Friday, 16 November 2018

Describing my learning technologist role

Describing and explaining the role and purpose of a learning technologist has long been a challenge.  Especially, when you are in a room with seniors or executives who say they "get it", but obviously don't for many reasons.  Learning technologists like myself are often labelled as just trainers and showing people how to push buttons.  Quite laughable isn't it really when we know there is more to our processes than just 'show and tell'.  The challenge of this is very real and still exists today.  However, this is not just a challenge with our seniors but also with colleagues.  It feels like a constant never ending battle to prove my worth to new and existing audiences.  The questions are a) how do we eliminate these perceptions, and/or b) how can we make this a less draining and more seamless thing to communicate?

When we are at work it's always about our role, what we actually do, what we contribute to, who benefits etc.  Describing ourselves and your role is important for people to connect to and get a familiar with what you do and how that contributes to the organisation and possibly others work.  I briefly detail what a learning technologist does but there is a better introduction in Chapter 2  'Making the most of learning technologists' in my book.  When asked by colleagues and even friends and family what I do, I find it a very difficult thing to explain, so I generally say something like "I support academic staff using digital technology in their teaching" or "I support academics and professional services staff in using a range of digital technologies in their roles."  It's not enough is it and it really plays down my entire role.  It's no wonder some people think we just train people on how to push buttons.  Well that's in there, but it's more than that.

In this reflective exercise, I'm going to unravel what my role really is and how I am going to articulate this to people - a statement that I can use to introduce myself that is not otherwise seen as just a trainer or uncertainty of what I do.  Let's start of with a couple of questions to help me clarify what I am doing and why it is needed to help me articulate my role.

What is my role made up of?

Like many have, I've got multiple 'hats' for my role; educator (teacher), non-academic, learner/student, assessor, internal verifier, project manager, strategist - to name a few.  My Digital Practice Adviser role (which is essentially a learning technologist role - an overview of my role is on my LinkedIn profile) covers all aspects of learning technology across all academic, professional services, leadership and management and research staff roles, that being:

  • Technology Enhanced Learning (planning to evaluation)
  • Blended learning
  • Learning design
  • eLearning design
  • Project management
  • Delivering training/facilitating
  • Systems support (end user, ideally not technical)
  • Operational issues
  • Problem solving (pedagogical and technological)
  • Strategic planning and implementation (influencing decisions, driving change)

At a very core minimum as a Digital Practice Adviser (as well as what is on my job description), I need to ensure that I do the following:

  • Understand what staff are intending to do with digital technology (pedagogical or task purpose)
  • Consult with staff to expose/scope options and highlight pros and cons - provide staff with options to choose from
  • Scaffold the thinking that helps staff to determine the right tool for the job
  • Ensure that staff choose/use the most appropriate digital technology for the job (i.e. online based polling tools over classroom polling devices for off-site use)
  • Create/develop use of digital technology/online activity (ideally in a test zone for reality checking) before going live
  • Support staff by staying informed on their progress, application and development

If there is scope to:

  • Explore some tools that are not required for the activity/task in hand, but may help make a better job of what you are trying to achieve - more on this here

What anxieties do I have within my role?

There are many anxieties that come with being a learning technologist.  Recently I came across a Twitter thread from Kerry Pinny that lists many anxieties - "❤ this thread. There's a lot of truth in the points and it's not exhaustive either. However, I like a challenge and some these still present opportunities to be made positive. The work of a learning technologist truly never ends..."

