Familiarity

Over the years and role changes I’ve used a variety of different VLEs. From Blackboard to FutureLearn, and from custom in-house developed VLE to customised large-scale MOOC platform. So, how important is familiarity when working, designing and developing on these platforms?

Firstly, are we talking about the familiarity I need to navigate the multitude of features and processes to get the course built and delivered? Or do we mean the familiarity the learner needs in order to have a smooth and tangible learning experience, whether they sit down and structure their learning or dip in as and when they can? Let’s try and deal with both.

Explain everything

  • For me: If you’re new to the platform it’s good to write notes to yourself as you do something new, work out how a feature works, etc. This is also a great resource for you or the rest of the team to open discussion around the how and why of particular approach to presenting a learning resource. Keep ideas, plans, design/colour schemes, times, asset library, etc. all in one place for easy reference. 
  • For the learner: Accept that the learner may not have read your carefully scripted course page or expensive course promo video and repeat it at the beginning of the course. The odds are that you put a lot of effort into that content so make sure it’s of use at the start of the course. It will need to be modified, you don’t need the marketing/promotional terminology here, so make sure it reads like the rest of the course (the ‘voice’ of the learning). Carry this approach to the whole course, not just the start: explain why you’ve included a video to watch and what the learner should think about while they watch it. Explain the structure of the course and what it means for their journey, and how the journey ends. And what happens after that. 

Structure and navigation

  • For me: A new platform will mean a lot of different, well, everything! Who hosts, manages or supports the platform? Who are they, where are they, when are they available? Make them your new BFF and ask for help as well as providing a fresh pair of eyes and offer feedback from your own experience on other platforms to see if you can provide efficiencies or development to improve. Always ask questions and always explain why, as well as showing them your results. 
  • For the learner: A consistent structure and navigation to the course will help the learner feel more comfortable and relaxed, therefore are more likely to retain the knowledge you’re presenting them with. As with the previous item, explain how the structure works, explain how to use the navigation, and above all keep the consistency of design that you’ve worked hard to develop. If you use colour of font size as a code of activity or resource identification, use it every time (you’ d be surprised how often I’ve seen inconsistencies, usually across courses rather than within the same course).

Example: FutureLearn navigation, Warwick’s ‘Leadership for healthcare improvement and innovation’.

Template

  • For me: Personally I hate templates or a forced way of working, but the method and structure they offer are hard to ignore. There’s a reason why templates work and that, as I mentioned previously, provides a consistency across courses, programmes, and team members. if you’re working in isolation, then the template probably doesn’t make sense to you as you already know what you’re doing. If you working a part of a larger team then the template provides the working structure you all need to adhere to to get that consistency I talked about.
  • For the learner: The template should not be something the learner ever really notices. The template is there to provide a consistent learning experience for the learner. If it works they wont notice it. If it fails they’ll complain of not understanding what they should be doing, or when, or how, or why. The template will provide familiarity and structure.

Text and images

  • For me: Nothing bores me more than a course full of pages and pages of text, no visual cue at all as to what’s happening. If nothing else a well placed image showing the general theme or topic helps bring the page to life. While some subjects are clearly more visual than others, there’s no excuse for not using some Creative Commons or licensed images, a YouTube video also explaining the subject, concept, interview with an expert, educator, practitioner, etc. While we try and accommodate as many styles of presenting learning materials, and those materials often reach us from the educator in text form, we would not be doing our job if we didn’t try and find a visual solution to break the text blocks up, even if it’s only a different way of presenting the text.
  • For the learner: if the learner wanted to read a textbook to gain the knowledge and qualification from the course, they’d that. Often what one learner likes is not what another likes. While one person can read book after book and retain the knowledge easily many cant, me being one of them. The inclusion of different sorts of activities helps, but so do different approaches to presenting the learning materials: image, charts, photos, infographics, video interviews, to-camera teaching presentations, video case studies, high-profile documentaries (check the ownership and originality if you’re using these from YouTube), etc. There’s always a way to bring something visual to the course.

Example: Documentary – DHL International Supply Chain, loaded to YouTube by DHL.

… now make an activity out of it, introduce some questions that the video can help with but requires the learner to go further afield to find answers and more resources for. Make the image or video part of the learning, not the learning itself.

