Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Getting going with CMALT

Sometimes you need some help to get unstuck!
Image from Rainy City available under a
CC BY-ND 2.0 license
If you're after a piece of great value staff development which will also do your career a whole heap of good, then it's worth taking a look at Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology - or CMALT - for just that purpose.  It's a portfolio-based peer assessed professional accreditation that equally applies to those who are employed as learning technologists or academics with a strong interest in technology enhanced learning.  

However... one of the things that tends to happen is that people think it's a good idea and they try to get started... and then... it doesn't really get going! It kind of just... well... gets stuck.

So, if you're trying to make a start on your CMALT portfolio then these are some of the things that will help shove you towards completing your portfolio:

Thing 1. Make up your mind to do it!
I first looked at CMALT several years before I did anything about applying. Why, I don't know - but it sat in the background for a very long time and it was only once I actually made up my mind that I was going to do it... and gave myself a time frame to complete it by... that I made a start.

Thing 2. Decide how you're going to present your portfolio

What portfolio will you use? Now, while it really is a free choice for you (and if you have something you'd rather use, provided it can be accessed by the assessor, then whatever would be fine), if you want a quick start then the Google Sites template I created a while back should kick start things. There's a YouTube video on how to use it... and once you've done that, you can use Google Sites - either from your own Google account or from within Google Apps if that's available at your institution (if you're from the University of Sheffield, then click on the 'Sites' link you'll see when you're logged in to your mail and then follow the instructions in the video above) - to create the basic outline, complete with instructions on each of the the requirements.

Thing 3. Get a basic framework in place
I found that completing the basic stuff got me going... then I put a single sentence for each section which captured the essence of what I might cover just as a place marker and to get me thinking about what might be needed for my description / reflection. Even if I didn't end up writing about the thing I first thought I would, this really helped me move forwards with the process of getting it completed.

Thing 4. Gather evidence
Now, some of this is made easier by the 'right' choice of description. Don't write about stuff from 5+ years ago because a) the relevance would be questionable unless included for a very specific reason (i.e. a qualification) and b) getting the evidence after that gap is very hard! Make smart choices with thing 3, and thing 4 is easier.

Thing 5. Get feedback
I didn't have anyone else at my previous university who'd done CMALT so had no opportunity for feedback as I went through the process of putting together my portfolio* - but I really would have appreciated it. To get around that, I gave some friends from other institutions the address of my portfolio and asked (begged!) them to take a look for me. This gave me confidence and helped me make the tweaks before I submitted it. Alternatively, sharing the address of your portfolio with colleagues internally would also be helpful, as would 'buddying up' with someone to work on it together. If you know a CMALT holder and can get them to mentor you, then even better.

Thing 6.  Let people know that you're working on it
The more visible your portfolio is, the more obliged you feel to get something done! If it can be hidden and forgotten... it is hidden and forgotten!  Set a deadline, tell people you're doing it and by when and make your portfolio available as you work on it.

Hope those give you a bit of a help with getting started! Oh, and if you want to see an example of a complete CMALT portfolio, then mine is online at http://sites.google.com/site/sarahhorriganportfolio/. It's not the best, it's not the worst - but it did pass, so for what it's worth... it's open and shared!

Sarah (also a member of the CMALT Development Group)

* There is a CrowdVine CMALT site which you can access once you register for CMALT, but since a lot of people get started before they're registered, feedback can still be tricky!

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