I took the list and I've since refined and added a few new points to it:

  • Constantly justifying our existence
  • Working towards a 'digital revolution' that I feel started decades ago?
  • Fighting for buy-in
  • Maintaining buy-in (keeping stakeholders)
  • Managing and influencing opinions of others (known or sudden)
  • Fear of seniors seeing something new (just a buzz) with little critical evaluation
  • Not being technical enough
  • Being too technical
  • Being too academic
  • Not being academic enough
  • Being too generalist
  • Being too specialist
  • Not reading/researching enough literature (practice underpinned by current research)
  • Doing research that's too small and niche to be worthwhile
  • Worrying that we have no power
  • Worrying that the power we do have is taken for granted
  • Worrying we're not innovative enough
  • Justifying that innovation isn't always needed
  • Finding and justifying data that demonstrates engagement and impact
  • Explaining that online/distance learning isn't cheaper or easier
  • Explaining that online/distance learning still requires someone to teach and deliver content
  • Explaining that digital technology i.e. VR/AR shouldn't be used as a gimmick
  • Explaining that the institution isn't ready for learning analytics because the data doesn't exist
  • Resisting to comment on assumptions that 'if it's IT related we can do it all'
  • Declining requests to build apps as it's not generally not in our skill set
  • Explaining that lecture capture is not a surveillance service
  • Explaining that digital technologies change and it's inevitable
  • Asking to be involved in key necessary meetings and networks
  • Fighting against being involved in unnecessary paper-work, processes, meetings
  • Testing way too much, to the point that you can make it worse
  • Being asked for pedagogical evidence
  • Stating that systems/service maintenance is necessary
  • Planning system downtime doesn't work for everyone
  • Focus groups that turn in to 'show and tell'
  • Not having anything 'new' to present at conferences (you can just speak what you're passionate about)

Why is it important to describe my role?

  • To support and upskill people
  • Reaffirms my position, knowledge/skills and status within individuals and groups of people
  • How people interpret my role (both positive and negative)
  • Help people connect and relate to my role so that they know why to contact me and what for

How should I approach this with people?

Describe (in meetings or one to ones - if the conversation or situation is appropriate to) a short statement of my role.  But don't make it sound complicated or over complex as people won't understand which will turn them off

So here's my re-worked statement of my role to introduce myself  to people.  It isn't long as I am not providing a speech but just enough that describes more than just a trainer.  However, I'll most likely adapt it over time as I see how people respond to it.

Describing my role/work

*Audience depending*

Hello, I am Daniel Scott, I'm a Digital Practice Adviser in Organisational Development.  It's my job too ensure that academic and non-academic staff are provided and supported with up to date options/opportunities to gain knowledge and practice in the effective use of digital technology.  Such as critically planning, designing and implementing/applying the use of Virtual Learning Environment, PebblePad, eLearning creation tools, classroom technology, Microsoft suite/Office 365.

If it seems ok to:

Stating my impact

  • As a result of my contributions and efforts to the <insert project>, it was a success <insert what I did/made happen> which made significant differences, such as <insert what and how>.  They have been well regarded by <insert who>.

Gracefully accept praise (if given)

  • Smile, say thank you and perhaps state my dedication towards the project.

Why is the goal...  Something for later

In our team we are currently reinvigorating our identity. where we are having many discussions on our purpose and stakeholder analysis with wider NTU colleagues.  The team were asked to watch the TED Talks video of Simon Sinek's 'Golden Circle' in preparation for our identity meeting.  Basically Simon says "The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe." and "People don't buy what you do they buy why you do it."

Some thoughts:

  • But that's focusing and preaching to the converted - what about those that don't believe in us?  How do we make them believe in us?  How do we capture new people?  How do we reinvigorate dormant relationships?
  • Do we concentrate our time and efforts on the people who believe in us or fight convincing non-believers?
  • I/we have got to have something they believe in and equally what I believe in.  It is a play on key words that hit people at the core of what they do?
  • I need to talk about what I believe as that will attract people.  How can we voice our passion and beliefs more?
  • Reverse the order of information we communicate to people - rephrase to make it sound like it is something colleagues need?
  • Do we align our roles to our strongest passions?  Or are we doing that already?

This is something for the future and I am sure I will reflect on this new chapter that the Digital Practice Team is undergoing.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Energy through numbers

So, this has been happening a long long long time, however I thought I would take some time out to reflect on this peculiar thing.  I keep seeing the number 22 along with a lot of association to the number 10.  For example, when unconsciously looking around I may see people reading a book and they're on chapter 22 or  a volume is set to 22 or the minutes are on 22.  That kind of thing.  I'm not sure where all of this started but I know that I have been aware for a long time that these numbers appear in many ways and forms.  I unconsciously didn't choose these numbers but surely they must have some significance (besides mathematics), especially as there is a lot of spiritual material out there on the meaning of them.  So I thought I'd investigate into this...