Langauge

  • For me: If the whole team uses the term ‘page’ or ‘step’ to indicate a different element of a learning package, then be sure you all use that term. By using a variety of different terms to mean the same thing you will forever be translating instructions from one source to another for different things. Something will always get lost in the translation, mistakes will be made no matter how hard you try, and there will be more work down the line when you have to unravel the mess. Be sure the terms you use within the team are consistent (that word again) and appropriate. If you work with a new educator who’s used to different terms and ways of working then open the dialogue and work out what’s best – do they change to accommodate you and your team, or do you change your processes to accommodate them? Decide early on and stick to it! 
  • For the learner: No one wants to read a course that is heavy in jargon, acronyms, complicated academic terminology or badly presented materials. No one. Even if you’re writing for advanced Masters level students you should still use appropriate language, explain an acronym, and avoid jargon. You obviously don’t want to dumb the language down so it sounds like you’re being condescending to them, but there is a level that is acceptable. Find it, stick to it, and test it!

Familiarity in learning has always been about consistency – consistency in the approach to design and present the materials, consistency in language appropriate to the level of the course and the intended audience, consistency in quality of photos or images or videos, consistency in length of pages or steps. By being consistent in what you do and how you do it your course will also offer a consistency the learner will become accustomed to, which will bread familiarity and comfort with. From here it will be easier to follow the learning and complete the course.

Image source: Pete Birkinshaw (CC BY 2.0)

Reading: Hashtags and retweets

I’m getting back into reading around things I enjoy and things that matter to me. What better place to start than with the archives of the RILT, the ALT Reasearch in Learning Technology open access journal.

Hashtags and retweets: using Twitter to aid Community, Communication and Casual (informal) learning, by Peter Reed.

Since the evolution of Web 2.0, or the Social Web, the way in which users interact with/on the Internet has seen a massive paradigm shift. Web 2.0 tools and technologies have completely changed the dynamics of the Internet, enabling users to create content; be it text, photographs or video; and furthermore share and collaborate across massive geographic boundaries. As part of this revolution, arguably the most significant tools have been those employing social media. This research project set out to investigate student’s attitudes, perceptions and activity toward the use of Twitter in supporting learning and teaching. In so doing, this paper touches on a number of current debates in higher education, such as the role (and perceived rise) of informal learning; and debates around Digital Natives/Immigrants vs. Digital Residents/Visitors. In presenting early research findings, the author considers the 3Cs of Twitter (T3c): Community, Communication and Casual (informal) learning. Data suggests that students cannot be classed as Digital Natives purely on age and suggests a rethinking of categorisations is necessary. Furthermore, the data suggests students are developing their own personal learning environments (PLEs) based on user choice. Those students who voluntarily engaged with Twitter during this study positively evaluated the tool for use within learning and teaching.

Reed, P. (2013). Hashtags and retweets: using Twitter to aid Community, Communication and Casual (informal) learning. Research in Learning Technology, 21. http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v21i0.19692

Image source: Petit Louis (CC BY 2.0)

When everything changes

Well, it’s over four months since my last blog post, and the longest gap in my 9 year blogging ‘career’. 

Why is that? Well, apart from being busy starting and defining a new role in a new industry, I’ve not really had that much to say. I’ve tweeted, I’ve connected with people on LinkedIn, I’ve travelled (and posted photos of it, like this and this and this). I’ve rested. I’ve worked hard and lost lots of sleep over it too. 

Oh, and we got kittens too! Mostly the bite or chew everything (including the wires), but sometimes they settle down and keep me company in my home office.

But what’s only struck me really in the last few days is the lack of interest in this blog. From me. I am still active on Twitter, I’m still learning about my ‘craft’ and still learning about my new role in an exciting start-up. I’m reading and writing a lot on ageing and the wellbeing of older people, it’s just not on this blog or even in the public arena. Yet. 

Let me also be honest here, it’s not just the working environment that’s changed (shared open-plan office to my spare room acting as a home office) or the industry I’m working in (UK university to global start-up, or business school to medical/healthcare specialists), the change is in and because of me. I am constantly seeing change in my attitude and approach to issues, problems, solutions, conflict, design, learning, remoteness, connectedness (is that a word?) and my general social demeanour.

Yes, tweeting is fun and hopefully will continue to be (but then again, maybe not) but I’ve always prided myself on this blog and the way it helped me network, collaborate, communicate, reflect, etc. with everyone ‘out there’. I am still reading around the various disciplines of online/distance learning, MOOCs, etc. and putting the ideas and designs to good use. I still join online courses, not so many MOOCs these days, both for personal enjoyment and professional curiosity. I am growing as an individual and a professional, and the journey ahead is all new to me, again, and exciting too.

