A year in socks and shoes and stickers (2017: part 3)
December 14, 2017
This is the third and final part in this series of posts. If you’ve missed them, you can go back and read part 1 and part 2 of this series of posts, looking at my year Learning Technology in 2017.
I’ve already covered some of the highlights of my work for ALT, big issues we’ve encountered in Learning Technology this year and talked about the professional community I am part of. As a Learning Technologist I spent most of my time working for ALT, but I do get involved in other projects, support other causes and learn new things as part of my professional practice.
I benefit greatly from using Learning Technology to manage, implement, support and learn. I embrace it with a healthy dose of critical reflection. Yet I experience its limitations and drawbacks like everyone else who has ever stood at a lectern, in front of an expectant audience, desperate to be rescued as the inevitable technical glitch occurs. And this year has certainly brought with it the usual amount of things going wrong!
To ‘do it properly’, Learning Technology calls for a paradigm shift or a culture change. It requires you to win hearts and minds. It needs buy in from everyone, new skills and continued support for all, including senior staff. It works best when it’s embedded, strategic, well funded. It isn’t a panacea. It is transformative. It has enormous potential. It entails thorny questions and ethical implications. It requires constant renegotiation. It often goes wrong. It demands that we takes risks.
Each year since I started working in Learning Technology has brought me face to face with things going wrong. Whilst I know what it takes to make things a success I can’t avoid risking failure. I can’t stick to what’s tried and tested because the goalposts keep moving. New technologies are developed, new possibilities explored and new approaches required. So, like the wider, global professional community I am part of, I rely on my network to achieve the best I can. I learn from the successes AND the failures that others share and in return I give back and contribute what I can.
So in that spirit, and to end my review with sharing practice openly, here are snapshots of some of my favourite moments of 2017:
At the start of the year I wrote a guest post on the #altc blog, reviewing the #23things course called #23things – how taking part turned into a digital knowledge habit. The post was about an open online course run by the University of Edinburgh that I took part in together with my colleagues at the end of the previous year. Nearly a year on, a weekly show and tell slot in our meeting meetings continues to encourage us to share tips and tools regularly and this course set a lasting example of how we could expand CPD within a small organisation.
Also early in 2017 I supported this brilliant campaign by Bryan Mathers, offering a range of options to support the work of Wapisasa CIC (Community Interest Company). I am a great fan of Bryan’s work and the causes he champions and as well as supporting a worthwhile cause I got the best laptop stickers anyone could wish for.
In March a new book edited by David Hopkins was published and I was delighted to be able to contribute one of the chapters. It was a really rewarding collaborative writing process (read about it) and I wrote about the things that I can’t live without, professionally speaking (my edtech rations outtakes).
I have a lot of support, many people who help me achieve what I do and one of the ways in which I develop my practice further is a robust annual appraisal process. This year I met with Josie Fraser and Martin Weller to discuss progress and set goals for the coming year – a thoroughly inspiring day that set out some very ambitious targets and got me thinking about how I could develop further in a new way. As you can see from the picture, plenty of stickers were involved… . Having heard many others’ experiences of appraisal and mentoring in their roles, I think I am fortunate indeed to have had many exceptional individuals to work with over the past five years and each of them has contributed to my work. You know who you are. Thank you.
The OER17 Conference in London in April had a rather unusual social programme, with an evening at the KingPin Suites in Bloomsbury, where there was karaoke (which I stayed well clear of), table tennis (again, not for me) and plenty of drinks, snacks and music…. as well as bowling. A good time was had by all, I believe. And I was comprehensively out-bowled by my colleagues Tom and Martin.
I also took part in one of the excellent Future Happens workshops run by Donna Lanclos, David White and Peter Bryant this summer, at the LSE in London. It was a great day of thinking and doing that really inspired me both in helping to promote this particular work but also because it gave me great pleasure to see Bon Stewart in action. Bon took part remotely, intervention style, from her base in Canada and it was an impressive example of how much can be conveyed by a remote speaker if they are as good as Bon Stewart! Of course, I had the pleasure of witnessing the electric ‘real life’ keynote Bon gave later in September at ALT’s Annual Conference.
During the summer I also recorded my first podcast as a guest on Sophie Bailey’s Edtech Podcast. I really enjoyed it and we ended up talking about quite a few things besides Learning Technology.
Exploring further into different recording media, I joined Lorna Campbell, Sheila MacNeill and our congenial host John Johnston on Radio Edutalk. Together we discussed ALT’s Annual Conference and a lot of other things. As I am not a fan of being on video, I found myself really enjoying this kind of recording, chatting in the evening with colleagues on the other side of the country to an unseen audience.
Inspired by the visual thinkery from Bryan Mathers and together with a few of my fellow running colleagues, we created a t-shirt that helps support the cause we work to advance in a completely different context – on pavements, trails and at races up and down the country. Still work in progress, I think, but no doubt it won’t be long before you can spot a running Learning Technologist near you 😉
One of the most memorable moments of my year in terms of conferences was a VConnecting session I joined at the #PushingHE Conference in Barcelona. The session was packed with excellent speakers from Tony Bates and Yishay Mor to Rikke Toft Nørgård and Allison Littlejohn. It was an amazing line up and a really interesting discussion. However, what made this session stick in my mind is that it took place the day after the Catalan Independence Referendum. The impact of what was going on in the conference host city was so palpable it really framed the discussion and made our thinking about pushing the boundaries of Higher Education and Learning Technology much more political. It really demonstrated the power of Virtually Connecting.
Another one of my conference highlights of the year was going to Mozfest where I met Kelsey Merkley and Ryan Merkley and received a copy of the wonderful uncommon women colouring book. Thanks for the kind gift (my own portrait is still work in progress).
I also discovered the feminist internet this year, thanks to Charlotte Webb and her talk at Online Educa. It’s been a great year to meet many outstanding women from all around the world who work in education and technology and work, like me, to achieve greater equality.
I’ve come to the end of this series of posts, and I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my thoughts with you, some insights and hopefully some useful links and ideas for further reading.
I ended my last big event of the year, taking part in a virtual fireside chat, hearing the crackling of (real) marshmallows being toasted over flames whilst colleagues were sharing their fears and hopes for openness in education and Learning Technology. It was a reminder of how much the human dimension matters when it comes to what we do, what I do.
So on that note, thank you for reading and to you a peaceful end of the year. I am looking forward to 2018.