Monday, 2 September 2019

'What makes a Learning Technologist' - my story

To coincide with the launch of 'What makes a Learning Technologist' ALT project, I thought I would share my individual response that I submitted.

The project originated from a discussion on Twitter about what a learning technologist does.  Inspired by these reoccurring discussions on this unique but ambiguous role, I thought I'd have a go at writing a blog post for ALT.  Simon Thomson suggested a great idea of drawing out peoples stories of being and becoming a learning technologist.  From that, a collaborative project was born along with Chris Melia helming as the ALT blog editor.

I wrote the first blog post in the series '“What makes a Learning Technologist?” – Part 1 of 4: Job titles'.  Karoline Nanfeldt wrote the second blog post “What makes a Learning Technologist?” – Part 2 of 4: Career paths - I influenced discussions on the learning technologist life cycle (where we go) and the vocational learning technology qualifications routes.  Simon Thomson wrote the third blog post “What makes a Learning Technologist?” – Part 3 of 4: Roles and duties.  The fourth and final blog post “What makes a Learning Technologist?” – Part 4 of 4: Best-part challenges, written by me and Simon, was published on 2 September 2020 on the anniversary of the first one.

Some feedback on the article:

Evan Dickerson - Thanks for posting this Daniel – your series of posts explore a theme that I recently presented on at the APT Conference at UCL, and am currently working up into a potential article / book chapter.  It will be interesting to see how our views converge / differ.  I’ll be sure to reference these posts in my writing, and could well be useful to follow up with you afterwards about this.

Florence A. Smith - This is really informative post Daniel.  I heard the job titles vary according to different companies, but you have really detailed analysis on this.  I see 40+ designation titles used for eLearning technologist, that’s really informative.  Looking forward to read the next blog of the series...Thank you for your reply Daniel. I have been following your blogs and I really appreciate your efforts here.

Priya - These is a really great article, thank you for sharing and I would like to say that, please keep sharing your information for us.
David Hopkins - 

Thanks for the post @_Daniel_Scott, a good in-depth look at the terminology of the role and the title, and the possibilities for confusion across our industry based on assumptions of 'role'.

This.  "Perhaps simplicity in titling is key here as not to convolute the nature of this diverse role."

Well done Daniel Scott, a really good piece about the role and title, and how both can be confused and muddled depending on how we interpret the title based on our own experience and expectations.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the posts in this series.

Katrina Conroy -

Very insightful! Thank you.  🙂

Definitely an interesting read! As soon as I receive an email saying "I need a Learning Technologist for 6 months" the first question is - what do you mean by "Learning Technologist" 🤷‍♀️📲

Coral Condeco-Dunachie - Yes! I find this all the time. The disparity between job roles/expectations and titles in e-learning is huge! Makes it really difficult when trying to look for jobs or even promote yourself. Often 'learning technologists' have to wear multiple hats!

Jackie Carter - An interesting read Daniel as I am reviewing all of my teams roles and job titles at the moment. Thanks.

James Savva - Brilliant article about something that has been on my mind recently.

Jas D - Interesting read...

Jennifer A. McWatt - I just read your post for ALT on What makes a Learning Technologist.  Very interesting, thanks.

Other related comments:

Chris Melia -

Ok - So I've gone and set up my own blog! 😬 The first post is a personal reflection on the role of a #learningtechnologist and follows on from recent work by @digisim @_Daniel_Scott and many others 👍 https://chrislearntech.home.blog/2019/07/18/what-makes-a-learning-technologist

Cheers Dan, and thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

Russ Brookes -

So I decided to try and do a professional blog. As always I'm late to the party but having seen @_Daniel_Scott talk at #alt and his work on what it is to be a Learning Technologist I thought i'd chime in: https://russtel.home.blog/2019/09/28/what-makes-a-learning-technologist-aka-my-accidental-journey-into-a-career-i-never-knew-i-wanted

...So It seemed a good time to start a blog and follow in The footsteps of superior people in the sector like the always enthusiastic and Engaging Daniel Scott.

It was a blog of his that inspired me with this post so lets get to it. Dan had started a discussion on what makes a Learning Technologist and I participated in some responses on ALT, because honestly I don’t think I’ve met a group of people (what is a collection of Technologist anyway? A tecnocrate of Technologists?) who are so uneasy over what it is they do. Its like the term impostor syndrome was created for us. So with that in mind here are my thoughts on some questions posed...

Matt Cornock - referenced the series in his blog post 'The role of a learning technologist during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic'.

