My Personal Learning Journey

When I was 18 I was quite ill and because of this I didn’t do so well on my A-Levels.  The result of this is that I didn’t get my University place and ended up going to college to take a HND in Business and Finance.  This has always bugged me as I would have loved to go to Uni and get a Degree.  I keep telling myself that one day I will, but I feel that I am missing that one piece of paper that validates me, especially in my field of work which is FE Education.

Because of this, every time I have moved into a new area of work or interest I have strived to find and take professional certifications.  Firstly it was the Macromedia and then Adobe certifications around Dreamweaver and Acrobat.  Then I dived head first into the world of Microsoft Certification.  But every time I passed one and put the certificate on my wall I looked at it and struggled to see how I made me a better person.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, i moved into eLearning in a big way in the mid 00’s and found myself settled and finally happy knowing that I enjoyed my work and I was good at it.  With this knowledge I was pushed by my manager to carry on with my certification hunt but to focus it on what I was actually good at and how it would help my career.  So fast forward to 2012 and I because a Certified Member of the Association of Learning Technologists (CMALT)  I didn’t realise it at the time but it is kind of big deal to be working in FE and get this certification; usually it is awarded to members of Higher Education so in many respects this is the piece of paper that made me the proudest.

Then in the summer of 2014 a new manager came to the college and drastically altered our department.  Out went the notion that we were curriculum developers and in came the realisation that we were going to be eLearning leaders for the college.  Wow, another change in direction I thought.  Well in the 15 years of working at the college this proved to be the biggest overhaul of my work that I had ever had.  I was now in a management position and for the first time was able to put any leadership skills I had to use.  So what did I do?  I went and looked for courses and certifications I could add to my skillset.  But instead of thinking it would make me feel better, I went looking for things that would help me do my job better.

gce_badges_02

So today I am proud that I have completed and passed Google Certified Educator Level 2, to go with my Level 1 certification, which are the first steps to becoming a Google Certified Trainer.   While most of the other qualifications I have completed have been based around what buttons to press to do things, the Trainer qualification pays more attention to problem solving and soft skills where I’m lacking at the moment. Its a certification which actually has relevance to my job now as I train people how to use the G-Suite.  It validates that I have the experience and knowledge to help teachers to use technology better in the classroom while at the same time helping me to help and coach people better.

I’m making a commitment to myself today that by the time I turn 42 I will hold this premier title.

 

 

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Management Year 1

Its amazing how fast time can go.  Last year when I set up this blog I had just been promoted into my first management role, interviewed and offered jobs to people for the first time and faced the unknown.  I also promised to myself that I would continuously blog through the year and keep this site up to date.  So how did I do?

Well my first year as a manager had a lot of ups and downs.  I was warned that I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for.  I assumed that it would be what I was doing already and then a few things tacked on such as managing staff and attending the occasional meeting.  Well that was completely wrong.  The year just flew by, so in July this year I took stock of how I thought I had coped.  There were many things that I was proud of and just as many things that I felt I did wrong or could have done to a higher standard.

I had the chance to develop on a 12 session management course and this opened my eyes to a lot of things that I didn’t even think of.  One of the best pieces of advice I got was this

You are responsible for getting tasks done, but not always responsible for actually doing them.

I was so concerned that i needed to do things myself that I forgot that I led a team who could take some of that work off of me. I was working at home in the evenings and also sometimes at the weekend trying to fit in all the jobs that I needed to do.  It wasn’t until I got this piece of advice that I realised that as a manager, it is my responsibility to get projects and work packages delivered on time, but also that my team is part of that process and I should be sharing the actual work around rather than doing it all myself.  I’m still not there yet but I’m certainly getting better as time goes on.

