On why I write and why I’m not writing a book . . . yet

Photo of old books
(image: Timeless books, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Timeless_Books.jpg, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

Reflecting on my twitter stream recently, it seems like everyone is writing a book, or to be more accurate has just (self) published a book. Well maybe not quite everyone, but three of my favourite ed-tech peeps (Audrey Watters, David Kernohan and Martin Weller) have all recently done that book thang. Download/buy these books – they all deserve to be read.

I’m actually on the periphery of the self publishing activity. I have just co-authored a chapter with David Walker for a book David Hopkins is editing and self publishing (plug #EdTechBook) which is due out in early January. Writing a book “all by myself” isn’t something that I’m thinking of doing anytime soon. That said there is something very appealing to me trying collate some of my blog posts into a more coherent body of work. Audrey, David and Martin have all used their blogs (to a greater and lesser extent – Audrey’s book is based on her presentations over the past year, but they are all published on her blog) as the basis for their books. In his reflection of why he wrote a book Martin says “I don’t know how any academic writer functions without a blog”.

I don’t claim to be an academic writer, I don’t write a lot of proper “academic stuff”. However I do persist with my blogging which at times has a whiff of academese in it. I blog now because it I enjoy the writing process. More importantly it gives me an outlet to record and reflect on what I’m doing and/or what is happening within my community. I still get a buzz when I get comments on something I’ve written, but it is more a personal record or perhaps more accurately my professional memory. If something is important to me I am now in the habit of blogging about it, even if it is a sentence or two in my semi regular “what sheila’s seen this week’ posts. George Couros has recently written an excellent post, 5 reasons your portfolio should be a blog, where he argues that a portfolio should be more than a “digital dump”, it should be about connecting, finding your voice. I whole heartedly agree.

I’m in the process of compiling my application for fellowship of the HEA. Here at GCU we have a portfolio based route for more experienced staff. I can’t begin to explain just how useful my blogging has been in this process. It has acted not only as a memory jolt, but also as evidence and structure for my submission. I am toying with trying to collate the posts I wrote when I was at the height of my MOOC madness into perhaps a booklet, not sure about a book, but “my little MOOC-y book-y” is a tempting title. . .

The HEA are now looking “good standing” measures for Fellows. How better to show engagement and good standing within your discipline/community than through a blog? It can link to presentations, papers, drafts, anything – just like a portfolio. To go back to Martin’s quote I actually don’t know in this day and age how any academic functions without a blog.

What Sheila's seen this week – 1 year on, thinksup and what is a learning technologist?

This week I marked my first year here at GCU. I can’t believe how quickly the past year has gone, and as I completed my annual review I’m quite pleased with what I have been able to do in the last 12 months, but also frustrated that I haven’t done more. Still Rome wasn’t built in a day . . .  Highlights have been GCU Games On and the work I’ve been doing with Evelyn McElhinney on online residency.

Earlier this week I signed up for a free 14 day trial of ThinkUp an analytics service that  “gives you daily insights about you and your friends that you can’t find anywhere else.”   I found out that I had been tweeting longer that the hashtag has been in existence and that I have sent 25,799 (and counting) tweets. That’s 4 days 11 hours 29 minutes of my life. One day I will actually do some work 🙂

In the meantime, the notice board in my office is filling up with coloured bits of paper.

picutre of my office notice board
My office notice board

David Walker and I have been delighted with all the feedback here on the blog, via twitter and email that last week’s “what is it about learning technologists?” post has generated. There’s still time to have your say before we start writing the chapter so please keep the comments coming.

Is there something about Learning Technologists? #EdTechBook

photo of a cloud that looks like a question mark
Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fontplaydotcom/504443770/

What are the distinguishing characteristics of a Learning Technologist, those qualities that serve to identify them and differentiate them from other roles?

This question is at the heart of a chapter I’m writing with David Walker (@drdjwalker) for a new #edtechbook edited by David Hopkins (@hopkinsdavid) – and we want your input!

