Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What makes a good learning technologist?

I was pondering this question just the other day.  I'm involved in the professional development of learning technologists as part of some of the work I do and over the years I've worked with plenty of them who've zinged with knowledge, enthusiasm and understanding.  What makes the difference?  What makes a learning technologist stand out as being a really 'good' learning technologist?

Some of it is wrapped up in how you define the role of a learning technologist at all.  Just because someone has the job title of 'Learning Technologist' doesn't mean they are one, just as someone who is a Librarian or a Lecturer isn't automatically *not* a learning technologist because they lack that place holder on their CV.  If you think that a learning technologist is someone who can bridge the gap between learning and technology, can translate between the two fields, can spot opportunities and help make change happen within teaching practices and importantly, understands the context of learning in which they're placed... well... there are some key attributes that people who excel in this area seem to possess.

First of all they're...

One of the biggest and best tricks a learning technologist pulls off is to go around with an open mindset.  And one that actively *wants* to find out new things and to learn to do new stuff.  That spirit of curiosity permeates their working life.  They need to find answers.  They want to see how things work.  They ask questions when things don't go as expected.  A good learning technologist always comes with a good dollop of curiosity.  They're also...

Great learning technologists tend to be playful people.  I don't mean this is the sense of a session down the local activity centre or adventure playground.  But, they know that you don't just learn things first off.  It takes a bit of play (and failure and a fair few mistakes) to explore and find out what something and someone can do.  The very best learning technologists I know don't restrict their work to the working arena.  Their 'play' leaks into everything they do.  If they find something interesting to do with learning or technology out of hours, they'll play.  They can't stop themselves.  They just don't clock off because why would you clock off completely from something which was inherently fun? And that leads into the next attribute because you'll also find that they're...

If you're a learning technologist and you know how to make connections between ideas, people, things and beyond - I'm betting you're good at your job.  Ideas aren't picked up in isolation, instead, connections are made and boundaries become elastic and movable.   An ability to look inwards and outwards, to shape your perspective by bouncing ideas off others, to be open to finding out what else is going on through the myriad of connections you've made.  Working openly and collaboratively is the norm.  The people I know in this field who stand out - well, this is a common trait for them - as is the fact that they're...

Here's something.  I bet if you care about what you do in your work it isn't enough to be passive.  Sometimes you have to create opportunities, talk to people you haven't talked to before, listen and understand - and keep on keeping on even when the initial answer is 'no'.  If something sounds interesting, then great learning technologists will find a way to make time to look into it.  Excuses aren't good enough because trying to make learning brilliant is too important for that. This means that they're spotting trends and perservering with a new technology or approach rather than dismissing things because they're 'just not that kind of person'.  Their proactivity makes a huge difference as does the fact that they're...

The best moments I've ever had in education have been when I've been talking to someone for whom passion is like electricity flowing through their body and sparking out in conversation or presentation.  Passionate people create enthusiasm.  They care.  They inspire.  They're not ashamed to tell you they love doing something.  Or that something is fantastic.  The best learning technologists I know make me want to explore and do more than I'm already doing. And this passion for their field means that they're also...

This is the really big biggie of them all.  If you're bridging the gap between learning and technology, academia and the technical... you have to be able to talk the language of your context.  And it never stops needing to be learned and refined.  Let's face it, you can't *not* do your research when you're working with people who are professional researchers.  You can't do things in a sloppy fashion when you're working with those who have a keen eye for detail.  You need to build evidence and underpin what you're saying with solid foundations.  You need to share ideas.  You need to understand.  You need to analyse.  And you need to know there is no end point.  To be a brilliant learning technologist you are forever a learner.  And you accept it.

It's funny.  The best learning technologists aren't all about the technology.  They're not all about the pedagogy either.  They walk the line between the two and care about what they do and what they *could* do as well.  And if you come across a really good learning technologist - talk to them.  They'll fire you up so that you'll believe you could do anything with your teaching!


  1. You have share a good information and learning technologist often fulfills an advisor role. E-learning is now an established part of education, this growth also brings a growing need for talented practitioners able to contribute to the successful application of technology to learning.

  2. I had an interesting experience tonight at Reid Kerr college in Paisley which I think fits perfectly with your post.
    I'd been doing a short presentation followed by some collaborative mind mapping. After the session had finished I bumped into the section's Curriculum Manager and we had a chat about what I'd been up to. He wanted to see how the mind map software worked and I gave a little demonstration of its features. He asked me to send me him a link so that he could sign up his section and start introducing it into their classes. All pretty straightforward but what I found odd was that he was already into mind mapping (albeit in the past and on paper) and so much so that he had a Buzan mind map book in his office bookcase. He's also keen on collaborative work.
    It was as if he hadn't connected these two things together or had never realised how to apply what he liked into his working practices. When I came home and read your blog post it made me think that a good learning technologist is someone who can make things happen - not just in general but specifically someone who can help others realise, through technology, some of the ideas they already have.

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