AmplifyFE Community Space

Do something that scares you (psssst! we can help)

Chloë Hynes, AmplifyFE Community Space Lead #AmplifyFEspace

It’s been 2 weeks since we launched the AmplifyFE Community Space and as such, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the session itself. Something that – and I won’t lie to you – I was incredibly nervous about. Why? I’m a confident trainer and facilitator and I am incredibly passionate about amplifying practitioner’s voices in the sector. So why the nerves? For the same reason I was shaking before my first ESOL class, had hot flushes before the first time I presented a 3 minute teachmeet, and couldn’t stop blabbering before (and after) my first digital webinar with my ESOL peers. I was nervous because it was important to me. I’ve realised over recent years: community within FE (that’s the whole sector; not just colleges!) is something I really care about. I wanted it to be a successful launch and ultimately for the community space to be effective and purposeful.

If you weren’t able to come to the session (or you did and would like a reminder of what we did), you can check out the Wakelet story. This blog however, is going to detail a few additional narrative threads inc. How I (digitally) devised the session, the difference between being confident and competent, and the advantages of doing a meeting spotlight:

Devising the Launch Session

Anyone that knows me knows I am no stranger to 0 hour contracts and occasionally I get on my little soap box about it. One of the hardest things when on these contracts was the lack of agency I had as a practitioner, the lack of trust in me from the organisation and generally having to follow everyone else’s rules. I now work for an organisation where my difference is nurtured and that difference includes the way I work. So, I thought I’d share a little ‘Easter Egg’ with you which is my plan for the community space launch session. I made this on Jamboard which allowed me to physically arrange and rearrange all the moving parts with ease (can you tell I used to do this with real life post it notes?). I also colour coded the timings and the technology so I could see the rhythm visually rather than textually. Lastly, I added the arrows in for Emma and Lynne so they could make sense of the journey I was proposing for the session.

You might think it looks incredibly overwhelming! Likewise, you might be inspired to give something similar to this a go yourself. Either way, now I am on the ‘other side’ of incremental session plans, I am fascinated by how people prep and plan their own sessions and what they personally find is the most useful and effective strategies. Like a Cadbury’s crème egg: how do you do yours?

The 3 C’s are Not Equal Partners in Digital Realms

Last week I did a digital webinar for NATECLA with one of my ESOL peers, Carol Samlal. We kicked off by thinking about our confidence and competence and I asked folks to take a moment to rate themselves on these two things necessary for strengthened digital resilience. This is quite an arbitrary question taken at face value, but it’s the critical thinking around it that is the most important part including the ‘it depends…’ 

The Friday prior to this webinar, I was facilitating the launch of the AmplifyFE Community and I drew upon my experience in that space to illustrate how our competence and confidence may not always match up, yet are closely interlinked.

AmplifyFE uses a platform called Blackboard Collaborate (BB) for its events. Whilst I have a huge preference for Zoom, I was glad it wasn’t in Teams. I’ve presented using StreamYard, WebEx, GoogleMeet and other platforms before but never fully experienced Blackboard Collaborate. It was our first rodeo so I was quite anxious about messing up the session because of my lack of competence with the platform I was using. The week prior, Lynne, Emma and I met up in BB to have an explore of the space and I noticed that my thought processes were aligning it to what I knew and felt comfortable with ie Zoom. Whilst my competence grew, my confidence still floundered with the weight of the pressure to perform. I faked my confidence throughout most of the event, deciding to be open and honest and let participants know it was my first time hosting a BB space. Being in a space with colleagues and peers was encouraging and I could feel my confidence grow as we neared a close. I think that knowing how to use digital effectively is a skill underpinned by our competence, but knowing what to do when things go wrong or don’t work how you intend them to is key to digital resilience and is heavily marked by our confidence levels. Thankfully, one of the purposes of our community space is to nurture digital skills, develop our digital literacies and build resilience. So, I couldn’t have had that experience in a better place or with a more understanding crowd.

> If you’re wondering what the third ‘C’ is; Carol and I disputed this. I said it was ‘comfort’ and she said it’s ‘creativity’. Both of us joked it might actually be ‘cookies’ but it could just as well be community, connection or collaboration, couldn’t it?

Being Brave on Your Own Terms

I recently wrote about my first experience sharing my ideas with my peers during a teachmeet at a NATECLA conference a few years ago and that moment of bravery sticks out to me because at that time I was very new to NATECLA and I didn’t really know anyone in the ESOL sector. I didn’t think my ideas were particularly innovative or worth anyone’s time. I now know that was due to a severe lack of confidence because people still mention that presentation to this day! I consider that 5 minute terrifying teachmeet to be one of the most impactful moments in my professional career. It was made possible by the practitioners (Jenny Roden and Diana Tremayne) that encouraged me to give it a go and who told me I had something worth sharing. 

If you’ve got this far I want to personally say that YOU have something worth sharing in the AmplifyFE Community Space. The question is what? And how? With that in mind, let’s take a look at the menu of options…

Let’s start with what you’re reading right now: the AmplifyFE blog! So far, blog posts have been written by the AmplifyFE team (that’s Maren, Emma, Lynne, Christina and myself) but we are most keen to give you the stage to share your thinkpieces, experiences and resources. It can be anything from a comparison between two digital platforms in enabling one specific pedagogical approach, a thinkpiece on moving online community spaces back face:face, or perhaps you want to share your experience of DigiFest (or the ALT conference ;-)). Maybe writing isn’t your bag and you’d prefer to chat about it instead. Well, hold that thought as we have you covered! Over the coming weeks we will be launching the AmplifyFE podcast where I will need some folks to talk to about digital pedagogies, bridging the digital divide, nurturing professional learning communities and a few wild card questions thrown in for good measure.

Whilst a webinar is something more definitive, presented or ‘taught’; imagine the spotlight to be an unfinished sentence, a question or even an exclamation! Early last year, I did a spotlight myself at the #FEresearchCircle where I shared my thoughts about a new model of active reflection I coined as ‘composting’. It was 15 minutes of presenting in front of an audience with a variety of experience within educational research. Following there was Q+A, break out discussion and a final activity consolidating everyone’s freshest thinking. As a presenter it was not only empowering for me to do this, it was helpful to unpack my thoughts, bounce off others and connect a few dots I was having trouble doing myself. Soon after this spotlight I had the confidence to write my first article for InTuition (Issue 44, Summer 2021) – all about composting.

There’s one last way to contribute to the space and I would argue it might even be the most important; as a community space member. Attending twice termly meetings, taking part in TwitterChats, adding events to the FE calendar, reading and sharing blogs and podcasts, attending webinars and taking part in the post-spotlight discussions. All of these actions are valued and appreciated, otherwise, without an audience, who are we amplifying TO? 

Bye for Now

A quick little wrap up and that is to say that the AmplifyFE team are all approachable and supportive bods. We all have our roles to play within the team, but we’re here if and when you need us. AmplifyFE exists to give you a stage, a platform, a megaphone to share what means the most to you. So if you’re reading this and your interest is peaked but for whatever reason you have a few niggling doubts? Get in touch and let’s chat. In the meantime, put these dates in your diary, bookmark the new AmplifyFE Community Space LinkTree and book on to our next meeting on 1st July @ 12 noon. 

1 Comment

  • Vicky says:

    I really enjoyed reading this blog post, thank you for sharing your experiences Chloë. I especially enjoyed learning about how you devise your sessions with movable digital post it notes, and how this helps stimulate your creative process in relation to session design

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