Thursday, 21 September 2017

Signed, sealed but not yet delivered

As mentioned in my previous post about the second proposal I submitted to write a book, I am delighted to say that it has been accepted by Critical Publishing.  This is great news and something new for me to experience and marvel in (until the pressure hits!).

The short book I am writing is tentatively titled 'Learning Technology: A handbook for FE teachers and assessors'.  The reason I've kept this short is because it's my first attempt to write a book and I don't want it to be too intense, especially when I am new to it.  I can't give too much information away on the finer details of the book at this stage as it's highly confidential material.  However, the following are excerpts from what I set out in my rationale for the proposal of the book.

This book is a product that would be welcomed by FE (further education) tutors rather than reading heavy theoretical books. They require instant reminders, ideas and practical solutions that ILT (Information Learning Technology) can offer as well as essential knowledge of its purpose. The book takes readers through the knowledge and skills process of sourcing and applying learning technology tools and converting traditional learning and teaching resources into engaging and interactive online ones, in all aspects of learning, teaching, assessment and quality assurance.

This book is not a game changer nor a collection of upcoming innovative ideas, but simply and practically what learning technology and eLearning is and how to make the most of them in teaching practices. It provides a refreshing perspective on the implementation of learning technology and use of eLearning through my experience, whilst being encouraging but sympathetic toward people’s abilities and organisational challenges and pressures.

When embarking on a career in teaching in FE, or perhaps the desire for tutors to increase their practices with ILT, it can be somewhat of a challenge due to limitations in time to experiment and practice with digital tools and resources, which are often bound by the organisational environment. Or it could be that a tutor is new to the role(s), has low level digital literacy skills, lacks practical confidence or knowledge of what effective digital tools are available. For some educational professionals, it can be a challenge and often a huge pressure to include and embed ILT effectively into new or existing practices.

I feel the learning technology/eLearning publishing industry is lacking an easy pick-me-up book that gets straight to the point of what it is about, what it can do and ultimately why it is important for both tutor and learner. FE is under pressure to deliver high quality online learning to its learners due in part from mounting competition from alternative providers. However, enabling downloadable resources on a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as a knowledge repository is not enough to satisfy the eager and curious learners of the digital age.

Some tutors may well know what learning technology and eLearning is and how it can be used, but often it might just be enough to get by. Interestingly, in this digital age learners may know more about the advances of ILT (although less able at its practical application to learning) that can leave the tutor feeling low in confidence. Tutors need to be supported in the wealth of free and paid for digital tools and resources that are available as well as harnessing what learners can bring to their courses through their own devices and experiences.

ILT should not be seen as an add-on to enhance a lecture or presentation, Information Communication Technology (ICT) affordances need to be accepted and understood on how its potential can best be exploited to increase enjoyment, engagement and enlightenment for both tutor and learner. ILT should not create more tasks or take up more time if used correctly and effectively, it should lead to positive impact for all involved – and this book will simplify this.

After my proposal was approved, I had to complete a sample chapter which was successfully approved.  This means I can commence writing the rest of the book with a potential release for Summer 2018.

Nervous?  Very much so.  Excited?  When I feel I am getting it right I am.  Can I actually write a book?  People thought I wouldn't do well after school, do I need to say anymore?  Who cares you're writing a book?  Me.  It's expressing the knowledge, skills  and passion I have developed over the last few years to help others through narrative/book form.  I'm giving back all I have acquired and reflecting on my own expertise in the process.  Plus, I said I would like to write a book (as mentioned at the end of my MSc student profile video) and now it's happening.  Will I embrace the highs and lows ahead?  Of course - it's a new area that I am bravely embarking on and I welcome the journey I will take with it.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Reflection of winning - a year on

Since winning the Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2016 last year, I thought it would be good to reflect on my experience of winning and what happened afterwards.  I asked myself the following brief questions and made a few comments on my feelings and thoughts.

How does it feels to be an award winner?

I still feel enormously proud of winning the award.  I don't think the feeling will ever go away.  I was up against tough competition from other exemplary individuals and leading teams from other universities and organisations.  It's just wonderful to be recognised for the efforts and milestones I was brave enough to make visible to everyone.  I now feel more recognised in the learning technology community and I feel a sense of worth that has strengthened my professionalism.  It has enriched my career that evidences my enthusiasm, commitment and dedication to learning technology and eLearning.  Winning this award has inspired me to continue my enthusiasm and move forward with my efforts that will hopefully bring further possibilities throughout my career.  My award now has a place in my home that sits alongside my two graduation pictures; teaching (DTLLS) and Technology Enhanced Learning MSc and the certificate.  As I walk by I still take a glance and think, wow, I actually did this.