As the role of Learning Technologist has develop and evolved across the further and higher education sectors, many early career Learning Technologist are now in senior positions, spread across a variety of departmental locations and increasingly have responsibility for developing and actioning learning and teaching strategies and frameworks.

For the chapter we plan to draw on our own career experiences to examine the case for the distinctiveness of the role but also to highlight natural synergies with others working across institutions and cases where worlds sometimes collide. What we really want however is to frame the discussion with contributions from the community, so via the medium of blogs, Twitter or performance dance we’d love your thoughts on the following questions:

Q: What makes a Learning Technologist and how does the role differ from those working in IT Support, the Library or Careers?

Our thoughts: Although many LTs have come from an IT support role, they now need to have a far more holistic and pedagogically grounded view of the use of technology for learning and teaching. Learning Technologists tend to work in a more staff facing role, so the relationship with students and the curriculum is subtly (or maybe not so subtly) different to other colleagues such as IT support staff/ librarians/ learning advisors/career advisors.

Q: What are the distinguishing characteristics of a Learning Technologist?

Our thoughts: David and I have had quite long ranging discussions about this. We think that central to the role of the Learning Technologist is the relationship they (we) have with the curriculum and curriculum/learning design. In our own experiences we have seen a shift away from the showing people what buttons to press to a far richer dialogue around effective use of technologies that best suit overall pedagogical objectives and disciplinary practices. So a Learning Technologist is always thinking about the processes related to effective learning and teaching. The relationship learning technologists have to curriculum design and design principles is something we both feel strongly about.

Q: Is there something fundamental that distinguishes Learning Technologists from educational developers? Do we still need both roles?

Our thoughts: If a fundamental part of the role of a Learning Technologist is their knowledge of educational design practice then should we be evolving into educational developers, or is this still a distinct discipline?

Indeed as new job titles such as Learning Technology Advisors, Learning Architects etc emerge does anyone really know? As more “senior” Learning Technologists take up more senior positions within larger departments/directorates (that often include librarians, educational developers and Learning Technologists working side-by-side) and are responsible for developing and actioning learning and teaching strategies/frameworks and increasing the quantity and quality  research does it really matter? Are we just grappling with the same issues but with a bit of TEL goodness thrown into the mix? Is TEL research mature enough to be seen as distinct from traditional educational development research, and should it continue to be so? Or as our digital and physical learning environments continue to evolve, are we now seeing the need for new a hub/space with people that work there providing effective bridges between traditional spaces such as disciplines, educational development, developing digital literacies, the curriculum, research, staff and students?

A key milestone in the professionalisation of the role of the Learning Technologist, and acknowledgement of the roles increasing significance in pedagogical design processes, became apparent with the launch of the Higher Education Academy’s revised UK Professional Standards Framework in 2011. The updated framework – a set of professional standards for the HE sector to facilitate benchmarking and align professional development provision – emphasised the need to afford greater recognition to the role of emerging technologies, and importantly, the need to extend opportunities to undertake teaching qualifications to all staff working in HE with teaching responsibilities. The wider recognition of those who provide significant input to the process of supporting teaching and learning ensures that individuals, such as Learning Technologists, are able to access and engage with relevant development opportunities – such as Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education. By acknowledging the wider array of stakeholders who contribute to the educational environment and student experience, the revised framework offered the potential for institutions to align the professional values and practices of those actively engaged in teaching and learning. For Learning Technologists the revised framework provided a basis against which to evidence their professionalism (for career progression, reward or other forms of recognition) and a mechanism to guide their ongoing personal and professional development.

Which leads to our final question or perhaps answer . . . has the role of the learning technologist evolved into that of the digital pedagogue?

We’d love to get some community input, so if you have any answers/thoughts about these questions and our answers please share them in the comments section, or via twitter using the #EdTechBook hashtag and we’ll try and incorporate as many of them as possible into our chapter.