Jan 062016
 

Today I am delighted to be hosting – in my eLearning@ed Convener hat – a talk from Martin Hawksey, from ALT.

Note: this is a live blog so apologies for any typos, errors etc – corrections always welcome.

I am one of about four members of staff at ALT – the Association of Learning Technologists. How many of you are ALT members? (a good chunk of the room are) And how many of you have heard of our conference? (pretty much all). I’m going to talk today about what else ALT does, where there are opportunities to take part etc.

A key part of what we want to do is improve practice, promote research and influence policy around information technology. We support learning technologists of course, but our members cross a wide range of roles reflecting the range of learning technology use. ALT itself was established in 1993 – before the internet which is an interesting marker. ALT has 1700+ individual and 180 organisational members at present. ALT works across sectors including Further Education, Higher Education and research, and ALT is also an international community. And, as you are all part of the University of Edinburgh you can join ALT for free as an associate member. To become a voting member/get involved in governance etc. you do, however, need to apply for full membership.

Before I worked at ALT I didn’t really appreciate that ALT is truly a membership organisation – and governed by its members. And that genuinely drives the organisation.

In terms of the benefits of membership there are three areas particularly relevant: keeping pace with technology; developing skills; recognition for your work. We also have the ALT-MEMBERS list (a Jiscmail list) and that is a really rich resource in terms of people posing questions, receiving feedback on what they are doing. You obviously have elearning@ed giving you a great insight into your local community, that ALT-MEMBERS list does some of the same stuff on a wider/global scale. For instance discussion on VLE Review (a conversation including 24 replies); tracking Twitter hashtags (a conversation including 14 replies); a post on appropriate use of social media and advice on inappropriate behaviour (had 15 replies and became a blog post drawing resources together); review of web conferening tools had 23 replies. So you can see there is huge interaction here, content to draw upon, trends to pick up, information being shared. If you aren’t yet a member of that list then you can sign up – it is a closed list and you need to be an ALT member to sign up.

Do you have any feedback on the mailing list?

Comment: It is just too busy for me, too many emails.

I think it is useful to have that health warning that there is a lot of traffic. You can manage that with filters, subscribing to the digest etc. But you need to be aware of the volume. In terms of posting we’d recommend a good subject line – to catch those eyes – and as with any list it’s good to do a bit of research first and share that in your post, that makes it more likely that you will have replies and engagement. Despite all the other technologies we have available email is still suprisingly important.

ALT also has Member Groups and SIGs (Special Interest Groups) on areas such as games and learning, open education, MOOCs, FELTAG.The SIGs tend to change as different trends go in and out of popularity – the open education group is especially busy at the moment for instance. There is also a specific ALT-Scotland group. So, for instance ALT-Scotland recently held a policy board with funders and policy makers to understand what they are thinking and doing at the moment which was hugely valuable.

In addition to email we are also using Twitter. For our conference and events we’ve moved away from specific hashtags for each towards a since hashtag – #altc – and that’s a great way to share your message with the community. We monitor and retweet that hashtag – and we have around 7000 followers. That hashtag can be used for projects, events, blog posts, etc. It’s pretty all encompassing.

As I mentioned ALT is your organisation, as a member. Our governance model is that we have a board of trustees including ALT members in Scotland – currently we have a member from Glasgow Caledonian, and another from Heriot-Watt. Our current vice-chair is Martin Weller, OU, our chair is ? and our current president is ?. We also have operational committees – a rewarding thing to do, enabling you engage with the community and good for your CV of course. And we have editors for the ALT journals as well.

I also mentioned recognition… How many of you have heard of CMALT – Certified Membership? (pretty much all in the room have) What do you want to know about it? It is a portfolio-based accreditation – you submit electronically and you can do that in whatever electronic format you like. That portfolio is certified by peers, and you can nominate one of your assessors. And they will give you feedback. There is a cost – about £150 – but if a group of you want to submit there is a reduced group rate.

Because there are a range of roles within ALT the skills assessed cover a range of core areas (operational issues; teaching, learning and assessment, wider context, communication), and specialist areas (such as leadership, tech development, administration, research, policy). The key thing is to certify your commitment to learning technology. It can feel like saying what you do but it is also about successes, reflection on success and failure, and working with feedback and support – about being a better learning technologist and making you have that professional journey. It isn’t just about the achievement of the certificate.

Question: How long does this take?

Once you are registered you have up to a year to complete and submit your portfolio. Obviously it doesn’t take that long to do. Maybe a few hours per area is sufficient – 20 or 24 hours perhaps for portfolios. There are examples of submitted portfolios and guidance on the ALT website. We also try to run regular CMALT webinars where you can talk to other candidates about the process and the detail.

Question: What are the benefits of doing CMALT?

Interestingly CMALT has been running for around 10 years now. We just passed our 300th CMALT certified members. And we have increasingly seen ALT members looking for CMALT as a desirable qualification for roles, which is obviously helpful for job prospects. The main benefit though is that process itself -the reflection, the capture of that experience, the opportunity to develop your practice.

Additionally CMALT maps to UKPSF and HEA Fellowship. We have mapped the requirements of UKPSF onto CMALT so that if you do either of those you may be able to reuse that work in applying to the other – there is more about this on the website.

Also we have the annual Learning Technologist of the Year Awards (#LTAwards), to recognise excellence in the sector. The awards are open internationally but most applicants are UK based. You can nominate someone else, or yourself. We normally announce these in April, so watch this space. Again, this is a great way to boost your CV but there is also a cash prize. This year the winner has been working on using Minecraft in teaching.

