“So what do you do?” can be a bit of a difficult question to answer when you work in the domain of learning technology. And depending on which area of learning technology you work in it can be a harder question to answer for some than others. My default answer tends to be “I work at a University” followed by “I work in education technology”, often with the added explanation “It’s about the use of new technology in education.” “Open education” tends to get you blank looks outwith academia (now there’s a topic for discussion), and thank god I don’t work in “education technology interoperability standards” these days.
My family have defaulted to telling people that I’m a spy on the basis that they don’t actually know what I do, other than travel a lot and disappear for days at a time. It’s hard to argue with them tbh.
Sometimes I think it’s easier to explain what I don’t do; I don’t teach, I don’t do formal academic research, I’m not a programmer, I don’t develop or implement systems, I don’t provide help desk services, I don’t run the VLE. I do manage projects and provide advice to colleagues. I provide input to policies. I support networks and disseminate practice. I write a lot, talk a lot and present a lot. I facilitate events and chair conferences. I sit on boards, steering groups and executive committees. Maybe it is easier to tell people I’m a spy.
The reason I’ve been thinking about this is that after months of procrastination, I’m finally making a start on my CMALT application. I had hoped to do this towards the end of last year but two new projects took precedence, so CMALT went on the back burner.
I had mixed feelings about CMALT for a number of years, primarily because for a long time I didn’t really seem to fit any recognisable definition of what a learning technologist is. I tried to explain this anxiety in a blog post I wrote in 2014 Thoughts on ALT’s CPD Rebooted. That post also refers to a brilliant piece written by Amber Thomas Perhaps I’m not one, which I identified with strongly at the time, and still do. The main point I was trying to make in CPD Rebooted was that formal certification can be difficult for people whose roles don’t neatly fit into the kind of boxes that make up accreditation frameworks. This is doubly true for those on short term contracts, who have to jump from project to project and rarely have much time for formal CPD. I ended that blog post with a question I asked on twitter:
Things have changed a lot for me since 2014, both professionally and personally. Our understanding of what it means to be a learning technologist has matured and become more inclusive, and although contracts in higher education have become increasingly precarious, I’m very lucky that my own employment situation is more secure than it was three years ago. In fact I’m incredibly fortunate to work for an institution that not only allows dedicated time for CPD but that also actively promotes and supports CMALT membership. Information Services at the University of Edinburgh offer bursaries to enable learning technologists to become Certified Members of ALT and my colleague Susan Grieg supports colleagues to help them prepare their portfolios.
Having spent the day pouring over the CMALT guidelines I can see that ALT have worked hard to create an accreditation framework that is as broad as it is inclusive. However I’m still sitting here sifting through projects, webinars, presentations, papers, twitter conversations and reflective blog posts wondering how the hell I’m going to fit all this into that. How on earth can I demonstrate an “understanding of my target learners” when I don’t actually teach? Of course the answer is that I’m going to have to think creatively. I may not have a teaching role, but hopefully all those webinars and talks and blog posts do help my peers and colleagues to learn and to develop their professional practice. I’m still at the stage where I’m struggling to fit my experience into the CMALT framework, but hopefully if I keep thinking about it and reflecting on what I actually do, it will all start to fall into place. Having access to the CMALT Portfolio Open Register is already proving to be enormously helpful but I’d be very interested to hear how others have approached this.
(Belatedly realising I have no idea how to licence memes….)