The second thing that happened to me this year was I had to let go of my ‘baby’ – Moodle. Since 2009 I was completely responsible for the running of the VLE; course creation, administration, coding etc.  I took it over from a niche software application to getting a high proportion of the college using it and i’m very proud of it. But my new position has meant that I’ve had to lay off a lot of this work to one of my staff.  Again, it seems that the thing i’m struggling with is letting go and trusting in my team to deliver to the same standard as I can.  Which of course they do, but if you’ve ever been in that position where you have nurtured something from infancy you’ll understand how hard it is to let it go.

One thing that i’m quite happy about is being able to give credit to the people who have done the work.  Now this is a double edged sword.  One the one hand some would say that they are my achievements if work gets done in the department and I should take the credit, but I don’t see it that way.  My staff have done some amazing work this year and I should not be the one to be taking the praise for it.  I’ve made sure that I’ve kept to this ethos and a lot of what comes out of our department is down to the fantastic staff I have and not myself.

As a nice end to year, our college launched the Excellence awards for staff and teams.  I got a number of votes myself but as a team we were nominated and came runner up in the Team of the Year category which made me very proud.

So what are my plans for the year ahead?

Its the second album syndrome.  We had so much success last year, how to we follow it up?  I’m now more involved cross college and now i’m confident in myself and my team i’m happy to let them manage their own paths to a higher degree.  Myself, well I’m still trying to let go and concentrate on the bigger picture and not fret over the little things as much.  Oh, and this year I was us to win the Team of the Year award.

 

Making your work 21st Century

Can you remember over the last decade how many times you have heard people proclaim that the office will be paper free?  And how many times have you ever seen an office which was truly said to be paper free?  I’m guessing that the first proclamation, you’ve heard a million times and the second you’ve never actually seen.  Looking around, there are still filling cabinets in many offices, desks scattered with papers and notepads and printers everywhere you look.  Despite what tech leaders say, actually writing stuff down is a lot quicker and easier in that moment than getting our tablets out and typing away.

But should this mean that the old ways are always the best?  As I’m sat here at my desk, I’m looking out across the room and there are 4 other people all sat at pretty similar desks staring at a screen clicking away on keyboards.  There is the odd chat but most of the time we are just getting on with our work.  This is how the 20th Century office was.  A room filled with desks where people came in the morning, sat down for 8 hours and then went home at the end of the day.  There is no recognition that people are more productive when the working day works for them.  Sure, we have flexitime where we can come in early or stay late, but the convention is that we still come and sit in a room and do our work. In some cases this is simply the way it has to be; people need to work in a secure area or have to be physically near to other people to do their jobs,  but in many offices up and down the country there could be a better way.

Getting back to the paperless office, what generally happens after a meeting is the papers get filed away and forgotten about until they are needed and then there is a rush to try and find what we’ve done with them.  Lets take this into the 21st Century.  In this idea, we get back to the office and use our device to photograph the papers, documents etc that we created and store them online using something like Evernote.  Now, when we need to find that agenda item, we can search online for exactly what we need.  No rushing around, no having to go to the filing cabinet digging through reams of paper.  Just get online and your whole filing cabinet is there on your tablet.

Lets now look again at the office and try and see how we can bring that into the 21st Century.  Firstly, why do we all need to be sat in the same room all the time?  In the team I lead, we all use cloud storage and instant message/video calling anyway.  It is only convention and rules that mean we have to be in this room together.  Not everyone works to their fullest potential when told how and where they need to be.  The advent of constant fast wifi now means that I can be just as productive drinking a coffee in Starbucks as I am here in the office.  So why is this not being embraced more by senior management?  I think it comes down to 2 things.  Firstly some management have a lack of trust in staff to actually do work when they aren’t watching them or want to show up and see what they are up to.  This is in the most part something which should be put to bed.  Most people if they are in a job which allows them to work how they want will be just as productive if not more so because they are seen as valued and trusted to get on with their job.  It is moving away from a time based work day to an productivity led work day.  Is it better for a worker to do half as much work sat in an office all day, or twice as much work where they are comfortable and at ease?  The Second reason and the one which is the most annoying one is

Well this is the way that its always been

This is ridiculous.  If people thought like this we would never evolve and move forward with anything.

