By @mhawksey

My draft application for the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2011

Update: This application wasn’t successful and wasn’t even short-listed. Here is the feedback I got, which on the whole I agree with:

The individual entries clustered into 3 groups by score, and your entry fell into the middle group.
One our scoring system the shortlisted group scored between 8.8 and 9. The middle group between 11.8 and 12.2. The “bottom” group scored between 13.6 and 15.2.
Thus the difference between the “top” and the “middle” groups was not huge; but, that said, there is a substantial gap between 9 and 11.8.
One panel member made the following comment: “I think it is a huge challenge for a role with such a wide remit to demonstrate impact and uptake. Also perhaps not experienced in presenting case strongly supported by evidence – didn’t think the googlewave example the most effective.”
Two panel members commmented “What is his main driver – the technology or the learning?” “Very tech focused.”

Taking a leaf out of Tony Hirst’s book when he took an open philosophy to his unsuccessful (boo) promotion case (see Crowd Sourcing a Promotion Case… and In For a Penny, In For a Pound… My Promotion “Case for Support”) I’ve decided to take a similar approach to my application for the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award.
Doing it this way makes me very uncomfortable and most of the scenarios I’ve gone through in my head end up with egg on my face. So why do it this way? Well if nothing else it is an opportunity to promote the award (closing date 26th May, applications are sought for team and individual – more information about the award).
The other reason is, like Tony, the open publication route makes it  harder to measure things like impact and influence. So if you’ve ever found anything useful on this site or if this is a first visit and you’ve found something that has helped you could you be a star and leave your mark in the comments of this post.

Why put my name forward?

