Tuesday, 10 July 2018

ALT - an imprinting celebration

Association for Learning Technology (ALT) turns 25 this year!  I've joined the ALT community to celebrate and mark ALT's 25th anniversary.  This short blog post is a summary of how ALT has helped shape and imprint on my professional development as a learning technologist.  Whilst I have not experienced a full 25 years of ALT, I know for sure that it has played a significant role in my career and one that continues to.  I'll celebrate my 10 years in the learning technology specialism in 2020...

Discovering and obtaining CMALT

I started my learning technology career in February 2010 at an FE college as a learning technologist.  I first pursued and signed up for CMALT (Certified Membership of ALT) in 2012 whilst I was working in this role and eventually got my ePortfolio assessed and certified in April 2013.  CMALT was invaluable to me during my first role in learning technology.  I found it an extremely useful and cathartic experience on what I was doing, why I was doing it, what could be improved and where I was heading in this specialism.  In doing this, I was able to contextualise my role and give it more emphasis on focus on specific aspects.  It really did help ground me in my role, I just wish I knew about it earlier and did it within my first year of this role.  I would recommend anyone doing CMALT as it helps reaffirm what you know and can do, identify gaps and opportunities to recall evidence of your current and previous practices.  It's a widely known and welcomed accreditation too that makes you stand out.  I have talked about CMALT and ALT which appears in many of my blog posts, some of which are:

Sometime in the future I will scrutinise my CMALT to see what can be teased out and to discover other areas and pathways I can take myself to.  I've talked broadly and positively about CMALT in many places, so I'll take this opportunity to summarise a few of the tangible benefits I have experienced:

  • ALT operates as both a community and platform to give and share knowledge, skills and experience
  • Access to industry experts and leaders
  • Networking opportunities through face-to-face local groups, national and online events
  • Join Specialist Interest Groups (SIGs)
  • CMALT 
    • Through reflection in and on action, demonstrate the impact of learning technology and evidence achievements and skills in your role, team and organisation
    • Identify specialist knowledge and skills pathways
  • Keep up to date in the learning technology field 
    • Weekly news digest containing new articles, events and jobs - - forever a useful source of information.  Recently, it led me to my recent 'dream job'.  I wouldn't have known about it otherwise
    • Read ALT publications
  • Career promotion/progression – discussion point on evidence collected and demonstrated
  • Professional accreditation for applying the use of learning technology, assessed by a peer network
  • Nationally and internationally recognised

Winning Learning Technologist of the Year 2016 and joining the Membership Development Committee

In 2016, I made my efforts visible by putting a submission forward for the annual Learning Technologist of the Year Award, which I went on to winning the individual category (see my badge at the top left hand side?  Very nice!). 😊  Shortly after this I made interest in joining the Membership Development Committee, where I am still an active member.  In this role I have helped shape the new early careers CMALT pathway and wrote a paper of recommendations on how ALT can better engage with their Institutional Representatives.

The ALT community has been highly influential in my career by people answering my queries and allowing me to share my practices.  Here is one of many deliberations I have posed and resulted in further discussions.  I've also used discussions on the mailing list to form my understandings of topics, such as Digital move-meant and The Truth About Learning Technology?

Most notably, ALT has featured in my studies during my Technology Enhanced Learning MScdissertation and my upcoming book.  I've also been able to deliver webinars which have allow me to share my practices and thinking, such as 'The rounded self – exploring how digital technology can be used to help student’s present soft-skills' and 'New course design for reflective learning'.

It's clear to say that ALT is very much visible throughout my career development and is a strong support mechanism to me.  Thank you ALT and the members that bring so much wisdom to help and inspire others.

I challenge you to...

  • Sign up for CMALT
  • Reflect and celebrate your practices with learning technology.  Equally, a good starting point if improving and exploring the intelligent use of learning technology
  • Network and socialise with members of the community to build your connections and inspire your practices

If you feel confident to, I also strongly encourage you to:

  • Submit an entry for the Learning Technologist of the Year award (individual or team).  Celebrate and demonstrate your efforts, practices and impact of learning technology.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Digital apprenticeships - a brief Q&A

A little CPD was in order to acquire some current insights about the changes made in UK apprenticeships.  The Blended Learning Essentials suite of courses has once again come handy for this through their fourth instalment; Digitally-Enriched Apprenticeships.

I've focused on some parts that interested me, however slightly different this time.  The content prompted me to construct this post as a brief Q&A where I answer my own questions which helped me to reaffirm some particular aspects of the course.

How can apprenticeship programmes make use of digital methods that have a natural fit of what apprentices are expected to do?

