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My CMALT Portfolio

30 September 2018

Welcome to my portfolio page for Certified Membership (CMALT) of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT). CMALT is a peer assessed accreditation for learning technology practitioners wishing to certify their experiences and capabilities, as well as demonstrate their commitment to professional development. ALT defines ‘learning technology’ as:

The broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment.

– Association for Learning Technology, ‘CMALT Guidelines’

The principles and values of the CMALT scheme are:

  • A commitment to exploring and understanding the interplay between technology and learning.
  • A commitment to keep up to date with new technologies.
  • An empathy with and willingness to learn from colleagues from different backgrounds and specialist options.
  • A commitment to communicate and disseminate effective practice.

– Association for Learning Technology, ‘CMALT Guidelines’

Contextual Statement

Since January 2018, I have been the learning technology manager at Plumpton College near Lewes in England. The college is a provider of further and higher education specialist land-based courses. My role consists of three main aspects. Firstly, I am responsible for the project management of learning technology projects and innovation research at the college. Secondly, I am responsible for the digital skill development of staff and students, including providing training on the use of specific learning technologies. Finally, I am responsible for online learning design and development of the colleges virtual learning environment.

From December 2016 to January 2018, I was initially employed at Plumpton College as the virtual learning environment developer. My role during this period was to develop their Moodle platform branded Plumpton Online and to train staff on the new system.

Before working full-time in learning technology, I was a special educational needs teacher at Broomhill Bank School in Rusthall. The school is a provider for students with communication and interaction difficulties and specific speech and language impairments, including those on the autistic spectrum. Whilst at the school I coordinated various technology projects including the deployment of tablet computers in classrooms and the use of a new virtual learning environment.

For the last two years I have managing learning technology as the sole aspect of my job. I have been developing the experience and capabilities required of someone within my specialist role. I feel I am at the right moment in my career to apply for professional accreditation.

Education & Qualifications

2016: PRINCE2 Practitioner, AXELOS
2016: Business Analysis Practitioner, British Computer Society
2010-12: Bachelor of Law (Honours), Queen Mary University of London
2005-08: Bachelor of Art (Honours) Music, University of Southampton

Core Area 1: Operational Issues

I believe I meet the requirements of operational competence due to my strong understanding of the constraints and benefits of technologies, ability to showcase best practice and support the strategic deployment of technology across a whole organisation.

Understanding the Constraints and Benefits of Different Technologies

When I first started working at Plumpton College, one of my first tasks was to work with staff to evaluate the learning technology that was currently being used in lessons or had the potential for use in the future. This was part of the college’s wider blended learning research discussed below in Specialist Options. We identified the following ten technologies:

Learning Technologies

These formed the basis of a period of evaluation in lessons in order to identify the current constraints and benefits. I compiled the following chart to summarise the feedback we received from staff and students:

Learning Technologies Evalulation

The two most important lessons we learnt from these evaluations was the impact that digital skills and technical confidence had on the effectiveness of technology, and how the technology infrastructure of the college was the biggest barrier to the use of new technology in the classroom.

Technical Knowledge and Ability in the use of Learning Technology

To start to overcome the issue of digital skills and technical confidence that were identified above, I was asked to design a curriculum of twilight workshops. These sessions were designed as an opportunity to showcase best practices and provide practical training to staff. We branded this programme ‘Blended Learning Month’:

Blended Learning Month

Over 80 members of staff attended at least one twilight session during November 2017. Running the sessions proved a valuable means for me to fully develop my knowledge and ability with the technology and to develop effective best practices to pass onto staff. However, I had to be aware that the majority of teachers would not have the dedicated time that I had to specialise in all areas so, I would have to highly targeted in my training.

Supporting the Deployment of Learning Technologies

To avoid barriers to the use of learning technology due to infrastructural issues, it was decided that the college’s IT strategy needed to be renewed for the new academic year. In January 2018 I worked closed with the Head of Teaching, Learning and Quality and the IT Manager to create the college’s new Digital Learning Strategy. This document formalised our new digital skills programme discussed below and outlined a roadmap for the further development and deployment of technologies.

To write this report, I had to meet with every division in the college and student representatives from the union. This proved a valuable exercise in evaluating our operational objectives to create a strategic plan that was suitable for all members of the college.

In reflection it was incredibly important to canvas as diverse a set of users as possible to write a document that was practical and feasible. So far the process of change across the college has been successful with many new IT systems being introduced in the new academic year and a noticeable increase in the digital skills and confidence of staff.

Core Area 2: Learning, Teaching and Assessment

My role at Plumpton College is based within the Teaching & Learning Office separate from the IT department. The majority of my time is spent working directly with staff and students to help facilitate outstanding teaching, learning, and assessment. There are two main examples where I can demonstrate my direct involvement in teaching, learning and assessment in the last year. Firstly, I have developed my understanding of digital pedagogy to help support our teachers. Secondly, I have worked closely with the teacher training and quality team to design a structure for learning technology CPD and informal lessons observation.

