#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.

#LTHEchat reflections: metrics of success vs. stories of succeeding

img_4487This 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.

 

Omni-directional expansion of the ‘Google me’: exploring my digital footprint in 10 screenshots

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:

img_4038This 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.

img_4036Old 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 img_4037me. 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:

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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:

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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.

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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? img_4035

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…

#23things: Getting started with a team

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Team-made biscuit plate…

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.

CMALT CPD Log: tracking professional development using Google Apps

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.
CMALT_Log

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.

#DigitalScholar week 2: course structure v a trail of breadcrumbs

CuriosityI’ve been working on my course outline as part of the #DigitalScholar course I’m participating in. The deadline is on Friday and I have been catching up on the guidance and help provided to get my submission ready. The topic of my course is using reflection as a CPD tool in Learning Technology.

As I mentioned previously, the course is run on Scholar, a new platform for me, and I feel we are gradually making friends. The ‘creator’ tool we are using took some getting used to – but it soon becomes easy to use. I’ve still drafted most of the text in a Google doc in the first instance, but translating the draft into the creator interface was straight forward and I really like the fact that you are creating content in a format which can then be used in different ways, basically working in something like a publishing interface meets back-end content management. Anyway, one of the most useful pieces of guidance provided by the course team is a rubric which sets out what sections you need to include in the outline for your future online course, what kinds of things to consider, what potential participants might need to know and so forth. It’s very helpful as well as thought provoking – in particular when it comes to thinking about possible business models for future courses. My experience on courses like ocTEL for example, was all about delivering an open course without any financial contribution from participants. The #DigitalScholar process makes you reflect on that and what sustainable alternatives might look like. It’s useful and valuable to be challenged to think about this during the initial course design phase I think.

But… yes, there is a but. I think the more I work on my course outline, the more I think about course activities, learning outcomes, accreditation or peer-review or indeed the underlying business model, the more I realise that the kind of course I’d really like to design would be quite different. Only by trying to create something new within a given structure, using the platform provided, have I started to realise what it is that I am actually curious about. It’s still a bit blurry, but some elements are starting to become clear. Here is what I have so far (and keep in mind that this is professional/personal development for me, so I am focused and what I am interested in rather than what I need to deliver at work):

Minimal content. A little like various “thoughts for the day” or “image of the day” creative approaches already happening. Maybe via email or Twitter – but no learning objects as such, mostly just a prompt. Or a trail of breadcrumbs to follow.

One way to curate contributions. That’s probably inspired by what we did with ocTEL, creating a way to use hashtags to collate contributions from across different platforms so that participants can stay within their native environments. It would probably be much harder to balance out the bias of any chosen platform in practice than I imagine, but this is all in my head anyway.

No video. Just words. This is where the story element I am after comes in. Like reading a story, participants should be able to imagine things for themselves rather than being shown.

Any pace. I think my ideal course would have no set pace, no fixed end date. A little like my experience of participating in Dave Cormier’s #rhizo15 course, there would be a no constraints.

Reflect. The main focus of the course would be on reflection. Whether you do that in your head, draw it, write it down or share it wouldn’t matter. Reflection is a personal undertaking and the course wouldn’t need to measure that. It would be up to people participating to decide whether they reflect or how well it worked for them.

Hmmmm. All in all I am not sure what I am thinking about is a course at all. Maybe it’s more an activity others could join in with.

So, that’s my progress report from week 2 of the #DigitalScholar course. Thus far I have made a lot of useful connections, met a new platform, participated in a couple of inspiring online meetings, created a draft course outline and – well, come up with a completely different idea as well. Well worth it, I think!

1, 2, 3, 4… 5 years as CEO: a new series of posts begins here

photo 2Part of my focus in this blog is on sharing my approach to leadership as an open practice. This is my fifth year as chief executive of ALT, the Association for Learning Technology (if you want to find out more about ALT, visit the website) and over the next few months I will be writing a series of posts – each one reflecting on one particular aspect on my experience and work.

I’ve been wanting to do this for some time and indeed I do write on this more frequently in a less open forum. But my fifth year in this role seems like a good time to do this and to use this series of posts not just as a tool for reflection but also to provide some insights for others. When I applied for this role in 2012 I would have liked to read something like this and I hope it might be of use to you.

