CMALT: My Journey

In November 2013 I was awarded my CMALT accreditation from the Associate for Learning Technology. I wrote about my journey on my own blog, and provided a few short but important tips for anyone looking at working towards their own CMALT award. Here is that post.

After an awfully long time I have written, submitted, re-written, re-submitted, and finally been awarded the status of Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT). When I say it took a long time, it’s not an understatement – here’s how and why.

CMALT – The beginning
I joined Bournemouth University (BU) in 2007, fresh into the role of a Learning Technologist (LT) from 10 years as a commercial web designer. In all honesty I didn’t really know much of what I’d be expected to do but I knew my experience with online communities and techniques in developing and fostering them was key to my appointment. It just goes to show the faith and vision my interviewers had to see me for my potential and offer me the job! I joined ALT shortly after starting, which is where I first heard about CMALT.

In 2008 a visit was organised with ALT to BU to explain the CMALT scheme and sign some of us up. I don’t think anyone signed up there and then, but the seeds were sown for me and I can say that this was one of the deciding factors in me starting to think more in depth and more strategically about the role, my vision of the role of an LT, and the role LTs it plays in the wider School, Faculty, and Institutional environment. In 2009 I wrote my first ‘What is a learning technologist?’ post.

Despite thinking and planning my CMALT portfolio it wasn’t until July 2011 that I actually paid my fees, and starting developing my portfolio, collating the evidence, and filled in the application form. At this point I was already carefully considering my future at BU and whether I could continue to grow as a Learning Technologist there or I needed to look elsewhere for new challenges.

CMALT – The process
I attended many of the online CMALT webinars and found them incredibly valuable in focusing my mind on what was needed, and how I was to do it. What was even more important, however, was talking with my network on LinkedIn or Twitter or Google+ and finding out from their first-hand experience on the process and, more importantly, the ‘portfolio’. From these discussions I realised I didn’t have to submit a ‘plain’ paper formatted portfolio, so I took ideas from my network of successful CMALT holders and created a Google site.

Tip 1: If you decide to select  an assessor of your own then choose him/her wisely. It is not enough to choose them for their knowledge of you and your work (in fact the guidelines state this person should not be “directly responsible for your work or who has worked with you in the production of any of the evidence included in your portfolio.”). It is essential they have the capability to act in your best interest, and this may mean being hard on your submission. You both need a strong working/personal relationship where honest comments on your work can be given and viewed constructively. I would like to thank Dr Milena Bobeva for her frank and honest comments on my portfolio, from which I was motivated to rewrite sections and to work harder to present my work in a clearer and more relevant way, therefore making me both a better LT and a more deserving CMALT holder.

Tip 2: Don’t do it alone. If you can get a colleague or friend to support you, help encourage you, and keep you to your deadlines (self-imposed) then you’ll be better for it. I was lucky enough to have some great support from friends on Twitter, so a big ‘thank you’ to them (you know who you are!).

CMALT – The Portfolio
Before doing anything else read the guidelines and associated files provided by ALT on the CMALT website, especially the Guidelines for CMALT candidates and assessors as this will be your go-to resource during the process. Now read it again. Everything you need is in there and each time you read it you’ll think of your work and evidence you can incorporate into your portfolio.

Next I would recommend reading a few of the publicly available CMALT portfolios to see what other people have written and what kind of evidence they used, and how. Of course you’ll remember that each of us has a very different role and environment we work in, so each portfolio is going to be very individual and personal.

I started constructing my Google site to match the criteria set out for the portfolio document, and by using the heading and the introductory text from the CMALT guideline file. This, again, was the easy bit … now I had to collect and collate the evidence, write the contextual statements, reflect, and present all this in a meaningful and coherent way. Even now that makes it sound easier than I found it.

Tip 3: I would strongly recommend not changing jobs in the middle of this process. I had planned to get the portfolio completed and submitted before leaving BU in May 2012 but, alas, that wasn’t to be. This made it very hard because I knew I had work I could use as evidence but no longer had access to the files or emails I needed.

Part off the process is getting the result/feedback of your portfolio. My portfolio initially came back with comments and suggestions about how I could take different sections and make them better, to include different/better examples and reflection that would indicate and highlight skills, knowledge, practices, etc. in a clearer way.

Tip 4: If your portfolio is referred and requires attention before you are awarded CMALT make careful note of the comments given and do your best to address them: not only will your portfolio be better for it, but you as a Learning Technologist too.

I have also decided to make my portfolio public in the hope that anyone else looking to gain CMALT accreditation can make use of it. You can view my CMALT portfolio Google site here: https://sites.google.com/site/hopkinsdavidcmalt/

CMALT – What next?
Part of my portfolio submission for CMALT was also the hope that I can give something back to the community of ‘technology & education’ and ALT … to this end I will also explore the prospect of becoming a CMALT assessor and mentor (of sorts) to anyone else who is interested in becoming a CMALT holder.

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