The rest is the future. Using the skills from my CMALT journey and as an assessor I continue to evaluate and reflect on what I do, why I do it, how it can be better (or at least different), and how I can be better (and sometimes different too). I don’t want to stand still, I don’t want to be pigeonholed into one role or a ‘one trick pony’. I am too dynamic for that – I’m not being big headed or facetious for saying this, nor am I being cocky or rude. I mean dynamic in so much as forever looking forward and around me, observing and capturing, learning from others to improve myself and my work. 

Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow. (William Pollard)

Image source: Simon and his camera (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

All change

In April, 2007, I joined Bournemouth University as Learning Technologist. This was the start of my journey in learning technology and working in an academic environment. Not really knowing or understanding what the role was I jumped in at the deep end and started learning all about pedagogy, learning technology, VLEs, assessments, assessment and marking criteria, copyright, academic personalities, missed meetings, impossible deadlines, broken links, unnecessary emails, internal politics, etc. and how to work with both highly passionate and distracted academics. Every day was different, no two projects or modules or meetings were the same. This is the kind of creative environment I found, and still find, comforting, challenging and worth getting out of bed for!

A little over five years later, May 2012, I moved the family to the Midlands and joined the University of Leicester. Working closely with academics from different departments the challenges were the same, the technology (for the most part) the same, and the support and camaraderie equally as inspiring and engaging.  

After two years with friends and colleagues at Leicester, May 2014, I made another move, this time to Warwick Business School. Joining a larger team as a Teaching and Learning Consultant (equivalent role and responsibilities to a senior Learning Technologist at Bournemouth and Leicester) I found my place within an established team dynamic, learning the processes and environments, using my experience and knowledge to enhance and further the ongoing projects. At Warwick I have been heavily involved in the FutureLearn MOOCs, as I wrote about in my 3-year CMALT review, as well as working with colleagues on the leading distance learning MBA program. With less hands-on involvement in the actual setting up and managing modules, and more instructional design, managerial and strategic responsibilities (for both the MOOCs and academic liaison) the role moved me and my interpretation of learning technology to a new level.

So, now we’re up to date (including a renewed and reworked CMALT portfolio). Now its the start of a new chapter for me and my family, moving onwards and upwards. Again.

Not that it was necessarily a conscious decision to go looking for a change but, from the beginning of November, 2017, I will no longer be working at Warwick, nor HE. I join a new startup venture as their manager for ‘product and proposition’ which, for me, means I’ll be managing and running their online platform and portfolio of accredited courses. Called the EasyCare Academy, it’s focus is to “improve older people’s lives with a person-centred approach that supports healthy ageing” through a person centred approach. The individual, their needs, their environment, their health, their wellbeing. Aimed, at the moment, at nurses, care workers, clinicians, etc. the courses will cover aspects of a whole of life approach for an ageing population, not just their medical needs. All delivered online.

Distance learning never looked so promising, interesting, engaging and worthwhile!


Learning technologists need to expand and explore, and @hopkinsdavid is not one to stay still (for too long) #CMALT
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The challenge, for me, is bringing my experience from +10 years in UK HEIs and +25 years with the internet and online communities, into the commercial world but not losing the core experiences of learning, online resources, design, pedagogy, management, leadership, network, etc. And enthusiasm. With a timetable for the first courses already set, and discussions around accreditation partners taking place, the schedule will only get busier as we work with more associations and partners, add more courses to the development cycle and explore a new platform and it’s capabilities. A platform has been chosen for it’s resilience, accessibility, scalability, and proven success at delivering online learning to a (large) global audience (more on this another time), which will be a great move for me on the back of my work on MOOCs (reflections like this and this and this).

So. This is an exciting and very scary move for me and my family, but one we’re confident is a good move. The EasyCare family are very welcoming, generous, passionate, dedicated and focused on the goals: to ‘change the future of healthy ageing’.

Image source: Forsaken Fotos (CC BY 2.0)

The ‘killer’ interview question?

In your last interview, were you asked a question you thought was either too tough, too personal, too ambiguous, etc.? Did you think you ‘nailed it’ or did you come away confused about the purpose of the question, your response, or whether the interviewer was messing with you?