We have run ALT publications for years – we used to have the ALT Newsletter which we have now rebranded as the #ALTC Blog – anyone can contribute to this and we have editors who are all ALT members. We have around 225 posts and counting and look for posts of around 500 words each. Again, a great way to get information out.

We also have Research in Learning Technology (used to be known as ALTJ), and a great way to get full on research publications out there. It is a peer reviewed open access journal. It is rolling submission – although we have the capacity to do special issues. Again this publishing schedule fits with the roles and schedules of ALT members. There are no submission fees like some other open access journals – so little overhead to submitting. And the process can be very useful for preparing to submit to elsewhere. We have a bit of a boom at the moment so we currently have a call out for new editors – so if you are interested do take a look. Full details of submission processes can be found on the journal website.

As I mentioned we also have the annual conference, which is a really interesting conference but can melt your brain slightly – 3 very busy days! How many here have gone to the ALT conference? And how do you find it?

Comment) I find every second year works well. I like that you get a broad overview of what is happening in the sector, and a way to take the temperature of the sector in a fairly unique way.

Even if you can’t make it in person we do livestream a lot of the keynotes and plenary sessions, so we haven’t announced our keynote speaker. Last year we have Laura Cernovicz from Capetown, South Africa on ethics of education, open access, open education etc. We also had Jonathan Worth from University of Coventry, who has experimented with opening up courses to wider audiences and the challenges on informed and implied consent around use of social media in these. We also had Steve Wheeler. In the plenaries we had Rebecca ? from Oxford University on scaling learning analytics there. The videos of sessions are all available online on the ALT YouTube channel. It’s worth looking back to 2014 as we had some great speakers then including Audrey Walters, Catherine Cronin and Jeff Hayward.

In terms of other events note that OER16 is in Edinburgh next April – here at University of Edinburgh and co-chaired by Lorna Campbell and Melissa Highton.

Lorna: This year we are focusing on open cultures and making connections to galleries, museums. Submissions are closed at the moment – we are marking those right now. In terms of speakers we have Catherine Cronin, University of Galway; Melissa Highton, University of Edinburgh; John Scally, NLS; Emma Smith, Oxford University on Open Shakespeare work; and Jim Groom from DS106 – a MOOC or perhaps a cult – and the forefront of open higher education. The conference is on 19th and 20th April and registration will open up shortly. And it would be great to see a good cross-section of Edinburgh folk there.

Martin: ALT’s work with OER is a more recent thing, in terms of supporting its’ running. And that is in recognition of the importance of openness. And it’s worth noting that the call for OER17 chairs is now open.

The other thing to be aware of is the ALT Online Winter Conference 2015 – a free conference online, open to anyone to drop into and participate. Presenters all needed to be ALT members. And we hope to run this again this year. The call will go out in September so keep an eye out for that.

Something else ALT does is the policy side. So, a big plug here for our ALT Annual Survey – which is our opportunity to understand current and future practice, to enable us to represent our members needs. And this information helps us understand those needs for policy responses as well, for instance on the development of the Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy for Scotland. Currently ALT is preparing a response to the TEF as well.

One of the things I wanted to talk about was… last night I tweeted that I’d be talking here and was looking for what the benefit of being a member of ALT is… Originally I asked about technology and I realised there were technologies I wouldn’t have had access to without being part of ALT… For instance last year we ran an event here at the Informatics Forum where we got to use a real Oculus Rift – certainly at CES VR is supposed to be the big thing. Also John Kerr at Glasgow Caledonian had Google Glass along to see how his projects with it worked. There are opportunities to be introduced to new technologies. Also BuddyPress was something that in 2009 at the ALT Conference Joss Winn was experimenting with BuddyPress and finding it useful… Fast forward and we use BuddyPress in ALT activities, online courses etc. And it was that connection and chat that led to that solution… Again these are part of the benefits of being part of this lovely melting pot of people, contributing to the ALT community… Less about what than who in many ways.

Other benefits include discounts for the ALT conference (a big one), we also negotiate with other conferences – e.g. Online Educa this year.

Finally… Emerging areas and my advice on this…

This is related to the ALT community/membership thing. Throughout my career I have gotten the most out of technology by being flexible in what I focus on – but you do need to focus on things in some depth. A benefit of being part of a wider community means they can filter through those a bit, making you aware of them as they do. I have at various times worked on voting systems, peer instruction, Twitter, learning analytics… So, my advice is… With such a broad field keep half an eye of what is going on – and the ALT community is great for that – but also delve in and get lost in…

And with that Martin is done… and we open up for some discussion on emerging areas… this group suggests they include: policy; what an institution is and what its bounds are in the face of online education; teacher presence in various contexts, including the impact of MOOCs on student expectations.

Martin: Expectations are a really interesting area… In peer instruction you move things out of the classroom. Back when we trialled some of those approaches and moved a lecture out, the students resisted… They wanted that lecture, and to be in that room.

Comment: I think that depends on trust in peers… My undergraduate experience involved trusting some but there were also risks of social bullying dynamics and I would have had real concern about that.

Martin: The social aspect of being at an institution is a high priority… Whether an online experience can replicate that is interesting. And digital identity and the transitions between one form of digital identity to another, the move to professional attributes. Which is why learning technology is never dull!

And with that we broke for lunch and discussion. You can explore Martin’s magic live tweets and Lorna Campbell’s (less automated but no less impressive) live tweets in the Storify below:

You can also view the full story “Martin Hawksey talk on ALT for eLearning@ed (6th Jan 2016)” on Storify.