Talking peer based accreditation #Mozfest

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

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

Slides from our Mozfest workshop
Contributions captured by @BryanMMathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a #cpd #cmalt portfolio as a solo undertaking

Drawings for cmalt portfolio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CPD #cmalt as a springboard into openness and ownership

Water colour drawing of a pool and diving board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equality, empowerment, accreditation and beyond. My fantasy conference proposals… #altc

snapshot of a mic and presentation slide

Every year around this time when I encourage my peers to submit proposals to the ALT Annual Conference, I reflect on the fact that as one of the organisers I can’t submit a proposal myself. And given that as a Learning Technologist this is one of the key events in my diary each year, I have often thought about what I would submit if I wasn’t affiliated with ALT. So here are some of my fantasy proposals, ideas in the making, that I won’t be submitting (again) this year. If you have your own ideas then your chance to submit your 250/500 word proposal is still open until 20th (or soon to be 27th) March. Take your chance & make your voice heard.

Poster, Theme: Wildcard: Poster showing how peer accreditation for Learning Technologist works based on the CMALT framework, which is mapped to a number of other accreditation pathways including the UKPSF, the Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework and Blended Learning Essentials. CC licenced so that the model can be adopted by participants in their own contexts.

Lightening Talk, Theme: Empowerment in learning Technology: Empowered #edtech governance. A fast paced, visual take on how to work collaboratively with decision makers to build new strategies, using work with cross-sector stake holders as examples. Would include a 1 page “recipe” handout to take away and try out in your own organisation.

Presentation, Theme: Learning Spaces: this presentation would be led by three apprentices/interns whom I have worked with in the past year and they would take participants on a tour of their learning spaces, both physical and virtual. The tour guides would explain how spaces are used and lived in, why and for what purpose. We would reflect on issues like privacy and agency in different spaces and importantly what happens in the spaces and time periods between things, i.e. between institutions, between life stages, between qualifications. We’d question how Learning Technology can provide continuity for life long learning both online and in person.

Panel, Theme: Empowerment in Learning Technology: Working in Learning technology one of the things I am passionate about is equality. Particularly for those working as open practitioners there are so many ways in which inequality and discrimination can impact on our ability to achieve our aims. This panel would bring together 5 exceptional practitioners to share their own strategies for empowered practice in Learning Technology and to reflect critically on how their approaches are challenged. We’d invite participants to contribute their own tips and tools in advance and during the discussion, ending up in a series of posts providing practical information that would be useful to both learners and professionals.

Workshop, Theme: Wildcard: Learning Technology: top 10 complete failures. This is one of the sessions I’d like to go to but somehow it doesn’t seem to make it onto any conference programme. Presumably because no institution pays for their staff to go and share the details of how they lost money or worse when Learning Technology failed. And indeed because no one wishes to have this particular reference added to their CV. Still, other conferences now include specific sessions where we explore what happens when things go wrong. What happens when projects don’t deliver, students don’t use the tools or academics simply don’t co-operate. The list of forgotten, crumbling Learning Technologies is long. This workshop then would include the brave colleagues I have known and worked with over the years who would be prepared to share their perspectives so that we don’t have to make the same mistakes over and over again. Participants would be contributing their own stories. Ideally one or two policy makers and industry experts would be contributing, too.

You probably have your own ideas as to what sessions you’d like to go and see at the conference. Submit them… .

#edtechReflection: getting started, reflecting on failure & other ideas

In the previous post I talked about how the aspect of professional practice I have most conversations about is reflection. Whether it’s discussing how useful it can be, questioning how you can safely reflect openly with others or how to get started, it seems to be a key topic for many. For me it’s become clear how important a part of my professional development it really is and so I want to share my approach in the hope that it might prove useful or indeed prompt others to do likewise.

I have included tips for getting started, reflecting on failure and reflecting in the first person as well as developing reflection as a professional habit:

Have a look at the slide deck below and do send me your thoughts or feedback:

You can also access the slide deck together with my CMALT portfolio at https://goo.gl/44I4Bd .

