ALT-C 2012: a confrontation with reality

I participated in the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) conference for the first time last week.  Like many of you, I use technology in my learning & teaching practice and in my daily work but have much, much more to learn.

There was an overarching message about effectiveness and efficiency with these hard questions facing us as individuals and education institutions:

  • How can learning technology better support the core processes of learning, teaching, assessment, recruitment and retention?
  • What will be the place of open educational resources and other kinds of free, shared, low cost or informal support and organisation in good provision?
  • How should we respond to learners themselves, who are increasingly voluble in their desire for value for money and for effective use of technology?

I learnt plenty; here are a few highlights: Keynote Eric Mazur showcased the significance of collaborative and active learning – and the way technology enables this.  His work is underpinned by his research in university science courses in the USA.

The ways in which both students and teachers drive changes in the use of learning technologies was a common theme.  Learning technologies (software, platforms, and activities) are now hugely influential in learning design – enhancing the way in which teachers think about how students will make the best use of their time and engage in their subject. Richard Noss, from the London Knowledge Lab, suggests that the thought of using technology for learning is new; it’s evolving for us in education, so in the ‘real world’ technology for learning is just beginning.

And another thought, the importance of harnessing the potential for collaborative technology is crucial for learning.  See Technology Enhanced Learning, a UK teaching and learning research project.

Tunde Varga-Atkins and I presented some collaborative work on how learning technologies might enhance a student feedback technique which generated plenty of questions about some of the technologies we’ve tried and tested: Mobile Text EntryGoogle Moderator and Online Sticky Notes.

My overall impressions of the conference: well-organised and enthusiastic delegates (all 700!), good place to meet learning technology researchers, there was a good balance between practical (innovation) and research-informed sessions, online participation to meet others, very welcoming and easy to network.  It was inspiring to see the range of innovation and interventions in adult, vocational, further and higher education and the products available from commercial providers. Lots of presentations reported on development that is undertaken within and funded by Higher Education institutions.  The emphasis was on using technology for innovation to make learning and teaching more effective and more efficient, and how it is increasingly part of institutional strategy. You can see the keynote and invited speaker sessions soon on the ALT YouTube channel shortly.

University of Liverpool is an organisational member of ALT; see more about ALT’s work to improve practice, promote research and influence policy in learning technologies.