This is an award that doesn't just only celebrate what someone or a group of people have done, but the passionate efforts made towards innovation that impact on the education of others.  I'm overwhelmed that I was narrowed down to the individual winner, it's incredible and always will be to me.  I put huge amounts of effort into developing my professionalism, my role and the organisation that I worked for that benefitted from all of this.  Which became eventually became a stepping stone to move on to a new chapter.  All of this was achieved because I am dedicated to the quality of my professionalism and my own education towards learning technology.  What you put in you definitely do get in return and it resulted in this.

What happened afterwards?

After the awards I was mentioned and appeared in a few articles that were published both locally and nationally.

I was invited to deliver the following presentations with ALT and Jisc.  I feel I was invited to these due to my increased profile from winning the award.  This is good acknowledgment by the community by wanting to share my achievement and journey in hope to inspire others.  I was also invited to assist in the development of a future Blended Learning Essentials course.

I received many warm comments from the community on Twitter upon the night of winning which I can look back on from time to time.  Thank you again to those who reached out to congratulate me.

I later got asked if I wanted to be part of the judging panel for the 2017 entries.  I immediately said yes to it.  I was able to read through this years entries and see the amount of enthusiasm and effort others have put into their work and careers in learning technology.  It was a good feeling to be a part of the decision making of the future winners achievement.  There were many outstanding efforts that clearly show the impetus of the awards scheme.

At the time of winning the award, I thought it would put me in good stead to getting the learning technology manager position at the organisation I used to work for, but sadly I wasn't successful and had no progression opportunities, so I decided move on with my knowledge, skills and experience to apply into a new context and take on a brand new challenge in the commercial sector.

I undoubtedly added this achievement to my CV and LinkedIn profile as it is a major achievement in my career.  For the job that I am in now, I got invited to an informal visit and chat to the organisation, then got given a task to explore and create an eLearning activity.  Following this I was invited to a formal interview online.  One of the questions they asked me was "can you tell us more about the award you have won?".  The award was a focus of discussion and allowed me to detail the work I had done to achieve it.  I think this was a strong aspect they saw in me and the award reflected that.  I was offered the job and progressed over to the commercial sector.

I started writing the book I had mentioned recently, with the recognition of this award I'm hoping that this publication is welcomed by the learning technology community and to raise it's awareness when released.  After all, it was an ambitious project that I mentioned in my award entry.  I can say this will soon be achieved and completes the cycle that is illustrated at the end in my award presentation!

What has changed since winning it?

Since winning I feel my professional profile has increased.  The articles and social media posts have all contributed to 'who is this person and what is he about'.  I also feel a sense of dignity where I must live up to my achievement.  Because I am an now an award winning professional, I feel I have more reason and impetus to continue my high quality efforts and endeavours.  It's like a pressure, a good pressure and feel I need to be more involved somehow.  Plus I don't know who I may be inspiring, so I need to maintain the stature of the award.

I feel like I still have plenty of room to progress into a position that reflects my worth so to speak.  I constantly think how I can stretch myself by continuingly applying and challenging my strong and core abilities.  I suppose the feeling comes from the long years I have invested in myself to get where I am today.  That might sound very pretentious but when you have been fully engaged and involved with your professional development from very little education as I have, you do hope for something with greater meaning.  Reminiscent from my reflection last Summer, yes we don't live to work, but work to live.  However, to me a job is something you just do and a career is a job related to a specific area or a series of jobs relating to that specific area.  It's important to choose the right career and one that you enjoy doing as you'll feel like you're not working (on occasions).  ‎😉

I recently renewed my CMALT where I outlined some future plans where I am taking my learning technology career, however I feel I have a lot of scope and mileage to ascend to something higher.  That may not be realised for some years yet, but its the sense of knowing where I could be.  I know it's all about what I want and where I take it but I feel I have somewhat lost my direction a little bit on where I am heading.  I was really focussed and determined to get the learning technology manager job in my last organisation to lead on digital change.  I have a lot of entrepreneurship in me and it would be a huge waste not to use this gift.  I'm still aspiring to be some sort of digital leader, may that be leading an organisation and supporting people for digital change or ensuring that an organisation's digital learning offering is industry leading.  I do know that I want to work to my strengths that consists of rationalising, strategising, analysing, structuring and designing for learning technology/eLearning implementation and supporting and developing others in the process and application.  However, occasionally it may feel like being on a road trip across Route 66.  You run out of petrol or get a puncture and then you're in a bit of chaos.  You either get it fixed or check into a motel and feel a bit of a loss.  But the main purpose is to get the car fixed and carry on with the journey.  In fact it's very much like planning a journey.  Where do I want to go next?  What am I going to take with me?  What do I want to see/do?  How will I get there?  When will I get there?  It feels like I am searching for a plateau where I can feel a sense of ease in my career and know a destination has been reached.  We can create anything we want, so it's important to get to the root of what you want and pursue it head-on.  I'm looking forward to what the future will bring.  Perhaps it would help to build connections with people that are on the same positive proactive vibrations as me.  It would be good to speak to others for some alignment, so if anyone reading this would like to chat to me, please get in touch!  It's always good to talk and make new connections.  😀

Why should others submit an entry?

