Hi I’m Lizzie, and I’m the Learning Technologist of the Year 2019! You don’t really get used to saying that, and it certainly gets no less embarrassing being introduced as such by colleagues at every available opportunity!
Image: Lizzie Seymour - Learning Technology Officer, RZSS
I am the Learning Technology Officer for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), based in Discovery and Learning at Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, and I am the first winner of an LTA outside formal education institutions. I applied for the awards off the back of my work experimenting with learning technology elements from these more traditional institutions to see what can work in visitor attractions where we receive very different audiences. I have been working hard to integrate many different technologies into the pre-existing lessons and new after school clubs offered by our Discovery and Learning team, and to widen our offering online with the goal to increase engagement and retention of our conservation messages.
Working in a zoo is absolutely amazing and I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to apply the learning technology practices I am passionate about to important environmental and conservation causes. However being the only one working within this sector can also be isolating at times, so I decided to apply for an ALT award to better connect with the wider LT community and in a field that’s typically more academically focussed, to also raise the profile for those like me who work outside colleges and universities.
The application process is super easy, and even actually helped me in my work! Thinking reflectively about your own work is always important, and creating the submission video (you can see mine here!) was a really valuable experience. I had been a tiny bit worried about it as I am much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, but I planned it out with minimum amounts of my face being needed and let my work take centre stage. The process of storyboarding and filming the video really helped to refocus my mind on the importance of my work, and gave me a greater sense of pride and drive going forwards. I’m actually planning to coerce the rest of Discovery and Learning into producing similar short videos to explain what their roles involve, both for student’s inspiration for the alternative career paths available in Zoos, and for their own reflective practice.
I have attended the ALT annual conference in previous years, and although the community is always very welcoming to anyone on their own, it was a much lovelier experience having been nominated for the awards - so many people came over to me to start conversations or simply to wish me luck, it was a really great atmosphere to be a part of! The awards evening itself is also an event I will never forget (even though I’d quite like to forget the awkward attempt I made at a speech!) as members of my team turned up as a complete surprise to scream down the McEwan Hall for me.
Since winning the award in September, I have been invited to speak at a few local conferences and meet ups, and am really benefitting from the networking opportunities and being able to stay connected to learning technology communities to soak up ideas to apply in my own area. My next plan is to continue training up the rest of my Discovery and Learning team in the use of Learning Technologies so we can apply for a team award in a few years time…watch this space!
I would encourage everyone to apply to the Learning Technologist of the Year awards, individually or as a team - we all do fabulous and important work and it’s a brilliant chance to reflect, get some recognition, and hopefully make some new friends and inspire some new amazing ideas and partnerships along the way!