Author Archives: Gemma Witton

Finished! *waves hands in the air*

Today I have completed my CMALT portfolio … a whole day before the deadline I set myself. Technically speaking I still have to find and scan/upload a copy of my MA certificate and I’m awaiting a promised testimonial from an academic colleague as a piece of evidence but apart from that it is done. I have emailed a link to my CMALT mentor and also bragged about it to a Twitter colleague so I hope I haven’t made any glaring omissions! Unless any feedback suggests a major re-write I plan to submit asap.

Thrilled, proud and relieved to finally have it done.

I will now be having a cup of tea and a jaffa cake to celebrate 🙂

The countdown begins … again

I said I would finish my CMALT portfolio before I went on maternity leave. Less than 9 months later I had Lily in my arms and no portfolio. I came back to work and pledged to have it finished by christmas. Who knew being a working mom was going to be so utterly exhausting?* I missed that deadline too. I thought I would have it done by my mid-term apprisal in January … I didn’t have it done then either (but then I didn’t really have a formal mid-term appraisal either). Now I have one, absolutely final, deadline to set myself. Tuesday 4th June. On that day it will be done. I have put it in my calendar and everything so it must be true.

The reason for the set-in-stone deadline is because on the 7th of June I have my annual appraisal and want it to be finished by then and in the process of being proof read by my CMALT mentor/cheerleader @RKChallen.

I am please to report that while progress has been slow it has been consistent and if I squint I can see the finish line on the horizon. That makes it sound like a race, which of course it isn’t (I’m only in competition with myself etc. etc.) However, the majority of it is now written and I’m just in the process of finishing the last couple of sections and popping in some pieces of evidence with a helping hand from some happy customer colleagues who are doing me some lovely testimonials.

It’s so nearly finished I can almost smell it. It smells like victory … and coffee.

Tasty cup of coffee.

Caffine – Helping Gemma to complete her CMALT portfolio faster and with more energy since 2011.

* apart from all the other working moms I know? 🙂

HEaTED RNM at University of Birmingham

On Friday 12th April, my colleague and I took a trip to the University of Birmingham for the HEaTED West Midlands Regional Networking Meeting. It was much better attended than the last one with around 30 technical staff from a variety of subject areas all getting together to talk about the issues and subtleties of being a member of technical staff in HE.

There were a number of interesting discussions that took place. One of the key functions of HEaTED is to provide professional development opportunities for technical staff so we spent some time looking at their course offerings and highlighted the courses that seemed most useful, suggested courses we would like to see and had the opportunity to offer to run some courses that didn’t already exist. I have a little idea for a course that I think might be popular given the current climate in universities but I’ll keep that under my hat for now until I’ve had a chance to think about it properly.

There was also a guest speaker from the University of Plymouth who is investigating the possibility of developing a professional registration programme for people working in the creative industries. I’m interested to see how this one develops . I probably wouldn’t undergo registration myself as I see myself as an elearning specialist who is a mutlimedia developer so CMALT is the most appropriate route for me and my career … however for colleagues in my team who see themselves as creative multimedia specialists who happen to be working in elearning at the moment, this registration could be really exciting.

The discussion around the use of the word “Technician” continues … for HEaTED it’s about thier marketing. Is the T Word a barrier for some technical staff joining HEaTED? I certainly don’t class myself as a technician and I wrote about why after the last meeting, so personally I would welcome a re-brand of HEaTED … but coming up with a suitable acronym might be puzzling!

Quiche, spinach and ricotta pastry, a selection of wraps, chicken skewer, pitta with houmous and taramasalta and a gooey chocolate brownie courtesy of University of Birmingham.

Tasty Lunch and Good Conversation at HEaTED WM Regional Network Meeting, University of Birmingham.

Also, the HEaTED networking lunch did not disappoint. A tasty selection of wraps, chicken skewers and very sticky chocolate brownies were devoured along with some really interesting conversations with our west midlands colleagues. Looking forward to seeing some of them again at the next RNM in Staffordshire already!

BETT 2013

Last week my boss and I took a trip to the BETT 2013 show at London’s eXcel. Aside from the headache that is traveling around Central London, the show gave us some very good food for thought and was definitely worth the trip.

This year they had a HE summit which made the show much more interesting as it had previously had a heavy focus on schools. There was a full two day program of HE Speakers in a break-out conference room as well as HE workshops on stage in the main arena.

Buzz words/phrases of the show were MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses), BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and Learning Analytics.

amazing enourmous custard cream biscuit #giantfoodSince returning from the show I have enrolled on my first MOOC … it’s a MOOC on Learning Analytics! BETT got the cogs whirring and I think there is a research project around learning analytics lurking around in there somewhere. I hope the MOOC will help me formulate my ideas on that.

