There is absolutely no doubt that 2016 was an utterly horrific one on so many levels. Many people have written of their frustrations and pain much more eloquently than I ever could so I simply want to wish that the new year brings significantly less tragedy and pain.
Somewhat guiltily against this dark backdrop of world events my professional life was in contrast full of new adventures, positivity and highlights. Initially when planning this post I listed my achievements to frame the story however I quickly realised that the story wasn’t about my achievements but with the Communities of Practice that underpinned the achievements. Four distinct CoPs stood out but at times the lines blurred between them and overlap occurred.
MSc in Digital Education #mscde
I gained a Masters in Computer Based Learning back in the distance past of 2002 and since then my continuing professional development has consisted of informal means. However, in 2016 I felt it was time to embark on a new formal course that was more focussed on the sociocultural aspect of technology enhanced learning as opposed to practical topics. Having participated in the #edcmooc a couple of years previously I knew that the Masters in Digital Education offered by the same team would be perfect. So in January this year I found myself enrolled again as a student of the University of Edinburgh, this time as a postgraduate.
Now a year later I am amazed at how unexpected it has been so far. As it is a fully online course I have been able to fit it into my already full schedule despite the demanding workload. It has been such an immersive experience and I have learnt so much from both staff and students. Even after only a few months I started new initiatives and implemented new projects sparked by discussions and work within the course. Reigniting this blog, planning LEGO workshops, creating digital stories, falling in love with writing again to name a few.
It is impossible for me to convey the scale of how the course has changed my practice, not least the experience of being a student on a distance learning course. The central element has been the discourse between tutors and students and technology has consistently taken a back seat, whilst simultaneously being up front and centre, as without it the human connections literally couldn’t exist for me. Being in Belfast I feel just as much a student in Edinburgh as I did as an undergraduate on the physical campus.
Association of Learning Technology #altc
Having been on the periphery of ALT for almost a decade I felt that it was time to become of full member and officially joined as an individual member in April this year.
Joining the association was also the impetus required for me to complete my portfolio for CMALT after many, many years of procrastination. I have been documenting this journey as I went along and discovered, unexpectedly, that the new connections I made with other members was just as rich as the reflective process was in itself. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a positive outcome of the assessment process and that it is just the start of a long connection with the project as I would love to act as a mentor/supporter for others to see them through the process.
In December I was privileged to get the opportunity to present at the Winter Online Conference. This being a double first as not only was it my first ALT presentation but it was my first experience at delivering a fully online talk. Admittedly, it didn’t go one hundred percent smoothly but coping with the situation was a crucial part of the learning curve and I don’t even think the audience realised that anything untoward had even taken place. First rule of online delivery learnt – don’t panic! I feel that I can’t legitimately advise academic staff to undertake activities that I haven’t had first hand experience of myself so this afforded me the perfect chance.
I was a behind the scenes observer (aka lurker) of the LTHEchat tweetchat for a long time but it wasn’t until May of this year that I decided to jump in. One of the drivers for this was my CMALT portfolio and the other that it looked like a supportive and fun community. This, as it turned out, was exactly what it was. With all the other demands of life I rarely get the peace to answer all six questions each week but I enjoy the chances I do get to join in and have learnt a lot from the experience.
A totally unexpected turn of events resulted in the chance to actually lead a chat at the end of November on the subject of Student Induction. This was a daunting event in the run up, having myself bouncing around Twitter but I was thrilled to have a Simon Rae drawing for the topic, see the tweet below. Facilitating on the night was as hectic and fast paced as joining in normally and I just dove in and typed/read as fast as humanly possible.
— Simon Rae (@simonrae) November 21, 2016
There were so many great experiences and ideas and one of the first things on my list for 2017 is to collate these all into a post to share in addition to the Storify. If you haven’t participated in a tweetchat before I would thoroughly recommend this one as a great starting point. The experience has also given me the confidence to join other chats over recent months, although the ability to create razor sharp witty tweets on the fly is still somewhat elusive.
It may seem odd to include my own institution in a list of 2016 CoPs as I celebrated being a member of staff for a decade in February 2016. It goes without saying that I have worked closely with colleagues throughout these years but during this year some of these associations were cemented into much more specific and supportive networks. These have been in place for only a few months but have already proved to be really effective for increasing productivity and providing crucial mentor support.
Connections – human and digital
All of the people involved in these CoPs influenced my work and writing over the course of 2016, however, Twitter was the vehicle that made the connections possible. This single point of communication has allowed me to follow/chat/learn with and from people all over the world and empowered me to be a more open practitioner. I have been encouraged during 2016 to really dig down deep in my reflections over the year and critically question and review my professional practices.
The new year is just about to begin and already brimming with new possibilities and connections, some already in motion but some still nascent – the majority of outcomes still unknown. Many more twists and turns are to be taken in my learning labyrinth but I would like to sign off this post with a huge thanks to so many influential members of all of the CoPs listed above I hope you each know how important you are…