Sunday 11 September 2016

Bench-marking my practice – professional, ethical and inclusive

In my early years as a trainer and assessor I was encouraged to benchmark everything I developed against others in the industry – hopefully those who were better at it than me! I quickly joined the local Trainers and Assessors Network, but was disappointed to find that most weren’t actually interested in bench-marking, but rather protecting their own intellectual property. That attitude makes it very difficult to benchmark ones’ own professional practice.  To counter that I started to take every opportunity to observe other trainers and learn from them, not only what TO do, but also what NOT to do. In those early days I had the Assessor Code of Practice front and centre, but I find now that many Assessors don’t even know it exists. It’s been a while since I looked at it, so on a recent review, I was surprised to see how much of it has now become something we do for compliance rather than because we believe it’s what is best. Surely protecting the rights of candidates, avoiding harassment and maintaining confidentiality (to name a few points) should be expected of all Assessors because that’s what we WANT to do, not because we’re told we have to.

I’m particularly interested in the way a couple of the last points are worded: “Professional development opportunities are identified and sought” and “Opportunities for networking amongst assessors are created and maintained.”  Both are active, not passive, statements. It’s not “Professional development will be attended (reluctantly) when it’s handed to me on a plate”, but rather implies an active working out what I need and then seeking it out for myself. I think I’ve done this reasonably well in identifying and attending webinars, Twitter chats, live streamed conferences and MOOCs. I still need to work out how I can better engage my colleagues and encourage them to seek out their own PD.

Achieving a qualification can be seen as a means of bench-marking, but there is no specific qualification for my job role, and sadly, many Diploma qualified Assessors can’t navigate their way through a unit of competency, meaning this isn’t a satisfactory benchmark.

I can also benchmark against our organisational Code of Conduct which highlights the values of fairness, respect, integrity, professionalism, accountability and equality of opportunity. A few key points applicable to my role are the need to use current and accurate information and evidence: maintain up-to-date knowledge in our areas of work or scholarship, and in the professional, legal and ethical standards relevant to our areas of expertise: and to practice inclusiveness and respect for differences between people.

How do I do this? I subscribe to a barrage of industry newsletters by email, I participate in LinkedIn group discussions, and follow industry organisations on Twitter. In our team I’m recognised as the “information seeker” and I’m tasked with keeping the rest of the team informed – one of the benefits of our Myers-Briggs analysis a couple of years ago was identifying what tasks each of us enjoys.

Practicing inclusivity on our campus is a must: our staff include tradespeople who have spent years on the tools and come to us having never used a computer, admin staff fresh out of school, highly (and multi) qualified HE Lecturers and everything in between. We may not be multi-racial, but we are certainly multi-cultural. And I get to work with all of them! They know that if my door is open they are welcome to drop in with a query or a chat. They know that if they need assistance, there is nothing I enjoy more than getting out of my office, sitting beside them and helping to work out whatever is the issue. I love working with small groups in a training environment where I can make sure I give everyone opportunities to be involved.

I’d love to hear from other Instructional Designers or Learning Technologists – what are your professional benchmarks and where do you look to for professional development?

Saturday 10 September 2016

An ISFP in training

A couple of years ago our team invested in attending two Myers-Briggs workshops to help us identify our work preferences and develop our work relationships. 

Some people question how an introvert (like me) can possibly be an effective tour guide or trainer. I think the answer lies partly in the “F”, those with preferences for feeling base their decisions on values, empathy, mercy and harmony. We tend to be helpful, caring and very aware of the needs of others. The other part of the answer is the coping and management strategies we put in place.

I love being in a training environment with people who want to learn, I’m excited and invigorated, but by the end of the day I’m drained and exhausted and love nothing more than a quiet night in. For me, tour guiding and training are both acting. The “I” in me gets up in the morning and puts on my costume and away I go. My confidence is grounded in my subject matter knowledge and previous experience. The “F” in me loves to get alongside people and help them to see, understand and apply what they are learning – and rejoices on the inside.

So some of my strategies:
  • Preparation, preparation, preparation.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes – I don’t want to be worrying about what I’m revealing when I bend, lift or squat.
  • “Throw the monkey” – early in the training, get the monkey off my back by asking questions and getting learners actively involved. That gets the focus off me.
  • Create engaging activities that make learning fun.
  • Make it personal – find out as much as possible about the learners before, or as quickly as possible, and customise activities to their situation or environment.
  • Relax – for me that means a coffee on the desk and an unobtrusive piece of Blu-Tack in my hand to fidget with.

Networking with colleagues, peers and other practitioners

Living in Central Australia, and with the rest of my team in Darwin, I’m very conscious that my opportunities for local professional development and networking are limited. As a result, I have actively sought to build my own Professional Learning Network, primarily through social media. This includes actively participating in several weekly educational chats on Twitter (#AussieED, #digitaledchat, #IncludEDau), participating in live streamed conferences, Twitter backchannels and Google Hangouts and joining conversations on LinkedIn.

I find some of our staff are reluctant to share their work, even with their own colleagues, and feel that they have ownership of it personally, rather than the organisation, and in comparison, I have been amazed at the openness and willingness to share of the wider education community. I don’t think anyone has done any research into why staff feel this way; anecdotally they don’t trust the IT systems, they genuinely think their work belongs to them, they don’t want their colleagues to have it easy when they’ve done the hard yards and some don’t want others to be judging their work.

