“What makes a Learning Technologist?” – Part 1 of 4: Job titles

Dieser Beitrag definiert und diskutiert nicht, was einen „Learning Technologist“ auszeichnet. Vielmehr wurde gefragt: „What is your current job title?’ und ‘What would your ideal job title be?“ Die Antworten sind natürlich sehr heterogen, einige finden sich mit dem Titel in ihrer aktuellen Rolle gut getroffen, andere wünschten sich gerne eine andere Bezeichnung. So enthält der Beitrag schließlich auch eine Liste mit fast 50 alternativen Bezeichnungen – von „Academic Course Developer“ bis „Technology Enhanced Learning Manager“! Der Autor weist dann noch darauf hin, dass vor allem die Begriffe „digital“ und „design“ bei der Suche nach treffenden Jobtiteln derzeit hoch im Kurs sind. Und das gilt sicher nicht nur für die britische ALT Community, aus deren Kreis die meisten Antworten stammen.
Daniel Scott, #ALTC Blog, 2. September 2019

Bildquelle: Association for Learning Technology

Top tips for learning

Every year for, well quite a number of them now, I’ve submitted my ‘top 10 tools for learning’ that Jane Hart / @C4LPT runs. I’ve submitted my top 10 again this year.

Every year Twitter has ruled the roost for me, being the single best source of learning, chatting, collaborating, sharing, etc. Pretty much everything else has come a very distant 2nd or lower. Twitter has been my go-to source for so much and for so many contacts and networking.

So, instead of repeating myself on my top 10 here, I’m going to give a few top tips on learning, that things that aren’t necessarily app or technology based. Rather these are things I do to enable me to learn, to give me space or freedom to learn.

  1. Twitter. Yes. Twitter is still number one on my list. But this time it’s about switching it off. And not just Twitter. Switch this off and anything else that will ping a notification on your phone, laptop, tablet, etc. Notifications are the most intrusive and disruptive thing in your life. And I put that above young children and noisy neighbours!
  2. Music. Some people work/learn well with background music or the radio. Some don’t. Know what works for you and use it to your advantage. If you need silence and can’t find it, consider some noise-cancelling headphones to help you out.
  3. Location. Do you like a busy office or cafe environment to read and absorb your learning materials? Do you prefer the study with door shut and all external distractions minimised? Know what you need and make room for it, and make sure you use it when you need it.
  4. Time. It’s kind of obvious this, but make sure you have the time to do some meaningful learning. If you can only learn in small chunks of time, do it. Don’t try and force yourself into a marathon 2 hour session if you know you can’t last that long, you’ll only get frustrated and give up. if you know you like and need the hours, make sure you have the space and dedicate yourself to it. Block time out of your calendar (and at work if that option is available too), and complete the above three tips too. if you’re a morning person, do you best work/learning in the morning and use the rest of your day for everything else.
  5. Friends/family. Sometimes having someone else involved in our learning can help. This may be someone to chat through difficult concepts or theories, someone who can make sure the distractions are minimised (take the kids to the park to give you that 3o minutes space you need, block the meeting requests to keep the time you’ve given yourself preserved in your calendar) and someone who just understands what you’re trying to do and can chat and reassure you that yes, it’s tough, but worth it. If you need a support network, remember this doesn’t have to be those who are on the same course, it can be anyone you like.

Ultimately, it’s about a balance between what time, space, volume, etc. you can give yourself, and what you need. We don’t always have the time or space to give ourselves the best opportunity (we are all busy people with work, family, social lives, etc), but by knowing what we need, we can at least give ourselves a good chance of making the most of it.

The big caveat for the above, for me when I want time and space to learn, is that I often like a mixture of everything. Sometimes I’m comfortable in a cafe with headphones and tablet, sometimes I need the quiet and shut-away feeling of the study as the materials are really detailed and I get too easily distracted when I have to focus hard.

PS. I used the imave of Spider Man / superhero deliberately as I think everyone who makes the time to learn something new, something difficult, something to improve themselves is a superhero. Whatever you do, remember you are doing you’re best and that is a brilliant thing to do, no matter the result! Be happy, be proud of yourself for trying it. If you can get the above in the right balance, you’re giving yourself the best chance to progress your learning and yourself.

Photo by Raj Eiamworakul on Unsplash

New perspectives

Last week I took a taxi from Southampton to my in-laws house, where I’d left my car. A journey of about 45 minutes and 30-something miles. The taxi had those rear-facing seats and, because of the luggage spread over the boot and other seats, I took one of these rear-facing seats for the journey. A journey I’d driven many many times myself But this time I was a passenger, and traveling backwards.