22

Apparently 22 has a lot of resonance to purpose in life and has a high spiritual connection.  There's a lot of energy and vibration around effort and purposefulness that I am called to share with humanity.  It seems to revolve around making dreams into reality which involves being pragmatic, ambitious and focused.

Some known/recent sightings:

  • 22nd was the start date at my first learning technology job at a FE college
  • My first house in Barnsley is number 22
  • 22nd September 2016 was when I got my final masters result
  • Get paid on 22nd in my current job at NTU
  • Regularly see number 22 on TV and in passing, like on bus numbers, weather 22C
  • Table at a recent restaurant was number 22
  • 22 item code on a bathroom pipe at work
  • 22 on apartment entrance when I visited Budapest
  • 22 in a sketched heart in at Szimpla Kert in Budapest
  • Seat number 22 for Jane McDonald Christmas Show

There are many more...

10

This number appears to represent determination, independence, confidence, leadership and accomplishment - having everything one needs in order to be successful.  It's about seeing things through wholeheartedly rather than incomplete or unfinished tasks.  Having the inspiration, ideas, solutions, drive and will to succeed in anything that the mind is focused on.

Some known/recent sightings:

  • My birth date
  • The day, month and year of when I (narrowly) survived a single car incident (my car was wrote off as a result - mangled mess)
  • Gabriella Cilmi's 'On A Mission' song was a source of motivation when I started my learning technology career - from the album Ten, released 22nd March 2010
  • New house number where I moved to
  • My book release day
  • Seat number 10 for Kylie Minogue Golden Tour

And so on...

Once you start seeing it, you see it everywhere, and that's without trying or thinking about it.  Coincidence?  That's an individual thing - it's what you choose to believe in.  I feel there is a strong connection with these numbers but I can't explain further why.  Weirdly (without deciding to), I first began making notes on this blog post on the 10 April 2018.

Making sense of it

I can definitely see how these numbers have meaning to me given the descriptions.  I do feel a strong sense of energy, purpose and movement about me (possibly an odd thing to say).  Especially how I have developed myself personally (struggled in finding out who I was) and professionally (making something of myself), there's real evidence here for these.  But there has always been something in me that has put the 'voices' in my head to push myself further and move outside of my comfort zone.  I guess it explains why I have strong proactive energies that have enabled me to do some things that I might talk myself out of.  Plus, I am at an interesting part of my life right now having moved home, new job and generally being more wiser.

By no means am I right, or wrong on this matter.  But after searching on the meaning of these numbers there seems to be a lot of spiritual knowledge (and my own evidence) that these numbers definitely have significant meaning to me.  It seems I need to listen to myself more and truly apply the spiritual and empathetic gifts I have, as I know that I don't use them to their best potential.  I'm fully aware there's something meaningful happening behind the 'spiritual veil', I'm not sure when or how it will reveal itself, or maybe it has and I don't know it yet?  But it does feel like one of those things where all the stars are aligned.  Crazy beautiful stuff I'd say!  I need to devote some time to understand this further.  It is an interest but usually after work I'm mentally exhausted and some weekends can be hectic.  Or I could do with speaking to someone or something to show me the way, as a lot of guidance suggests it's an awakening?

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

You can't take the Tarn...

I've been working at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) for a year now, while I feel settled in my role I feel somewhat less confident about my 'self' shall I say.  Much of this is down to how I feel I am perceived, especially from where I have come from Barnsley, South Yorkshire.  Whilst this may sound negative, this is a 'humble ramble' of reflection on interactions I have experienced.  That said, I am treated with respect by my peers and they are absolute stars and have been very supportive of me, even some are from Yorkshire and have reassured me.  However, I still get those vibes of 'oh he's from Barnsley/Yorkhsire...'.

