We’re getting ready for the OER17: The Politics of Open conference this week. As one of the organisers of the event my main focus has to be on making sure everything runs as well as it can – but it’s also an opportunity for me to spend a few days with a community who shape the future of open education around the globe. And this year the conference has a stellar line up across 2 days with sessions set to challenge the politics of openness from the personal to the national.
There already is a plethora of blog posts by practitioners reflecting on and setting out their thoughts, hopes and inspirations. It makes for inspiring reading and personally I can’t wait to see some of these conversations play out at the event. I might have to write a follow up blog post (with a particular focus on a workshop I will be running jointly with Bryan Mathers called ‘From Voice to Visual – the making of an open strategy’ ). For now, here is what I’ve got in mind for my own #OER17, beyond the running of it:
First, I’ll be looking out for new opportunities for Learning Technology to scale up, support and strengthen Open Educational practice. Technology isn’t always the answer, but I often think it can do more for openness.
Second, I’ll be making time to have conversations. This year I am prioritising people over the programme… so if you are at the event in person or joining into one of the streamed sessions (or my first venture into Virtually Connecting thanks to Maha Bali!) come and say hello.
Third on my list for this week is to enjoy OER17. That might seem like an obvious one, but it’s worth remembering. Over the past 12 months I have seen volunteers and colleagues pull together an event that has grown in participation, influence and voice. It’s going to be an amazing opportunity for everyone to come together and hopefully translate into practice and policy what they experience this week – taking action for open education.
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… .
I am looking forward to participating in the OEB Midsummit in June. Speakers have been invited to provide a quote about the future of education and you can read what others have written already on the event’s website (click on a speaker’s name to see their quote).
Whilst I was thinking about what I might say, I read through what the others have written and one quote from Audrey Watters is “I’m afraid that the future of education will be built by people who read dystopian science fiction novels and liked the “innovations”.” That made me think about books I have recently been reading by William Sleator. I am only familiar with his young adult novels and one book in particular has stuck in my mind for the past 20 years or so: it’s called House of Stairs and was published in 1974.
When I read it as a young adult I was most interested in the individual characters, five 16-year old orphans, trapped in a seemingly endless space that is filled with white stairs. The stairs become their world, the landscape in which they negotiate each other and themselves. As their struggle to survive intensifies their relationships do, too. At the end of the book [spoiler alert…] they are rescued. Yet despite the relative safety they find themselves in, their experience alters their behaviour and lives irrevocably. Some resist, others comply, and all pay a high price. It is not a happy ending and the vision of a dystopian future where even the most basic of rights and choices are beyond the characters’ control stayed with me.
Reading it again recently I thought less about the individuals, although the story is still gripping, and more about those in charge. Those who watch over their experiment as it comes to its gruesome conclusion. The powers that be (political or economic) have needs that this experiment must meet and the fate of the young protagonists is only incidental, it is revealed, to the wider effort. They have no agency, no say over their fate or future.
To be able to think, analyse and reflect is empowering. Having agency, having the power to determine the shape of things to come, seems to me to be a purpose of education. In the House of Stairs only extreme resistance offers the chance to exercise your own will, to have any form of agency.
I just hope that the people Audrey Watters is talking about don’t have the same bedtime reading as me.
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:
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:
I’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.
This post is inspired by taking part in a recent #LTHEchat tweet chat. If you haven’t yet discovered this excellent chat and have an interest in learning & teaching, go and explore their website before reading this. The topic of the chat was ‘what motivates us to use digital tools for learning and teaching’ and while the conversation was thought provoking the exchange that set my mind on a different tangent was the tweets pictured here with David Hopkins (@hopkinsdavid). Incidentally, if you haven’t already done so, this is a good time to discover the ‘Really Useful Edtech Handbook‘ David has edited.
But now, back to my thought tangent. We tweeted about how reflection is useful and how reflecting on and sharing when things don’t go well is important. David then suggested that we can sometimes learn more from things that went wrong than what worked because we reflect more. And that got me thinking, because I reflect on why things worked or didn’t work all the time and and my working life is filled with ghantt charts, project plans and risk assessments that are all designed to help me understand and shape processes and why they work or otherwise. But I don’t think I reflect more on things that don’t work, because often I cannot afford for something to go really wrong – there aren’t a lot of spaces in my work where it is safe to fail. I am in a leadership position where a big failure can have serious consequences and my job is to make sure that this doesn’t happen. Instead, I think most about the things that went right for all the wrong reasons. And that is what this post is about.
