Relationships

Development of materials for online, distance, blended and campus-based courses can be a pleasurable experience. It can also be fraught with issues not least constraints in time, budgets, resources, personalities, egos, etc. How can we manage this? It’s quite easy really … keep the conversation and communications flowing.

The worst thing that can happen during the time set aside to design, develop and implement the materials is that there is a breakdown in the process or communications. Breakdowns will and do happen, it’s how you manage it that can determine how quickly you can get back on track. If the goal or deadline that you’re working to is a sensible and achievable one then I always see that as the starting point to work back from. You have three months? Excellent, drop a week or two off that for final checks and testing. You’ll need it.

From there work out any leave or national holidays between now and then. This might throw up further family leave or conference activity that will mean part of your team will be unavailable. Work out roles and responsibilities, assign these according to expertise or availability. Let everyone know who is doing what, when and why. I don’t like them but a Gantt chart will really help you here. Keep it updated, no matter how hard or late. Keep it stored centrally, with all your other files and resources, and let everyone know where it is and why it’s there. Refer to it regularly. Point everyone to it regularly and check you’re on schedule for each milestone. It’s better to find out early you’ll miss a milestone, you can work with that, than to find out the day after it was due. If that happens then there is something more serious happening here (see below), your team should be able and willing to give bad news as well as receive it. Milestones move, but identifying them early helps mitigate any serious delays.


Work out a communication structure early, stick to it, hold others to it, don't let it drop...
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Work out a communication structure early, stick to it, hold others to it, don’t let it drop, encourage delays to be caught up, don’t sacrifice the end goal – once you do that it’ll become acceptable for those deadlines to be ‘flexible’ and sometimes ignored.

The elephant in the room, if there is one, is that the academic or team you’re working with is not particularly interested or engaged in the project or course. Sometimes this is because they’re just very busy and this isn’t a priority for them. It could also be that they’ve had this work dropped in their lap and are effectively forced to engage (or not). Whatever the reason, keeping on side with them is key to the relationship. 

We’ve all struggled at some point or another with team members dragging the heals as part of the process. As I said earlier, there are many personal or work related reasons. For me it’s always been key to remain helpful, informative, supportive and focussed. If you’re on message and on time or budget, others will take your lead and follow suit. Mostly. For those who don’t, if you’re in communication with them then the relationship you have can help bring it back on track. Yes, their office may be gathering dust and they’re never on campus, but you do have a phone and their number. Call them. If they are on campus but just busy (or avoiding you?) then I often seem to find people in the queue for a coffee between lectures [smile]. Don’t get all heavy, just a short ‘hi’ and chat to ask about progress or how they are is sometimes enough to find out that, yes, they are sorry for the delay and, yes, they’re nearly finished. There, no great panic. Back on track again.

Sometimes we spend time and effort building a relationship we often forget that it needs maintenance and regular tweaking to keep it fresh and working. Circumstances can change, as do projects or timescales. Build the relationship and work on it and you will find those you work with will also share your passion for the work and that three month deadline is easy, after all!

Image source: clement127 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Sharing

Recent themes to my work has been the nature of how, and what, we share. I wanted to reflect a little on my own ‘sharing’ here, and try and split the sharing from social media, if possible. 

There are obvious easy ways to write about my sharing (per platform) but also I want to think about the why? So, why? I can’t deny one major factor is to reach a wider audience than just those I immediately work with on a day-to-day basis. By sharing my ideas or thoughts or projects or interests I’m obviously creating and managing my brand (me) but I also hope to be of some influence to others working in the same sphere as me.

Blogging

Obviously, there’s this blog. Back when I started writing here I used to write about the day-to-day tasks and tools I used. The last few years has seen me change direction, mainly due to possible conflict of interest with where I’ve worked and the need to keep some commercially sensitive things private. I’ve developed it more recently to be about the why I do things and how I develop myself or my work, my attitude to learning and technology and how use them both. I write here to share experiences and ideas, books I’ve read and reviewed, books I’ve written and curated, etc. I write to have a brain-dump, drop ideas or stress, I write to see what you all think … What do you think?

Twitter

I share my blog posts on Twitter so I can reach more people, and engage the wider field of learning technology. It reaches more people this way and I can engage in conversations beyond my own understanding, therefore helping me widen my appreciation and knowledge for my work. My Twitter activity involved my blog but also other aspects of my work, and sometimes home life too, but mainly my work. I save tweets to my ‘like’ (although I still don’t use it as “ooh, I like this tweet” but rather as a save feature to go back and read or reply to something after the fact) and add people to my lists. Twitter is my go-to place all day and pretty much everyday. My network or followers and those I follow grows and changes all the time, therefore my exposure to new ideas or tools does too.