As I said recently for potential 2017 candidates;

"I went on to win this last year, I strongly encourage you submit an entry that demonstrates your most impactful/innovative practice!  Make your efforts visible!"

If you're not sure on what you could submit, look at what previous candidates did and think how your own practices could be presented, if not better.  Another starting point is revisiting or doing CMALT.  To me this is an essential aspect of professional development that enables you to undergo a reflective process of your current practices, to develop further and identify new directions.  This can help you identify the things you have done recently or a few years back or even identify new pathways you can go down.  Putting in an entry is a good way to be visibly recognised nationally and internationally for your efforts. So don't hesitate, just create!

Thank you again to ALT,  the wider learning technology community and those who have been very kind and supportive throughout my professional development.  It's seen, felt and ultimately recognised.  👍

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Bits of eLearning pieces

As my last role was more focussed on line managing, training, assessing and developing the Digital Learning Design apprentices.  I didn't create as much eLearning as I'd have liked to as I was directing the apprentices in creating it.  I have since been doing a very hands-on role where I have been expanding my creative skills in learning design and exercising my technical abilities using a range of tools.  I feel now is a good time to share some of the things I have been creating in the last few months in this role.

This role has been good to exercise my knowledge and skills of using and creating learning content in Moodle.  H5P is a new tool to me that I've had the pleasure of exploring and developing eLearning content with.  I've had broader use of Articulate 360; Studio, Storyline, Rise and Replay.  As well as exploring the use of bootstrap functions and the Lambda themes in Moodle courses.  I've also extended my enthusiasm for learning design by strategising new approaches to designing distance courses and online learning content.  I'm currently leading on the development of transforming our main blended courses to be fully online.  I also have side projects of designing a short online course preparing learners for online study, as well as continuing my development of a new Moodle module template for higher education.


Below is a rough video demonstrating some pieces of work I have done in a variety of projects.

Bringing something new

The following are new methodologies I introduced to the organisation to help with learning design and evaluation processes.

Events attended

I've been able to keep myself up to date and benchmark my learning technology practices by attending the events below.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Digital Learning Design - from apprenticeship to permanent job

The whole purpose of the Digital Learning Design qualifications was to create and up-skill an eLearning workforce.  An overview of the apprenticeship I designed and ran is shown in this video from 2 minutes 23 seconds onwards and a brief overview of the qualifications are here.  Maybe not all apprentices pursued eLearning or learning technology careers afterwards, but this proves that these courses have ignited the apprentices creativity and been able to apply it into an educational context.

In my previous learning technologist role in further education that included line managing, training, assessing a small team of apprentices and leading on internal verification, which led to me winning the Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2016 and other internal and external awards that the team were recognised for.  Since I moved on I have kept in touch with some of the apprentices.  Some asked for references for when they applied for jobs and I also sent them jobs they could potentially apply for.  But as I managed the apprentices, apprenticeship and qualifications I am keen to see how they have progressed on in their early careers and how the apprenticeship has impacted on their careers and development.

I remember it well when I completed and moved on from my business and administration apprenticeship many years ago.  It's such a scary but exciting feeling that you're going into (usually) your first proper job.  The looming anxiety of working with new people, adapting to a new working environment and knowing how to approach your new seniors.  It's one of those early moments when you realise you're an independent young adult.

I have chosen Brad and Sarah as I know they have continued to work in the eLearning industry and I developed them from the first year we ran the courses from the Level 3 diploma.  They then progressed onto the Level 4 extended diploma for another year.  I interrupted their busy schedules to ask them the following questions and these were their responses.