I’m excited to have three sessions in our Learning and Teaching Week this year to share with our staff some of the benefits of seeking out professional development through social media and to introduce them to Twitter chats. I’m hopeful that some will see the opportunities that being open provides and will start to apply that internally as well as externally. (Oh, and if you want to join us - look out for #AusVETchat on Wednesday)

A year since Nepal - why are some learners more enthusiastic than others?

We've just been on holiday for a month, and although I had limited access to internet I did find time to write some thoughts on my training experiences here and overseas. Anyway, why would I want to be on the internet when there were whales, dolphins, bears and glaciers to be watching. (Highly recommend Alaska as a holiday destination.)

I’m starting to get Facebook reminders of our time in Nepal last year, and as each one pops up I’m thinking more about the training we did there, what I learned in those situations, what I’ve applied already and what I would do differently in those situations now.

The most significant experience at the time was seeing the enthusiasm displayed by each group of learners. These were people who were all experienced in their field (community development, nursing, community health, finance) but with limited or no experience of working with a computer. They were amazed that we had travelled to their remote communities to spend time providing training opportunities and were more excited than any learners I have come across in fifteen years training in Australia. This experience has deepened my sense of privilege of access to learning and reignited my passion for training.

Having had this experience, I now question why we don’t see that same level of enthusiasm here. One common reason / excuse for not attending professional development is “I don’t have time”. At the beginning of this year I came across a blog put together by four Educational Technologists from the UK who were experiencing the same issue with their staff. Their blog, “1 minute CPD”, offers daily bite sized, just-in-time, professional development. James Clay’s blog post “I don’t have a dog”, shared recently through my Twitter PLN, is both entertaining and enlightening as he shares his thoughts that we all have the same number of minutes in a day and how we choose to use them is a matter of personal priorities. 

Through following 1 minute CPD this year I have improved my ICT proficiency, acquired new skills in classroom technologies and learnt to use curation tools … and so much more – and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned on my social media and with my colleagues. Sharing the 1 minute CPD concept and James’ thoughts have already proved helpful to me in encouraging staff to re-evaluate their priorities and to see professional development as something desirable and enjoyable and not just a compliance “tick the box”.

I now need to build on this and, with my team, determine the best way ahead for our staff – being very conscious that one model doesn’t fit every situation.

Friday 2 September 2016

Preparing for Learning and Teaching Week

I'm currently working on developing three sessions for our annual Learning and Teaching week at Charles Darwin University. Each year it's a focused week of professional development opportunities with in-house presentations, panel discussions, webinars and guest speakers.

This year we're opening it up and, with a couple of my colleagues, I'll be hosting a series of sessions for lecturers interested in exploring the use of technology, digital tools and social media for professional development and networking.

The final session in the series is a Twitter edchat on the topic of "Industry engagement in VET", and we’re inviting VET practitioners from other Registered Training Organisations and representatives from industry to join us as we discuss why industry and RTOs need to engage, and some practical approaches to making it happen.

Please join us on Wednesday 14th from 1pm - 2pm ACST on Twitter #AusVETchat

Thursday 21 July 2016

Starting a Reflective Journal

Oh dear!
I'm really not the best at blogging! I find my personal stuff goes onto Facebook and recording some of my professional discoveries goes into Twitter, but I seldom sit down and consciously reflect on what I'm learning or doing and how that impacts on my professional practice.
I'm into the last few units of my Diploma of Training Design and Development and one of the assessment tasks is a reflection journal:

Undertake a reflective process throughout this course of current facilitation and assessment practice, include:

o   Techniques and strategies you have developed appropriate to professional practice
o   How you apply ethical and inclusive practices in professional practice
o   Reflection on professional practice of current knowledge and skills against appropriate benchmarks
o   Networking with colleagues, peers and other practitioners 

So, time to start actually documenting, rather than just doing and thinking.

As a first, here's a short Storify documenting some of the process of preparing for our Learning and Teaching Week in September. In preparing for the sessions I'll be facilitating I've drawn heavily on contacts through my Professional Learning Network (mostly through Twitter), and have had to learn how to use Storify - which actually wasn't hard at all. One of the things we want to share with staff is the enormous benefit of being part of an open community and I'm hoping they will see the genuine willingness of others to share resources and provide additional support through this Storify.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Curating - #BYOD4L


As those who know me will testify, I kinda like to have my stuff all around me. Putting stuff away just isn't my strong point. And it's pretty much the same with curating. I see a website I like and "click" it's in my favourites. I currently have 12 active tabs on the iPad and 15 on the phone! But how to bring this all together?! So "reflect on my current practice" - well, it's pretty much non-existent. Great! Here's an area for improvement in 2016 :)

I can relate to the teacher in the video today because our trainers all say the same. And we say the same in relation to (what we think are) exciting things we include in our online staff PD.

A couple of years ago I (with a few other colleagues) participated in Gilly Salmon's "Carpe Diem" course: A team based approach to learning design. Many of us found the template provided for designing online activities particularly helpful, including a "spark" and a "what's in it for me" as part of the activity introduction. Check it out on page 21 of the Carpe Diem workbook. It's easy for us to get excited about new things and want to share everything, so I think we need to be able to articulate that excitement so that our students also get excited and want to try new things.

So for something to improve on this year, I'm going to try to curate my "stuff". I'm trying Pocket which has been mentioned in this course, as well as giving Evernote another try. I had looked at that a few years ago and didn't find it intuitive, but was recently reintroduced to it as part of the fun 12 Apps of Christmas.

I'm looking forward to a tidier desk by the end of the year!

Bench-marking my practice – professional, ethical and inclusive

In my early years as a trainer and assessor I was encouraged to benchmark everything I developed against others in the industry – hopefully...