Darren Vass-White -

You have already been made aware of Daniel Scott's work (blog, publications and contributions to the ALT journal), honestly when I started my new journey in December, I found reading his articles (where he shares his experiences of being a learning technologist and his reflections on what a learning technologist) really encouraging and motivating.  His publication "Learning Technology: A Handbook for FE Teachers and Assessors" was a great start for me in thinking about supporting educators from a technologist's point of view.

...inspiring information and guidance you have shared with the community!  I really enjoy reading the posts on your blog, it is really interesting to read about your experiences and achievements as you have worked upwards in your learning technologist career- great stuff.

Elaine Dalloway -

I paused several times, while reading this post, to reflect on and compare my own experience.  I think the summary of the best parts enjoyed by respondents, in particular, provides a really useful basis for reflecting on our roles and the contribution we make in our own institutions and to the wider community – and very useful in helping to explain to others what we do as learning technologists!

Personal message:

Hi Daniel, have just enjoyed reading your latest blog post on the ALT website and now reading your own blog about describing your role as a learning technologist - something I've struggled with but now working on a description I can articulate next time I'm asked!

Really useful - particularly as I'm about to start work on CMALT application :-)

To capture peoples stories we set up and shared an online questionnaire, in which 38 people responded.  Here's my response to the questionnaire that I submitted on 5 June 2019.

What is your current job title?

Digital Practice Adviser

Briefly summarise what your role is and the duties you undertake?

Although my role is defined broadly as ‘digital practice’, it consists that of a learning technologist, in which I am university wide.  I consult with schools, departments and teams to develop professional development opportunities for staff to engage and embed digital technology into their existing practices: learning and teaching; research; leadership and management and professional services.  I identify digital literacies of roles/disciplines and explore support needs and how best to support people’s application of digital tools and systems into their practices.

What “career” path did you travel to get to your current position?

Due to my slow and unsuccessful start in my own education, since I left school and progressed onto college, I have strong enthusiasm and passion for learning and making something of myself.

The first ‘proper’ jobs I had were in administration at local councils.  In 2009, before Christmas I came across a learning technologist job at Barnsley College (where I had once been a student and apprentice).  At this point I knew nothing about what a learning technologist was, did and the value they bring to education. However, I thought that this is a dream job, it has everything I am interested in – based in education for education, working with teachers and digital technology and being creative with both.  So I immediately applied and went onto landing the job.  I wouldn’t be sharing my story now if I wasn’t given that opportunity way back then.  Nine years on and I am still working in education with learning technology.  During my first learning technology role I:


I then progressed into another 'dream job' job at Nottingham Trent University (still reminding myself every day) and in the background I wrote and published my first book on learning technology, based on my experience in FE for FE.  Learn more about my journey in becoming a learning technologist.

What would your ideal job title be?

Senior Learning Technology Consultant | Senior Digital Learning and Teaching Developer | Head of Digital Learning and Teaching

EDIT:  I am now focused on digital capabilities of all job families.  However, as my background is steeped in learning and teaching, I will always remain involved in this aspect.  Therefore the prefixes will remain the same whilst the role itself will be different.

What’s the best part of your job?

Personally:

  • Helping academics to understand and appropriately apply Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) effectively (at their own pace and comfort – with positive encouragement) and develop their digital skills in the process
  • Sharing the joy with academics when they have made TEL a success with their learners and programmes
  • Understanding, mediating, influencing, shaping and evolving a wide spectrum of learning and development opportunities
  • Learning on the job, learning from my own work, learning from others and sharing this widely with others in the field
  • Building lasting professional like-minded relationships that I have made throughout my career journey (new ones always developing)
  • Helping make learning enjoyable and a great experience for all involved and just generally helping where I am able to

Organisationally:

  • Variety in the job – different projects, different challenges (educational objectives and problem solving), working with different groups of people (academic and non-academic)
  • Opportunities to contribute and make a difference to employee’s roles (skills and professional development) and organisational processes

Externally:

  • Networking and collaborating with external like-minded individuals, groups and institutions to develop each other’s projects and knowledge
  • Proud to represent my own institution Nottingham Trent University and promote ALT as my professional body

What’s the biggest challenge(s) you face in getting your job done?

  • Unnecessary bureaucracy
  • Unnecessary debates (there is a place for them, not always in productive meetings)
  • Lack of clarity, time and resource to make projects a success from the outset
  • Unclear leadership, visions and strategies or none existent
  • Frequent ad hoc requests/queries interrupt productivity on main pieces of work
  • Quality over quantity
  • Negative perceptions/interpretations of a learning technologist role (often viewed as a techie/Information Technology person. I am the opposite of a techie – emphasis on pedagogy through digital technology
  • Understanding complex curriculum/academic requirements
  • Keeping up to date with multiple projects (struggles of need and nice to know information plus information overload)
  • Innovation fatigue (innovating for the sake of it)