A Lens on… Learning Technologists

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the wider HE sector.

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In this post, we are focusing on the role of the Learning Technologist in HE. The Association for Learning Technology provides this definition as a starting point:

Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment. Learning technologists are people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology.

In UK Higher Education, there is usually a function within the institution to support this. Yet, because the practice is so broad, it could be situated anywhere from within Learning & Teaching, Library Services and IT or embedded within the faculty and that can depend on how it supports strategy and how well the function is understood. And role names could vary from Educational/Learning/Academic Technologist/Advisor/Consultant

A ‘Really Useful’ place to gain a deeper insight is  The Really Useful Ed. Tech Book. In his chapter on the structure and roles of Learning Technologists, Peter Reed describes a continuum of job variation from IT focused, which might include server and web development to Education focused, which might include learning design and pedagogy and everywhere in between (Reed 2015: pp. 41 – 51).

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The Really Useful Ed. Tech Book islicensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This can make things confusing, as many understand the role of IT support and are aware of the VLE, but not always aware of the range and depth that a Learning Technology service covers. These issues are put succinctly in this timely post by Bex Ferriday, which asks how can we help people better understand the role of the Learning Technologist… not just someone who can fix computers!

At Falmouth, we provide an overview of the team on our site. The Educational Technology team operates within the wider ICT department, though we are closely aligned to both ICT and Learning, Teaching and Employability strategies. The team has a broad experience that covers Reed’s continuum of job variation and we find ourselves dealing with things like configuring authentication to the VLE to testing out new technologies with academic staff to hosting workshops in learning design for blended and online modules/courses. One of the most effective routes into working with our academic staff we have found is by working with our PGCHE. Many of our Focus On… initiatives have been born out of the PGCHE Summer School, where staff are given the space to explore and experiment with learning technology. 

We pride ourselves on having an understanding of technology and being able to act as a bridge between technology and pedagogy; being able to explain things clearly to an audience with varying digital practices.

We’d love to hear how it’s approached in other UK HEIs by response to this post or on Twitter.

Opportunities for Ed. Tech CPD in 2015

One of the fundamental affordances of web technology is the ability to connect with content at a time and in a place convenient to us and there are a wealth of online opportunities to learn more about how technology can support learning and teaching. Here’s an introduction to some of our favourites and some ideas for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in incorporating Educational Technology into teaching practice.

Conferences/Events

Many of the events that the team attend are relevant for all involved in learning and teaching. Some to note over the coming year are; BETT which looks at Educational Technology across schools, FE and HE, JISC’s Digifest15, the annual conference of the Association for Learning Technology and OER15 which focusses on Open Education.

Courses

There are also a huge range of self paced opportunities for professional development in the form of free and open courses, a great deal of which are listed over on the Open Culture website. ALT hosts an Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning each year for anyone working in or with an interest in Educational Technology. Connected Courses aims to join together open educators the world over and help them develop themselves and their teaching. Additionally, A big forking course looks at rhizomatic approaches towards learning, making use of P2PU’s ability to build a course in a box that others may reuse and remix as they see fit.

Twitter 

Deserving of it’s own heading, the international  educational community is huge on Twitter and it has widely been adopted as a tool for teaching and learning. Follow us @ET_Falmouth for regular updates from the team and if you are new to Twitter, get in touch to chat about it’s use in Education. Twitter lists are a handy way to manage your Educational Networks, you could create one with just Falmouth colleagues in for example, or with various educational news Twitter accounts.

Another useful feature of Twitter is the hashtag, a way of tagging tweets that enable others to search for them. Often used for conferences and module codes in education, here are some that the team engage with:

#LTHEchat – Learning Technology in Higher Ed. UK Weekly chat on a Weds eve. 8-9pm.

#ALTC – Conference hashtag for ALT, used to signpost items of interest to other conference participants.

#EdTech – Catch all hashtag for anything relating to Educational Technology.

#edtechchat Weekly chat, hosted by US educators on Mondays 1-2am GMT

#HEAenhancement hashtag for  the Higher Education Academy’s enhancement series of events

#BYOD4L an open course in mobile device usage in learning and teaching, reconvening for 2015 on 12th Jan.

Other online resources (blogs, sites)

Using a news aggregator like Feedly, helps create as a one stop source for news via blogs or any site that has an RSS feed. Your first visit  should be to  Falmouth’s Educational Technology Team site and associated Blog and Projects site. If there’s something relating to Educational Technology that isn’t already here and  that you’ve seen somewhere else, we more than likely have an opinion on it, so come and chat to us. Sussex University’s TEL team blog is another great place to pick up tips and the following web resources all provide insights into working in learning and teaching developments with technology:

 

Hack Education

Inside Higher Ed.

Times Higher Ed.

JISC

Research In Learning Technology 

Think Out Loud Club

Google Apps for Education

These links aren’t an exhaustive list and we will be adding a calendar of events to the ET site soon, so you can put dates in the diary. We’d welcome any feedback on other events and resources that people find useful, so email, tweet or drop in to the cottage for a cuppa whenever is convenient.

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