So how do we achieve this?  Management need to let go and listen to staff more and give them responsibility for their own jobs.  Pride should keep staff wanting to work well and because it is productivity that is being measured and not time then it is a win-win situation.  Management could get higher output and staff are happier being able to work how they want. Technology has a large role to play in this.  As I said earlier, our team use Instant Messaging and also make use of applications such as Google Hangouts for online chats.  We keep an eye on projects and what we are working on using Trello which is an online task manager.  We can all add things onto it and measure how we are working.  We schedule in a face to face team meeting once every 2 weeks where we can all be in the same place and discuss anything we need to then.  Our team is capable of working anywhere we want to.  Lets try and make that happen.  Technology is the driving force behind this and we need to understand that bringing more technology into the working day is not just tech for tech’s sake.  It makes a real difference.  It allows us to move on from the old ways and create new paradigms of what a work day should be.

I’d be interested to know about other teams and companies how you could make your work 21st Century.

New Year, New Me?

This time last year I was in a nice safe job doing what I loved.  ie. working and coding on the VLE and making sure the college Moodle was working to its best ability.  I had no plans for world domination, and was just happy to be coasting along.  Today, things couldn’t be more different.

January 2016 and I am now the eLearning Coordinator for the college where I work.  I manage a team of great people and I report directly to an Assistant Principle.  Is this what I would have wanted from my career?  I’m not sure and here are the reasons why.

Rewind 12 months and I was king of my spot.  I knew the software I was responsible for inside out and back to front.  If someone wanted something doing, I could do it without having to think about it.  I was safe. But now, i’m in a more senior position and with what I feel is less knowledge.  I also find i’m having to depend on more people outside of my area to get things done which effect our department and myself.

But on the flip side, i’m having a great time being able to shape the direction of eLearning in a small part in the college and am loving this aspect of my new role.  Its also pushing me on as I’m not in a ‘safe zone’ anymore.  I’m making mistakes this year which isn’t great but each time i do, I learn something new. My self confidence has taken a nose dive since September but i plan on turning that around this year too.

So for this year in work I plan to do the following.

  • Make sure that I only worry about controlling what I can control (ie my team) and letting other people take responsibility for themselves.
  • Be more managerial in my approach to things – Be more assertive when i need to be both with my staff when needs be, but also to other managers when the situation requires it.
  • Learn more about being a good manager so I can help myself and my team to fly this year.

Aside from work I want to be able to be happy with my work/life balance more.  I need to stop worrying about work things at home and learn to leave work at work.

 

 

The Move to Management

After 14 years working at Sheffield College through various positions, this year I have finally moved into management.  Why has it taken me this long to make the jump?  That is a questions I’m hoping to answer myself over the next part of my career.

I think maybe it was because I like doing the steady geeky coding work without all the politics and responsibility that come with it.  It might just be that I’ve never thought myself ready before.  Whatever it is, I was told that it was about time that I step up and take a lead in my job.  Over the last decade and a bit, i’ve had many jobs here, from being ‘The Stats Guy’ for projects, the ‘The Web Guy’ for the english department and then the ‘Moodle Guy’ for the whole college to now having all that and 3 staff to look out for.  I’m really up for the challenge and i’ve had a little over 3 months in post now.

Now the thoughts racing through my head move from Why can’t this student login to the VLE to How can i show the effectiveness of this VLE for the college.  It is definitely a challenge at some points to shift my mindset to a targets focused arena, although one i’m trying to embrace.  How do I think i’m doing?  I’m reminded of my school reports..  Kieran has the knowledge and will, he just needs to apply himself and believe in himself more. My fantastic team believe in me, so perhaps it is time for my self belief to come through and show what I can do.

Heading into the christmas break I’ve got lots of ideas rolling around my head of where I want the department to be next year, things I want our team to be in the centre of and departments I want to help.  Most of all I don’t want to get to my office in the new year, look at my desk and think, There are too many screens.