CPD #cmalt as a springboard into openness and ownership

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.

#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 .

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.

An open course as a tool for change: reflecting on Blended Learning Essentials

One project I am currently involved in is a course on FutureLearn called Blended Learning Essentials.  In this short blog post I want to think about how this course, or others like it, can be used as tools for change.

A bit about the course
UntitledThis is an open course about using blended learning for vocational education and it runs for a total of 8 weeks in two parts. The first part covers the ‘essentials’ and the second focuses on ’embedding’ blended learning. Content and in particular the videos are created in collaboration with teachers/learners in vocational education contexts and shaped by current practice. If you’d like to see what it’s like for yourself, parts of the course are accessible without signing up: Going beyond reflection to data https://goo.gl/cwGRtQ, collaborative learning to improve learner support https://goo.gl/LwnCnA, sharing and re-using teaching ideas https://goo.gl/gHdsp9 and managing a culture change https://goo.gl/j7q17q.

Change for learners and teachers
One of the aims of the course is to provide an entry point to using learning technology effectively regardless of what participants already know or feel confident about. While that is a big ask it also highlights the fact that there is a big disparity in the relevant competencies across the sector. At one end there are enthusiastic individuals or institutions whose learners are benefiting from technology-enhanced innovation and at the other end of the spectrum are those who don’t know where to start. Learners may or may not have access to devices and networks, but once they do, they need to gain skills that will be useful for them in what they do next and teachers need to be able to support them in that. So one way in which a course like Blended Learning Essentials can become a tool for affecting change is to provide a path to building competencies and confidence for those who deliver learning. It could be incorporated into existing internal provision, to enhance what a provider or group can offer internally – or it can act as a way to start scaling up CPD.  Similar to another course I worked on in the past, the Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (ocTEL) it can provide flexible chunks of CPD depending on what the participant is most interested in.

Decision makers who manage change
While learners and those who deliver learning can make use of the course, I think that those in decision making roles also have something to gain. To begin with they can participate themselves, online and at their own pace, to refresh or supplement their own skills and knowledge. Particularly if you don’t get much time to have hands on experience with learning technology, the course can help bridge the gap. The case studies and discussion forums meanwhile can be used as a frame of reference for establishing where a particular organisation is in terms of making intelligent use of learning technology, what common barriers are or how to solve problems. Particularly the second part of the course (the last 3 weeks) are relevant in this context. Given that the course is free to attend and most of its resources openly licenced, it can be an efficient tool for up-skilling and provide paths to accreditation (accreditation is the part of the course that I have worked on most, so I am going to point to further information and in particular its mapping to CMALT for those who are interested).

Some limitations
I think this course can be a useful tool for affecting or managing change, from introducing blended learning, to scaling up provision or enhancing it. But there are also some limitations:
It’s online: this is a free ONLINE course about blended learning. It requires you to get online, supports you to develop the skills to engage with it and while you can certainly participate with a group of colleagues and support each other face to face, being able and willing to learn online is a key requirement. If this is a major barrier for you or your institution the course could be a useful way to build your capabilities in this area;
Accessibility: actually, in my experience the FutureLearn platform excels at making courses accessible and if you are in doubt it’s definitely worth exploring the “how to learn” resources they provide or make an enquiry;
It’s not advanced enough: as the course is aimed at those who don’t already have advanced skills it can seem too basic for some. The discussion forums and social media conversation may be more interesting to those who find some of the content too basic or it might be a useful tool for supporting colleagues;
So what?: One of the most interesting aspects of the course for me as to see how strong a driver learners’ future success is for getting individuals and providers do more or better blended learning. As everyday life and work require more skills for using technology it becomes more urgent that we use it effectively for learning, teaching and assessment. Other drivers for using blended learning might be providing more flexible provision, broadening access, scaling up or enhancing delivery, improving feedback & assessment…

Things I’m thinking about next
Working on this course has made me reflect on the conversation about open courses, what they can be used for, what they achieve in terms of creating communities, scaling up provision and supporting professional development.
This course is a first in more ways than one, it’s the first course on this particular platform for the vocational education sector, to my knowledge it’s the first open course in this context that has attracted over 20k participants and it’s the first time we have seem a large scale response to the policy agenda in UK that is supported by some many organisations.
It’s a tool we can make use of to affect change and we can probably use every bit of help we can get in achieving effective use of learning technology across the sectors.

