Naomi Anderson, Care and Support Manager at Ark Housing Association recently took part in our 23 Things: Digital. Here she tells us all about her experience of working through the different Things and what she got out of it.
Why did you decided to take part?
I manage a team of outreach support staff providing 24/7 support to adults with complex needs. Every Friday I send the team an email with any information they need to know that’s come up through the week, it’s also a chance to recognise outstanding contributions and share news. Often I would attach a pdf document reflecting on a previous experience in health and social care relevant to the issues of the week.
I have worked in health and social care for over 30 years, actually come to think of it it’s getting closer to 40 years, yikes! I have a lot of experience to share so my reflective accounts were one way of doing this. Then I attended a workshop led by SSSC’s George Burton who was promoting 23 Things: Digital and it was a bit of a lightbulb moment. Instead of sharing a PDF I could set up my own blog and share my reflections on that. That same day I began the blog although it didn’t go ‘live’ until about a week later.
What did you like about this type of learning?
I like that I can do it at my own pace and it’s not compulsory. There are no deadlines so I can fit it in as and when it suits me, if work is particularly hectic on any given week I don’t have the added pressure of trying to meet training deadlines.
I also like the fact that it can be tailored to the individual. I am working my way through 23 Things: Digital in order but if I wanted to focus my attention on any particular topic I could. If I felt I needed to find out more about managing my emails, or digital security for example, I could do those Things before the others. If there’s anything I’m not sure about I can go over it as often as I want and the information is always there for me to go back to as a refresher any time I need it.
I appreciate the fact that it’s concrete evidence of informal learning. Formal learning usually comes with certificates, and in some cases ceremonies, but informal learning is difficult to evidence to employers. Open Badges are more than a certificate though as anyone can see the evidence submitted in support of an Open Badge which, I feel, enhances their value.
How long did you spend on each thing and how long did you spend in total?
The time spent on each Thing is variable and largely depends on my prior knowledge of the subject. Some Things I’ve just jumped straight into but others I needed more time to explore. Thing 10 about podcasts for example didn’t take me long at all as I already use them so it only took me the time I needed to write my blog post about it. Generally it takes me around an hour to draft a blog post. This also applied to the Health and Social Care Standards Open Badges, because I already apply these in my practice it was just a case of writing up how I apply each Standard, so each Open Badge took around an hour.
Other Things took considerably longer as I tumbled down the rabbit hole of the given topic. Thing 9 on The Cloud seemed to take ages, not because the Thing was difficult or challenging but because I hadn’t spent any admin time at all on my cloud accounts in a long time until I started doing it. Once in my cloud accounts I spent some time creating files and folders and generally tidying up. The same applied to professional networks for Thing 13, unlucky for some, which took me a while as I spent a couple of evenings tidying up my LinkedIn account. Once I’d finished faffing, each blog post still only took around an hour.
If I’m honest sourcing the right picture to illustrate each blog post usually takes me longer than the entire Thing!
When did you work on it/find time to do it?
I did all the associated work in the evenings and weekends at my own pace. Sometimes, if I fell down a rabbit hole, I would find an entire evening had disappeared but I had a nice tidy cloud account/social media account/more secure passwords to show for it. Sometimes I would spend a short time over a few evenings and other times I would begin and end a Thing inside and hour.
Would you recommend it colleagues?
I already have, I spoke to my line manager about it who asked me to write a short report on the workshop I attended, which she shared with others in the organisation. She later told me that I’m not the only one in the company that is working on the Open Badges. I would recommend them to anyone working in health and social care at any level, whether they are new to the sector or old hands like me.
The Open Badges, and blogging, are a great way to boost your career opportunities and raise your profile within the sector. Following one particular blog post I was approached by SSSC and invited to become an SSSC Ambassador for Careers in Care. I was delighted they asked me and have already made contact with my local college to offer my services. They have noted my details and will be in touch when the new term starts. I’m very much looking forward to talking to health and social care students to promote the work that we do and the opportunities available in the sector.
Your top tips for people starting out?
Take your time. Don’t put any pressure on yourself or set deadlines. When I submit an application for an Open Badge before I close my laptop I read through the next Thing. That’s all I do at that stage, read it then close it. That gives me some idea of the amount of work involved which depends largely on how much I already know about the topic. I like to mull it over before I make a start and to plan when I will be able to fit it in during my week.
Use a Word document or similar to draft your evidence and always use spell check and proof read. Discuss your evidence in supervision with your manager and ask them to look over it for you, their feedback may be useful. You can include this discussion in your evidence.
Don’t apply for any badge that you don’t have experience of; the evidence should be a reflection of your understanding and application. What did you learn and how has that informed and enhanced your practice?
If it helps to work through the Things with a colleague or two, you can share your thoughts and give each other support and encouragement. Just remember to make sure your work is your own though otherwise you may fall foul of plagiarism.