Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Learning Technologist as Jack of All Trades

Jack of All Trades, CC BY flickr photo by peacay
This is another post fitting within the theme of 'What is a Learning Technologist'.

I've been thinking for a while about the role of the LT, and how my own skill set and knowledge base have developed over the 10 years or so that I've worked in HE. And whilst I completely understand Martin Weller's problem of having an elevator pitch for what it is we actually do, I think this post will muddy the waters even further :-)

The role of the learning technologist comes in all shapes and sizes. The job title tends to vary quite a lot, as can the pay scales and the specific work we tend to get involved in. Learning technologists can be employed for specific purposes e.g. working on an OER project, an ePortfolio implementation project, or perhaps even staff development. From what I've seen, these more specific roles tend to be on fixed term contracts, whereas the permanent roles tend to be the broader roles (but of course there may be exceptions).

So what do we do?

Well in my experience, the learning technologist tend to be a central figure in many developments - the lynchpin or the quarterback (depending on your metaphorical preference). When I work with course teams in developing curricula, I'm the one who is linking in with the different departments, encouraging involvement from library colleagues or media development specialists.

I also tend to think of myself as a jack of all trades (but in a positive way, obviously). Without this attempting to be a CV, I think I have quite a good and knowledge of current and emerging aspects of HE in respect to technology enhanced learning. I've had experience in OER projects, institutional change projects, redeveloping assessment & feedback processes in faculty, managed and administrated VLEs, developed and delivered staff development programmes, developed and facilitated online courses (traditional and open), engaged in primary research (individually and collaboratively), published, so on and so forth. I'm not somehow special that I've done these things. These are typical tasks that learning technologists do every day. We know about stuff because that's what we do. We find a balance between trying to innovate with new things alongside evidence-based practice.

So don't be thinking 'Jack of all trades, master of none' is either a bad thing, or even necessarily true!

[edit - David Hopkins has extended this discussion with another thought provoking post - head over to read more]

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  1. Excellent post, thanks Pete ... and you've stolen another idea for a blog post of mine ;-)

    'Jack of all trades' must be impossible these days with such a wide and varied reach of the different technologies available to us, no? I pride myself on having an understanding of what, where, how, etc. different devices or technologies can be implemented but leave out many details until I need them ... then I go looking/reading/planning/etc. for the depth of knowledge i need WHEN I NEED IT.


    1. I'm sure I warned you the other week about this post :-)

      Yeah you make a good point there. But I'd say a lot of learning techs will have a base level understanding of most things. I don't know a great deal about AR or developing eBooks, but I've got enough knowledge that I could speak with an academic/manager about potential use cases, and then as you say, go away and research more. I know a lot more about SoMe, Open ed, pedagogy, etc.

      I can't think of many genuine learning technologies that I've never heard of or know nothing about. (actually that's a rubbish sentence - of course I can't think of any if I don't know about them already) :-). Still, you get my point though...

    2. Humility to know when their knowledge-limit on any given subject / tech has been reached and breached, and ability to know who or where to go for the extra to keep the project progressing.

  2. A timely post, Pete, as I've just re-written the 'About' page on my blog which illustrates your point very well! I have always been based in a central team so have worked across disciplines. When I started working in HE 14 years ago my role was very much about developing e-learning resources - most of the LTs at my institution had degrees in multimedia. We then merged into a team with Educational Developers and so our work became more research-led. Now we are in a team with Librarians and Digital Skills Developers and so our role is much more focussed on staff development. So yes, I would agree we are ‘Jack of All Trades’. That's what I like about our job - the constant change!


    Flea :o)

    1. Thanks Flea. Not too much of a dissimilar experience to my own really. I was based in a team of LTs within a Library service. I've seen other's within a Computing Services environment as well. More recently I've been based in Faculty.
      I think with each of these contexts, as you allude, you gain different experiences based on the emphasis and strategic direction.

      I think it emphasises the flexibility required to be an LT (or other keyword for the role) :-0)
      Thanks for the comment.