Some of this may come down to my transition from FE to HE which I have talked about previously.  I still feel like I am that kid that has just moved up from primary school to secondary school.  Remember those memories?  I remember them clearly.  You know, it's like trying to fit in with others and establish myself to people and groups of people, proving your worth etc.  But do I have to really?  Can I just be myself?  Is that enough?

When I first started at NTU, I was extremely nervous of working at a university but then there was the anxiety of how I will fit in.  My accent has been a core worry as many frown upon it.  In writing I feel I appear more clearly and the expectations are high but as soon as I open my mouth and Yorkshire comes out, the expectations oddly drop.  During my first week a new colleague said to me “your accent is music to my ears” (they had friends up in Sheffield) this helped me feel a bit more homely and comfortable around here.

I have reflected a lot recently on how I feel about this and I'm probably a bit sensitive to it.  I have narrowed down some things that I feel affect my confidence, especially when having conversations and interactions with colleagues:

  • Accent/Yorkshire upbringing
  • Status/ego of people
  • Outweighed by others knowledge
  • My own knowledge/contributing value

Broadly, these aspects affect me when speaking in some meetings and conversations I am involved in.  More so when I feel other people are more 'prestigious' than me.  I communicate effectively as my experience proves and can contribute to many things, but these aspects prevent me from being confident and make me feel inferior as a result.  I think all I need is a bit of bolstering and raising my self up from the depths of others opinions, perceptions and even my own.  Slightly relevant, I said in a recent reply on Twitter to a separate but interesting topic "To me, just be true and honest to yourself and explore others energies you can bounce off - mutual in that others need to see a reason to work with you. Which has its downsides of ego, status and joining in the rat race."

I was speaking to my friend about all of this on a walk recently.  How people at work react and express their body language to my accent.  Through my experience, I feel that many think Yorkshire (or Northern) folk are dumb, especially from Barnsley.  When I introduce myself and say I am from there, they go "Baaaarnsley".  What does that even mean?  I don't think I even say that (or do I? 🤔).  Over  the years and my job roles, my accent has been refined.  You can clearly tell I am from Yorkshire like, but after a few drinks, Barnsley comes out!  Many think Barnsley is an extremely dire place and we're all still trapped in this harsh miner community.  Yes it's present, due to it being founded upon that culture.  But like all places there are good and bad areas.

I feel there is a lot of stigma still around in terms of Yorkshire folk being labelled as inferior.  I feel that when people see my profile and accomplishments and accolades in writing, then they meet me in person and hear my voice, I feel they are disappointed somewhat.  It's the expression on some peoples faces I pick up on.  Some people are all about status and hung up where you came from and where you was educated.  My online accounts still reflect that I live in Barnsley (since moved for work).  I'm proud of where I come from.  I appreciate my education and career more as I have fought for it.  Many have been given it on a plate and don't value their accomplishments.

Seeing Jodie Whittaker play the new Doctor Who (which she totally nailed) gave me further encouragement to be more loud and proud that I'm Yorkshire, just like she is and doesn't shy away from it.  So if being Yorkshire offends you, then go irritate yourself!  🙂  Because like The Doctor said; "I know exactly who I am!"

At a training event recently on SCALE-UP (Student-Centred Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies), a lecturer shared their experience of facilitating an activity using TED Talks.  They basically showed their students some cultural myths TED Talks videos, such as how Africa was portrayed as a poor country etc and all the destitute imagery we were served through TV and marketing materials.  The videos went on to show the successes and the real beauty of the country and it's many areas.  It makes we want to do something similar - how can I turn negative perceptions of Yorkshire on its head.  Maybe I will come back to this at some point.  But yes Yorkshire does have a lot of success and celebrities who came from there.  I may even be talking utter nonsense - Yorkshire may not be viewed that negatively, I'm just emptying my thoughts.  Maybe I can be talking about Yorkshire successes a lot more and more so my own...

I'm off for a cup of Yorkshire Tea (my workplace stocks it for us).  Because let's be honest, there's no better brew than a Yorkshire brew! ☕
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