My career in digital education wouldn’t have been possible with the inspiration and passion instilled in me by others. I wouldn’t even be working in this field if it wasn’t for one remarkable lecturer who introduced me to the world of eLearning. As a student studying information technology, the combination of technology and learning was an area I hadn’t even considered. Because I was introduced (and was subsequently inspired) by the possibilities of using technologies to teach, a whole career suddenly opened up in front of me!
Why am I telling you this? Because we all need a little bit of inspiration in our lives (and in our role as educators and learning technologists) to ensure we stay current, innovative and continue to meet the needs of our students now and into the future. What works for our students today, may not work for our students tomorrow. This is even more true in the world of digital education, where changing technologies and the introduction of new and varied pedagogical approaches means that we need to find the inspiration to think outside the box and grow our skills and techniques as digital learning professionals.
“But I have always taught this way!”
It is too easy to continue to teach a concept the way we have always taught it. To throw that anatomy textbook online as a pdf (“Well it always worked in the past so why change!”) or to use PowerPoint to teach that engineering concept (“We’ve used these slides for the last ten years.
Wouldn’t it be better if we found the inspiration to think outside the box and to think about the best way to teach a concept to the students we have now, instead of teaching the easy way, or the way that has worked in the past. What was effective teaching with then-new technology, may not necessarily be the best way in the future! New and improved educational technologies are being dreamed up every day, we need to ensure we keep dreaming too!
Inspiration from others
Inspiration, as you know, can come from many places. For me, the biggest advances in my knowledge and skills, and where I have gained the most inspiration, is from the people around me. I have been lucky enough across my career to work with some extremely inspiring and knowledgeable people, from whom I have learnt a lot and who have opened my eyes to whole new areas to explore in terms of the use of technology for learning. The key here is to keep an eye out for these unique and talented individuals, to learn what you can from them and to open your mind up to new ideas and new possibilities. Sometimes it is the most random ideas that can result in the most powerful educational experiences.
Conferences and events
Conferences and events can be great places to walk away with a whole new level of knowledge and be inspired to take on brand new approaches to teaching. Whether this is a new technology that will aid in teaching and learning, or the introduction of a whole new teaching approach, or a unique perspective on using an existing learning technology that provides the spark you need to make changes that will provide an improved learning experience for your students.
My other tip, and one that I have found invaluable in sparking my inspiration over the year: go to the weird sounding sessions, the weirder sounding the better! We’ve all been to many conferences over the years, how many times haven’t you heard the same presentations over and over again? You know these ideas, you’ve taken what you think is beneficial and implemented them in your digital courses. However, the weird sounding sessions can provide an unending source of inspiration (and it is unlikely that you’ll have considered the concepts and technologies discussed before). These sessions and the inspiration they can provide can be the difference between following the digital education crowd and being one of the leaders.
Online newsletters and technology websites
Email subscriptions and technology websites are a constant source of inspiration to me. And while they can be good, I’m not talking about academic journals. Where I get a lot of inspiration is by signing up to education (and non-educational technology) newsletters and explore key websites to see what is new and upcoming. This provides me with never-ending inspiration for new educational approaches and technologies that will assist with teaching and learning. And some of the most inspiring ideas can come from considering how to use technologies which are not intended for education in an education environment. It can be an interesting thought exercise to take a standard technology and consider how it could be used to teach a concept.
Inspire your students by inspiring yourself
By finding the inspiration to change and grow as a digital learning professional, you will develop additional skills, knowledge, and teaching strategies that you can use to inspire your students and their passion for learning now and into the future.