A Toolbox for Life Long Learning

Lori Reed’s “Create your own tool box” was the one of her 7½ habits of Highly Effective lifelong learners that struck a real chord with me. This quote was discovered while exploring the Coursera MOOC experience: Exploring Emerging Technologies for Lifelong Learning and Success. It made me stop and think about my own toolbox as a Learning Designer:

  • What is in my toolbox?
  • How do I use it?
  • What is it’s purpose?

The Toolbox

So a brief inventory of what’s in @relearnings toolbox:

Knowledge

  • Libraries & search
  • Academic Literature
    • Zotero: personal & shared collections
    • Personal treeware/library – textbooks
    • Bookmarks

Tech

  • Mobile phone & too many apps
  • Computer
    • Software and utilities for Programming, website development , graphic design, video.
    • MAMP Server / Moodle
    • Cloud services / Collaborative office apps
    • Browsers and many website accounts.
  • Web
    • Domain hosting
    • List serv
    • Cloud Helpdesk solutions
    • Bookmarks
  • WordPress blog
    • H5P
    • Aesop story Engine
    • Numerous plugins

Community

  • TELedvisors SIG
  • Website Slack
  • Twitter
  • ASCILITE

Side note: The toolbox is very low-to-no-cost. It’s the hardware and on-going network services that costs. This putting it all together creates a great sense of agency.

Why the toolbox?

The only way to make sense of it all is reflecting in a blog post. I find the process of conceptualising working with ideas, concepts and tech really solidifies into understanding when it is re-expressed in word or voice. Re:Learnings may technically be a blog but for me it’s a learning journal, a platform, a play space, a portfolio and a way of engaging in the conversation about learning.

This talks to being a professional in a space where it’s not possible to be the expert with the definitive answer, but playing with tech and exploring the learning possibilities is a key task. As Bisset eloquently (2018) states:

The designer collaborates with colleagues and professional organizations to maintain their understanding of technology development and leverages this networked knowledge of educational technologies at the curriculum level:

In this space you can’t really claim to be an expert because it’s continually changing, so what worked in the past doesn’t necessarily work now. The environment is changing, cohorts are changing. In that sort of collaboration, there’s no expert in the room ~ we learn together.

Bisset, 2018

Practice what I preach?

For a long time the answer was no. It was only in my conversations with colleagues that I reflected on practice. Only my LinkedIn profile served as a limited expression of who I am as a professional.

In 2016 I was inspired by The Thesis Whisperer | Dr Inger Mewburn and her YouTube video “Starting an Academic Blog”. She made two key points: firstly your career is a very separate thing from your job. Most people look after their job – but not their career (see video @2m20s).

The second point as Dr Mewburn’s relative, Mark Nottingham, put the challenge simply (see video @3m38s):

…problem here is that everyone who knows you knows that you do a great job and that you’re engaging teacher and that you know you have interesting ideas but it’s only the people who know you.

You’ve just got to get more people to know you and the best way to get more people to know you is to run a blog.

That made complete sense so I created Re:Learnings with the purpose demonstrate what I do, what I have learnt, what I know and how I do things.

Yet, after the blog was launched, it did not feel like it was working for me. It took a major restructure in 2019 of the blog into 3 basic categories (Theory / Work / Opinions) that it began to feel ‘right’. Suddenly I had structure to write purposely and reflectively. I could now start to think about really practicing what I preach.

As a recent example of “walking the talk” was the Designing Multiple Choice blog post. It was very satisfying to challenge my own understanding of multiple choice through synthesising research. Then to put those reflections immediately into practice by playing with H5P. Definitely not award winning stuff but for me it felt like it consolidated a foundational piece that relates to concepts of assessment, SOLO taxonomy and constructive alignment. My respect and understanding for what multiple choice can achieve has increased through this blogging process. Most importantly for me, it has also reconnected me to the student experience of multiple choice.

Conclusion

In this way, my blog is the box of the ‘toolbox’. It helps me to not just consolidate and evidence my learning but to actively move forward my day-to-day professional practice.

However, the most important outcome from “creating a toolbox” is how it helps me engage with the wider TEL literature, community and conversation. This I believe will be the greatest accelerator of my lifelong learning journey as a educational technology professional.

References

Bisset, D. (2018). Role of Educational Designers in Higher Education Institutions. In C. Bossu & N. Brown (Eds.), Professional and Support Staff in Higher Education (pp. 71–89). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-6858-4_14

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