2017: Risky Business

Confession: In true click bait form there are no dubious teenage antics, including dancing in underpants, to be found in this post.

I wasn’t going to do an end of year reflection this year because the entire year involved reflecting in a myriad of different spaces and also because it was a tad shit. However, when I sat down to write my goals for 2018, I was stuck as I kept thinking back so here are my thoughts in my ageing, rambling fashion.

As previously mentioned this wasn’t a great year professionally or personally (not to mention the crazy goings on in the wider world around me) so let’s get this bit out of the way quickly and painlessly.

The bad stuff

First up, after many years of ‘doing’ I decided to supercharge my professional development and threw my normal introverted cautiousness to the wind and took risks, lots of them and up until November I royally bombed out, every single bleedin’ one was a fail! It super sucked and I came close to jacking the whole thing in (except of course for the small matter of needing a salary).

All this took place in parallel to studying two modules for my MSc in Digital Education and family illness which meant being in a very bad place combined with physical and mental exhaustion – full time job, part time study, parenting. Any single fail wouldn’t have made me think twice but the cumulative effect was the problem. There was no solid ground, only a blackness beneath me that threatened to suck me in, it destabilised everything else and tainted things but I had to keep going and going, deadline after deadline. I should have been broken but … two things combined to force the darkness to recede: people (both colleagues and my Twitter community – more below) and catching myself up short with the sharp reminder that health is the only thing that actually matters. In essence my stubbornness kicked in and a point-blank refusal to be kept down. There done, chapter closed, onwards – the bruises are healing.

The good stuff

This is summed up by four important words: creating, connecting, writing (so much writing) and openness but details are below.

LEGO® and all things creative

After the holidays a lovely delivery of LEGO was waiting for me and over the year I introduced LEGO Serious Play workshops for first year medical students, firstly for Development Weeks and secondly for Welcome Week. Despite being ‘scary as’ the response from students was overwhelming and the level of honesty and reflection during seventeen sessions was far more than myself or my colleagues could ever have imagined. We also ran a writing version for healthcare educators which turned out to be a fabulous feminist session. Note to self – write this up!

MSc in Digital Education (#mscde)

I managed three challenging and demanding modules over the course of the year and I am just finishing up the last (shh, I should be finishing writing for that, not this). These entailed learning a new motor skill – I picked crochet, researching a MOOC by taking a MOOC, feeding a WordPress site via IFTTT every day for over twelve weeks, staring down the lens of the dystopian future that is looking increasingly more possible, trying to make sense of complexity and ending with some thoughts on achieving serendipity in a digital world of surveillance. I will be both relieved and sad to finish as it was such a fun course and there were still modules I would have loved to have taken and the staff are all amazing. It changed the way I think about educational technology and learning in general and it has and will continue to change my work. As always, I thoroughly recommend checking out their website.

As an aside I tried to persuade workshop attendees in Canada that distance doesn’t have to be a deficit model – but I am not convinced that I won the room over, however, I met yet more amazing Twitter people (at a distance) in the process. My arguments are here for anyone that doubts that creativity can be achieved online and/or disparately.

Association of Learning Technology (#alt-c)

One of the first things to arrive in my inbox at the start of the year was my CMALT certificate and after so many years of procrastination I was super chuffed to get it through first time. I immediately grabbed the chance to become an assessor which has led to new connections and a perfect way of learning new things whilst giving back to the community. The idea of a Northern Ireland Members Group had been simmering in the background for a few years but in spring we got this up and going in earnest. This involved reaching out to colleagues across the country, we are small but we are growing. The feelings of isolation are being reduced (at a recent event I found that having my trusty ALT sticker on my laptop proved a useful conversation opener). We virtually attended the ALT annual conference together as a group which resulted in the sharing of ideas and experiences.

Then after many years of internal campaigning Queen’s became an institutional member, as did Ulster University. Lastly, towards the end of the year I attended the joint committee day in Birmingham which meant meeting a lot of Twitter folk and talking about the future of the CMALT process with Bryan Mathers visualising our thoughts live. The association started my year and it ended it as well with the Winter Conference. My talk built on a lot of the PowerPoint skills I have been working on over the last year or two and how to exploit its strength for creativity and not deathly slides of bullet points. All in all, the two days in December were packed with many inspirational and instructive sessions.

It has taken me to write this to realise just how big a part the association played this year in my professional practice.

Connected Learning MOOC #clmooc

Having watched this hashtag from the side-lines for several years I decided to jump in this year to see what it was all about. Turns out it is about a whole lot of fun. Over the summer, I contributed to a colouring book, sent and received postcards, made gifs, participated in a hangout and learned to doodle. For me this was more evidence to support the success of creativity at a distance and I was in awe of how participants took artefacts from each other and remixed them in ever more creative ways. The key however, is that there are many ways to join in and different spaces ensure it is inclusive. Read all about it here.

This also lead me to contribute every now and again to #ds106 and at the end of the year there was a December challenge of a doodle a day with #decdoodle. Some family examples:

Efforts from age 4, age 10, age 12 and ages …

For me the benefits of this organised system of creative prompts were many. Firstly, it was like going to creative gym, because you joined up you felt you had to commit so I used it to try to get into a creative habit – something small every day. It was non-work, work and so I enjoyed doing many of the activities with the whole family, it was inclusive in all senses (the youngest even got a tiny moment of internet fame). It was/is a perfect way to make myself experiment and to try things out which I normally wouldn’t. It also encourages resourcefulness as many activities take place when away from home with only a mobile or tablet to hand. Finally, it provided the perfect antidote to the dystopian world of politics and edtech that seemed to dominate the year. People coming together across the globe simply to have some fun and create multimedia to share with others brought much needed relief and ensured that my Twitter timeline was as positive as I could curate it to be.

Now that my course is coming to an end I hope to be able to be more regular with my contributions and my main aims are to try to be more reflexive and less of ‘it must be elaborate/detailed/perfect’ before submitting, along with significantly improving my doodling skills.


This usually lurks right at the back of my work life but this year brought it out into the light – that’s all I am going to say on the subject.

The fight back

Being awarded Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy and winning an Educator Development Award from The Association for the Study of Medical Education brought the year to a close on a high, topped off with a Christmas break, the first for a whole year. Exotic destinations included Dublin, Exeter, Sligo and Birmingham – beat that with a big stick!

Hurray: Certificates

There were many more highlights and many more connections but enough for now, they may pop up in future posts…

Here’s to 2018 … happy new year everyone

2 thoughts on “2017: Risky Business

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  1. I loved this Clare!
    My 2017 was very much a game of two halves! (and I’ll say no more than that!) But for 2018 I am really looking forward to continuing with the MSc in Digital Education. I think I’ve missed it the last couple of months. Definitely my highlight over the last year has been the developments in the ALT Northern Ireland Members groups and getting to meet other people who are working in the same field locally. That definitely wouldn’t have happened only for you and Craig persevering with setting this up – so thanks very much!

    1. Thanks Emma, it was definitely an odd year all round.
      We wouldn’t have achieved all the ALT things without you (want to do a last minute pecha kucha anyone??)! Here’s hoping that 2018 is a real adventure for us and involves lots more coffee meetings.

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