects, and so I have a particular interest in this area. I know that our sense of who and what we are is shaped by how we perceive the world, our senses, and that even understanding another person’s view of the world can be a challenge, particularly if they have a different cultural background.

Thus, when I listen to conference presentations or vendor pitches evangelising about the next generation of caring machines, of robots who have empathy, who will provide care for our elderly or teach our children, it makes me pause.

It makes me pause because I think it’s important that we acknowledge our agency in the evolution of machines. It makes me pause because being human is more different from being a machine than the way we talk about it seems to imply.

Our relation with technology

Much of what I work on builds on decades years of research exploring how technology can be used effectively for learning, teaching and assessment. Learning Technology, by definition, advocates the use of technology in education even if it does so critically. Every part of our lives, and increasingly the lives of the majority of the human population, is permeated by digital technologies and our education and training systems reflect this.

In my last post I argued what we need to focus on is how we can best use technology to achieve our aims for learning, teaching and assessment. The next step is to consider what values we share that define our aims and what part, if any, machines play in that.

Over a year ago, when ALT set out to create a new strategy, we started on a journey that has given me a new insight into the power of values. My previous experience of setting out strategic aims was that usually one or two individuals end up writing such documents and few people ever read them. Instead we ended up on a journey through a collaborative, consultative process that resulted in articulating strong strategic aims and shared values that better communicate what we do, why and how. It was an empowering experience for everyone involved that has had significant impact not only for our organisation, but far beyond as I have openly shared not just the end result but also the process that got us there with other organisations including UCISA and the YMCA and at events like OER17, ILTA’s annual conference and Mozfest.

From supporting the campaign for right copyright to finding a new Open Access publishing arrangements for ALT’s journal, Research in Learning Technology, joining the Creative Commons Open Education platform, much of what I do day to day is all about putting our values into practice and advocating for what we care about as a community. I make sure that the values we have inform our aims and use that as a basis for operational decisions.

From values to action

One of the highlights of my year, ALT’s Annual Conference, provides an international stage on which you can see the power of the values we share in practice. Not only in the academic programme, but in the way the event is organised and how participants engage with it. For example, open elections in which every Member of ALT can vote each year result in three new Trustees joining ALT’s Central Executive and we welcome them at the AGM that is open to all to attend and live streamed. Like the strategy, ALT’s Annual Report is written by Members for Members and gives a clear account of finances, governance and achievements. Making the effort to issue open calls for getting involved in various activities, from conferences to publications, and ensuring there is regular turnover and transparency helps engage hundreds of professionals each year. It also ensures power and decision making is distributed throughout the community and that is really important to me.

Elizabeth Charles as a newly election Trustees of ALT

As well as good governance, I help recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding peers within our community, through for example supporting the Honorary Life Membership and the international Learning Technologist of the Year Awards. Members from across sectors and with different areas of expertise make up the selection panels I support and we actively promote diversity throughout the process. Each year winners reflect the the range of achievements in Learning Technology and showcase the impact of the work of individuals and teams from our community around the globe. It’s inspiring to see what can be achieved often against all the odds.

Josie Fraser receives her Honorary Life Membership of ALT (with Martin Weller and myself)
Celebrating the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards 2017

Whilst the Annual Conference may be the biggest stage on which we recognise professional achievements, there’s much happening throughout the year that recognises and rewards Learning Technologists, like the recent CMALT celebration I took part in (cake and all).

Newly minted CMALT Holders at the University of Edinburgh (image with kind permission from Susan Greig)

Whether in person or online, what’s important about these kinds of celebrations is that they give expression to the value placed in professional practice, in valuing people. And what individuals do to play a part in this does matter. It makes a difference to colleagues, staff, managers. How we work together, how we support each other, how we talk about, relate to and use technology matters. As a Learning Technologist in a leadership position I leverage my position to purposefully set an example that reflect my values.

Taking personal responsibility to put values into action makes change happen. And that applies to the decisions we take about our relationship to robots, to machines, just the same. Coming back to the the rise of the robots, it’s not inevitable that much of what we currently do will be done by machines in the future. I argued for the difference individuals can make to achieving equality through openness in Learning Technology when I spoke at ILTA’s Annual Conference in June. Now, I hope that just as the fight for equality continues, our efforts to form an equitable relationship with machines and technology (in education) will provide a balancing weight to technological determinism.

Recent posts by me on values

Thanks, again

I take a collegiate, collaborative approach to leadership and my work in general. This is particularly true of some of the examples I mention in this post. I am fortunate 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.

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

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.