From the article:

“…candidates often struggled with the question: “Tell me about your most significant technical accomplishment, the project that you’re most proud of.” Max Brown, ex-Tesla recruiter.

This doesn’t sound too bad, does it? I can think of a few examples here, but is it the kind of thing the interviewer is looking for. Brown says that “most people’s first instinct is to pick the project or achievement that sounds the most substantial on paper – but that’s not always the one that illustrates their actual technical ability” and that “it’s usually better to shine the spotlight on a smaller project where you can truly speak to all of the technical aspects. In many cases, the biggest, most impressive-sounding initiative you participated in was largely the result of a team effort.” Hmm, really. Well, here’s what I would say, and these were my first thoughts when reading the article last night …


How would you answer an interview question about your 'most significant technical accomplishment'?
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My most ‘significant technical accomplishment’ would probably be one of my first positive experiences using computers. Back in the early- to mid-80’s my Dad bought me a ZX81, and then a ZX Spectrum. Before we bought a cassette player to record and load games I had to type each and every game I wanted to play. Copied from magazines or books, this could take a couple of hours, required squinting intensely at code which, as I’m sure you’re aware, would be rendered useless if you got just one comma or semi-colon in the wrong place. I learned the hard way to pay attention, keep the finer detail in mind when trying to rush to finish before bedtime, etc. I also learned to fix the broken published code. I learned what form the code should take, how to reference other bits of code. I learned how to trust myself and my ‘intuition’ when the code was wrong, so I could fix it before continuing.

From this I learned to write my own games, albeit very basic, but it was still all mine, from concept to (working) completion. I remember a worm race … six or eight worms race from one side of the screen to the other with random generator controlling how fast each went. Whichever got to the other side of the screen won, and I got the whole family to watch and choose a worm! Quality family time, eh? It’s from here that much of everything I do now stems … my interest in computers and computing, developments in AI and VR, gaming (although less and less now, but I’m getting back to it through my kids), the Internet, self motivation and confidence, advances in wearable computing, etc.

If in doubt, here’s another perspective for your next interivew .. “never stop learning”.

What would you choose as your ‘significant [technical] accomplishment’?

Image source: Barney Livingston (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals

I’m always interested in widening my reading list and understanding of the role/world I work in. I’ve worked on the Warwick MOOC ‘The Mind is Flat’ for nearly four years now, and the concept of how we ‘encourage’ change (either personal, professional or organisational) through individual perspectives and acrtions is something I’ve explored a bit. From the Behavioural Science team and Nick Chater at WBS to individual discussions with the individual course teams, the concept and theory behind ‘nudge’ is something I think we can learn a lot from for learning, students, assessments, library, student affairs, etc.

‘Nudge theory’ is defined as the behavioural science (in/from politics, economics, individual or group actions) that “proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to try to achieve non-forced compliance to influence the motives, incentives and decision making of groups and individuals” (Wikipedia). From subtle changes to the way we think about a problem or how we interact with colleagues to how we approach a problem or it’s solution, being aware of what a nudge is and how it can be of benefit is useful.

What is this book then? Called ‘Think Small: The Surprisingly Simple Ways to Reach Big Goals’ (Amazon) written by Owain Service and Rory Gallagher, two of the behavioural science team in the first Nudge Unit. Taking their experiences, understanding, research and results they’ve put this framework together that we can (note: can, not should or have to) use for personal or professional improvement. The framework is not a this-then-that approach but rather a set of ideas and

“We’re often told to dream big, the sky’s the limit and that nothing is impossible. While it is undoubtedly good advice to set yourself goals that have the potential to make you and those around you healthier and happier, how to reach those goals is often less clear. From getting fit or securing a new job to becoming a better manager or parent, simply setting your mind to something will rarely get you where you want to be, and big plans can quickly become overwhelming, leaving us feeling as though we’ve failed.”

How about these examples … using the theory of behavioural science and nudge to encourage individuals to choose to change their behaviour, rather than tell them they must change it. Examples below include how to make a dangerous pedestrian crossing work when cyclists are introduced, and how to encourage people to  use the stairs rather than the escalator:

YouTube: Nudge – Increasing Traffic Safety with Duct Tape

YouTube: Piano stairs

YouTube: Rory Sutherland on Nudging in the Bathroom

Here’s another great example of how nudges are being used when buying new kitchen appliances:

YouTube: GreeNudge #1: Triple win tumblers

I would really like to explore how we can use these ‘nudges’ in/for learning …

  • Can students be encouraged through nudge to participate more online (MOOCs)?
  • Will students realise the nudge, positively or negatively?
  • Can nudges work in electronic communications (library notices, course announcements, tests, assignment deadlines, assignment feedback, module evaluation etc.)?
  • What can we do with signage (online and campus) to increase footfall? Can we use nudge to help students enter/exit lecture theatres without the standard expected blockages?
  • Can nudges be used to increase numbers in MOOCs?