I’ve had three great years at JISC RSC Scotland North & East (all of which have been documented on this blog), joyfully skipping through the world of educational technology playing with ideas, sharing things I like and just having a lot of fun. With our RSC closing at the end of July and with the knowledge that my post is redundant and likelihood of successfully job matching being remote I’m definitely in ‘make myself look attractive for re-employment’ mode.
Also I’d argue that I’m deserving of such a high accolade as ALT Learning Technologist of the Year. Supported and inspired by those around me I’ve cobbled together some pretty unique stuff. Portable Wookie widget servers, Google Spreadsheets that can do almost everything for you apart from make a cup of tea and of course not forgetting my research into Twitter subtitling to name just a few.
If you want you can read more of my deluded grandeur in my draft submission below (comments as always are welcome):
5. Your summary as to why you or your team should win the award (200 words maximum). Write this once you have completed sections 6A to 6D.
Employed at the JISC Regional Support Centre Scotland N&E (RSCScotNE) I see examples of outstanding work in the field of learning technology on a daily basis. As well as disseminating this practice I use it to direct and empower my own work aspiring to not only replicate these levels of achievement but trying to exceed them, to explore new territory, to shine a light on how technology can be used to enhance the experience of learners.
My passion for learning technology goes beyond 9-to-5, it is my hobby, my favourite pastime, the thing I most enjoy doing into the early hours of the morning. From this fevered creativity has come a number of pieces to help solve the greater puzzle. This includes solutions for: voting systems ranging from low cost to no cost; tools to support the use of twitter in education including lecture capture enhancement (iTitle); and a host of other openly documented solutions, ideas and examples of best practice.
Why should I win? I believe I have the dedication, the passion, an underlying philosophy to open educational development, a desire not only to be informed by research but a commitment to add to the pool of knowledge.
6A. A clear description of the actions and roles taken to develop and support the achievement. Individual entrants should indicate any substantial involvement of others in the achievement. Team entrants should indicate who actually did what.
As an e-Learning Advisor (Higher Education) for the RSCScotNE I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in a number of outstanding projects and high quality events. These include the multi award winning EduApps initiative for which I designed and developed the delivery platform, the panoply of RSCScotNE led and partnered events including the JISC Winter Fayres, GameToLearn, eAssessment Scotland. These events are always a team effort, my usual role is helping find presenters and technical aspects including booking systems and live streaming.
Part of my role within the RSC is to monitor the ever evolving learning landscape, disseminating best practice to our region via various means including face-to-face consultancy, presentations at local events and using various social media channels. Whilst this role is common throughout the RSC network there are a number of factors which I believe make what I do outstanding:
Open – I’ve long held the belief that as a public sector employee as much of what I do should be made available for all. My blog MASHe has become an open repository of idea, solutions and examples for anyone to repurpose/reuse.
Cutting edge – My passion for learning technology doesn’t stop at disseminating what are other people are doing. I want to be a part of the learning technology revolution. Why stop at directing staff to the educational benefits of electronic voting systems when you can show staff how to make their own free systems. Why stop at highlighting how audio and video feedback can be used to enhance feedback when you can show them how they can use free services to do this. Why stop at showing how social media tools like Twitter can be used to support the entire teaching and learning continuum when you can develop and share the tools that might support them in using it. Why stop at suggesting ways to enhance lecture capture when you can research, develop and share the tools that can make it possible.
Passion – I’m passionate about continuing my own professional development, continually learning how technology can be efficiently and effectively used to enhance teaching and learning, and my role at RSCScotNE supports this. Creating new tools/services to support learning is however outside this remit. Instead this is something I choose to do in my own time, creating tools like iTitle in the early hours of the morning not because I have to, but because I want to.
6B. Clear, credible, statement of individual or team approach to the technological, and/or methodological, and/or managerial, and/or teaching and learning choices made by the applicant (individual or team), during the period covered by the application.
The remit of the RSC extends to only provide support and guidance to the individuals or institutions requiring them to take ownership to implement this at a local level. Consequently, the most suitable approach is generally reactive, identifying gaps in the research or understanding of specific problems identified by observing or discussing issues with staff and students before producing resources and guidance targeted to provide solutions.
An example of this process is demonstrated by the rise and fall of Google Wave. In May 2009 when Wave was announced there was a lot of interest in the general as well as academic community.
Identification – Identifying the possible opportunities of this technology and potential interest to staff. This included information targeted at senior management designed to highlight potential strategic decisions regarding deployment, as well as information for teaching staff on potential uses to enhance learning. Part of the identification process also included filtering and summarizing the existing available information
Exploration – Having identified the educational opportunities of this technology I then explored and documented how this tool could be integrated into institutional systems. This included, what I believe was a world first, embedding Google Wave in Blackboard, documenting the process for institutions/staff to install their own Wave server and examining and filtering a list of Google Wave educational add-ons
Dissemination/Feedback – Having identified opportunities and researched the technical aspects of this tool I proactively disseminated this information presenting my findings and listening to feedback from staff at a number of face-to-face events including specialist VLE groups and the JISC Winter Fayre
Reflection – Throughout this cycle of identification, exploration and dissemination there is also a process of reflection both internal and explicit
Whilst ultimately Google Wave was dropped by Google this approach to proactive exploration and continual reflection and dissemination meant staff within our region (and further field) could be confident that there was someone monitoring this area allowing them to focus on institutional matters.
6C. Major and beneficial impact on practices within the entrant’s or team’s organisation, or community, or sphere of influence.
Having adopted an open publication philosophy and due to the nature of the RSC remit it’s hard to track impact on practices, but there is an ever growing list of examples of how my work has influenced others within our organization, our supported community and further afield. One example of this is my work recombining an archive of a Twitter stream with video footage (iTitle).
The work began following on from some earlier work by Dr Tony Hirst from the Open University who published a method for a Twitter YouTube subtitle mashup. Initially I developed an online tool (iTitle) which produced subtitle files from tweets for the BBC iPlayer. Following on from some initial positive comments including from staff at the BBC this tool has continued to evolve (developed in my own time), and has been referenced by a number of sources including the Director of Digital Engagement at the Cabinet Office, the Guardian and a number of very influential sites including Tony Hirst’s OUseful, Brian Kelly’s UK Web Focus, Jane Hart’s e-Learning Pick of the Day.
iTitle is a cutting edge concept and far away from mass adoption as a learning technology but with the continued interest in lecture capture and the use of Twitter in education it has the potential to supplement these areas, the combination of these assets supporting vicarious learning.
Even so iTitle has already been used unofficially with the JISC Conference, Google I/O and officially with FOTE10, IWMW10 and ALT-C 2010. As well as the tool complimenting pedagogies like vicarious learning, in an era where learning resources are arguably as much as about marketing the institution as they are a learning asset, iTitle supports this. For example at the time of writing the original version of Donald Clark’s “Don’t lecture me” keynote has received over 3,500 views. The iTitled version which was released one month later has over 5,100 views.
iTitle is just one example of the impact of my work and the influence of my varied interests can be seen elsewhere. My recent work with Google Spreadsheets has resulted in a number of solutions for administering Twitter accounts, and my work with event/resource booking systems has not only influenced how our organization administers events, but has changed the way people do things further afield
6D. Outstanding overall contribution in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology.
In the previous sections I’ve used some of the examples of my work to illustrate the range of activities I have been involved in or have led. These examples encompass the entire learning technology spectrum from guidance to others involved in supporting learning to the administration of teaching and learning itself. My contribution to the sector often goes beyond my official role at RSCScotNE, which is mainly disseminating the work of others and supporting staff within our region, extending to support those beyond our geographic boundary and also contributing new ideas, new solutions, new possibilities to the field of learning technology.
Part of this contribution is serendipitous as a consequence of my commitment to open publication, but a large part is also directed. This takes several forms including commenting on the work of others (examples include the new ALT website, the RIN ‘Social media: A guide for researchers’, and student posts as part of Alec Couros’s EC&I 831 course e.g., but is also directed contributing to the tools that can be used to support learning technology.
One recent example of this is my work exploring and documenting the creation of a portable version of the Apache Wookie widget server The JISC DVLE programme has illustrated the benefits of disaggregating teaching and learning systems, providing an opportunity for students to create their own personal learning environments. As people start exploring this area further I recognized that one potential barrier is providing an easy way for users to experiment and develop widgets. Using my knowledge of portable solutions deployed on USB stick via the EduApps initiative, I was able to create and document a portable Wookie widget server. As well as releasing this solution to the general community, as part of the process I was able to contribute to the Wookie project by identifying and submitting improvements to the core code e.g.
Whilst this contribution was small within the context of the Wookie project it is representative of my commitment to giving back.

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