_mg_0231_loresIn line with my support for CMALT at Edinburgh and before I head off to ALT conference I need to update my own portfolio.

Central to the CMALT scheme is the definition of learning technology agreed within ALT.“Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment.”

The principles and values that inform the development of the 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.

Here’s my update:

Summary of recent work/practice

The new, updated, section of the portfolio should start with a summary of your recent work or practice and be no longer than 500 words. This should be related to the contextual statement in the original sections of your portfolio or the summary from the last update. In this section you should describe how your role or more broadly your career have developed over the past 3 years and how this relates to your work with Learning Technology.

Cover image of BITS magazine. BITS Issue 14, Spring 2016 http://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/about/edinburgh-bits
Cover image of BITS magazine. BITS Issue 14, Spring 2016 http://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/about/edinburgh-bits

When I wrote my initial CMALT application in 2008 I was just about to leave University of Leeds to embark on a new adventure in a new role as Head of Learning Technologies at University of Oxford. I stayed in that role for 6 years, becoming Director of Academic IT as the teams and workload grew. Oxford is a very different institution to Leeds and I experienced a vertiginous learning curve. The institution is ancient and complex, but also intriguing and inspiring. During my time there I experienced a number of significant shifts in my thinking particularly around received learning technology wisdom and the true nature of ‘a community practice’ with shared endeavour, shared history, shared language and shared assets.

During the 6 years I worked at Oxford I continued to blog regularly; to reflect on my practice and to be open in my thinking. My work during that period  focussed on the emerging area of podcasting ( launching Oxford on itunesU in 2008), online publishing, digital skills, VLE development, crowdsourcing, citizen science, agent based modelling, and OER, co-inciding with several rounds to JISC funding to which we bid successfully.  My move from a staff development unit at Leeds to a central IT service at Oxford ensured that I gained from technical colleagues a much greater understanding of the nature and choice and potential of open source technologies and from IT management colleagues a mature understanding of the principles of project and service management to add to my expertise in pedagogy and edtech.

I wrote an institutional case study for JISC about the open approaches at Oxford.  I also spent a year as a SCORE Fellow researching ‘Authorship and use of OER as academic practice’ . During my time at Oxford I continued to blog, a practice I had begun at Leeds.

My Oxford blog: Light out for the Territories ahead of the rest

My time at Oxford was transformational for me in exploring and understanding the interplay between technology and learning in small group teaching. My decision to leave was partly a desire to keep up to date with the new technologies around delivering higher education at scale. I wanted to be involved in the development of MOOCs and distance learning. My move to Edinburgh in 2014 has brought me back into the world of large classes and overloaded student systems. The work I did in researching the student digital experience at Oxford has helped to inform my work in this new institution, but the challenges are quite different and exciting.

I am now working with colleagues whose specialist areas are varied and complex. The University of Edinburgh has taken some ‘interesting’ IT decisions in the past. Along with the rest of the senior management teams I am currently involved in a major programme of digital transformation and innovation in central IT which provides a new opportunity to communicate and disseminate effective practice, service excellence and shake up some of the old ways of doing things. In recognition of my continued excellence in this work I have recently been appointed Assistant Principal for Online Learning with a remit to lead and develop university strategy in this area.

Overview of CPD activities over the past 3 years

When choosing your examples, consider how they relate to your development over the past 3 years. For each example you must include:

  • A brief description of what you have done;
  • Evidence to support this;
  • Reflection on what you learnt as a result of doing it.

I find as I get older, my professional development activities become less about attending courses or conferences and more about taking on new and challenging areas of work outside my main ‘job description’. My recent professional development in my role as Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at University of Edinburgh has been focussed in three areas:

  1. Championing OER at an institutional level through the development of strategy and policy and at a national level through co-chairing  the recent OER16 conference.