LinkedIn

I’ve been and gone on LinkedIn before and, at the moment, am back and engaging here again. The audience is different to Twitter, less chat and more ‘sharing’. Perhaps it’s because it’s viewed as more of my online CV, or perhaps because there’s different mechanisms for comments, etc. I don’t know, but LinkedIn is an acquired taste. Currently I like it, but I take it each day at a time with all my sharing. 

Pinterest/Flipboard

I use both these platforms more for searching and reading different themes, less so for my own sharing, but I appreciate the work others are putting into their sharing activities here. For some these are important channels for sharing their work or ideas, and that’s fine.

This is, after all, about what works for you or me. There is no rule that will work for everyone, we are each individual and have different perspectives and needs and likes, and this is what we each bring to the wider community. THIS is what makes our personal (learning) networks so vibrant and interesting. This is why I love to share .. I take so much from the community on all these platforms, I want to add something back in the hope (need?) that it makes a difference to someone like something I’ve just taken. Isn’t sharing great!


Sharing: why and how. It may be a tweet, a blog post, an idea, a photo. This is sharing. For me.
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Facebook

I suppose I ought to add this here too although I’m still thinking of dumping my account here. Facebook has only ever been about family and friends. I dabbled in having a work-type account but realised the audience was the same, but smaller, than my twitter audience so decided it wasn’t worth the extra time to manage and curate it. 

Above all I try and keep my sharing professional. I have interests that creep into my sharing every now and then, mainly on Twitter. Yes, I have two kittens, I drink tea not coffee, I love Lego. But it’s still shared with a view to what my audience may be interested in. I don’t follow celebrities, for the most part, as I’m just not that interested in what they’re doing. Unless they are the kind of people I think are celebrities like Steve Wheeler, Stephen Heppell, Sue Beckingham, Amy Burvall, Maren Deepwell, et al (see the people I’ve been lucky to work with on my books, these are the celebrities in my world!). Then, of course, I’m a groupie and will follow them anywhere I can.

What about you? What is your strategy (if you have one) for sharing?

Image source: iSchumi (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Distraction

My last post was all about the ways in which familiarity can bring a sense of consistency to not only delivering online learning content, but also designing and developing it. This time I want to look at the way in which distraction can prevent the well designed and impeccably delivered learning materials. 

Whether you work in an office or, like me at the moment, at home, we all look to manage our working environment. Working in an office, small or large, will often mean managing how people interact with you when you’re trying to concentrate, preventing the creep of office chatter or ‘work’ noise. 

Personally, if I want to focus I use music and, when in an environment with others, headphones. Depending on the quality of your headphones you may find you provide more distraction for  co-workers as your headphones leak sound. A while ago I bought a set of AKG Y50BT headphones … not noise-cancelling, I can’t afford a decent set of those, but these on-ear ‘phones are really good at reducing noise ingress. The only downside of these is that my ears get hot.

Working from home means I don’t have to wear the ‘phones unless I have to. I can have music playing in my study or, if I work in the kitchen or conservatory, from the laptop or Amazon Echo (yes, I got one). Obviously working from home is great, but that’s once the kids have gone to school. Come mid-late afternoon, they’re back. I don’t want to impact my home life so back I go to the ‘study’ (smallest bedroom, until I get the garden office built!), close the door and try and let the house carry on as normal.

You can’t really do that in a shared office either, can you? Some people I’ve spoken with while writing this have a dedicated ‘quiet’ room where one or more can go to work in ‘silence’, or rather without interruption. Now that’s a good idea!

Making sure those around us know when we’re available to chat or when we want to focus and not be disturbed. I’ve worked with people who’ve had different techniques for this; one had a sign they’d hang on the back of their chair when they’re not to be disturbed. One manager used to wear a hat when he wanted to focus and be left alone. Another used to put his headphones on.


How do you work or learn in a distracted environment?
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All this is great for me and how I set my working environment up, but what about for those of us who are also learners? What about for learners who are not as experienced or comfortable in sitting down at a computer or computing device to ‘learn’? What does distraction mean to them?

Firstly we, the learning design/development community, have to recognise that no matter how hard we try we will never be the most important thing in the learner’s life – family, friends, work, fitness, health, etc. will always exert a pull on their time and commitment. We have to respect that and enable the learning to fit around their existing lives. Even those learners who are fully committed to the course(s) and spend as long as possible, or even longer than we recommend,  need to be able to learn when it suits them. Learners will often be doing it after a full day of work, family, etc. No everyone is at their mental best at this time either, so we need to make the learning as ‘easy’ to access as possible (see my post ‘familiarity‘ for more on this).

I’ve often seen, in online courses, a timer at the beginning of a section – “Time to complete: 0.5hrs”. There are often timescales ‘imposed’ on the course itself, most MOOCs will say something like “5 hrs per week“. This has often raised questions about whether we ought to be this prescriptive about how long the ‘learning’ should take, after all people read or learn at different rates.