Other highlights were the discovery of giant custard cream biscuits at the eXcel branch of Costa Coffee and a surprisingly lovely Italian restaurant near the Kings Cross Travelodge which possibly has the best tiramisu I have ever had – right up there with my local favourite from The Flying Pizza in Chapel Ash 😛


New Year – 2013

Back to work today … and back to work on that CMALT portfolio too. My new years resolution should probably be to take a proper lunch break and eat well and yet I find myself blogging over a chicken salad sandwich and a packet of hoola hoops.

Well, while the first draft of the CMALT portfolio wasn’t quite complete by my ambitious Christmas deadline I did make big strides on it. Most of the sections now have notes on what they will eventually contain and the evidence I might use and I think that is half the battle. Now I just have to make it coherent!

I have a mid-term appraisal due around the middle of January and I really want my portfolio to be as good as complete by that time – so there’s my new deadline. If I do a little bit every day I think it’s definitely achievable too.

On the non-CMALT front there is some exciting work to be done on converting some of our masters programmes for distance learning delivery and the MMU is heavily involved in re-purposing some of the existing content for online learners. We’ll be busy doing that for most of the first quarter of 2013 as well as working on some multimedia content for the Masters in Mental Health which has it’s first run starting towards the end of this month.

Now to do a few minutes note-making on my “working with others” portfolio section over a satsuma then back to the day job!

HEaTED Regional Network Meeting

Last week was the West Midlands Regional Network Meeting of HEaTED – Higher Education and Technicians Education and Development. I have attended a few HEaTED gatherings since it launched two years ago – the regional network meetings and meetings for technical managers have both been really good for getting together with other people in similar technical roles and have led to introducing me to people working in my own institution I would never have otherwise met, as well as people from other local universities.This time I made some links with the technicians at the University of Wolverhampton School of Sports Performing Arts and Leisure. They are based on the same campus as the MMU in Walsall, and yet we never seem to meet outside of HEaTED. In the new year we are going to take a look at their facilities and they are going to come and see what we do too. I hope this will lead to some reciprical working as I’m certain there are some areas of overlap with Multimedia and the Performing Arts that we could both exploit.

Aside from the networking, getting together with other technicians can be a cathartic experience. The life of a technical specialist in the HE environment is a little bit sketchy around the edges some times. We aren’t part of the administrative teams … but we aren’t quite in with the academic crowd either. The result is a slightly mis-fit bunch of techies who float somewhere in between, visiting both camps but settling in neither. I’m not complaining, having one foot in and one foot out of either camp has it’s benefits, such as allowing you to be completely impartial when offering your advice and services as you have no loyalty to “tow the party line” as it were.

I think there might also be some good opportunities for training here too. Their courses in “train the technical trainer” and “teaching and learning skills for technicians” are very interesting to me. Some of the more business focussed ones like procurement, specification writing, negotiation, project and risk management also appeal. Particulalry as these aren’t vanilla flavoured courses, they are writtten and aimed specifically at technical staff.

Now, I must admit the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to HEaTED is the name. I’m not too comfortable with the lable of “technician”. I don’t feel I really have a definition as such … I’m a learning technologist … an elearning specialist … a multimedia developer … a technical manager. Actually, the term technician was one of the issues that came up at the RNM and has been identified as one of the things that puts certain groups of non-academic/non-administrative staff off coming along to the meetings. That’s a shame as we certainly have a lot of things in common as well as a lot of differences too. The community of technical staff in the University is massively varied with so many people doing so many interesting things to support teaching and learning for students and staff. We’re also a sporadic group who are hard to track down! I hope for the future that HEaTED can help the techie community come together a bit more.

New Ventures

Gemma and LilyThis website and blog marks my return to work from Maternity Leave after having my beautiful daughter Lily in May 2012. I love being a Mommy and I also enjoy my day job as a Multimedia Developer who specialises in E-Learning. Returning to work after having a baby is difficult. Logistically there is the getting-you-and-baby-out-of-the-house-on-time-and-not-forgetting-anything to get used to. Emotionally you have going-out-and-leaving-baby-with-nanny-and-grandad-for-the-whole-day to deal with. Then there are the feelings of can-I-still-remember-how-to-do-my-job-after-seven-months-at-home?

While it’s still not easy to smile and wave as my Husband and I leave Lily with my parents every morning (not always on time, and usually forgetting something e.g. a pair of tiny socks), when I eventually arrive at the office it turns out I can, thankfully, remember how to do my job quite well. And after the first few weeks it feels almost as if I have never been away. There are some exciting projects in progress, some of which may feature here as the weeks go by, and I am really excited to see how they turn out.

So now, I dare to think about my own professional development and future … and there is a plan. Not one to be content to stand still for long I have re-kindled my work on my CMALT Portfolio which was previously put on hold when the morning sickness kicked in last September. This blog will sit on my website alongside the portfolio I will eventually submit for for validation as a Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology. In the short term “The Plan” involves getting a draft of the competencies based portfolio ready by Christmas. That gives me 6 working days plus one weekend. Ambitious? Perhaps, but who said having a plan was easy?

Stay tuned!