Specialist Options – Software Development

As well as the core areas, candidates are required to demonstrate evidence of independent practice in one or more specialist options. This reflects the fact that, although there are common areas of work for learning technologists, practice is extremely diverse and everyone specialises in something different. Your specialist topic should reflect an area where you have particular expertise. This may be unique to you or common across your team, but goes beyond what would be expected of any learning technologist.

For my specialist option I would like to highlight my work as a Software Development. My journey as a developer began on my postgraduate course in Multimedia and Interactive Systems in 2001, which included as part of my dissertation project the development of an educational virtual world application. Following graduation my interest in software development lay dormant until 2008 when my post at the Jisc Regional Support Centre (North and East) gave me the opportunity to start exploring the development of applications that could be used to support learning. To begin with a number of these applications were very rudimentary such as a method for using Twitter as an Electronic Voting System. Whilst this application was very basic it’s design principles were strongly grounded in my understanding and knowledge in the Mazur Peer Instruction technique.

Combining pedagogy with technology is something I’ve continued and is still evident in recent work. For example, development of TAGSExplorer draws on my understanding of areas like learner identity, situational awareness and rhizomatic learning. As part of my work I developed a particular expertise in Google Apps Script which is part of Google’s G Suite. My interest in this tool began in 2009 shortly after the product was released and since then I’ve shared over 100 blog posts, many of which detail the application of Google Apps Script to support learning and teaching. As well as blog posts I’ve given numerous talks and workshops including a workshop at OEB on using Apps Script for the development of personalised tutoring environments.

In 2014 the work I have done in supporting the Google Apps Script community was formally recognised by Google with entry on it’s Google Experts programme. This is a position I still hold and recent examples or my work in this area include hosting a regular community show on YouTube called Totally Unscripted. This show is designed to help others learn about Google Apps Script in general but has also included episodes specifically looking at its application in learning and teaching, a recent show highlighting ‘Side Study’ which incorporates a number of learning design features including peer feedback and flipped classrooms.



I believe given I had a number of years working as a learning technologist before taking on more of a software developer role has given me the opportunity to better understand the needs of learners, teachers and support staff. I’ve benefited from this in a number of ways. For example, when talking to staff I feel I have a better understanding of their needs, a greater appreciation of what they are trying to achieve and how this might be linked to the pedagogy. Being able to see the problem through an educators eye also creates a richer conversations where, given my background there is an opportunity for me to contribute more in achieving the desired goal. A challenge for me is that I’m very conscious of is that my current role at ALT to a degree takes me away from practice as a learning technologist but projects like Blended Learning Essentials and engaging with the Google Apps Script education community gives me an avenue to combine my expertise in software development with learning and teaching.