Earlier this week I went along to the ALT Winter Conference CPD Rebooted – Creative Professional Development for Learning Technology and, as is always the case with ALT events, I came away with a great deal to think about. There were some excellent presentations; Nic Whitton’s talk on games in education was particularly fascinating. I’m not a gamer myself, but I’m very interested in the affordances of playful learning and games in education.
David Hopkins, Clive Young and James Keift also gave three excellent presentations on CPD for learning technologists, career progression or lack thereof, and routes to CMALT accreditation, however I came away with a nagging feeling that much of their good advice didn’t really apply to me.
In some ways this is related to the debate about “what makes a learning technologist?” that recently took place on the ALT-Members mailing list. I’m not even going to attempt to summarise what was a lengthy, wide ranging and very considered discussion, however one contribution that I particularly identified with came, as it often does, from Amber Thomas. In a blog post called Perhaps I’m not one?, which aimed to “give a voice to other learning technologists who feel like they don’t fit the standard description”. Amber pointed out that learning technologists come in many different flavours and all make a uniquely valuable contribution.
Although I occupy a very different niche from Amber these days, her post really chimed with my experience of working in education technology. In response to her plea that
“People like me shouldn’t have to pretend to be something we’re not.”
“This, a thousand times over! I think it’s much harder to get recognition if you don’t fit neatly into one category or another.”
Which brings me back to the thinky thoughts raised by CPD Rebooted….It seems to me that there is a distinction between the various flavours of learning technologists who are employed by colleges and universities and whose primary remit is to support and develop the use of education technology within the institution, and those that are employed by advisory services, for want of a better word, and who have a more sector facing role. I realise this is a bit of a sweeping generalisation, but I think the former group of learning technologists have quite different opportunities for, and experiences of, career progression and CPD than the latter. In fact I might even go so far as to say that the latter group have very little opportunity for planned career progression and CPD at all. With advisory services being axed left, right and centre (TechDis was the latest in a long line of invaluable service to be despatched this week) many highly experienced professionals are increasingly finding themselves in the position of having to jump from one short term contract to the next. What does effective CPD look like for colleagues who may have little say in how their career progresses and who lack the job security to plan any kind of professional development, continuous, creative or otherwise? Of course you could argue that scrambling from one contract to the next is in itself a form of CPD, if a rather extreme one!
I’ve worked in education technology for over fifteen years, for much of that time as a researcher employed on short term contracts. During that time I’ve undertaken very little formal CPD, although I do try very hard to be an open practitioners and my skills have certainly developed through the many projects I’ve worked on. I’ve never sought any form of accreditation or certification, as these skills don’t seem to fit into the kind of boxes that often make up accreditation frameworks, which circles back again to the points that Amber raised in her blog post.
All of which makes me wonder if there is more of a role for ALT in providing innovative routes to creative professional development for people like me who don’t fit neatly into the boxes and who often have very little control over how their career progresses? I should confess at this stage that it’s a while since I’ve had a proper look at CMALT, so it’s quite possible that CMALT already does all of this and I am just woefully behind the times :} That said, I’d be very interested to hear how other colleagues in a similar position manage, or even just think about, their own professional development.