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!
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!
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.