It’s a bit like the ‘known knowns’, the ‘known unknowns’ and so forth. There are things that go to plan and succeed, those that go to plan but fail, things that don’t go as planned and fail and then there are things that don’t go as planned but still succeed. You can easily imagine a pie chart that would show how all activities or projects can fall into these categories. If my plan is a good one it probably has enough flexibility built in to ensure that it can adapt to changes or unforeseen circumstances and still succeed. But it also happens that we arrive at the desired outcome, be that a successful project, resource or lesson, despite things going wrong. For example, if you end up having fewer people to work on something than expected, you might identify non-essential tasks and eliminate them. Or when faced with a problem someone might come up with an innovative solution. Or you might be able to reach your goal in a way that’s more efficient. The key for me is not in following the plan, but to reflect on the reasons why it had to change and to learn from them for next time.
Yet, there is a difficulty when you succeed despite things going wrong I find, because when you report on success your audience will not question it in the same way as they would failure. Whether it’s a colleague, a customer or an Executive Board – successful outcomes are noted and sometimes recognised, but also they can be taken for granted. When something works out we are quick to move on to the next thing, the bigger project… without really understanding why something has succeeded. Often the metrics of success do not reflect what it took to really deliver a successful course or new technology. The measures we set out are often reflective of impact, engagement, income… not usually of the number of times things had to change, how often plans amended or approaches adjusted. In very few instances do you wish to highlight to your audience all the things that went on behind the scenes to make what they are looking at possible. The final presentation, event or report is usually a sanitised version of what we went through, lessons learnt showing what we did right rather than wrong.
I am generalising to a degree, but I do think it’s valuable to consider how we can learn from what succeeds and what doesn’t in a manner that is not as focused on outcomes. Openly sharing practice takes a lot of confidence and determination. Openly sharing the stories behind success AND failures even more so. Taking part in communities like the LTHEchat or indeed those organised by Members of ALT, the organisation I work for, can help with that I find. There is strength in numbers and reflecting on our experiences together can make it easier to share the more personal, less polished stories of we have in common.
Hello, and welcome to thing no.3 of the #23things course (also, this is my 100th post on this blog)… As I mentioned previously I am taking part in this course together with my team. If you are curious about our approach read the post, but here it is in a nutshell: we have given ourselves permission to lurk, audit, explore or participate in each thing as we deem fit on an individual basis. So… this is my attempt to contribute:
This task starts with searching for yourself on Google and that’s where I have paused. It feels strangely personal writing about my own search results, but then of course that is the point of the exercise. This information is already in the public domain and easily discoverable by anyone. Why did searching for myself give me reason to pause? I want to explain why, using 10 screenshots I took:
Front page: The most public version of ‘me’ is on the first page of results. Like most of you I monitor the information about me online regularly and the results presented here are what I expected. It’s sometimes surprising how high events I participate in appear in the search results, but so far, so good.
Old News: In contrast to the first search results, this is not a list I look at frequently, but I’m already uncomfortable. Giving interviews or quotes is a circumspect business but no matter what I say it can read badly after a few years (or sometimes far sooner). Looking at this list also reminds me that I am not consistent when it comes to archiving news items, so I suppose one advantage of having whatever you say archived and indexed is that you can compile at least a partial list at a glance. Next!
Videos: I often ignore how much video there is now of me. Granted, it’s a tiny amount in comparison to others, but not even 10 years ago there was no video of me at all. In most cases the video is a recording of a live event either in front of an audience or online. It’s often improvised, never polished and can make for cringe-worthy watching for me. On the other hand, some of my favourite moments in my professional life have been in front of an audience, so on balance I think I am glad to have these videos and hope that some are useful or interesting to others.
And now… images: this is where you can go down all sorts of rabbit holes and find surprises. First up: pictures in weird settings or combinations:
Images I have no control over and that are ranked highly, can feel like an annoying part of my digital footprint. In other instances the images are not of me, but made by me or posted by me at some point in the past. It can be fun to rediscover a former self , but it strongly reminds me that each time I publish anything, this post included, I make a decision to add to this expansion of stuff about or by me:
Some images, like this one above for example, I posted at some point and thought I had removed. Others, like the one below, are a blast from the past. In this instance it shows an outdoor trade-show of funerary wares, mainly coffins, that I visited as part of my doctoral research.
Finally, there are also images I post on sites like JustGiving, when I was raising money for Cancer Research. I am not sure how I will feel seeing this in a few years time, particularly if my personal circumstances or those of my family are different by then. What if you find images of raising funds for someone who is no longer with you?
