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Here in SALT, we thought we’d take a leaf out of PVC Stringer’s book and work on some New Year’s resolutions ourselves. Kicking off the blog posts is one of our newer team members, Rhian Ellis with her reflections on 2017 and what she’s hoping to achieve in 2018.
What have I achieved?
In September 2017, I was appointed to Swansea University’s Academy of Learning and Teaching as an Academic Developer, specialising in continued professional development. Getting to know my SALT colleagues and members of the wider University community has been a privilege, while settling into my new role. 2018 is going to be an exciting year! So, what have I learned since being here?
My career development in 2017 has encouraged me to reflect on my identity as a ‘learning teacher’ over a twenty-five year period of great change in education. Not only upon WHAT I have learned, but HOW I learned. I find Jane Hart’s curated list of current ‘Top Tools for Learning’ most interesting for this. It can be seen here in the video of her keynote speech on ‘Modern Workplace Learning’ at the SALT conference in 2017.
I was surprised by how many tools I used daily (and encouraged my learners to use) for many years as a teacher, some of which were introduced in formal CPD sessions e.g. Prezi. I’m now discovering lots of new and useful ones on a weekly basis, often through my everyday interactions with colleagues and academic staff – another key characteristic of the ‘Modern Professional Learner’ celebrated by Jane Hart. Learning in this more casual way illustrates how CPD is often informal in nature. For example, the tips we get from others and then pass on.
Jane Hart suggests we count how many tools we use regularly in our professional and/or personal life.
When I did this, I realised that I developed my use of digital tools for learning far more than I imagined – even ‘google’ counts! Since September, I’m now using many more.
This reflection has encouraged me to be open-minded about trying out versatile tools such as ‘Padlet’, introduced to me by my SALT colleagues Debbie Baff and Mandy Jack in their September ‘TEL Month’ workshop. Here is a padlet I recently put together on ‘Feedback and Feedforward’ support. Look out for workshops on this theme with myself and Suzie Pugh from SALT in 2018, by the way! You can even contribute to the padlet if you wish.
Twitter is another tool I’ve used more for professional reasons in 2017. It featured as the top learning tool in Jane Hart’s research for ten years, only recently being over taken by You Tube. Twitter was created in 2006 by American founders Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, and now features a lot more than people’s dinner photos… thankfully! Twitter has become a useful platform for endless CPD opportunities, and I’m now a regular Twitter user.
So what are the benefits?
Twitter alone has enabled me to build a ‘trusted professional network’ at, through and for work. I now have a wealth of information at my fingertips. I have connected with world-leading experts who share current developments in higher education, including newly published research papers, topical issues, shared experience and thought provoking debate.
Using Tweetdeck allows me to coordinate and manage both my personal and SALT twitter accounts with ease. I took part in my first monthly Tweet chat on it recently, a ‘Peer Coaching’ forum, hosted by SDF.ac.uk. I contributed my experience of ‘peer triads’, and in turn learned about other coaching practices in the UK. @rhianellis3 @susaltteam
A big thank you to my very own peer coaches, Louise Rees and Debbie Baff! Louise and Debbie introduced me to SDF.ac.uk, a helpful community of practice (we form a great example of a ‘peer triad’ in action, by the way!). The tweet chat generated useful ideas for future CPD possibilities here at Swansea University. I’m looking forward to the next chat on ‘Team Coaching’, January 26th 12-1pm.
I’ve also gained many new Twitter followers over recent months, mainly as a result of my retweets and comments. As a result I am developing my ‘on-line identity’, as well as contributing to a wider community of academic development.
Lots of academic staff at Swansea University share my enthusiasm for Twitter and its potential benefits. Connecting with you in this way has enabled me to get to know people’s specialisms, passions and questions. In turn, this can help inform CPD planning from SALT.
My intentions for further use of twitter include:-
- Sharing expertise through more tweets
- Refining the use of hashtags # to maximise engagement
- Continuing to build my professional network
- Applying my learning to CPD opportunities for academic staff at Swansea University
- Promoting excellence in teaching and learning in 2018 and beyond
I also intend to devote a controlled amount of time to Twitter/Tweetdeck each week, flexing it around my priorities. One of the disadvantages of twitter is the risk of overspent time. As your profile increases in popularity, people may wish to interact with you more. Mobile devices also tempt frequent checking, so I have set myself strict boundaries.
My work in academic development in 2017 has definitely moved me even further along the ‘visitor-resident’ mode of engagement with digital learning tools, with lots of benefits.
My advice to anyone who may remain ‘on the fence’ about Twitter for CPD (as well digital teaching and learning tools) is to keep an open mind! There’s no obligation to ‘move in’, simply ‘visit’ whenever you choose and see if you find benefits too.
Happy tweeting in 2018 everyone! @rhianellis3 @susaltteam #CPD
Blog created using Rolfe et al’s (2001) Reflective Model.
Rolfe, G. Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Other useful references: