This sub-section of my website is specifically focused on CMALT certification. In it, I provide insight on Operational Issues; Teaching, Learning and Assessment Processes; a View of the Wider Context; Communication; my Specialism; and Future Plans.
2. Teaching, Learning and Assessment Processes
Demonstrating understanding of and engagement with teaching, learning and assessment processes.
Core area 1: Operational Issues
You should show how you have used technology appropriately, given the constraints and benefits it provides within your context.
Evidence in support of such statements might include a brief commentary on the choices behind the development and use of learning technology that influence its fitness for purpose. (This might discuss issues as viability, sustainability, scalability, interoperability and value for money.) You may already have something like this in the form of a design outline, proposal, conference presentation or similar. You should include such existing documentation wherever it seems relevant. Alternatively, you might want to take this opportunity to find out more about a technology you have deployed and produce a report on its viability.
In this section, I am to demonstrate both my understanding and use of learning technology. The word ‘use’ has been defined under CMALT guidelines as including:
“the use of technology to enhance learning and teaching, the development, adoption or
deployment of technology to support teaching, training or learning” (CMALT Guidelines, 2018)
Throughout my career, developing from post-graduate study, I have been a keen advocate of how technology can improve the learning process. This has led to presentations to Senior Management teams regarding regarding strategic plans for the implementation of new learning technologies for staff; administration of virtual learning platforms for education and community groups; and ultimately developing a pedagogical perspective into which technology enhanced learning can make a difference to student learning and aid greater educational achievement.
The way I have always approached Education technology has always been influenced by my own teaching background. This means that when I am considering the use of a new technology, I will always be focusing on the educational problem that is being addressed by the use of technology. It should not only solve the problem, in terms of being fit for purpose, but also be the best possible solution. The use of technology should never be simply for the sake of using technology.
Recent experience in studying Applied Behaviour Analysis at post-graduate level online with Queens University Belfast has also help frame my understanding of how to apply certain technology tools in education.
In a previous role in Springvale Learning & Employment, I was responsible for the development of the organisation VLE. This was a new venture for the training agency, but an area that I could develop fully within the organisation because of previous study and professional training. I chose Moodle as the VLE backend because it has developed and matured into a solid Open Educational Resource VLE.
After development of the VLE, I was responsible for developing a staff development plan that detailed training requirements. To help with this, I extended my own learning and professional development by completing the Microsoft innovative Educator programme, which further developed my own understanding and application of 21st Century Skills and how to develop problem solving skills in students.
Northern Regional College
In my current employment as a computing lecturer and Course Director for the Foundation Degree in Computing programme, I am able to make use of a number of skills that enhances learning and student engagement. In our new curriculum programme, we have introduced new initiatives to enhance the student experience.
We made the decision to use Slack as a way to improve student/staff communications, as well as improve the student learning experience. Slack is a real-time business app that allows for collaboration, information to be shared, learning to take place on a digital level that can aid student development in a number of different ways – formally and informally. As Slack is a business tool, an additional positive experience for students is the informal soft-skill learning that can take place in becoming more accustomed to how to talk in an informal work setting. The skills also learned in using a new piece of software that is web and mobile based will also be of benefit to student learning. We have used Slack to complement our DLE by providing students with synchronous learning. An example of this has been lecturers posting revision questions to their class in the run up to exams. We have also found it useful to get information out to students in a way that is quicker than email.
Our DLE is built on Moodle and Slack offers us a more flexible option compared to the ‘Big Blue Button’ in Moodle. To share a similar experience to Slack on Moodle, each lecturer would have to implement their own blue button in their module which would result in a disjointed and unconnected approach, which would also result in information being siloed from other parts of the course. Slack provides our students and staff with one area in which all course information is available through an appropriate channel and will allow students to find the information they require without having to search across multiple pages within the college DLE.
As part of our new Foundation Degree curriculum, we have made time to implement the concept of Genius Hour. This is where students are given 20% of their class time to explore their own passions and creativity to create. This will be implemented within the computing industry but for our students, could see development of a new skill, tool, or product that could shape their career in ways we as an industry have not realised yet.
As an origin, genius hour most famously has been used by Google. 20% of an engineers’ week is given to Genius Hour. This ability to go off to explore and create has resulted in Google adopting projects into their ecosystem – Google News, Gmail and AdSense were all created by employees during this time. It is the intention of this programme to develop in students, the realisation that creating new and better ways to work is what drives innovation.
An Understanding of the Constraints and Benefits of Different Technology
You should show how you have used (or supported others to use) technology appropriately, given the constraints and benefits it provides within your context. This might include how you selected particular technologies to meet the specific needs of users (students or staff).
Evidence in support of such statements might include a brief commentary on the choices behind the development and use of learning technology that influence its fitness for purpose. (This might discuss issues such as affordances of the technology, viability, sustainability, scalability, interoperability and value for money.) You may already have something like this in the form of a design outline, proposal, conference presentation or similar. You should include such existing documentation wherever it seems relevant. Alternatively, you might want to take this opportunity to find out more about a technology you have deployed and produce a report on its viability.
I have always believed in an ‘appropriate’ and ‘considered’ use of technology; to use technology to enhance or improve the learning outcome.
In my current role as Course Coordinator for the Foundation Degree in Computing, I have put in place this academic year (2018/19) the use of the messaging app Slack. This is aimed to help develop better communication between staff and students as well as move away from an over-reliance on email. The use of Slack is designed to compliment the use of our college Digital Learning Environment. The college DLE is based on Moodle. There are imitations to this software – there are recurring issues with students uploading coursework submissions and also issues with presentation.
Some lecturers will use the college DLE poorly and present course content as a file-dump. Others will take time to present their course well and clearly structured learning materials for students to use. The concept of uploading a file for students to download and use, can be considered under-developed or poor pedagogy. We can present the file for the student – a PowerPoint presentation from a lecture for example, but follow a consistent naming structure so that access by the student, when they need that file, can be meaningful. Within the Moodle VLE system, there is the ability to add a description to the file, and in this it would be considered good practice to use this section to provide a brief 2-3 lines of what the file is, what learning material is in the file, why the student will need it, what the student will learn in the file, and what is to be completed next.
With the changing demographic of students studying at the college, their has been an increase in the training around the range of learning strategies, including the promotion asynchronous learning. I have felt the need to develop a range of technological expertise which support this range of teaching and learning. Below are a list of the technologies which I have used or I am currently using in order to support my own teaching, learning and assessment.
- Podcasting – Audacity, Adobe Audition – this is an old skill that I have had for a number of years, but one that I am returning to in a new initiative for foundation degree students. This will involve podcasts on module lectures and new developments that are relevant to specific modules.
- Screencasting – Camtasia – I use Camtasia for recording screen activity to demonstrate programming of Java and HTML for students to review concepts that were discussed and demonstrated in class. I will also record my own explanation of the demonstration to accompany the demonstration and aid learning.
- Virtual Learning – Moodle – Our college DLE is built on Moodle, I have used this in a number of educational and community settings. My Masters study also focused on earlier versions of Moodle.
- Online curation – Flipboard – I use Flipboard as an online magazine in which I curate and generate content for students in the area of Computing. This will pull articles from around the internet to help students with tutorials or
- Social Media – Facebook Pages, Twitter – We use these in college to market our department and showcase events when we have visits from our employer partners or showcase lectures on digital learning, online safety or industry visits.
- Websites – WordPress – I administrate my own website in which I will write articles on areas of education that are of interest to me, as well as host sites for other projects
- Presentation Software – PowerPoint, Slideshare – this is the basis of lecture material, which will serve as a starting point for students in their learning. It is also used to present information within teaching sessions and to model effective practice for Further and Higher Education.
- Discussion – Online discussion boards, Slack – We use discussion boards in some of our foundation degree modules, I have specifically been responsible for the development of the discussion board programme within the Information Systems module. As a course co-ordinator, I have also initiated our use of Slack as a means of improving communications between staff and students, as well as using it as an informal learning platform.
In week 4 of the Information Systems module, we plan for an online discussion forum. It is planned to help students present their thoughts on the weeks reading material for class. It is structured that students will make two points, in around 200 words and should also comment on another students’ post.
This method of learning was used in the Applied Behaviour Analysis course I studied with Queens University Belfast. It was primarily an online course and so this method of distance learning worked for students who had a different geographical and professional experience of the material. This part of this course was assessed and so I found the weekly discussions on different topics was very helpful towards my own understanding of how theory worked in practice. I have found that the use of an online discussion forum in this module has had mixed success. Some of the students have been reluctant to comment, but this might be different if there was an assessment weighting to this element of the course.
What I have learned from this
Having experienced a wide range of software and applications, I have learned that it is important to recommend or choose not only the correct technology for the job but also the one which will support the process of teaching and learning the most effectively. As my skills increase in a range of technologies, it has allowed me to become more critical in the use of the software and on my reflections of what each software provides. It continues to be a central aspect of my teaching that I continue to use technology to enhance the teaching, learning and assessment process rather than just using technology for the ‘sake’ of using it. As a next step I want to work more on applying the range of skills I have acquired and embedding these within my own practice which will hopefully lead to sharing this practice with colleagues within the institution and maybe wider.
My experience has also taught me that not everything works straight away! With some plans, there needs to be a buy-in from staff and students. For this, there needs to be a visible benefit for each. And as I am currently finding with our use of Slack, there is a slow buildup that is happening, but needs time and encouragement.
Technical Knowledge and Ability in the Use of Learning Technology
You should show that you have used a range of learning technologies. These might include web pages, Virtual Learning Environments, Computer-Aided Assessment, blogs, wikis, mobile technology, e-books, programming languages and so on.
Evidence might include copies of certificates (originals not needed) from relevant training courses, screenshots of your work, a note from academic or support staff who have worked with you or, if appropriate, confirmation that the work is your own from your line manager.
Supporting the Deployment of Learning Technologies
Statements about your involvement in supporting the deployment of learning technology might relate to providing technical and/or pedagogic support to teachers or learners, advising on (or re-designing to take account of) technical and usability issues, developing strategies or policies, managing change, providing training or other forms of professional development, securing or deploying dedicated funding and so on, all within the context of the educational use of learning technology.
For evidence, you might include the overview section of a strategy document, meeting minutes, summaries of student feedback, testimonials or witness statements from other colleagues.
Within my current programme of work, my department manager has recognised the time that is needed to provide support and advice for colleagues within the foundation degree team, and so hours have been allocated to provide this support and prepare subject specific materials. Within the Computing department I lead a team (consisting of fellow lecturers) in considering the appropriate technologies to focus sessions on as well as new technologies to investigate. Within this module we also team teach in order to share expertise. This team also is working on auditing staff for their expertise in using technology to enhance their teaching as well as subsequently organising and providing training to support their own development.
In my previous employment in Springvale Learning, I was made responsible for Technology Enhanced Learning. At the time, TEL did not exist within the organisation and so I started with an audit of staff with regards to their IT skills, areas for development. This provided me with an extensive list of where staff felt they could improve their teaching and learning within the context of technology enhanced learning. To deliver this, I lent heavily on the framework provided by the Microsoft Innovative Educator programme and other online courses offered by EdX and Udemy.
I was also responsible for the development of using the organisation’s VLE. Staff previously had used one, but it had been little more than a file dump and so a complete overhaul of how this was approached was needed. This involved a comprehensive training programme in how to use a VLE, how to teach using a VLE and how to engage students using a technology enhanced approach to learning. Within this was a programme in how to engage and motivate students, as the students who enrolled in Springvale were historically, students who had disengaged from education, had attendance issues, and were reluctant learners.
Teaching on modules with colleagues has also allowed me share my use of mobile technologies and progressive use of technology within learning.
What I have Learned and Next Steps
Initially I was very pleased to be asked to share my practice with others but I soon came to realise that in supporting colleagues and sharing practice this also allowed me to critique my own practice as well as acknowledging the limitations of the use of technology within other disciplines. This became the most important part of sharing practice and working with colleagues. Through discussion it has been possible to explore how technology can support pedagogy in a range of disciplines as well as discuss a range of attitudes and limitations to its implementation. I have developed a more overarching view of specific technology and then use this understanding to support colleagues, always starting from their initial ‘problem’ or requirements from within their subject or module of study. Technology should always be seen as something to enhance the learning process rather than just being there for the ‘sake’ of using technology. Supporting colleagues has definitely made me realise this and, on occasions, I have recommended a less technological approach as a solution rather than providing a tenuous link. This is important for colleagues who may have less technological skill as me, as it displays to them in a practical manner that not everything is about the technology, but about the best way in which to learn a concept. As for my next steps I want to continue to develop my understanding of a range of technologies as well as the theoretical support for these in order to strengthen my discussion with colleagues. This will be thorugh CPD in a formal (qualification based) and informal (online learning CPD courses). I will also plan to attend conferences and engage with existing, established good practice which will also benefit me with the support I provide for colleagues – I also see sign posting to existing good practice as an effective way of facilitating support.