#CMALT 1 year on: #edtech reflection & professional practice

It’s been nearly a year since I gained CMALT accreditation and I have been using the start of the year and involuntary free time caused by a severely sprained toe (which causes more mischief than I would have imagined) to look back at my CPD activities over the past year. There are three things I learnt I want to share and in the process I have come to make this slide deck on reflection.

What I have been up to CPD-wise: I have continued to use my CPD log to record activities over the past year and from that I have discovered that it’s quite difficult to keep track of these things. The log prompts me to record courses or blog posts or conferences more readily and usefully highlights the need to record/back up evidence. One course I took part in removed access rights quite quickly after it ended, making it difficult to record much of the experience retrospectively. Similarly, informal learning or development has been harder to record unless I write a blog post or personal reflection on it at the time. The kinds of things I have recorded meanwhile paint a picture of interests explored and ideas that I have had, which provides me with insights I didn’t have before (and hopefully should make it easier to update my CMALT portfolio when the time comes).

Finding gaps: keeping a log of my CPD and writing things down has also led me to find gaps. Areas in which I haven’t done enough or thought I did more than I actually have done. One such area for example is publishing beyond my own blog and making more of an effort to find time to attend conferences I haven’t been to recently. While it’s a bit late to make new resolutions for this year I aim to do better in the coming year.

Reflection: the aspect of professional practice I have most conversations about is reflection. Whether it’s discussing how useful it can be, questioning how you can safely reflect openly with others or how to get started, it seems to be a key topic for many. For me it’s become clear how important a part of my professional development it really is and so I want to share my approach in the hope that it might prove useful or indeed prompt others to do likewise. I have included tips for getting started, reflecting on failure and reflecting in the first person as well as developing reflection as a professional habit.

Have a look at the slide deck below and do send me your thoughts or feedback:

You can also access the slide deck together with my CMALT portfolio at https://goo.gl/44I4Bd .

Getting into the #23things habit – team update

img_3141I’ve been writing quite a bit for the #23things course, some of the posts were about my personal experience, while others included reflections on my experience of taking part as a team together with my colleagues.

My first post about this shared venture is dated 16 September, so it’s been over two months since we started and we have been participating pretty much every week since.

We have taken a very flexible approach as a group, giving everyone express permission to take part in whatever manner they see fit. We have a shared scratchpad (Google doc) and at our weekly team meetings we talk about one of the 23 things, usually picked by one of the team who have a particular interest and questions. We have also had a guest or two join us for these discussions and that’s been particularly interesting (special thanks to Ewan!).

However, while each week is different and sometimes we spent more time and others less, there is one particular impact that I am delighted about: we have started to get into the habit. The weekly spot in our team meeting agenda has become part of what we do as a group, the conversations becoming more lively and wide-ranging as we share our different perspectives and questions. It’s quite surprising to come upon topics where some know much and others have questions.

As a team we have become more comfortable at being challenged by topics we know little about or tools we haven’t tried. It’s a lot of fun for me personally to be part of the process, because in a leadership position and as everyone’s boss I don’t always get a lot of time with my colleagues in that kind of context.

So, whilst there are plenty more things to discover in the course itself, I am also thinking about how we can expand on the 23 things to maybe a weekly thing, a topic or question or tool or technology we can talk about. The kinds of interactions the course has prompted us to have regularly are definitely a habit I want to keep.

#FLcoding16: weeks 3, 4 and course end

progressI recently took part in a FutureLearn course about learning how to code for data analysis. I really enjoyed the course and my interest in the programming language python was definitely piqued. I blogged about previous weeks of the course but in this post I want to summarise my experience of the second half and reflect on the end of the course. 

Week 3 of the course contained the content that at the outset I was most eager to learn: conditional statements (What if…). As an example we learnt how to write and test this kind of conditional statement:

if condition1:
     statements1
elif condition2:
     statements2
...
else:
     statements

I arrived in the last week of the course and found a lot more to learn. While I didn’t manage to finish all the tasks of the week, I probably got the most inspiration out of this final part of the course. There was one exercise playing with pivot tables that was really interesting and the emphasis on showing us where to find and how to export large open data sets was what I wanted to learn about next.

