As this is an entirely new section for Senior CMALT, and a blank slate to start from scratch, the tough part was trying to settle on the most appropriate topic but after reflection, I have opted for community building as it is one of the achievements that I am most proud of over the last few years.
Together with colleagues across Queen’s University Belfast we began to put together a proposal for a Northern Ireland regional ALT group. During the initial phases, there were a few pauses and delays but eventually in 2016 the group was given the go-ahead. The most important thing was to get a committee together to get the group cemented under off the ground. One of the most important things was to ensure that this group would have voices beyond Queens University I reached out to colleagues who I knew personally and those that I had connected with on social media. Now that we had a committee the first thing, we wanted to plan was a launch event to reach out to as many people across the Northern Ireland education sectors as possible. Emma McAllister and I even did a Pecha Kucha at the Jisc Connect More 2017 event at Ulster University to advertise the group.
Since then, we have had a launch event and an annual event in 2019. These were well attended (around 60 for the launch and 80+ for 2019) with fantastic talks and guest speakers, the first held at Ulster University and the second at Queen’s University Belfast. Unfortunately, the 2020 event was postponed due to the pandemic. Craig Dooley and I have also facilitated two cycles of CMALT workshops including securing a scholarship for five candidates from ALT. From these events, three candidates have gained their CMALT so far, with many others in the pipeline, all of which I am sure would have finished by now had it not been for the pandemic.
I am currently co-chair of the group and over the years I have written blog posts for our website, co-organised the live events (from creating ALT logo topped buns to inviting guest speakers, organising gifts for speakers, creating a make your own badge stand, marketing materials, evaluations and much, much more), mentor CMALT candidates (providing feedback on portfolios and assessing) and trying to keep up with Tweets from our account.
As co-chair of the group I have also contributed to the ALT Assembly over the last few years which has led to new connections and being able to share information from our members, feed into initiatives and report back to the group. Further, I have been able to reach out to the Ireland Edtech group Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA) to connect.
From a personal perspective, I invited Kate Molloy, National University Ireland Galway, to speak at one of the CMALT workshops and since then we have collaborated on several workshops critiquing the resilience and wellbeing narrative with regards to self-care in education; OER20, Digital Pedagogy Lab 2020, IUADigEd December 2020 and the upcoming OER21. I also joined the Blackboard User Group Ireland through this connection.
— Dr Maren Deepwell (@MarenDeepwell) March 8, 2018
Ah, a throwback to 2018, and me blending naturally into the Northern Irish edtech community. Whilst progress in digital has been rapid, I'm looking forward to the inspiration of in-person discussion again @JiscNI @A_L_T_NI pic.twitter.com/N6qrqyebaK
— Jason Miles-Campbell (@JasonJisc) March 14, 2021
— Craig Dooley (@craigdooley) May 29, 2019
— Tracy Galvin (@TracyGalvin77) May 29, 2019
Blog post comment regarding impact of ALT NI group (view on original post):
ALT Assemby badge:
Doing this work often falls on top of my day to day role so as with everyone this is the most difficult aspect – finding and dedicating enough time. This has been especially so during the pandemic. Our work centres on technology used within education but my description above lacks reference to educational technology. Rather it is all about the human connections and relationships that have arisen from a community talking about technology in education – that is source of joy for me from all of my work. Seeing people talking, finding common interests, starting new projects, getting new jobs, winning awards; all the things which make a community rich. Whenever people turn to me for advice, it is hugely rewarding and a privilege to be able to use all of the information and knowledge over fifteen years to put them in touch with the best person to assist them.
I was looking forward to our 2020 event, as one of the biggest highlights of the year. With a fantastic line up of speakers and I was conjuring up lots of new playful approaches to try out, it was gutting to have to write to the speakers to postpone due to the pandemic. As a committee we all had workloads soar and unbelievably it is a year on and we haven’t had any time to rearrange. Something that is foremost in my mind to sort out in the first moment of calm, because event planning is one of the areas I love and it lets me flex all of my organisational skills, with creative flair.
As I am writing this being a learning technologist in the midst of a pandemic seems to be a double-edged sword – being in huge demand but yet still focus remains on the tech and not the human, and precarity is very much on everyone’s mind. In three/four years I would love us all to be considered as experts in our field and held as partners within learning and teaching strands of work. Involved with more teaching and researching if would we like to do so. Promotion and professional development are still difficult for many with routes being unclear and limited in number. I will continue to push the boundaries of what is expected and work to raise the voices within learning technology. Therefore, boosting and sharing the achievements of our community members has been an important thing I maintained over the year to champion and celebrate their work, research, awards and promotions.