When you create your online course, do you help the learner by explaining how they can set up their time and environment to prevent distraction? Would the (novice) learner benefit from our experience if we told them “find somewhere quiet, turn the TV off, close down social media tabs, don’t look at your phone notifications, switch the phone to silent, etc.”. But what about those people who focus more when there is noise (not distraction, but noise .. music, family, TV, cafe, etc.). I know it works for me. Sometimes.

Distraction doesn’t mean isolation or quiet. Something distracting to me might be essential for you to focus and relax. The thing here, for me, is that we have had the luxury to find out these things for ourselves. For our learners, what can we do to help them find their ideal ‘learning environment’? If your course has an on-boarding process or initiation stage then use it to highlight what is expected of them, how much time (and how often) they ought to spend on the course and it’s readings.

Provide as much information for the learners, without overloading them, to make the decisions for themselves. And try it out.

Image source: cosmo_71 (CC BY 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 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)

When PowerPoint goes bad

What are your pet peeves about using PowerPoint? Is it the tool itself or how people use it?

I use PowerPoint, and think it is a good way to engage students and staff, and can be used as a way to spur enjoyment, engagement and interest in your subject. But that’s more about how the tool is used rather than the tool itself. So, here are some observations I’ve made over the years about PowerPoint, and how people use it ‘badly’:

  • Font – Inconsistent use of fonts across the slide deck, or even on the same slide. Using fonts that really don’t work on screen (like Times New Roman), or using Comic Sans. Please. Don’t.
  • Images – So you found Google images or another such image search. You’ve copied the image to your slide and it looks good. It doesn’t. That small image might look OK on your screen, but test it in a classroom or lecture theatre, you’ve stretched it so much it’s pixelated so much it’s almost unrecognisable.
  • Words – Writing your whole lesson in PowerPoint and spending half the lesson with your back to the class so you can read from the projector screen. Same goes if you stand behind the lectern PC and read of that screen instead.
  • Bullet points – PowerPoint makes it too easy to use them, but that doesn’t mean you should (yes, I can see the irony as I’m using them here too).
  • Colour / Templates – Just because you can lots of colour or standard PowerPoint templates doesn’t mean you should. Keep it simple so your key message shines through – the more colour / mess on the slide will only detract or hide your content.
  • Charts / Tables – Do you really need that chart or table that shows 50 different points of information.
  • Animation – I’ve never found animated stars or arrows to help the presentation. If the slide is structured properly you shouldn’t need them.
  • Clipart – Please. Don’t.
  • Volume – You may feel that your one hour presentation needs 100 slides. I’m pretty sure your audience/class doesn’t. 

If in doubt about any aspect of your use of PowerPoint, the best time to find out how you’re doing is now, while you’ve time to go and check it all out and not half way through the most important presentation of your career. Would you rather a slightly awkward conversation in private now or suddenly realise the conference venue has emptied for lunch 45 minutes early, just after you start your 16th of 135 slides?

Go find your friendly learning technologist (yes, we are friendly!), ask us to look over it and tell you what we think. We will be honest but we’ll be critical and, most importantly, constructive. We will offer support and suggestions, we will give your pointers on how to cut the information on the slides (and how to deliver it too, if you want) and we will be there to help you feel comfortable creating slide decks in future and deliver them. Every learning technologist I’ve ever met will do this, without question and without judgement; we’re just happy we can offer our expertise and make your job easier (and more successful).

There are plenty of online tutorials and help websites if you want to find out yourself about using PowerPoint ‘well’. Try sites like this and this and this.

If in doubt this video – Life after death by PowerPoint – will help you see the error of your ways.

Image source: EU PVSEC (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Why CMALT is important to me #altc

It’s coming to that time of year when I start planning for the Annual ALT conference: #ALTC. My annual review is complete, ALTC was discussed and it’s been approved that I can attend again. This will be my fourth ALTC, and this year we’re in Liverpool.

But my reflective mind is going back to my CMALT qualification, and why it is still so important to me. Earlier this year I wrote my three-year review to keep my CMALT credential current and valid. Whilst I wait for the response and, hopefully, approval, I still think of both the process I went through to gain CMALT in the first place as well as the on-going process of how I keep myself (as well as my CMALT) current. I will update my portfolio with the review text when I know I’ve passed.

  • This is Part 16 in my series where I am posting on my thoughts about being a Learning Technologist. This, and the previous posts can be found in the What is a Learning Technologist series.

I have spent time reading and investigating the various online masters course, as gaining further qualifications in and around my work is something I believe I can benefit from, but I’ve yet to find one that really interests me. There’s also the cost both financially and in time that, at the moment, I’m just not prepared to commit to. I also believe that a lot of our work, us learning technologists, is about doing the work and learning about doing the work, and I am still very sceptical of formal masters level courses offering the kind of content that can help with the day to day work. This is another reason I find CMALT more applicable to my line of work – my CMALT portfolio is my work linked to the core areas the portfolio is assessed on. It didn’t feel like a formal assessment, but it is, and it didn’t feel an onerous task either. 

