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.