I’m rarely a passenger in a car, preferring to do the driving myself, so this was an uncommon experience for me. As was the experience of facing backwards out of the side and rear windows as we hurtled down the M27 and A31 (New Forest), a route I know well. What struck me about this was that we we weren’t going particularly fast (I checked), and the ride was comfortable, but it still felt overtly dangerous and nerve racking, mainly because it was a new and different experience for me. Watching cars and lorries fly by in the wrong direction, the (apparent) distracted behaviours of other drivers, the bumps and turns of the road and how the other vehicles moved on, through and around them. Everything about this was so familiar and yet totally alien to me.

Then I thought that the only thing that was different in this situation was me. The route, speed, road, other road users were all the same, pretty much, as any other time I’d driven the road. So, here I am, totally out of my comfort zone doing the same thing, only ‘different’. Then I thought, is this how students feel when they come to further or higher education? Is this how they feel when they access online resources at college and university for the first time, yet it’s the same or similar to systems or work they’ve done previously? Do we prepare students for the different perspective of living away from home when they’ve had independent lives previously?

My experience in the taxi was unsettling, but in a safe(ish) environment. We should, in further and higher education, be providing the students with an equally safe, but flexible, environment in which they can explore and learn about their chosen subject and expand their skills and horizons. But do we, as the course team, faculty, student experience, etc. take the similarities into account or just look at the differences?

Do we do enough to prepare ourselves to understand the students, in order to properly prepare our resources, systems, access, etc. so they benefit the student instead of benefiting ourselves?

Image source: Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

Sharing

Nearly all of us share something online, be it twitter LinkedIn Facebook WhatsApp etc. Whether it’s your coffee, dinner, family party, links to a blog post, news article, environmental or political commentry, etc. We share, and that’s fine.

Continuing from my last post about how I and you use those platforms, this is a post how we are seen to be using them.

When I share a link or article I’ll usually try and change the default tweet/share title to something that is more like my style. That will also give me the opportunity to explain why this is important enough to shared, and for you to understand why I shared it too. What part of the content am I interested in, should you be interested, do I agree with the sentiment in the article or am I being critical. Heck, am I being sarcastic and mocking it? I can answer ‘yes’ to all of the above, probably on a daily basis!

Here’s the thing. If you follow me online you will see a notification in your feed when I ‘like’ something. Even if you see the ‘like’ you won’t know what that is supposed to mean. Do I actually ‘like’ it or saving for later or something else? What it might actually mean is ‘I’m saving this for later to read properly’. The ‘like’ also gives the author/originator a false economy on the ‘success’ of their post. The ‘like’ is also a mechanism for seeing (this is what the algorithms are interested in) my history, what I read and what, again, is important to me and building a picture of me and then serving content based on this. Even if it’s not.

Example – what do I read into a situation, or am supposed to read into a situation, when a friend ‘like’s an article about toxic workplace culture, immature leadership, ineffective management, good practice at interviews, CV writing, etc? Does it mean they relate to this because they’re suffering here? Is the content important to them because they even believe they work in or actually the leaders in this environment? Should I ask if everything’s alright? See, the simple share is a world of hurt being opened up.

What if my work colleagues ‘like’ the same kind of content? Does this mean they think of their environment, and by association my working environment, as being toxic, immature, ineffective, bullying, abusive, etc? Have I missed something, are the undertones and whispered conversations hiding something from me … heck, is it me? Should I confront it, should I pass it to others and gauge their response … ??

Context. The simple ‘like’ has no context, not is it an accurate reflection of how people use it. It can be misunderstood, exaggerated, abused, and at worse. This is why I really lamented the loss of the Twitter ‘favourite’ (even though many didn’t use it as a ‘favourite’ either, but that’s another story). But at least that title wasn’t quite so open to confusion as ‘like’.

What we should have is a ‘sentiment’ option. A series of options beyond the superficial ‘like’ would be more useful, something that actually reflect the sentiment I’m feeling to the shared content. You could argue that Facebook did it with the ‘like, ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘wow’, ‘sad’, ‘angry’, but that doesn’t really work for me either. It does, however, work on a social, informal platform like Facebook. Kinda, but still not to my liking.

What about LinkedIn? I see they’ve recently added a kind of ‘sentiment’ analysis of ‘like’, ‘celebrate’, ‘love’, ‘insightful’, and ‘curious’. This isn’t the kind of feedback I want to give on something I consider important, something that may reflect my professional online persona. I want to know more about your sentiment on the content I share in the same way I want to give more relevant feedback to those who author the content I share. I would rather have something along the lines of:

  • ‘ I value this’
  • ‘I agree with this’
  • ‘I don’t agree with this’
  • ‘I question this’ – and a mechanism for a follow-up explanation on why I don’t understand this?
  • ‘I dont’ understand this’ – and a mechanism for a follow-up explanation on why I don’t understand this?

