|Mobile learning applications|
'...educational technologists have been in existence in HE for over 30 years...and professional practice has historical roots going back to the second world war and beyond...' Shurville et al. 2009 p207Interestingly, ALT is not specifically directed towards learning technologists, but it's also about technologies in educational contexts, teachers and HE academic staff can also join ALT. Where Learning Technologists differ is that we are employed to be specialists in the field of learning technologies, to advise and train others and disseminated that new found knowledge to the wider community. ALT also go some way to defining what we do:
'Learning technologists are people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology.' (ALT, 2010)Notably, ALT members with significant knowledge and experience are now able to apply for professional status CMALT. This involves a large amount of reflection and evidencing within a focused portfolio of skills and working practices - we are gaining momentum as a strongly recognised field of expertise. Notably, Learning Technologists are considered, quite rightly by some to have similar importance to the academic staff they advise and support Shurville, Browne & Whitaker (2009). In this respect they are generally expected to have some form of teaching experience or qualification, often at post-graduate level, which enables us to better understand our clients and advise appropriately. Equally, having an understanding for the 'digital literacy' of people within these organisations and wider afield, plays a large part in this process of getting user and learner working with technologies appropriately (Plymouth University TEL, 2010, Guardian, 2012a).
Are you IT support?
|Fieldwork voting system|
Geology students at Plymouth
In reality, all of this background work is a means to achieving an electronic educational development: be it building a standalone virtual learning environment, building a component within that environment or working with staff to develop a technology enabled distance learning course. On a grander scale this may require us to perform a consultative/facilitative role, particularly when it is linked to a virtual learning environment (VLEs) development across faculty or potentially institution. Such processes usually involve Deans and Associate Deans at institutional level.
|Fun with technologies?|
We enjoy our work, but it's not just about playing with electronic toys (as some may think), fun as they are, it's also about evaluating technologies in the educational contexts they were intended. All this with the goal of providing evidence that they work and then disseminating this through meetings, conferences and journals to the wider teaching and learning communities. It's all about Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) practice. A fair amount of this dissemination is achieved at Plymouth University through TEL days and Vice Chancellor teaching and learning conferences. There are of course other conferences around the world, ALT have their own annual conference and we even have the increasingly popular PELeCON (Plymouth e-learning conference) hosted on our campus yearly, for which I am a committee member. PELeCON boasts an international audience for learning technologies and educational learning theory.
I have heard others coin the phase 'transparency', whether this is fully obtainable is open to debate, but there is no harm in trying. Where we can help is by enhancing digital learning environments with such things as training on podcasting (adaptable solutions), bespoke problem based learning software, employing virtual 3D learning environments or just simply advise on using simple formative digital tests that can be held on the institutions VLEs (to name a few...). It's all about the best ways to empowering academics to create the digital content they need in order to enrich the learning experiences for their students. A substantial amount of the work in developing any learning technology is the content, as we often say: 'content is king', and it is up to us to advise others how these can be placed efficiently into digital learning platforms. Ultimately it's the academics who posses the expertise in their disciplines, they are the content creators - we empower this process. However, when working in much larger projects, this may also involve building components or working out ways in which this can happen efficiently. This is certainly the case for one of my projects helping to develop and advise in the e-learning processes for the Hydrographic Academy (a distance learning solution for the marine industry).
|Immersive vision theatre|
Learning Technologists are the 'interface' between learning theory and technology, the ambassadors for the future of learning in the digital age, we can help shape the future of our institutions.
UPDATE - Since writing this blog article you maybe interested in the following paper in the context of the above:
FOX, O. & SUMNER, N. 2014. Analyzing the Roles, Activities, and Skills of Learning Technologists: A Case Study From City University London. American Journal of Distance Education, 28, 92-102.