All in all I learnt a lot during this course and the content and structure worked extremely well. Judging from the comments from others I was in the clear minority as I found the types of data we used rather uninteresting. But the useful list of resources in week 4 has pointed me to new possibilities. At 92% completion and with the last week being the only one which I did not complete fully, I feel the course delivered all I was expecting – and I recommend it if you are keen to try.

While I have plenty to be getting on with from the course materials, I also wanted to have a look around for other open courses and resources to help me learn more.

A quick search has led me to discover some possible next steps:

First, I found http://www.learnpython.org/ . As far as I can see the site covers basic tutorials as well as a tool into which you can enter code straight away.

Another search result led me to https://codeclan.com/ – a inititive which is more generally aimed at helping you learn how to code but also offers a specific Python course https://codeclan.com/courses/python/ . This is a much more committed programme of study and may not offer all the flexibility I am after.

A whole range of courses is also available from https://www.datacamp.com/courses?learn=python_programming including a course that includes a Python Data Toolbox, which sounds really interesting.

A more basic approach to starting with Python is also available via Code Academy https://www.codecademy.com/learn/learn-python .

Another open course provider, Coursera, also offers a set of courses on programming with Python from the University of Michigan. This is a seven week course which has recently started and covers basics for university students.

Plenty of options available to satisfy my curiosity and enable me to learn more about Python – probably many more that I haven’t yet discovered. One of the interesting aspects of looking at these sites is to find out more about how the techniques I am starting to learn about can be applied and what they are most useful for. I suppose what I really need to do next is to find a question that interest me and get started on my own. 

#23things: Digital Curation meets Halloween

img_4340I have started week 8 on the #23things course a day early. I am in a Halloween mood and the digital curation project seems like an ideal place to combine some course activity with weekend fun. This week has two parts, first on digital curation, which I am focusing on, then also digital note-taking. As I do that quite regularly I am not going to go into it, but there’s plenty to discover on my first look at Tumblr following the brief to find Tumblr blogs I like and to share them. So here goes: I started searching for things near me, which led me to the Bodleian Libraries account. From what I can see there are frequent posts, a mix of images, short articles and useful information. I really like the visual aspect of this account. Searching for libraries led me to discover a ‘Vintage Libraries’ account where I spent quite a bit of time searching through the archive by decade, having a look at the ‘Vermont Book Wagon’ for example. Looking through this made me wonder how images are licenced on Tumblr, and in the case of this particular blog, I found the following statement: “None of the photos are mine. I’ll always state the original link from where I took the pictures, unless I do not find the original source. If you know the source from any those pictures, please let me know.” . That took me back to thinking about copyright and the previous things we have explored on this course.

Sticking with the literary theme, but also with Halloween in mind, I started looking for authors whom I like and found busy posts by Neil Gaiman. This includes all kinds of random content and it was interesting to compare how this relates to for instance Twitter posts, where I follow the same author. I am not sure whether I would find using Tumblr more useful or appealing, but it’s interesting to explore a new platform. Sticking with the Halloween thread I started looking for themed posts and came across a post that linked directly to Instagram, another platform that I don’t use. Given that it was a drawing of pumpkins and cats, I was interested – but after some more exploring I decided that I had enough.

So, in addition to the ’23 things’ things I was exploring, I am now thinking about how alien social media platforms can feel when you don’t use them or have no familiarity to draw on. While earlier weeks looked at platforms I knew well, this week has made me consider what I could use tools like Tumblr, Instagram or Storify for. Storify I come across regularly for tweet chats or conferences, so there seems more of an obvious use for it, but it’s curious to discover a wealth of content in new places that I didn’t come across before. And it’s a useful reminder that it’s necessary to try new things even if I don’t end up using them day to day.