Sharing my approach to leadership as an open practice

photo 2It’s been nearly a year since I wrote my first post on leadership as an open practice, inspired by the 2015 OER conference. So in this post I want to reflect on how my experiment is going, what progress I have made and what’s next.

Where it all began…
In April last year, I wrote : “I’d like to try and adopt open practice in my role and connect with others who do the same. Like teachers, researchers or developers who share their practice and resources openly, I’ll try to follow their example. To make my work, which is mostly about leadership, governance and management in Learning Technology, an open practice.”

Putting the experiment to the test
Since then, I took part in the #rhizo15 course/community and the #blimage challenge, I have shared a number of conference presentations and blog posts about CPD, policy and current issues. I have been building and sharing my CMALT portfolio (specialist area: leadership as an open practice) and reflected on different aspects of open practice.  This blog has become a really helpful tool for engaging with different aspects of the work I do, share my thoughts and reflect openly. It’s certainly prompted me to do more thinking in the open and has resulted in many conversations and comments that have been helpful and stimulating (thank you!). It’s also motivated me to engage with others’ blogs and outlets, reading and commenting or contributing in turn. Sharing the template for how I built my CMALT portfolio with Google Apps is another example of this approach in action. My original aim was to share, connect and engage more openly and I think that aspect of my open practice has definitely developed.

Difficult aspects of leadership as an open practice
Although it has been hugely rewarding, leadership as an open practice has also been quite challenging. While I have certainly started to find more like-minded professionals in similar roles there have been many more false leads, e.g. blogs that are more marketing than sharing, open-sounding practice that leads to pay-walls and a definite reluctance to connect beyond networking for fear of loosing some sense of being ahead, of having the edge over others in leadership roles. At times when political or economic turmoil threatens funding or jobs open practice seems to become a lot more difficult and far less popular for people in similar roles to mine.

It has also been difficult at times to manage different aspects of my practice when my ‘day job’ as a CEO comes into contact with other work I do. When I contribute to a discussion or a twitter chat I try and make it clear whether I am representing the organisation I work for or whether I am participating in a less formal capacity, but it’s not always easy to make these distinctions. On the other hand there are real advantages to having the chance to get involved with research or practice in a more hands on way and it helps me be better at the work I do as a CEO.

With managing different identities also comes being a woman and a leader in Learning Technology and this is probably where my experiment has delivered the most rewarding examples and connections. Through a wealth of media I have become more familiar with the work other women do to drive forward technology in learning and teaching, from writers and IT Directors to CEOs and teachers both younger or more experienced than me. While in my  experiences day to day there is still a long way to go to achieve equality for women decision makers in government, industry or funding bodies my growing network makes me feel hopeful.

Take away’s
So, one year on, what are my take away’s from this experiment in leadership as an open practice? Here goes:

  1. Will I continue? Yes! It’s been such a rewarding experience, stimulating and challenging that I will definitely keep going;
  2. What’s the best bit? The freedom that an open approach help me establish, the prompts to follow whatever I was curious about and the generous feedback from peers;
  3. What’s the worst bit? For me at times lack of peers in comparable job roles who are interested in open practice;
  4. What’s next? On a practical front, more #rhizo16 this year, some opportunities to speak at events or contribute to other projects, making more of an effort to communicate and connect with others… and hopefully to become better at leadership as an open practice.