All of this information about me is on the surface. I haven’t really started digging into what else you can find about me online and there are dire warnings about what can be done with personal information that isn’t safeguarded. That’s one reason why I am taking part in this course. Being online, particularly as an open practitioner, is making yourself vulnerable. Josie Fraser gave an inspiring keynote at ALT’s Annual Conference this year and I’ll end this post by encouraging you to watch it. Don’t let trolls follow your digital footprints…
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve signed up for some new open courses this autumn. Since then, I’ve encouraged my colleagues from the ALT staff team to join the 23things course and we are now embarking on it as a team.
Like many organisations we are always looking for effective ways to provide CPD opportunities around use of technology and I think the course looks like a great way to meet that need. Given that we are a small, distributed group a course that is wholly online and has some flexibility as to when and how you learn seems ideal.
As we want to take part as a team, we have set up some additional “taking part” support, including adding a discussion about our experiences to our weekly team meetings and a shared Google folder and doc “scratchpad” for everyone. While we are taking part in an open course I also want to create a safe space for everyone to experiment and share their views without them being public.
So, I am joining in with this first post about what I’d like to gain from the course and also some reflections on the social media guidelines that we follow:
First, social media guidelines: that’s something I think about quite a lot and as well as the guidelines of our host institution we publish our own policies governing our different platforms. Some of us are very active on social media, others less so – but events and membership activities are increasingly finding their voice on different platforms. So, as well as developing various digital literacy skills, the course will provide an opportunity for us to talk about our approach to social media as a team. I found Eric Stoller’s talk at the Jisc Digifest very inspiring on this topic.
Secondly, what do I hope to get out of the course? Learning new things is definitely the top aim, but this time round I hope we can learn something new together. In our organisation we move very quickly from one project to the next and sometimes there isn’t enough time to enjoy the process of finding a solution to a problem or implementing something new. I hope the course will provide a way for us to share more of that experience.
Open/closed? I have thought quite a bit about writing this post, because in the past when I have shared my practice openly I haven’t written directly about the colleagues I work with daily. There is a lot to consider when you share your practice openly and my own participation should support and contribute, not hinder anyone else’s progress. So I think the approach I will take is not to write about anyone’s personal experience or journey – or at least not without their express permission. I won’t share anything unless it is already in the public domain (and intentionally so) and with my colleagues’ consent. And I will contribute, just like my colleagues, in our internal spaces as well as this more public forum.
Since gaining my CMALT accreditation in February, I have been struck by how much of a difference it has made to me (and I am not just saying that because I work for its awarding body…). As well as providing useful evidence for my work day to day, it’s made me take a more focused and considered approach to my Learning Technology work. Part of it is developing a habit to reflect, about learning to pause and take stock before moving on to the next thing. I’ve also started being a peer assessor for other candidate’s portfolios and that has been an interesting process in itself, making me feel more connected with other professionals working in the same discipline.
As the portfolio has to be updated every 3 years (as explained here) I’ve been considering how I am going to track my own activities. Three years is a long time and I think I would dread having to compile everything in 2019. So, like other CMALT Holders before me, I have tried to devise an approach to help me keep everything in one place and link easily into my portfolio that I built using Google Apps for Education.
Main aims: keep a running log of CPD activities, make it as easy as possible to log these, keep the format linked to my portfolio so that I can transfer content at the review stage and keep evidence.
First steps: I set up a Google sheet and a form initially, but found that I didn’t like it because typing longer text into each cell didn’t work for me and the form felt too impersonal. I wanted to give myself the flexibility to add reflection and expand the format whenever I want. So I started a new Google doc instead, with a table, free text sections and an appendix section with guidance from the ALT website. I also set up a folder for additional evidence to be stored.
Collect evidence or risk loosing it: it became quickly apparent that a lot of evidence I was logging is contained in my blog. As I now host that on my own domain (thanks, Reclaim Hosting 🙂 I feel that this works even in the long term. However one course I participated in this summer has published my work only behind a log in. So I took screenshots of the key information and stored them in the folder in case I loose access in the long run. Certainly the process of logging the evidence was the reason why I did this – otherwise I don’t think I would have.
Where’s my CPD heading? As well as aiding reflection and encouraging me to keep my work properly backed up colour-coding different categories of CPD (e.g. events, blog, course… etc) made it very clear what I have been focusing on and areas in which I could do more.
Tags, categories, images… couldn’t I do all of this in a more elegant way? I am sure I could. There are apps out there that would certainly make it look and feel a lot more glossy. If you have found a way that works for you, I’d love to see how it works. For me, sticking with the same format as my portfolio works for now.