This prompted me to recall a chat I had with James Clay when asked about my experiences of when I delivered a digital apprenticeship:

James - "What are the issues you have identified in embedding technology in supporting apprenticeships?"
Me - "An issue I have identified is trying to use appropriate tech that minimises learner interruption in their work."
Me - "Yes, but WBL is about doing real work and acquiring industry knowledge, skills and experience."
James - "Can we provide a total digital experience for all apprentices to enhance and support them? Should we?"
Me - "Yes we can/should use a wide range of blended and flipped approaches, to give more time to get work experience."
James - "What are the opportunities to exploit technology to deliver high-quality apprenticeships more effectively?"
Me - "Identifying on, off and near the job learning first then deciding suitable tech. More - http://danielscott86.blogspot.com/2016/02/designing-for-project-based-learning.html"

The message I was getting across here was enabling more time for apprentices to get more work experience and evidence.  Yes they will need to have off-the-job training on various things, but ultimately apprentices have have pursued an apprenticeship to get that industry experience.  Tangible evidence should then derive from all of the work activities, not making the process more complicated.  Digital technology should be used intelligently to wrap around this process to make it more effective.  As a result, digital technology should help motivate learning, prepare apprentices for a digital workplace and improve the learning, assessment and quality assurance processes for apprentice, employer and training provider.

That said, it is still highly important that the practitioner puts in a lot of effort in analysing what their apprentice's need and how they will respond to this that satisfies the End Point Assessment (EPA) and other related processes.

The 'Future Apprenticeships Toolkit, section 10: Curriculum Design’ suggests the following three issues for consideration;

  • Making sure that the early stages of a programme are sufficiently engaging to retain apprentices through into end point assessment
  • Finding innovative, effective and contextualised ways of meeting minimum Maths and English requirements
  • Integrating technology, or using distance learning to support achievement.

How can these be addressed through creative use of digital technology?

As mentioned above, I feel all of this comes down to putting quite a lot of effort into knowing who your apprentices are and what they need and understanding the work industry and the programme.  Yes some apprentices will have more needs than others, however, if you can tailor the apprenticeship programme to what their needs are, whilst including industry needs (workplace context), you will have a better idea on how and where the above can be integrated.

To sum up, the apprentice wants to get work experience and knowledge of that particular job role or within that industry area.  If you can emphasise this as the forefront of the apprenticeship programme, that will gain attention/appeal.  Then it requires the apprentice to be committed and motivated to be successful, with facilitated support.  I feel it's also about scaffolding an apprentices development throughout the programme and helping them to achieve and exploit their potential.  That should be enough to retain engagement to completion, unless the apprentice has an opportunity to obtain a job at the end of the programme, then that should be a great anchor.

It's been a while since I line managed, trained and assessed the Digital Learning Design apprentices, which became my brainchild when I worked at an FE college.  When I was assessing Digital Learning Design apprentices, I used an holistic approach to structure the programmes more effectively - which I talked about here.  You can see parts of the assessment plan in this video of my presentation slides.

What is an EPA and how can digital technology help make the process easier for all stakeholders?

The EPA is a the final assessment (summative) in the apprenticeship programme.  This is delivered by an independent registered apprentice organisation.  The EPA aims to demonstrate an apprentice's job and work readiness in terms of their knowledge, skills and behaviour.  Ensuring readiness and preparing for submission for the EPA is a key issue of the apprenticeship programme.  The employer and training provider decide whether an apprentice is ready to submit their EPA.  As part of that readiness, an apprentice must achieved all required qualifications and gained all required competencies of their apprenticeship standard.  An ePortfolio containing on-programme assessments (formative) evidence of work practices and reflections etc can show readiness for EPA.  The ePortfolio does not form part of the EPA, it is only to be used to demonstrate that the apprentice is ready to submit an EPA.  The EPA can include the following assessment methods, all of which can be made digital: MCQs; interviews; observations; presentations; journal; ePortfolio.  However, these assessment methods should relate to the type of work the apprentice is doing in the workplace.

Digital technology can be used seamlessly here, if all stakeholders involved are clear on the process and know how to access and use it.  For example, a good Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or ePortfolio system that has the capability to upload evidence, create/support learning activities and allows collaboration and tracking of documentation and being made visible.

As part of the new Apprenticeship Standard, apprentices need to be competent across specified knowledge, skills and behaviours.  How can assessors clarify the difference between knowledge, skills and behaviours?

In the context of workplace learning, they mean:

  • Knowledge - workplace/industry information and technical know-how
  • Skills - applying workplace/industry knowledge and doing it effectively
  • Behaviours - mind sets and approaches required for competence, including interpersonal skills and professionalism

Like when assessing you could approach this in a similar way.  Within the Apprenticeship Standards, you could look for the following to help you set them apart:

  • Knowledge - look for facts/information verbs; understand, explain, describe
  • Skills - look for doing/performance verbs; create, plan, prepare, produce
  • Behaviour - look for act/responsibilities verbs; conduct, respond, demonstrate, take lead

Other than a standard eILP, how can apprentices demonstrate where they are to where they will be once completing an apprenticeship?

An eILP is an electronic Individual Learning Plan that details a learner's starting point and where they are heading to, including milestones and support needs.  I encouraged my apprentices to create a blog and document their learning and thoughts throughout their programme.  This ranged from good practices they found, models and how they could be applied and techniques they had learned for using software and so forth.  Alongside this I used appraisals and a professional development plan to align their professional goals and training.  Having seen their blogs, it also gave me an insight into what they were thinking, obstacles they are experiencing and how they viewed their job roles.  I was able to tactfully bring these up in one to ones which scaffolded their development and allowed me to introduce resources and strategies for them to be more employable once they had completed.