Understanding of Teaching, Learning and Assessment

One of the main parts of my learning technology role is to help staff to scaffold technology within their teaching. As part of my further research into digital pedagogy, I adapted the work of Blended Learning Universe for our college. Five models of teaching were chosen which form a spectrum of ways that technology can be mixed with a teaching programme. The spectrum ranges from completely classroom based practice through to purely distance-learning. Different models may be used within the same session or different lessons within the same programme.

The first model is ‘Lab’. This is the most classroom centric and teacher led model. In a ‘Lab’ based lesson every student will use the same form of technology for the same activity. Examples of this could range from a teacher presenting a PowerPoint or students completing a computer based task in an IT Suite.

In the second model, known as ‘Stations’, different technology is used to differentiate activities within the same classroom. Students are either directed to complete a particular activity by the teacher or have the choice of which task they would like to complete.

Thirdly, in a ‘Flipped’ classroom model, learning materials are made available to students remotely before a lesson. For example, this could include a presentation, video or initial assessment activity. Classroom time is then used for specific interventions.

Developing ‘Flipped’ further, the fourth model is ‘Flexible’. The majority of resources are online and students have a choice whether to attend particular classroom sessions for face-to-face teaching. This could be used for revision sessions, tutorials or optional learning activities.

Finally, the fifth model is ‘Virtual’. In this model a lesson is taught through the use of a virtual learning environment or another form of remote technology. This is the most distance-learning based model.

Blended Learning Models

Understanding of Your Target Learners

While evaluating the use of technology across the college, one of the most common feedback we received from teachers was their lack of confidence to try out new ideas.

In order to help encourage a more experimental culture, I introduced a new structure for learning technology CPD and informal lessons observations based on the 3E framework developed at Edinburgh Napier University. Each stage in the framework represents a development step for teachers starting to use a new technology. The first stage, ‘Embrace’, encourages teachers to use a new technology in their teaching without being concerned whether the resource has an immediate impact on learning. The second stage, ‘Enhance’, is when the technology has an impact on students by either improving an activity or creating new opportunities for learning. The final stage, ‘Empower’, is when a teacher feels confident enough to support students using a technology for independent learning activities or to help them develop digital skills.

Three E's

Alongside this framework, I am currently in the process of launching a new formal digital skills programme for staff and students. The curriculum for this course has been based on feedback from everyone over the last year since we ran the blended learning month and other learning technology training sessions. Below is a screenshot of the current online course.

Digital Skills

The Blended Learning Models, Three E’s and Digital Skills are embedded within our Level 3 and 4 Teacher Training programmes. I have run specialist sessions to encourage our new teachers to experiment with new technologies and there is an expectation that they embrace a fresh idea within their assessed micro-teaches.

In reflection, I believe it is incredibly important for learning technologists to become embedded within college teaching & learning processes. Unlike traditional IT roles, a learning technologists needs to be aware of the way that new products and services can directly impact on learning. The projects I have completed over the last two years would not have been successful without a clear understanding of teaching, learning and assessment. I also benefitted hugely from working closely with colleagues with teacher training specialism.

Core Area 3: The Wider Context

Two major pieces of legislation that has affect my working practice in the last year is the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in May and update to Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE) in September. Both presented different professional challenges.

The GDPR introduces new obligations on data processors, including the requirements to justify the use of specific personal data, get informed consent, and create processes for changes or removal of data. As learning technology manager I am responsible for our virtual learning environment platform which contains personal and learning data for all staff and students. To ensure compliance, I project managed the update of the Moodle platform to version 3.3. It was not ideal to make such a major update to the platform during term-time but my team staggered the update over a month to give us enough time to test all sub-systems before releasing it to the students in April 2018. As well as updating the core platform, we introduced a new form to collect data requests:

GDPR Form

The majority of data requests have been for changes to names, emails or access to learning data from archived courses.

KCSIE was updated in September 2018. It outlines the legal duties that all staff must follow to safeguard and promote the welfare of students at college. I was asked by senior management to ensure our new staff online safeguarding course was updated and to find a way to encourage all staff to read the updated regulations. The second aspect of this request was the hardest because it is difficult to force staff who have previously completed an online course to review their learning. Our solution was to develop a new on-boarding exercise for staff on the virtual learning environment:

KCSIE Popup

This pop-up learning task had to completed before staff could continue to the rest of the site. Compliance was monitored and reported back to the safeguarding team.

On reflection, I believe the most important reason for being aware of wider issues in technology is being able to properly advise and support non-specialist staff. Most teachers do not have the time to keep up-to-date with the latest practice and regulations. As a specialist, a learning technologist can disseminate this information appropriately and support organisation wide changes.

Core Area 4: Communication and Working with Others

During my time as a learning technologist, my greatest communication successes have been during the redevelopment of the Plumpton College virtual learning environment known as Plumpton Online for the 2017/18 academic year.