Brad Brown Lang
Sarah Jones
What is the role you are doing now?  What kinds of tasks do you undertake?
As an instructional designer, it is my role to create engaging learning materials for online students, consisting of a range of multimedia such as graphics and videos, as well as interactive content.
Instructional Designer, I develop online learning resources for students completing online degrees using video and audio which I edit together to engage the learner as well as using other forms of media.
What was your biggest challenge going into the workplace?  Did you feel equipped and ready from the apprenticeship?  If so, what were these?  If not, what would have helped you to be equipped and ready?
The biggest challenge for me were not knowing how well I was going to adapt to the new environment and team. I felt as though the apprenticeship had given me all of the skills I needed. This included technical skills like using programs such as the Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe Captivate and Moodle. However, these also included personal skills such as being able to work more effectively as part of a team, improving my time management, and presentation skills.
I'd say the biggest challenge was moving into a bigger office than previous. I felt ready from the apprenticeship as I could use my knowledge and skills straightaway from what I had learnt and I barely needed any training.
How have you used the knowledge and skills gained from your L3 and L4 apprenticeship?  Was there any particular parts of the apprenticeship that enabled you to use them instantly?
Although I am currently using different programs from what I used during my apprenticeships, they were very similar to each other, which meant that I was able to familiarise myself with the programs pretty quickly, along with a few pointers from my colleagues along the way. Also, the fact that I am already very familiar with 'chunking' is extremely useful, as in my current role I need to break down large chunks of content into smaller and more useful parts. Both of these I feel helped give me a nice smooth start in my role.
I use my video editing skills everyday which I learnt on the course as well as what I learnt about how to keep learners engaged in the content I am producing by using a wide range of media. 
Are there any choices you have changed since doing the L3 and L4 apprenticeship?  Has it met your aspirations or not?
I feel that both of the apprenticeships I completed did meet my aspirations. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent working with my colleagues, as well as learning all of the valuable variety of skills along the way. I feel that without taking part in those apprenticeships, I would not be where I would be now.
When I first started the apprenticeship I wanted to be a Graphic Designer but since doing the apprenticeship and since starting the full time job I definitely want to carry on being an instructional designer.
What future plans do you have for your career?  Is it still in eLearning?  Is there a particular role you are aspiring to do?  Any areas within the company?
I hope to continue being an instructional designer for the next few years at least, however if at some point in the future any jobs arise that would allow me to progress further into the industry such as managing a team of designers, I may give that a try.
I want to carry on doing e-Learning design and instructional design and hopefully move higher up by being a head of learning technology in a company. 
What successes have you had in your job roles since starting them?  Any recognition or feedback from your colleagues and your manager?
One success that I have had since starting my new job is that I have been able to quickly produce content of suitable quality fairly quickly, this was due to the knowledge and skills I had learned during the apprenticeships previously. My new manager has mentioned to me in a meeting about how relieved he was with the quality of my first couple of projects.
My current manager and some colleagues often give me great feedback on my work. I would say a great success for me was passing my 6 month probation.

The qualifications have proved to be well-aligned and valuable for instructional design and have supported the apprentices well in securing a full-time permanent job doing it.  The qualifications have also equipped them with creative, technical, communicative and organisational skills as required for this type of role.  The range of software and instructional design techniques I introduced have also proved useful to them by allowing them to hit the ground from the start and demonstrate their worth.  The qualifications have opened up career pathways and allowed them to aspire into senior roles in the eLearning and learning technology industry.  I'm very pleased to see they want to continue in this industry and direction.

Seeing these positive comments about the quality of their work just makes me feel very proud of them.  Knowing how they both started off on the Level 3 course on a career pathway that was new to them, to the young independent adults they are now.  Just marvellous!  They've reached what we hope of all our learners which is independence in life and a prosperous career.  They're now confident and making their own informed choices towards building their futures.

I'm very proud to have been a part of their journey and developed them as I have. I quickly evaluated, monitored and coordinated their abilities so that I could facilitate their strengths and transform their weaknesses.  However, they had their own unique ambitions, motivations and determination to succeed in this multi-skilled job role that is instructional design.  When I supplied Sarah and Brad's reference for their current job, it was nice to hear feedback from their now manager telling me how employable they are and that it is a credit to myself.  I feel like this is nice recognition for the efforts I did to ensure they were industry ready.  I'm looking forward to see how the rest of their careers shape up in the future.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

eTutoring - Models for facilitating online discussions

In early 2015 I was studying two modules on my Technology Enhanced Learning MSc, one of which was eTutoring.  From sharing a part of my eTutoring work in the post 'An experience of facilitating an online discussion' (which I received a distinction), after looking through some of my work I've decided to share the accompanying essay (which was graded a B).  It would be a shame not to share it as I really enjoyed the subject of eTutoring - in fact it was one of my favourite pieces of work during my Technology Enhanced Learning MSc, but not forgetting my eLearning package evaluation, ePortfolio and dissertation!  Here is a presentation I made taking excerpts from the essay component of the eTutoring module I did.