So many areas of education and learning technology where nudges could work either individually, for a cohort, etc. If you’ve done anything like this please tweet or comment below, I’d really like to know (and broadcast, so we can all learn from your experience).

Here are some more examples of nudge and how it has benefited individuals or organisations:

“It [HMRC] found that replacing the sentence “Nine out of 10 people in the UK pay their tax on time” with “The great majority of people in [the taxpayer’s local area] pay their tax on time” increased the proportion of people who paid their income tax before the deadline.”
The Telegraph

“Fewer solutions capitalize on the availability of student data and student-facing technology to create and automate delivery of nudges. A smart solution using Nudge Theory can impact all students, not just those identified as at-risk, and do so without increasing staff or administrative burden.”
Elearning Industry

“The white line does not tell you must drive on one side of the road, but suggests it is a good idea. It is only on foggy days or on very dirty roads that we realise how vital they are.” 
Teacher Toolkit

“People don’t always act in their own interests – by filing their taxes late, for instance, overeating, or not paying fines until the bailiffs call. As a result, they don’t just harm themselves, they cost the state a lot of money. By looking closely at how they make their choices and then testing small changes in the way the choices are presented, the unit tries to nudge people into leading better lives, and save the rest of us a fortune.”
The Gaurdian


As I work my way through the Kindle edition I’ll tweet passages I find interesting or useful, using the #nudge and #edtech hashtags.

“If any structure is to survive, be it behavioural or physical, it needs strong foundations, and to be wisely placed, to take the weight and stresses it will be subject to. As you start to build, its cement and structure will be weak. To succeed, you will need scaffolding to support its initially delicate joints and links. You will need to keep on building the scaffolding too, protecting your structure from the wind and rain as you go. But do it right, and the time will come when the scaffolding and covers can be dismantled. Your building will stand tall and strong on its own, serving its purpose, whatever that may be.” Book extract.

Image source: Lego Construction (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The University of tomorrow is …?

I’ve just read this article and wanted to share a couple of thoughts I had while I was reading it: “It’s the end of the university as we know it”

The title is clearly clickbait, testing your resolve to read beyond the tweeted headline, knowing full well ‘the end of the university’ will get people interested (or enraged that this kind of talk is still going on … MOOCs anyone?). That the URL is not the same as the title implies they might change the title at a later stage … “/the-future-of-the-university-is-in-the-air-and-in-the-cloud/”?

Here are some soundbites from the article:

“Shocking as it might seem, there is one catch-all answer that could be the remedy to many of these concerns: Cut the campus loose. Axe the physical constraints. The library? Classrooms? Professors? Take it all away. The future of the university is up in the air.”

Another, when looking at the history of how and why universities are set up like they are:

“It is untenable for universities to continue existing as sanctums for a small group of elite students, taught by top scholars.Technology isn’t only refashioning the ways in which we live and work, but also changing what we need to learn for these new schemes of existence: It’s returning us to a need for specialized learning, for individualized education that is custom-tailored to one’s needs. A world in which most of our learning is more self-directed and practical is, in many ways, a return to an apprenticeship model that existed before industrialization.”

Predictions on the future of learning, at universities at any rate:

Online “cloud” teaching is cheaper; universities can offer such online-based (or majority-online) degrees at the lowest rate—making for a cheap(ish) degree, available to everyone with access to the internet, and taking place completely digitally. Meanwhile, other students will pay a premium to interact with professors and have more of a traditional campus experience. At the highest end, the richest or most elite students may get the full Oxford tutorial experience, brushing elbows with the best of scholars; they’ll just have to pay through the nose for it”

Read the article, let me know what you think – agree or disagree with the tenet of the article, that this is the end of the university?

Image source: Dave Herholz (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Leaders and leadership

As part of my journey to being a Learning Technologist, and beyond this role into management and leadership (more on this soon), I have often written and spoken about how us technologists become more visible and respected in the eyes of our academic colleagues. Many of us in our roles do not have the kinds of qualifications academics that they recognise (Masters degrees, etc.) nor do some of us have either the time, inclination or finances to go down this route. From the outset of joining ALT I was interested in CMALT and then gained the qualification, worked towards gaining it and then the three-year renewal process.

