It Takes a Village to Raise a Learning Technologist: How Work Shadowing can Enhance Collaboration and Professional Development

by Faye Brockwell, Learning Technologist

In the grey gloom of the current weather, being grateful for what you have is one way to boost your mood and I had a great opportunity to do just that recently when a colleague from another team asked to work shadow me. Throughout the process I found myself reflecting on my role as a Learning Technologist (LT) at Sussex, how I got here and just how much I owe to the people who supported me along the way.

Stock photo of two colleagues, sitting in front of a laptop. The person on the left is pointing out something to the person on the right. They are next to a bright window in a modern office.
Photo by Adobe Stock

When my colleague approached me I was feeling a little overwhelmed – I’d had a run of catching pretty much every bug going (as had my kids) and that, along with the usual start-of-year chaos of supporting assessments and the set-up of new module sites in our Canvas Virtual Learning Environment left me feeling like I was just skimming the surface of my to-do list. So it would have been very easy to say no.

It would have been very easy to say no.

But the request immediately brought to mind all the people who have taken time out to help me along my way to becoming an LT, when they too were snowed under. Like my wonderful colleagues on the eLearning team at the University of Brighton, who took time out to demystify module templates and patiently explain Turnitin (well, no-one can ever truly explain Turnitin, but they had a good go). And then there’s the Professional Services colleagues (both here at Sussex and at Brighton before them) who have talked me through processes and terminology and helped me work out who’s who. (I could go on, but this is a blog post, not an Oscars acceptance speech, so sorry to the many others not mentioned here). I am eternally grateful to all of those people, and I feel lucky to now be in a position to pass on that kindness.

So I said yes.

During our weekly sessions together, I took my colleague through some of the work I do. And again I felt grateful. This time for the variety of work that my role comprises: helping stressed colleagues fix things that have gone wrong with Canvas; developing and facilitating workshops; playing with new technology; and collaborating with colleagues across the university.

I am lucky to be in a position to pass on that kindness.

So I said yes.

The experience gave me an opportunity to collaborate more closely with my colleague and reflect on how fortunate I am to work with such amazing people. In every task I included him in, I was able to draw immediately on his expertise, which was invaluable when working to develop some Canvas training for professional services colleagues, as well as when we were trouble-shooting some issues with assessments.

I would recommend work shadowing to anyone, whether you are the shadower or the shadowed – you may be surprised how much you gain from the experience. So, to my lovely colleague, thank you for asking to work shadow me. You probably thought I was doing you an immense favour, when in fact it was the other way around.

And thanks for helping to cheer up a wet, grey start to the year!

Posted in Educational Enhancement, Learning Technologies, Professional Development

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We are the Educational Enhancement team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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