I’ve also been, if you haven’t already noticed, quite busy and have written four books – QR Codes in Education, The Really Useful #EdTechBook, Emergency Rations #EdTechRations and What is a learning technologist? Without the ALT community and CMALT reflective exercises these projects would not have been possible. I also feel that I have grown because of the CMALT process, both personally and professionally, and find myself in a very good role at Warwick Business School and as a CMALT Assessor.

For me being CMALT qualified is essential to our role and gaining a qualification that can demonstrate our abilities and worth to the often sceptical academics we meet as well as giving us a trusted and valued voice with college or university management. Learning technology is important, as are the people like you and me who are the support, demonstrators and voices helping understand and navigate the tools and techniques.

If you’re interested in CMALT, wonder what it’s all about, already completed your CMALT and are thinking ahead to the three-year review here are a few posts you will find useful:

  • Chatting about CMALT – CMALT session at ALTC 2016, and my reflection on what it’s like on the other side, the reviewer and assessor (Sept 2016).
  • Three years of ALTC and CMALT – written for the ALT blog here I again reflect on the importance of the three ALTC events I’d attended, and how they’d impacted my CMALT journey and understanding of my role(s) (Sept 2016).
  • Editing and co-authoring for online publication – written for the ALT blog I am again reflecting on my connections and network that I’ve grown through the ALT community, and where CMALT has made a difference in my own view and perspective (May 2017).
  • ALT CPD: rebooted – A frank and open discussion at the 2014 ALT CPD event, these are my slides and ‘what it means to be a learning technologist’ (Nov 2014).

Don’t believe me? These people all agree CMALT is valuable. And this is just the list of people already passed, I’m sure the list of those working towards it is larger still! 

Image source: David Hopkins

Book review: The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F**k

As part of getting to grips with an ever changing work environment, duties,line management, and other work-related ‘difficulties’ AND the very volatile political and cultural changes the world is being dragged through I have started reading some books that might help me to both understand myself and how I deal with, well, life.

To this end I’ve been reading some books that have either been recommended to me by someone I know and trust, or the Amazon algorithm showed me “you read this so we think you’d like this”, or I just like the cover. This book, by Mark Manson, is a bit of both … ‘The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F**k‘.

This book says it like it is. It’s a “dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today”, the book is an “antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected American society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.”

You quickly become accustomed and desensitised to the strong language in the book. Yes, there’s f**k and s**t everywhere, often used to strengthen the feeling of insecurity or lack of control, but it’s also used quite unnecessarily in many instances just for the shock factor. After the first chapter you’re at ease and almost ignore the language, but the language is part of what the book is about. Shock. Shock you into reflection and action.

“Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek. There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience.”

This is a book for the reader to engage in a meaningful and reflective way. By observing ourselves and how we act and react to the world around us we can begin to understand how we take on too much responsibility. 

I ought to say this book isn’t about how to avoid responsibility. It isn’t. It’s about how to identify things that are important in your life, and those that are not. It’s about choosing what you can do something about and the things you can’t, and how you handle the work, emotions, individuals, etc. that you feel you constantly battle against. How do the actions and motives of others affect you, how are they able dump their own inadequacies or responsibility on you and how you choose which to accept? 

The biggest take away I’ve had from this book is an clearer understanding of why I get stressed, or rather what influences I choose to accept that make me stressed. The latter half of the book is building you back up once the first half has taken you apart.

“At its core, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a book about finding what’s truly important to you and letting go of everything else. In the same way that [Mark] encourages limiting exposure to mindless distractions such as social media, television and technology, he encourages limiting concern over things that have little to no meaning or value in your life.” Huffington Post

As a Teaching and Learning Consultant / Senior Learning Technologist I find distraction as part of my work – unanswered emails, line management responsibilities, delayed or late learning resources, cancelled meetings or no-shows, etc. As work piles up or deadlines loom I feel it is my responsibility to manage these tasks, even if there are others who are or should be doing it too. I know I care too much about my work and I focus on the things I should perhaps trust to others, but I also know the results we should be aiming for and, should we miss them, I take it personally and get stuck in myself. This, as Manson says, may solve one problem but it is more likely to cause more further down the line.

This is why this has been a good book to read, and eye-opener into me and my priorities, and one I’ll no doubt return to in time. When read alongside or after Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull there are some powerful lessons we could each learn about ourselves, the place we work, and how we work with both.

The other book shown in the header image, ‘Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World‘ by Cal Newport, is next on my list. More soon, when I can concentrate long enough to not be distracted by all the… squirrel! Oh, the irony!

Image source: David Hopkins (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)