I started drafting this post last month after I attended a White Rose Learning Technology forum at University of Huddersfield and there was some discussion around learning technologists and professional identity. The discussions took place in the context of a workshop on gaining CMALT accreditation, but some further discussions about learning technology roles more generally at Digifest last week spurred me on to finish the post.
The main question that’s been hanging over me is: is learning technology/technology enhanced learning suffering from a professional identity crisis? As a relative newcomer to the profession (less than four years) and after spending around 5-6 years before that working towards becoming a librarian and building a professional identity in that field, I’ve often found it difficult to feel like I know where I fit in terms of the learning technology profession.
Imposter syndrome aside (and I’ve got another post dedicated to that also in draft at the moment – you’re in for a treat!), the discussions I’ve been part of at recent events have made me realise I’m not alone in feeling this way. Many people in learning technology/ed tech/TEL roles, whatever you want to call them, have come from such a variety of backgrounds that it’s no wonder there’s a perceived struggle to assert ourselves as a collective and consistent ‘voice’. Often, it’s even a struggle to get staff across our institutions to understand what we do and where our expertise lies. People have come from library backgrounds, teaching, IT Support desk and training roles, even academia. Some are actually academics and have lecturing roles and others are on professional services/support staff contracts. I think part of the issue could be the language we use to define ourselves. I saw Melissa Highton speak at Digifest last week and they raised some good points about the semantics around terms like ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’ and ‘Virtual Learning Environment’. Melissa’s latest blog post goes deeper into some of this.
Even when you look at jobs that are advertised through the ALT newsletter and various mailing lists, there are some that have a stronger focus on instructional design work, some that have a strong focus on supporting systems and others that focus on staff development, training and pedagogical knowledge. I know that mine is a combination of all three and is likely to evolve over the next year or so, depending on the projects I’m going to be working on.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like working in this field and I’ve met some of the most intelligent, forward thinking and professional people I’ve ever worked with during my time in learning technology roles. I’ve also loved being able to work with teaching staff in both FE and HE and I’ve learned so much in the last 3 and a half years. I also think the work of organisations like ALT and Jisc do allow us to find common ground and a common language across institutions and sectors.
In an attempt to be more optimistic in 2017, I do think there is more that connects us than divides us. Perhaps this isn’t a ‘problem’ that necessarily needs to be solved and we just need to celebrate the diverse nature of our roles and the messy nature of education. Maybe the old librarian part of my brain was wanting to categorise and catalogue everything so it made sense. Who am I kidding, though? I was never any good at cataloguing anyway…
I’m interested to find out what other LT people think and whether my identity crisis is entirely of my own making!