2008-2016 in Learning Technology #altc

I missed 2008, but every year since then I have participated in ALT’s Annual Conference. While I work for ALT in my ‘day job’ I also attend the conference as a Learning Technology professional (and this year as a Certified Member of ALT for the first time…). So as well as work, for me it’s CPD, a great opportunity to expand my network and a chance to find out about research, new thinking in the field. While a packed, parallel programme means that I never get to see all the sessions I would like, I want to try and pick out some of the key moments from the last eight years, things that made me think, changed my mind or simply stayed with me.

2015 – Ripples #altc: last year my work commitment focused on the AGM and that meant I had less time than usual to focus on the academic programme. So from 2015 one of my strongest ‘take aways’ is the long list of blog posts that was compiled by participants afterwards. It includes reviews, reflections and in depth posts about individual sessions. Thoroughly recommended reading (particularly welcome in the exhausted week that follows each conference for me).


2014 – Audrey Water’s Monsters: a year of keynote and invited speakers that coincides strongly with my personal interests at the time, including wonderful talks from Jeff Haywood, Catherine Cronin and Bryan Mathers (you can watch all of them on YouTube). But for me, that Thursday morning in the front row in the giant auditorium in Warwick, listening to Audrey Waters weave a spell-binding narrative on the future of Learning Technology was an experience that has stayed with me. Audrey made me think about who has the power to decide about the future of Learning Technology – and how to empower practitioners and researchers to have more of it.

2013 – 20 years of ALT: a very special year for the community as we celebrated the 20th anniversary of ALT, marked by a session led by former Presidents‘ of ALT looking at over the two decades. The conference was opened with a learner perspective, led by Rachel Wenstone from the NUS and also featured talks by Dame Wendy Hall discussing the role of the web and a keynote by Stephen Downes. All three made my think about the forces that shape Learning Technology. There were even fireworks that lit up a rather damp Nottingham sky.

2012 – knitting in the main auditorium: that’s a special year for me as it was my first as ALT’s chief executive. The playlist reveals a broad array of speakers from across sectors, but one of the sessions that I can still picture in my mind vividly is this invited session with Steve Bunce, who engaged participants in the presentation and got us all finger knitting! Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that pedagogy doesn’t necessarily require the shiniest, newest gadgets… . With Eric Mazor, Richard Noss and Natasa Millic-Frayling together with James Clay, Sarah Porter and others completing the line up of invited speakers it’s another playlist worth revisiting.

Looking north towards Hallingskarvet behind Kraekkja in Hardangervidda, Norway
Looking north towards Hallingskarvet behind Kraekkja in Hardangervidda, Norway by Seb Schmoller

2011 – political climate & “Live Beta”: a year with a cold theme. Two of my strongest memories of that year are firstly an impressive keynote by John Naughton, whose column in the Guardian and other writings I have since followed. As I was particularly interested in the political dimension of Learning Technology at the time, his talk resonated strongly with me. A very different experience also stayed with me, the “ALT LIVE – BETA” experiment which was led by members who were streaming interviews with speakers and other content live from the conference. It was another step in our efforts to enable participation widely and openly and in some ways it set the precedent for a lot of the work in this area we have done since.

2010 – Don’t lecture me…: As one of the most watched keynotes from the past few year’s Donald Clark’s talk “Don’t lecture me” is probably already familiar to you (if you haven’t seen it, you can watch the video with and without the ‘Twitter track’ – which in this case I suggest you watch, too). For me that year Sudhir Giri from Google, who shared his perspective of how Google use their own tools for internal team communication, skill sharing and CPD fascinated me. Given that for several years we have been running our own Google Apps for Education domain which now facilitates a large part of what we do in ALT, that is hardly surprising. I am only glad that our has only a handful of users, rather than the multitudes that the Googlers make up.

2009 – 100th CMALT Holder: My first ALT Annual Conference which took place in Manchester. Also, my first time to hear Diana Laurillard give an eye-opening keynote, which left me with the distinct impression that there was quite a lot about Learning Technology for me yet to learn. However, given that I was most involved in ALT’s accreditation and membership services at the time, the milestone of celebrating our 100th Certified Member has stuck most strongly in my mind. It also set me on the path to achieving CMALT myself, which…. erm….. I did in 2016!

If you have your own memories you want to follow up, the past conferences page on the ALT website can be helpful – or browsing the YouTube playlists which go back to 2008. This year’s conference, as ever, feels to me like there is even more to look forward to. See for yourself: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2016/ – and I hope to see you in Warwick.