How many of us have seen the image below before? The ‘leader’ as someone who is helping and guiding their team to the top in an inclusive and engaging way. Often not the first to the top, often not even reaching the top either, but ensuring no one on the team is left behind and that credit is given to the team for their collective achievements.

Leadership vs. Management

The ‘manager’ or ‘boss’ is someone here who may lead from the front, maybe even thinking they’re showing strong leadership and acting as a role model for their team to follow in their footsteps.


Do you manage or lead? Do you want a manager or leader?
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This may be a gross over-simplification of the two roles, but which would you rather work with? Who would you rather work for? Which environment seems more likely to produce a collegiate or enthusiastic workforce. Which looks like it’ll produce a resentful or dispassionate team?

I have known many people who fit both these roles, personally and professionally, as well as managers and leaders who exhibit characteristics of both generalisations above. Have you? So, what makes a good leader or manager? 

I don’t know. Other than knowing the kind of leader and manager I want to be, it’s all a bit grey-scale to me. How do we grow in the role, grow the team, grow the sense of wellbeing and belonging that we want to feel ourselves, and therefore what we want from the team, how do we do this?

As someone who identifies as an introvert, this isn’t always easy to explain. In fact, thanks to some harsh and very wrong words from a couple of school teachers I always through being an introvert was something to be ashamed of, something less than ‘whole’. I’ve since found an introvert is someone who finds the strength for the day or task ahead from within … indeed a quick google search shows the definition of “a shy, reticent person”. This cannot be further from the truth. I am not shy, I just won’t compete for your time or energy; I have my own and I’m quite happy with it. I may need to recharge more often, but this is simply time I need for myself to reflect and reengage.

In the past few years I’ve learned actually that introverts, and being introverted, is something to be proud of, something that gives me an inner strength that enables me to do more than I thought I could, and more than you thought I could, especially as a leader! Introverts as leaders are a powerful voice, often drowned in the general melee of meetings and gatherings, but you can be sure of one things .. when we’ve something to say it is carefully thought out, carefully planned, and right on the button!

Many meetings are controlled by people with lots to say, often never stopping long enough to listen. But the silence of others in the room shouldn’t be taken as that they’ve nothing to say, it’s as much the fault of those talking in that they never leave any time or space for others to contribute. This isn’t an extrovert vs. introvert face-off either; I’ve known introverts talk too much, trying to fulfil a role they feel uncomfortable in and obliged to fill.

For me this is about knowing when to talk, when to listen, when to engage, when to collaborate, when to manage, when (and how) to bring the conversation back on topic, etc. This is leadership. Those who continually take meetings off topic or use their short time to list every little detail of what they’ve been working on are saying more about their own insecurities than anything else … if the meeting is 30 or 60 minutes, then each person needs to manage themselves and the others to ensure the agenda is covered and everyone has the opportunity to have their input. 

This is why I’m so pleased to hear that ALT are launching a new CMALT initiative for a “senior/leadership CMALT strand will be appropriate for professionals with three or more years of experience, whose role involves learning technology and who are seeking to gain an advanced accreditation.”

While this will not prevent some bias against us from a small number of academics who think we’re not qualified to support or advise them. The fact that my email signature shows “FHEA CMALT” qualifications has opened doors and dialogue as some are interested in what CMALT is and what I had to do to obtain it. From there we’ve broken down a barrier and then it’s up to me to back this up with hard work, effort, leadership, management and myself. And that’s all of me because, as you know, us introverts don’t do anything unless we do it all!!

This is the kind of thing I’ll need, going forward with my role and personal perspectives, so I’m following these developments with interest.

And remember .. there’s always room for Lego ;-)

Some more links on leadership and introverts:

Image source: Kristina Alexanderson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

‘Wise Guy’ with @GuyKawasaki

I’ve spoken before about the way in which Learning Technologists need to think and act as go-betweens in the institution between the academics, the administrators, the IT helpdesk and IT systems integrators. Oh, and definitely between the institution AND the students. Never forget the students.