Your thoughts?
Over the past year I have had many comments/conversations prompted by blog posts or tweets and it’s been extremely helpful. So if you have any comments or feedback on my approach to leadership as an open practice or your own experience, share it below or tweet me @marendeepwell.

Google Apps for Education (#GAFE) as a #CMALT portfolio tool

Recently I was accredited as a Certified Member of ALT (find out more here) and the key component of the scheme is a peer-reviewed portfolio. You can build your portfolio in almost any format provided that it is accessible to assessors and follows the required structure.

CMALT folder
My portfolio in Google Drive

I chose to build mine using Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and here I’d like to reflect briefly on the experience:

Why use GAFE? My main reasons were that it is free to use, I am already familiar with the tools available, there is storage and authoring tools all on one place and most importantly it works long terms as I will retain access to the files or at least be able to download them easily if needed. A further advantage for me was the ability to organise all the different types of content including supplementary evidence and images into different folders and make them easily accessible to the assessors.

What did I use? I focused my portfolio around a Google Doc. I decided early on that I wanted to illustrate my portfolio and the format I was after was linear  – I wanted to build a narrative. I included screenshots, images and links and where appropriate filed these into folders on Google Drive. I also used a Google Sheet to help collect a lot of the evidence in the early stages, mainly to have a record of the various locations and links. I think that may be something I keep using as an ongoing record of my CPD activities.

What does this look like long term? Now that I have achieved CMALT the portfolio will have to be reviewed every 3 years. In that time period I’ll likely accumulate a lot of evidence of my professional development and my intention is to log it in a Google sheet, link to it where appropriate, and build up my folders of visual evidence as I go along. Then, when the time comes to review and update the main document or add to it, I should be able to draw on the information I already have. It’ll also make it easier to reflect on what I have done.

Any drawbacks? From my perspective there was no functionality that was missing and the auto-save and offline working capabilities made it fuss-free for me. Because you can share content without requiring others to have an account but you are still able to limit access I found GAFE was a useful tool indeed. Another plus was that I could share early drafts for comment and others could add to and comment on specific paragraphs.

CMALT 2

Open practice? If you are curious to have a look or indeed find inspiration for your own CMALT portfolio you can access my portfolio folder via this link https://goo.gl/44I4Bd . I have added a Creative Commons Licence so that you can access it and re-use for example the images I have included. The specialist area I have written about in my portfolio is open practice in a leadership role. Sharing my portfolio openly is part of the work I do and I am grateful for all the encouragement and feedback I have had from my colleagues throughout this process.

Looking back at delivering an online conference

As part of finishing my #CMALT portfolio I have been working on completing a section on communication. The example I am using is leading a small team in delivering an online conference, in this case ALT’s first wholly online winter conference in December last year.

Some of the things I have been reflecting on re communication are:

  • delivering live events when you are not all in the same place and using online communication methods to help bridge the gaps;
  • how online events compare with face to face events when it comes to communication and leading the delivery team;
  • how to communicate when, yes, the network you and participants depend on goes down the day before the event…;
  • using group communication as a way to manage and problem solve.

I will share what I have come up with and my reflections as part of my CMALT portfolio in due course. Sharing one example already, you can watch Martin Hawksey and me welcoming participants to day 1 of the conference in the video below:

Sharing my #CMALT portfolio: reflecting on the why and how

Open I’ve been working in my #CMALT portfolio. Given that I haven’t yet submitted it for assessment (it’s not quite finished) you might rightly think that a blog post about sharing it is a little premature. Of course you are right – and I won’t actually share it until it has been assessed and (hopefully!) passed sometime in the future. But my intention to share it openly has definitely shaped how I have approached things and to me it’s interesting to reflect on the why and how of that process.

The main reason why I want to share my portfolio is that reading others’ portfolios has been a really valuable part of making my own. I have found it interesting to see how others have build theirs, from the technology used to reflections shared. At times, I have been humbled by what others have achieved (often single-handed) and often I have felt empathy with individuals whom I don’t know, but who were struggling with the same things I have. In what is largely solitary undertaking the portfolios of others have provided inspiration and motivation.