These two screenshots show a before and after shot of the redesign:

VLE Transformation

The following graph demonstrates the affect that this redevelopment had on monthly activity. There was a nearly 60% increase on peak activity between 2017 and 2018:

VLE Graph

There were three main ways that communication lead to this success. Firstly, it was important for us to gather as much user feedback from staff and students before starting to design the new platform. I facilitated this through running workshops with every division within the college, senior management, governors committee and student union. A staff and student member of each division agreed to become testers of the new platform and provided regularly feedback through email. The main problem users reported with the old platform was the difficulty of finding information. Ease of use and accessibility therefore became our main goal for the redesign.

Secondly, we formed a technical team of staff who were going to implement the redesign. This included a designer, developer, copywriter, and page designers for cross-college courses. I supervised the team and pulled all of the different content together. We used project management software to manage the different tasks that needed to be completed and to track progress.

Finally, when the new platform was ready to be released widely, we designed a structured training programme to introduce staff to the new system. I also ran workshops for students to communicate all of the changes so they were prepared for the new academic year.

I believe the most important role of a learning technologist is to empower staff and students. Communication is essential to achieving this as you need to understand the exact needs of the user and provide clear instruction. This also applies to an organisation as a whole. Before starting any change project it is important to listen to group needs and clearly articulate the impact of new processes and systems.

Specialist Options

During the last two years, I have led two major pieces of applied learning technology research which have helped me to become a specialist with blended learning and virtual reality. The first in 2017, entitled ‘Practical Blended Learning’, explored and evaluated the application of learning technology and blended learning pedagogy in vocational subjects. The second in 2018, entitled ‘Teaching with Virtual Reality’, explored best practices for designing and using immersive content within the classroom. Both projects were featured as case studies in JISC’s FELTAG 2018 report ‘Breaking through: stories of effective digital practice from UK further education (FE) and skills’.

Practical Blended Learning

Technology has become ubiquitous in the classroom and in the modern workplace, but how can further education colleges integrate technology and digital literacy effectively into their teaching programmes? In 2017, Plumpton College researched and evaluated new teaching practices as well as trialling the latest learning technologies in vocational subjects. As project lead I coordinated the activity of all teachers and wrote the final report. The project has led to increased staff digital literacy and usage of technology within their teaching. Students have benefited from new and enhanced learning opportunities as well as development of their digital skills. The research was funded by a grant from the Education & Training Foundations Outstanding, Teaching, Learning & Assessment programme.

I presented the paper at JISC Digifest 2018, Association of Colleges, Landex and the Blended Learning Consortium. Please download the full project report and view the presentation for more information. Many of the diagrams featured in this portfolio were developed for this report.

Teaching with Virtual Reality

Entry-level immersive technology has reached a price and complexity-point where it is now accessible to the average classroom. But how can teachers effectively integrate these technologies into their lessons? In 2018, Plumpton College received further research funding from the Education & Training Foundation to explore the use of virtual reality in the classroom. As project lead I coordinated a partnership of further education colleges – including Sussex Downs, Greater Brighton Metropolitan and Myerscough College – to produce a series of case studies of using different types of immersive technology in various teaching activities. I was also responsible for project manage content creation and writing the final research report.

Staff and students were directly involved in the production and evaluation of immersive content at each college. The project evaluated the impact that different technologies had on various teaching and learning activities, including orientation tasks, knowledge retrieval and skills acquisition. We found the most positive evaluations from students and teachers came from using 360° photography and video to immerse students in both new and familiar learning situations. Although skills acquisition tasks were suited to full-room virtual reality technology with interactivity, they proved to be the least accessible activities for the average classroom. The technology that had the greatest net impact on teaching & learning was all-in-one mobile virtual reality combined with prepared 360° video.

The partnership published the website Teaching with Virtual Reality to showcase the case studies and the final project report. The following trailer was produced for Plumpton College’s case studies:

Teaching with Virtual Reality

I presented the paper at the Swansea University Virtual Reality in Higher Education conference in September 2018. The project received commendation from the Association of College’s Beacon Awards for ‘Effective use of technology in Further Education’.

Future Plans

In the next year I wish to continue to develop my experience and capabilities in formal adacdemic educational research. For example, this might include attending courses on the collection of qualitative and quantitative data in educational projects. In the future my hope is to begin a MPhil/PhD in Education to further explore the impact of immersive technology on learning.

James Michael Maltby

Learning technologist & educational researcher · Learning technology manager at Plumpton College

James is a learning technologist on a mission to help everyone learn and work smarter through technology. Current areas of research are the use of blended learning and virtual reality in the classroom. Recent speaking engagements include the Association of Colleges, Blended Learning Consortium and JISC.

Before working as a learning technologist, James was a special educational needs teacher supporting students on the autistic spectrum. He is a member of the Association for Learning Technology and National Autistic Society.

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