This would make the ‘like’ and ‘curious’ flags far more interesting and relevant to me, and how I view your activity online.

Image source: davide ragusa on Unsplash

The ‘un-book book’

I’ve written four books. I loved the experience and I loved the feedback both during the writing and publication processes.

At an event back in March I sat next to the wonderful Teresa MacKinnon and we used the opportunity to catch-up and, well, mess around a bit. During this we came up with an idea for the ‘un-book book’, kind of like the ‘un-conference conference’. Here were our ideas for un-learning chapters in the un-book book:

What do you think? Any ideas on what we should do with this? Any ideas on other un-chapter chapters?

Updated: Some more ideas coming through from reigniting the idea …

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

In conversation with: Maren Deepwell (@MarenDeepwell) #altc

A new regular feature to the ALT blog has ALT CEO Maren Deepwell in conversation with a number of ALT contributors. This week is my turn :)

Covering aspects of my work, projects and daily rituals, as well as questions like ‘which learning technology makes the biggest difference to your work (and why)’ and aspects of my influences and influencers, the conversation is a great read, so please head on over to the ALT Blog to read … ‘Maren Deepwell (@marendeepwell) in conversation with… David Hopkins (@hopkinsdavid)

While you’re there, please also take some time to read the other contributions from ALT trustees and members.

Blog vs. Twitter vs. LinkedIn

Just a small observation on my use of the above ‘channels’, and how I perceive other people’s use of the channels.

How I use:

  • Blog (this is me, here) – OK, this is a bad example. I’ve not written much (anything) that was publishable in the last 2 months; a couple of posts that rambled nowhere fast, but nothing I was happy to publish. What I do want to do is get back to writing and publishing and using this space to share and reflect on practices, readings, and general ‘stuff’ related to my work.
  • Twitter (this is me) – Now then, this is difficult. What used to be purely work-related has grown and morphed into a hybrid between work, work-related, learning related, and general chat with those of you who have been Twitter-followers-become-friends. However, how we individually use this kind of channel has changed, and I don’t really like it. Twitter, like other online spaces, is a mirror to our general daily life, feelings, and the world around us, therefore that is a lot of chatter around local and/or global events, politics, environmental issues. Twitter sucks you in to all of this and, if left unchecked in my own timeline, can take me down a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down. This is my own perspective, and we all have our own attitude and use.
    I’m still not sure on Twitter, whether I want to continue using it. The platform has changed and how we use it has changed, and I’m not sure it’s the right channel for me anymore. My relationship status with Twitter is ‘it’s difficult’, and only I can make the decision to go or stay.
  • LinkedIn (this is me) – Like Twitter, what was once a purely professional space has changed and grown into something more life-like, with people sharing more than just work and job stuff. Is this partly down to LinkedIn looking to gain more traction and users in the social space?

How I see others using:

  • Blogs – I am in awe of the level of attention and quality of content my friends and peers have in their blogging activity. I used to be more active (have more to say?) and want to get back to blogging again, but need to change my perspective and writing to mirror/reflect my current role and work. Blogs are great for sharing thoughts and work and research, but are again becoming more personal as authors reflect on their personal lives and the (positive as well as negative) impact work has on it.
    If you blog, thank you and please continue. I may read but not engage or share, but that does not mean it has not reached me on some level. Sometimes it inspires me and sometimes it does not. But this is me and that is you. Don’t stop on my account.
  • Twitter – As above, each of us has our use and boundaries on what we do or do not share. I used to keep my love of Lego and Lego kits, well, personal. But that I found that lots of people I interact with regularly on Twitter also love Lego, now we all share this passion. Not to mention Lego for serious play. It’s not work related (normally) but still fun. I tend not to get involved in global events or politics or the like on Twitter (or LinkedIn or my blog), but this doesn’t mean it concerns me (hell, it depresses the hell out of me) about what we’re doing to each other and our fragile planet, but that is not why I use or want to use this channel. Some do, some don’t.
    I keep a more rigid boundary on how I use Twitter, and social channels in general, but I see more and more people relaxing the boundary. Are we becoming more relaxed or ‘happy’ with sharing more personal information? The stories we tell our children or students about being safe or sensible online are still true, despite our evolving relationship with the online world and the select organisations who control our data?
  • LinkedIn – Again, the platform and how we use it is changing. It’s followed the trend for adding social interaction with ‘like’ and ‘clap/applaud’ icons for posts and status updates. It has taken a professional space and made it more informal. Some like it, some don’t. Fair enough. I don’t, but I do understand that in order to maintain my presence online and develop my professional ‘persona’ I have to (?) stick with it.

