Contextual Statement

A statement outlining the context for this portfolio

In brief, this statement gives the context within which this professional portfolio is based, which I treat as kind of a reflective journey. Here, I give a concise biography, a career outline and touch upon my current role. I also highlight the context in which I work and why I wish to submit this portfolio for Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology.

After finishing high school, I went first to college and then to university to study Russian. I ended up studying abroad and graduating with both a dual Bachelor of Arts in Russian and Spanish. In between starting and graduating, I undertook the Cambridge CELTA and then I took a year off to teach English in Shanghai, China. After I graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2005, I undertook a Master of Arts in Russian and later graduated in 2008 from Middlebury College in Vermont, USA.

Since 2005, I have forged a career in education. Initially in late 2005, I (re)started working within the field of teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in Moscow, Russia. I taught a range of learners in small and larger groups in both language schools, in companies and also privately. I had also begun to wonder how to teach learners using digital technologies as I found carrying around and using cassette tapes and CDs slightly cumbersome. This was also around the same time that smartphones had begun to appear on the mass market, partly in thanks to Apple’s development of the iPhone and the iPod, both of which allowed more learning-on-the-go.

Later in 2009, I went to work in Abu Dhabi for a university prep program that aimed to equip young Emiratis with the knowledge and skills to study successfully at the tertiary level. Here, I had a manager suggest that, should I wish to go further, I’d need to undertake at least a Master’s if not a qualification called the Cambridge Delta. And so, I decided to undertake not one but both in order to obtain the full benefits of both of these qualifications.

While studying for the Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and the Cambridge Delta, I became are of the field of teaching English for academic purposes (EAP) which involves teaching students a range of knowledge, skills and abilities. EAP focuses on teaching those who wish to study in English-medium universities (e.g. studying in the UK, US, etc.) who may have a slightly lower level of language than required for a program of study at a university.

While teaching in EAP, the class sizes that I have taught have often consisted of between 10 and 20 students, and so it seems only natural that technology enhanced learning and teaching (TELT) is one way to foster students’ development as language learners and prospective students of a potentially arduous university course of study.

My curiosity and practice related to TELT started to grow, and little by little, I started to experience with TELT within teach post in higher education starting with University College London where I dabbled in using WordPress in the classroom while teaching on foundation level EAP courses. Later, while at the University of Glasgow, where I taught on pre-sessional EAP courses, I was further exposed to Moodle as colleagues there had designed and developed a well-organized and thought out online course for augmenting learning and teaching in the classroom. At a brief stint at the University of St Andrews, my interests in learning technologies were also further fostered by a couple of mentors who had worked within the field for quite some time. I also submitted a case study to Jisc RSC Scotland which went on to win an award.

My ‘big break’ into technology enhanced learning and teaching came in 2014 when I became a senior tutor with remit for learning technologies at Coventry University. There, I oversaw and managed the design and development of Moodle courses to augment students’ learning in the classroom, and students’ use of Mahara for eportfolio purposes to become more reflective learners. I also oversaw and managed the training of students and staff in the effective use of both Moodle and Mahara.

Later, I went on to Royal Holloway, University of London to become a teaching fellow in EAP. There, I worked in a role that I can best describe as a learning developer in that I worked with a range of staff and students to support and foster students’ learning and acquisition of academic writing, research, critical thinking and independent study abilities. I also had a small role in TELT, however, the appetite for TELT was much smaller and less supported at that time.

Throughout this time up until my most recent post, I had been regularly active within the BALEAP community, and I took part in BALEAP events and also EAP in the North events.

In 2017, I once again entered the realm of digital education by landing a newly formed post within the new Digital Education Unit for the Management School at Lancaster University. Within my current role, I advise, mentor and effectively ‘teach’ lecturers about good practices and possibilities for using technology enhanced learning and teaching. I work on specific projects related to blending the Executive MBA program in addition to developing online learning opportunities for a range of other undergraduate and postgraduate level courses.

In applying for the CMALT, I wish to evidence my career to date and take a reflective account of my knowledge, experience and abilities thus far in order to bring focus to the possibilities that may lie ahead.