There is a lot I could write about and I have been thinking for a while on what topics might be best suited for these posts. For now, these are the themes I have settled on:

  • being a woman makes a difference;
  • I am where the buck stops. That can be a lonely place;
  • change is a good;
  • learning new things all the time is a must;
  • what motivates me.

So, that’s what’s coming up. I haven’t written it yet, but this post is a bit of a road map for where I want to get to with this series of posts. Thanks for reading and look out for post number one, coming soon.

 

#OER16: Empowered openness

Sea from the trainOn the train on the way to Edinburgh to the OER16: Open Culture conference I was past York and heading North when the sun came out. A while later the train tracks approached the coast and I looked out at the sea for the first time in months. A wide blue sea under an open sky. In the distance LEGO-brick like shapes of container ships appeared as we neared the shipping lanes and in the brilliant sunshine we approached our destination. It felt like this conference certainly had good meteorological karma.

Running conferences is hard work, so as you might expect I didn’t get to go to half as many sessions as I would have liked – but what I did have was an experience worth sharing. If you participated in any part of the conference whether online #oer16 or in person, you will likely have your own take home moments. Here are a few of mine:

MHighton_OER16Melissa Highton’s closing keynote gave me a glimpse into what it takes (and whom!) to make OER and openness work at scale across a whole institution, for hundreds of staff, tens of thousands of students and the wider community. Armed with a strong vision and persuasive arguments for senior decision makers it was awe-inspiring to hear at what scale and with what commitment Melissa leads colleagues working to achieve the university’s vision for openness. For someone in my position who has to make arguments for openness all the time, there was a lot to take away and adapt in this presentation.
IMG_2569Making ‘open happen’ by doing it was also something that John Scally,  from the National Library of Scotland, inspired me with. Again, this is openness at scale with literally millions of openly licenced resources being ‘born digital’ in a major national undertaking. Like last year’s keynote speaker Cable Green from Creative Commons, John’s commitment to widening access and sharing with us an understanding of what it takes to open up the national collection of Scotland to all was eye-opening.
IMG_2564Meanwhile throughout my two days #oer16 I saw participants all around getting involved in conversations, making new connections, getting stuck into workshops with everything from musical instruments to colourful creations. Poster-side discussions took place with a back drop of Arthur’s seat and outside in the welcome (and persistent) sunshine the conversations continued.
IMG_2571The Wikimedians also had a lot of activities taking place on both days organising editathons including one on Women in Art, Science and Espionage, walk in “ask a Wikimedian” sessions and presentations . Their support for and involvement with the conference is only one example of how many connections this community has. Long-haul conference attendees staying in Edinburgh for the LAK conference the following week were an equally welcome addition.
@BryanMMathers_OER16Looking back at the two days there is one theme that is particularly relevant to me and which Catherine Cronin explored in her opening keynote: participatory culture (and I am including a visual thought from the wonderful Bryan Mathers here). Catherine was speaking about openness, equity and social justice and her opening set the tone for what felt to me the key factor that made this conference work: participation. Participation as in having a voice, a stake in what is happening, a share in the common future, the future of the commons.
Whenever I hear Catherine speak I reflect that despite the awesome challenges we face in terms of content, infrastructure, technology and policy it is ultimately a very personal thing to be in the open, whether through open practice, creating open content or shaping open policy.
Emma Smith, whose articulate story-telling was spell-binding and thought provoking at the same time, made a comment that most academic ‘work in progress’ being shared is so close to the finished product that it is ready to publish. It is harder, more exposed, to share the actual rough drafts, the work in progress that isn’t something we feel proud of, our processes.
Processes of practice, of production and ultimately of our own learning are personal. It’s about who I am, how I think, what I learn – and that is a scary thing to put in the open. And yet, as a magical glimpse into the world and work of Jim Groom proved, there is so much to gain, such potential, when we do.

IMG_2566That is why we are working to take control over our own domains, our data – being empowered by how we use technology and how we contribute in open spaces. That’s what I am taking away from #OER16 and supporting that process to thrive will be my aim for the next year until OER17.

Recordings of these keynote sessions and lots more available via the OER16 website.