What other creative ways can training providers deliver the 20% off-the-job training?
Typically, an apprentice may spend 80% of their time in the workplace and 20% of their time doing off-the-job training.  This can be in the form of day release with the training provider or training provided by the employer, via face-to-face, blended or online.  Blended learning is encouraged as it is not permitted for all off-the-job training to be delivered via distance learning.
However, I strongly advise using what is already out there and contextualise it to the apprentices needs and role.  We need to inspire and motivate apprentices to be independent and keep up to date and continuously improve themselves.  This comes back to being a modern professional learner/worker that I mentioned at the bottom of this post.  So why not set them tasks or signpost them to some online resources where they can use their time wisely on developing additional skills or improving existing ones in relation to their programme and role.  This will build their independence and develop their digital capabilities in the process.
How can you build a community of practice with apprentices and maintain it's momentum?
Discussions will start and die naturally.  So try not to force them too much.  Apprentices will most likely know when and who to ask for help, whether that be in the workplace or not.  Encourage apprentices to create an online community or one you have set up, or even ask them to cultivate their own Personal Learning Network - this could even form evidence somewhere.

Not only does it support building a network, but in a creative industry it allows people to share and build on others work through peer feedback.  Not everyone gets to see each others work in meetings or one to ones, so it helps make their work more visible - I used Yammer with my apprentices to do just this and I also used discussion forums as etivities.  Jisc did a case study on my practices 'rethinking assessment of work-based learning'.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Visibility matters for digital capabilities

Inspired by my recent debut attendance at the UCISA 'Spotlight' event, which included a workshop by Donna Lanclos and Lawrie Phipps on making our digital practices visible.  I thought I would explore this a little as I found it a really interesting thing to do.

As digital technology has become extremely embedded within our lifestyles, it can appear somewhat invisible.  To me this can pose a barrier for those that are developing their digital capabilities.  When you seek to start developing your digital capabilities, we look to what we know already.  However, if we don't know what we already know how can we progress further?  This can be true for staff when pursuing their own digital capabilities or have some reluctance to engage with digital technology.

Mapping my digital self

In a workshop I was invited to participate in an activity, I was presented a triangle with the words creation (publishing/broadcast), conversation (voices and perspectives online) and consumption (interacting with information) written on the sides of it.  I was asked to re-draw the triangle and map all the digital tools, apps and services I used to those categories.  My digital practices were self-assessed on internal/organisational (inside the triangle) and external/personal (outside the triangle).  I was then asked to use emoji stickers to place on each digital practice to express my emotions towards them.  This would have been an ideal activity to do before undertaking my Jisc Digital Discovery Tool self-assessment.

Below is my digital practice triangle.  I sketched out a much messier version during the workshop, but have tidied it up a bit here.  I'm sure there are many more digital technologies I use and more emotions to add, but this is what I came up with at the time.  When I was placing the emojis on my digital practices I found that I was applying emotional intelligence towards the things I use.  For example, I love using creative tools that allow me to express and develop things.  Or the expressive sigh towards using Microsoft Teams.  The tool is fine and works, however I found my feelings low in the way we use it for managing team projects.  Hence me feeling a bit less enthusiastic about it.  So the beauty in this activity is the cognitive and emotional mapping of what digital we use and most importantly how (the behaviour aspects).

It's help to ask yourself the following questions as you work on your triangle.

  • Think of the digital tools, apps and services you use.  Open up your mobile phone to see what your most used apps are - that's a good starting point
  • Which of these digital tools, apps and services do you use personally and professionally?
  • How do you use them and what for?
  • Why do you carry out these particular tasks with these digital technologies?  If you can find out why you don't do certain things with that particular digital technology that helps you to determine the right tool for the task, as well as identifying learning gaps and barriers
  • What would you like to do more of with that digital technology?

Further uses

As simple as this activity appears, this is an ideal opening activity for engaging people in developing their digital capabilities.  It starts a conversation that you can have with staff or teams.  Having it visible in front of you allows you to reflect more easily on what you use and how - determining the impact and effectiveness of all things digital to you.

I feel it may be useful to share your own triangle of digital practices and get others to share theirs as that can increase buy-in.  If you show personal interest in a particular tool, app or service (rather than solely an employee/organisational perspective) and you are really enthusiastic about it, others will tap into that and want to share their love for it.  Enthusiasm is infectious, so talk more about the positive things.  Equally on the flip side you could say that about the things we don't like to use or do (which can be useful), but I would always encourage to find positive comments about them rather than get into a downward spiral of negativity.

You could take this activity online and use tools like Thinglink for example.  Upload a blank triangle with the words around the edge and then annotate with emojis and hyperlinks to the tools, apps and services.

Writing love letters was a similar activity that I did during a workshop at the UCISA event.  You could apply 'romance' to a piece of digital technology you use and exaggerate your passion, wishes and frustrations of using it.  Sounds hilarious, which it is!  Again it opens up your emotions towards your digital practices of the ways you can and can't use the digital technology.
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CC-BY Daniel Scott. Unless otherwise stated this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.