We need to be both leaders, managers, workers, liaison, testers, helpdesk, mentors, specialists, visionists (is that a word?), innovators, critical thinkers, creative, entrepreneurs, etc. This is why I believe we should pay attention to how people think, work, collaborate, communicate, etc. outside of our educational roles. Hence I’m recommending you listen to and engage with people like Guy Kawasaki, speaker, entrepreneur, and evangelist.


Learning technologists need to be leaders, managers, workers, mentors, specialists, innovators, creatives, etc. #altc
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I have read quite a bit of Guy Kawasaki’s work that I believe more Learning Technologist can benefit from it. Whether you listen or watch or read about creativity, entrepreneurial activity, disruptive leaders, etc. or just enjoy hearing someone speak passionately about their work, there is something from Guy here for you.

Guy has recently started a new Facebook page in an effort to share his insight and experiences to “help you succeed”. Whilst aspect of this won’t interest or be relevant to Learning Technologist, to understand the wider concept of being creative (disruptive?) will help me/you see where and how we fit our roles and interests into the constraints of our institution and its culture.

Find out more about Wise Guy and Guy Kawasaki, as well as the weekly video episodes, on the ‘Wise Guy’ Facebook page.

“Wise Guy distills Guy Kawasaki’s decades of experience and thirteen books Into short lessons to help you succeed. Guy covers innovation, recruiting, fund raising, branding, and social media. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, small-business owner, intrapreneur, or not-for-profit leader, you’ll get a ton out of this video series.”

I would go further to say that you will learn about how other people view creativity and entrepreneurial activity or thinking, about how you can also use these approaches to foster your own skills (either as an entrepreneur or creative, or working with them) and how you can learn more about yourself. Go on, what have you got to lose?

Image source: Adam Tinworth (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Books as Open Online Content #BOOC

In the past 10 years as a learning technologist or eLearning consultant, I’ve come across many new ideas, concepts, techniques, technologies, methods, cultures, etc. I’ve learned about open source software and open badges and open access journals, and open courses. Now I’ve just learned about open books, specifically BOOCs (Books as Open Online Content).

What is a BOOC?

“These innovative ‘living books’ feature articles of various types, in a non-linear thematic presentation that offers readers the option to select and sort subjects they wish to read. With long and short articles, blogs, videos, audio and Storifys, these ‘books’ grow over a period of time.” UCL Press.


Books as innovative 'living' books? Yes, really! Read more from @hopkinsdavid #learning
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How I see the BOOC is that it’s a free ebook, but not something for your Kindle or Kobo or eReader. This is a browser based resource that can be text, image, video or audio based (ideally a mix of all of them?) that can build and expand as the authors continue to research and write. The platform that UCL has built is really good, for the explanation of BOOCs, that enables the content to the flagged/tagged under one of four headings, each displayed graphically using different colours (as below). The content is capable of being in more than one ‘category’ so you can read this BOOC from the perspective of ‘libraries’, ‘publishing’, ‘bookselling’, or ‘academic’.

There are many instances where, when wanting to read and learn about something, the most up to date and highly respected book is still out of date. For example, any reference book or ‘how-to’ book is out of date as soon as the author has written it. Then you add the lead time, production and publication time to the equation, and the latest ‘best’ book on the subject could be as much as a year out of date. Anything I want to read about my own interests (learning technology, social media, etc.) falls into this category. To get around this I read mostly blogs and long articles I find and am pointed to by friends on Twitter. This does not mean I get the whole picture, just one view.

A BOOC (researched, references, and peer-reviewed) would help me here? Yes, it’ll still take time to write and review all the content, but it can be ‘released’ in chunks / sections as they become available, enabling the information to be read and used, the authors can get valuable feedback and keep previously released material up to date while progressing the rest. I’m sure it’d be a huge production to do something like this, but exciting none the less? 

I like this. I’m sure there are some WordPress themes that could also handle something similar, along with a clever developer, if not a dedicated website template.

“BOOC is not the answer to the question, ‘What will the academic book of the future be?’ – and it doesn’t claim to be. It is, however, the tangible result of a great deal of consultation, discussion, innovation, and perseverance. It represents some of the issues – contentious, complicated, deep-rooted, emerging, and provocative – that confront everyone who engages with academic publication.” Dr. Rayner.

What do you think? Is this a route you’d use for your own academic authoring and publishing? Would you read a ‘book’ like this, knowing it’s (a) not complete, but (b) kept up to date and features  feedback and changes in the subject / topics?

Image source: modified from Brian Smithson (CC BY 2.0)