I was co-chair of a large conference about open culture in Edinburgh in April this year- the conference was part of a larger ‘festival of digital education’ at the University as we also hosted Learning @Scale and LAK learning analytics research conference back to back. As Chair I was involved in establishing the themes for the conference and attracting the keynote speakers. I was also the venue host and

Interpretation of my #OER16 keynote (c) Beck Pitt CC-BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/40959105@N00/26658563491/in/album-72157667593223021/
Interpretation of my #OER16 keynote (c) Beck Pitt CC-BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/40959105@N00/26658563491/in/album-72157667593223021/

opened the conference with a welcome to the University and closed it with a keynote on the challenges of championing OER at an institution-wide level. The conference was a big success and was notable in bringing together speakers not only from HE, but also the GLAM sector and Wikimedia UK. The partnership of OER16 and University of Edinburgh has recently won a Wikimedia partnership award. What I learned as a result of the experience of hosting a large conference is most certainly about the importance of teamwork, but also of the value of networks and role models across a career and the seemingly quite rare /lonely situation I find myself in- being a director of IT with a remit and commitment to OER.

  1. Women in Learning Technology Leadership: Engaging at an institutional level with initiatives around gender equality with particular focus on the lack of women in IT senior management and technical roles.

In 2014 the University of Edinburgh invested in some expensive ‘Unconscious Bias’ training for senior management as part of the University commitment to Athena Swan. Following this training I have become equality and diversity champion within Information Services and I have launched a group-wide ( 700 staff) inititative called ‘The Playfair Steps;’ to promote equality for all and diversity in decision-making teams. I have employed a number of student interns to carry our gender equality surveys within ISG and to identify actions we could take to recruit, retain and promote more women. I have also taken steps to ensure that my creative and decision-making teams are as diverse as possible in the interest of better business performance. I have been blogging about progess.

  1. Understanding the student experience and promoting their engagement with emerging digital education issues though my involvement as a trustee of Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA)
University of Edinburgh Digital Image Collections CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
University of Edinburgh Digital Image Collections CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

It has been a concern of mine for sometime that many university groups ( particularly IT ) have very poor understanding firstly of the students experience of digital systems, and secondly of the organisations and strtuctures and role which student unions play in student representation at all levels of the organisation. Three years ago to I had the opportunity to become an external trustee of EUSA and sit on their governance board. This was an incredibly rewarding learning experience for me and I hope for them, further more I am able to use that experience every time as a senior manger of ISG we discuss the best way to engage students in what we are doing. As a result of my close working relationship with EUSA I am now able to help IT colleagues to understand how best to work with the sabbatical officers and elected convenors. I worked closely with the student leadership to develop the OER vision for University of Edinburgh and  I presented this, together with the VP Academic Affairs at OER15 conference. The senior management of ISG have regular meetings with the sabbatical officers in EUSA and given Edinburgh’s rather poor NSS scores, this seems like a good step in the right direction. In addition to close working with the elected officers I am now able to offer a range of work experience to students via our ISG  student internship scheme.

Updated future plans

This is the final new section for the updated portfolio and should build on both the summary of recent work and the CPD section to give a sense of your future plans. You might reflect on areas for future development or training, skills you wish to develop or ways in which you hope to change your role or career over the next 3 years.


Looking back at my 2008 portfolio I notice that I wrote about copyright, learning design and leadership. Those are still some of my passions. My interest in copyright has lead me to where I am now in establishing an OER vision, policy and service for University of OPENED_A1vs2Edinburgh. I don’t teach my own courses in the VLE anymore but I am business owner for multiple VLEs at Edinburgh and for our nascent learning design service, lecture capture, learning analytics, maker spaces, interactive design, assessment and feedback and AV tech across the campus. As well as the university website, the student portal, MOOCs , distance learning,  OER, one hundred people and a fairly complex budget. As for learning technology leadership, in my new role as assistant principal my career in leadership, my research and experimentation and my championing of authentic, open practice will continue.

Check here for regular updates.