“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.

Making it happen… leading a community conference

Where do we go from here

It’s the weekend before the biggest face to face event that the organisation I lead runs each year. It’s our Annual Conference and between an inbox that doesn’t sleep, aching feet and a planning spreadsheet with a row for every detail my excitement is mounting. This is the week of the year when both online and in person our community comes together.

My job as CEO, at least on paper, is to carry the responsibility. To manage risk, to keep oversight, to make decisions and provide leadership. But alongside this, after nearly a decade of Annual Conferences, I have also developed my particular approach to leading the way through this busiest and buzziest of weeks in my calendar. This year again I have tried to improve what I do, so in this post I want to share with you some of what I do to get ready #altc:

Everyone has a voice, so listen: one of the most valuable aspects of the conference for me is to hear all the different voices from across sectors, different institutions and professional practice. Whether it’s an apprentice just starting out in Learning Technology whom I sit next to during dinner or an Awards winner from a prestigious institution, I try to listen.  It’s critical discussion of current issues that I am most interested in – finding out how we are approaching some of the difficult questions around ethics, consent, equity, skills or policy.

Only 400-500 people can participate in person, so this year I have worked directly with supporters to open up the conversation further, for example via podcasts, radio broadcasts, virtual participation, articles and tweet chats in which speakers, organisers and participants can all get involved openly.

Make time to enjoy meeting people: the most common way in which my conference conversations start is by someone saying “I know you must be busy”… or “I know you don’t have time…” – and sometimes that is true. If there is a problem I need to deal with, then you will have to excuse me. But that’s not usually the case and I try to make myself as visibly available as I can and meet as many people as I can, both in person and virtually (and you can always tweet @marendeepwell and say hello). I serve the Association and its growing membership of over 2500 individuals as well as the interests for the wider community we work with. I am here to meet you, find out how your first presentation went, what product you are pitching or what research you are looking for. During most breaks you will find me at ALT’s stand so look out for me and say hello. On the last day of the conference you can also meet me virtually via VConnecting.

Conferences are not about perfect: together with a regular army of volunteers, Co-Chairs, Trustees and a small team of colleagues I get to host hundreds of people next week and we have worked for 18 months to try make everyone have the best possible experience – but conferences are not about perfect and more likely than not I will be the recipient of any grumbles or complaints so that we can deal with them and improve. There’s always small things that can go wrong and so I try and pick a handful of things for each day I really focus on and if they go right, then the day is a success. I use the same approach when I attend an event as a participant, and it works well for me. Meet 2-3 specific people, get to a few particular sessions, ask a question – have some fun… and you have had a good day. I have read many of the blog posts others write about preparing their presentations, planning their programmes and getting ready to network, share and connect. If you are contributing, good luck to you and I hope it is a rewarding experience.

‘C’ stands for Community: for me, our conference is all about community, a community of shared values. Yes, there is a rigorous peer review process, an emphasis on research and academic knowledge sharing, networking and showcasing innovation. But with 24 years of leading professionalisation in Learning Technology behind us we also get to influence and shape our part of education. We help set the tone, we colour the future, we point the way to what Learning Technology is through research, practice and policy – but also through how we put the values we share into practice. Values of openness, independence, collaboration, participation and, at the heart of it all, the Members of our Association.

Earlier this year when we launched our new strategy, Bryan Mathers helped us articulate these values afresh through visual thinkery, and for me the conference is the biggest opportunity I have to put those values into practice. So while you may not see me wearing actual ALT trainers (although I may have some of those…), I will be doing my best to walk on the path that our vision set out. And I am really, really looking forward to it.

P.S. If you’d like to read what I have written about in the run up to the conference, including recent articles on skills development, accreditation and professionalisation, see my previous post.

Talking edtech, ALT and Star Trek on the Edtech Podcast

Logo of the Edtech Podcast

For my first podcast I was invited by Sophie Bailey to talk about ALT, our upcoming Annual Conference and what’s happening in the industry more generally on the Edtech Podcast.

I really enjoyed doing the recording and we ended up talking about Star Trek, cats and a few other things besides technology and education.

Thanks to Sophie for the opportunity to spread the word about ALT and what we do, and happy listening #altc.