Social media has been a massively beneficial tool for me in developing and learning my craft, but it becoming increasingly difficult to navigate around these channels to find the content and stuff I used to find quite easily. I use Feed.ly more now to try and curate my sources and regular reading zones (blogs, journals, etc.) but that only finds what I know I’m looking for. Twitter and LinkedIn used to be places to find new and exciting work and the people doing it (often from their blogs). Not so now, or rather it’s more difficult to find nowadays.

One obvious elephant has not been mentioned here – Facebook. Facebook is, for me, for family and friends. Some friends I have made on Twitter and through ALT are also on Facebook. Some aren’t. Don’t be worried if you’re not, or indeed if I unfriend you on Facebook, it’s just that I’m looking at my online usage and thinking long and hard about what I use, why I use it, and will I still be using it next month/year.

As always, your thoughts and feedback is important and welcome, please contact me on any of the above channels or as a comment below.

Image source: larkey (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Take it away, and what do you have?

A fantastic end to the week … a discussion in and around the impact of learning design on the student experience. While there are so many aspects to this short discussion I had with a couple of colleagues, the main thrust of this post is about the ‘fluff’ that’s often added around the core information and resources, and what it actually looks like when you take the ‘fluff’ away.

Then we talked about watching music videos without the sound, and whether you can accurately identify the part of the song you’re watching … then we progressed to the stripped out music, and what can be added and how it changes, well, everything!

Do you remember this spoof Jagger/Bowie music video? Originally it was a 1985 hit (yes, I’m old enough to remember it on the radio & Top of the Pops), but some genius has removed the music and dubbed the murmurs, scratching, grunts, etc. Watch and enjoy below 9(or those interested, here’s the original).

The point we were making is that are we putting (too much?) emphasis on the presentation and detract from the actual, original and intended message? Yes, there are a whole heap of different ‘tools’ and ‘styles’ we as learning designers can use to present materials and resources, but does it actually matter?

We always hear the nightmare stories of students being given a PDF as their learning resource, some of us have actually seen this in courses we’ve taken too. Without context and a purpose there is nothing really here other than ‘read this and learn/remember it’. But the value here is the content, and the student still needs to read it, digest it, and apply that knowledge. As a learning designer we should be working the context and purpose into the ‘activity’: provide the student with the purpose and possible aspects they need to focus on, then read and inwardly digest. There may even be some form of discussion or ‘test’ to see what they’ve retained, but it’s not essential.

Therefore, take the context and purpose away (the music), and does the resource stand up on it’s own?

Image source: achelms4 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

What does education mean to you? #EducationDay

Inspired by the tweets I’ve been reading today, and from Sheila MacNeill’s post of the same title, here is something that education and learning means to me. As with everything these days, we have the hashtag #EducationDay to use.

It must be said, or rather I must say it, that without the Internet then I would be as learned as I am. Before I became connected and before I used the Internet for collaboration I read books for pleasure, I never read a newspaper (sometimes watched news on TV), and I rarely read ‘business’ or non-fiction books (beyond an occasional biography). Becoming a Learning Technologist in 2007 opened my eyes to the power of the Internet for learning. Yes, I’d used and worked with the Internet in so much as being a web designer and working with geographically isolated communities of practice using the Internet to pull together for professional and special interest goals. But I’d not considered the Internet for online learning. Yes, perhaps I was behind the curve in this, but I’ve caught up … !

I have benefited from using the Internet to learn from others, to work with others, to collaborate and share with others. The Internet has enabled me to do things previously unknown to me and take my personal and professional development in areas and directions I know I would not have gone without it. Connections made with both individuals and institutions have taught me more than I can realistically comprehend or voice. Opportunities to find, share, connect, collaborate, curate, communicate, etc. through browsing and following online has brought me to you, and you to me.

For me, in short, my #EducationDay is a reflection on 25+ years of Internet use, where it has taken me and why. The link to the #EducationDay above (and here again) says “education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility.” Yes. This. Oh yes, this. If only everyone had this chance. Which is one reason why I am trying to do a little to feed back to the learning community with me tweets, my blog posts or LinkedIn updates, and my interest and involvement a a trustee in Learn Appeal, the learning charity.

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