Creative CommonsBut sharing what is essentially a personal artifact incorporating examples of work and reflection has not been entirely straight forward. My chosen format, Google docs, makes sharing easy. I can even set up a shared folder for additional evidence and control who has access. Licencing, too, I have considered. The most restrictive Creative Commons licence seems like it might work for this purpose. Some of the examples/evidence in the portfolio is already licensed under Creative Commons so that aligns well. I should be able to produce backups, copies for updating and different formats of the portfolio quite easily and that is an important consideration for me – I wanted to make it as easy as possible for me to actually do work on it initially and subsequently keep it updated.

But what about the actual content, what I describe and reflect on – in particular working with other people? What about reflecting on failures?  In most instances I have opted for not mentioning individuals by name, using role titles or generic terms instead. This is particularly important I feel when talking about colleagues in the team I lead. While it hasn’t always been easy, the consideration that what I am writing could potentially be read by anyone has contributed to making my work more balanced. But there has also been tension between accurately describing what I do and respecting the privacy of those I work with. Now that the portfolio is nearly finished I have shared with my staff team for feedback. This way everyone who is referred to has the opportunity to read what I have written and comment on it.

A further consideration has been including things that don’t work, things that have gone wrong. Given that this is a portfolio meant to demonstrate professional experience and skills, you are more likely to include examples of things that have worked. But for me there is value in reflecting on things that could have gone better, what I could have done differently. Including that in a publicly-shared document however deserves consideration.

From the outset, the intention of sharing my portfolio has shaped how I have approached my portfolio. It’s been particularly valuable as it has encouraged me to reflect on the guiding principles of the #CMALT framework in my work – one of which is empathy with and willingness to learn from others. In that spirit, I hope that my portfolio can one day be useful to others in similar ways.

Drawing my way through my #cmalt portfolio

IMG_1010Compiling my portfolio for submission for CMALT,  ALT’s peer-based accreditation scheme, has been a long term project. Originally I started in 2011, but I didn’t complete it. Now I am close to finishing and planning to submit my portfolio (finally). As part of the process, I have made drawings for each section of the portfolio, usually one per section. The first few drawings I made close to a year ago, but I am still adding new ones. Some are illustrations based on CMALT criteria or headings, others are from my work and blog posts. Most of the drawings start life with pen and paper, but many end up being re-drawn on the paper app on an iPad and later edited again with more apps to add text, adjust colours and so forth. This kind of professional development definitely doesn’t require you to get your colour pencils out and start drawing things, so why? Here are my thoughts:

IMG_1014First, drawing is something that’s been a key part of my practice, of the way I think, long before I started working in Learning Technology and I still find it an invaluable part of my work today. Whether it’s designing open badges or trying to figure out a complex network of use-cases, I often find drawing things down helps with problem solving and communication.

Second, drawings are a good way for me to express different parts of my vision, my personality. I like using them as part of my approach because they can be more eloquent than words and allow me to contribute something more. When I contributed #rhizo15 earlier this year, I found that drawings were a great tool for participating either together with text posts or as stand alone posts. There is something about using colour and images that really connects wit the way I think about things. In the case of my #cmalt portfolio, adding drawings helped to make it feel more like me, help me focus on what I wanted to communicate about my work.

FullSizeRenderFinally, and importantly in this context, drawing takes time and focus. For me it is an excellent way to reflect and reflecting on your practice is a key part of the #cmalt framework. I often started a section with a drawing and by the time it was finished, I would be ready to start writing, having laid out the ideas in my head. The reflection is probably the most rewarding part of the process for me.

It’s not really about the drawing in itself, more about the process as a way of giving myself time and space to really think about things, figure out how I feel about something and sometimes, it ends up surprising me with unexpected ideas. That’s the best part for me.