What is a Learning Technologist (part 8)?

David Hopkins2012 has been a challenging and adventurous year for me and I planned to round it off with another post in my series of “What is a Learning Technologist” articles (this is number 8 – read the others from the list here).

For me 2012 was a year of change, not only a change in outlook and attitude (personal stuff) but also in circumstances: I applied for a new job, got it, left Bournemouth University and joined the University of Leicester, sold one house and bought another, and moved myself and family to a part of the country I do not know. To some this is familiar and you’re nodding in appreciation of what I’ve done and put my famly through. To others you may be thinking ‘fool’ or “been there, done that, waasn’t that bad”. To me this was a huge decision after being at BU for over 5 years and living in Bournemouth for nearly 30 (minus years at University) – a big upheaval in more than just my professional life, and such a difficult choice to make (again, more personal stuff).

As with all these things, by the time I sorted through my thoughts and started to note them down … someone else publishes along the same lines and did a really good job of it too! So this post is in honour of Sarah Horrigan’s article, in the way of “what she says …”

Sarah Horrigan

This is what I look like when I’m blogging… honest
(c) Sarah Horrigan, 2012

Sarah Horrigan (@sarahhorrigan on Twitter) has published her thoughts in a post called “On being a Learning Technologist” and I strongly recommend you read it in full! Here are my personal highlights from Sarah’s post:

“What makes a Learning Technologist stand out as being a really ‘good’ Learning Technologist? Some of it is wrapped up in how you define the role of a Learning Technologist at all … a Learning Technologist is someone who can bridge the gap between learning and technology, can translate between the two fields, can spot opportunities and help make change happen within teaching practices and importantly, understands the context of learning in which they’re placed”.

Sarah goes on to highlight six areas she feels are key to effective Learning Technologists (which I agree with, and can identify with on a daily basis). These are:

  • Curiosity – Learning Technologists have a “spirit of curiosity [that] permeates their working life. They need to find answers. They want to see how things work. They ask questions when things don’t go as expected. A good Learning Technologist always comes with a good dollop of curiosity.”
  • Playfulness – Learning Technologists “don’t restrict their work to the working arena. Their ‘play’ leaks into everything they do. If they find something interesting to do with learning or technology out of hours, they’ll play. They can’t stop themselves.”
  • Connections – Learning Technologists “make connections between ideas, people, things and beyond … ideas aren’t picked up in isolation, instead, connections are made and boundaries become elastic and movable. An ability to look inwards and outwards, to shape your perspective by bouncing ideas off others, to be open to finding out what else is going on through the myriad of connections you’ve made.”
  • Proactive – Learning Technologists “create opportunities, talk to people you haven’t talked to before, listen and understand – and keep on keeping on even when the initial answer is ‘no’. If something sounds interesting, then great learning technologists will find a way to make time to look into it. This means that they’re spotting trends and perservering with a new technology or approach rather than dismissing things because they’re ‘just not that kind of person’ or they’re ‘too busy’.”
  • Passionate – Learning Technologists are “not ashamed to tell you they love doing something. Or that something is fantastic. The best learning technologists I know make me want to explore and do more than I’m already doing.”
  • Learning – Learning Technologists bridge “the gap between learning and technology, academia and the technical … you have to be able to talk the language of your context. And it never stops needing to be learned and refined. You need to build evidence and underpin what you’re saying with solid foundations. You need to share ideas. You need to understand. You need to analyse.”

This is the kind of Learning Technologist I hope I am and am trying to be better at. This list is not for everyone, nor should we expect this from every Learning Technologist, but I hope each of us can see a little of ourselves somewhere in Sarah’s descriptions above.

Keep up to date with Sarah’s thoughts and work on her kindalearning.blogspot.co.uk blog.

Thank you for your post Sarah, and well done on your move. I wish you the very best for your new adventure in Derby and look forward to keeping in touch through the many varied social networks we both use.

  • conspirisi

    I fear this is navel-gazing. It’s a good job and it’s fun, it’s really not worth making up arbitrary goal posts. Still keep up the good work.

    • Thanks for the rely. I don’t consider it ‘naval gazing’ to try and understand the role I have and why I enjoy it, I consider it essential so that I (a) don’t get bored, (b) stay enthused, (c) stay fresh, and above all (d) don’t give up on myself. Without a reflection on my abilities and achievements how can I possibly know if I’m being effective?

      All the best, David

  • David congratulations on the move I hope it works out well for you. Thanks for drawing my attention to Sarah Horrigon’s writings which I wasn’t familiar with. I do like her six points and think they make a great guide for anyone in our profession or thinking of joining it.

    • Hi Ara. Thanks for the reply. If you like Sarah’s work then you ought to check out some more of links in my ‘blogroll’ list on the right of this post – they are links to blogs and work of some of those I consider to excel in their fields.

      Hope you enjoy the blog and continue to comment.

      All the best, David

  • Wayne Barry

    Hi David,

    That’s for the “plug”, but a big thank you has to go to you for your own original posts. Also a big thank you for alerting me to Sarah Horrigan’s blog post, I particularly liked the “walk the line” quote you used.

    I am afraid I have to disagree with “conspirisi” assertion that this is “navel-gazing”. The trouble with learning/educational technologist as a role is that it is not very well defined and highly contested, if “we” are having trouble conceptualising what we do, no wonder “others” have difficulty in understanding what our role entails.

    The notion of educational technology can be traced back to the 1920s, some will say 1900s, others will argue that it goes as far back as the neolithic age (or beyond). We also have to unpack what we mean by “learning” and “educational” in the context of technology. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the research project you are involved in with Loughborough College.

    For me, I did a lot of reading around the role of “learning technologist” as part of an essay on professionalism for my Doctorate in Education (EdD), I did not want to waste what I had read (there was a lot I couldn’t say due to the word count), and I was conscious that you had this project and that those posts may contribute towards it in some way.

    Once again, thanks for this post and thank you for promoting and critiquing my own posts.

    Best wishes,