b) Technical knowledge and ability in the use of Learning Technology
Growing-up in rural Scotland during the 1990s I did not have much exposure to technology due to lack of infrastructure. During my degree in Fine Art, I gravitated towards digital media. Making heavy use of Adobe software and Mac software: video editing with Final Cut Pro, and audio editing with Logic Pro. This led to an audio-visual internship at contemporary art gallery, The Soap Factory in Minneapolis, USA. On reflection, my time at the gallery was like a first master’s degree. I taught myself a myriad of analogue and digital methods to make artworks ‘work.’
When a role came up at Carleton College supporting learning technology for the arts and education, I was an ideal fit. The role involved management of Moodle as the primary online teaching tool and virtual learning environment (VLE). I also introduced WordPress MU for e-portfolios in the education department in response to usability issues with a prior tool. I also trailblazed early use of webinars with WebEx. Alongside this, the institutional expectation was that I would support all software and curricular technology requested by the professoriate. This was upwards of 30 creative software packages and desktop management of a specialist iMac lab. Although I was good at it, the role was frankly unsustainable and having such a broad remit made it hard to set boundaries. In retrospect, I am grateful for the wide-ranging knowledge that I gained from 3.5 years at Carleton, but I also learned that technology not only has an upfront cost, but it also has a human cost of maintaining it. Both these expenses should be considered in proportion to need, prior to purchase and adoption. In 2013, I successfully applied to be a Learning Technologist at University of Brighton and moved back to the UK.
Once appointed at University of Brighton I was relieved to assume a more structured learning technologies role. I transferred my Moodle skills to Blackboard. Being less stretched enabled me to level-up my VLE knowledge, gaining a full understanding of Blackboard’s capabilities and using it in inventive ways1. I continue to collaboratively manage WordPress in the form of Edublogs. I am the person who finds the most efficient ways of templating class blogs and fixing technical aspects such as the Google Analytics APIs2. I further developed my specialism in e-portfolios and assessment in response to the work-based learning needs of nursing, community health, and social work (Mahara, Turnitin, Blackboard). I continue to push my own comfort levels by modelling the use of interactive teaching tools, which I select based on understanding the requirements of the pedagogy and supported technologies at University of Brighton. These include Microsoft Sway and Nearpod. I still create bespoke solutions based on clear requirements for teaching, learning, and research through my use of R/RStudio, H5P, and frontend development (HTML5/CSS3)3. Since 2018, my primary specialisms have been accessibility and inclusive practice4. This includes knowledge of the web content accessibility standards (WCAG 2.1, 2018) and management of Blackboard Ally to help ensure that teaching and learning materials presented to students in the VLE are as accessible as possible5. In contrast to Carleton, my role at Brighton has allowed me to bring a greater level of intentionality to my work. Considering the curricular justification for use of technologies. I actively feed into decisions and policy related to continuing or discontinuing software support. This keeps my own work, as well the work of my wider team and the schools we support, proactive and sustainable6.
Web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 (2018). Available at: https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/ (Accessed: 31 May 2021).
Evidence: Link to video excerpt on YouTube. Portfolio Progress Tool using My Achievements rules in My Studies (Blackboard Learn) - Demo video for students (2021). This is my own homegrown solution using the My Achievements functions and rules in Blackboard Learn as an e-portfolio. Students needed to be moved off a prior system urgently, so I devised this as a temporary solution to provide the necessary progress checks and granular document uploads. ↩︎
Evidence: Link to video excerpt on YouTube. Templating class blogs (e-portfolio style) in Edublogs - Demo video for a member of academic staff (2020). The full version of this video was subsequently used as a reference material by colleagues in the Digital Learning team. ↩︎
Evidence: Certificates for Accessibility for Web Design course (January 2021 - LinkedIn Learning) and Create Accessible Interfaces (August 2020 - UAL Creative Computing Institute and Institute of Coding on FutureLearn). ↩︎
Evidence: Task scenarios for Blackboard Ally and workshop planning - Word document | PDF quick view. I wrote task scenarios summarising the key actions that staff and students needed to complete with Blackboard Ally and used this as the basis for creating of a staff training programme and ongoing outreach activities. ↩︎
Evidence: Statement from Line Manager, Dr Katie Piatt - Word document | PDF quick view attesting to work in the areas discussed in my reflection. ↩︎