ALT-C (the annual conference for the Association for Learning Technology) celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2018. Our personal histories in education and technology are coincident though not always congruent with the history of ALT-C. We have lived experience of the past 25+ years as women in learning technology, higher education, and open education in the UK and Ireland — specifically as engineering and IT professionals, lecturers, community educators, postgraduate students, researchers, feminists, social activists, and mothers.
As such, we now tell these stories about the past, present, and future whereby all innovations are recent innovations, most emerge from Silicon Valley, and there is no force for change other than entrepreneurial genius and/or the inevitability of “disruptive innovation.” (Watters, 2015).
In researching the topics and issues that featured in the first 24 ALT conferences, we have analysed how ideas have developed within the ALT community. We resist the evangelical mode, as well as the “disruptive innovation” discourse identified by Watters (2015), in favour of the reflexive, the historical, and the critical (Noddings & Enright, 1983).
The last 25 years have seen significant technological developments, evolution of teaching and learning and changes in education policy. Collectively, these have formed the context for learning technology research and practice. ALT-C has engaged with the growth of the Internet, the arrival of the World Wide Web, Virtual Learning Environments, social media, mobile computing, and concomitant debates about learning, pedagogy, identity, openness, privacy, and more. In addition, ALT-C has reflected the structural and cultural changes of the post-secondary education sector with respect to changing funding models, widening student participation, increasing staff precarity, and rising internationalisation, marketisation and bureaucratisation across HE, and increasingly FE, secondary and primary education.
Our focus is on two themes that have persisted in various forms across the past 25 years, namely Open/Active Learning and Community/Communities of Practice — reflecting on how these have emerged, evolved, and re-emerged in ALT-C and in own our experiences. We will share our analysis of these trends within ALT-C, including their roots in educational innovations predating the digital age. We will encourage participants to reflect on and share their own journeys in learning technology in the context of ALT-C’s 25-year history, whenever they may have encountered it. We will conclude by summarising the themes emerging from the presentation and discussion and acknowledging our roles in determining the future — of ALT, of learning technology, and of education.
Session content: evaluation and reflection
Our session is based primarily on two perspectives.The first perspective is rooted in our analysis of the past 24 years of ALT-C — as represented in published websites for later conferences, and for earlier conferences, references to the conference in ALT-J (now Research in Learning Technology), the Association for Learning Technologies’ journal. The second perspective is our own personal histories that both exist beyond that narrative and intersect with it. Our initial analysis of ALT-C has identified Open/Active Learning and Community/Communities of Practice as themes that have persisted over several conferences and many years. We will summarise the themes and trajectories, highlighting how these ideas have been represented within ALT-C, how they have evolved, which perspectives have persisted and which have become irrelevant or have fallen out of favour. In addition, we acknowledge that the personal is political. Our respective critical approaches to this work reflect our own varied histories within and beyond HE, IT, and learning technology.
We will develop and share this work in multiple ways. Prior to the conference, we will publish separate and joint blog posts based on our longitudinal ALT-C analysis and our personal mappings/reflections. We anticipate that this will facilitate online discussion leading up to the conference. During the conference session, we will share our draft findings and use a simple mapping tool (Cronin, 2017) to invite participants to reflect and share their own journeys in learning technology in the context of ALT-C’s 25-year history, whenever they may have encountered it. . We will conclude the session with a summary discussion of the themes and insights emerging from the presentation and discussions. Following the conference, we will write a paper based on our research, blog posts, and conference and online discussions; we will submit this to Research in Learning Technology.
Cronin, C. (2017). Openness and praxis: Exploring the use of open educational practices in higher education. IRRODL, 18(5). http://dx.doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i5.3096
Noddings, N., & Enright, D.S. (1983). The promise of open education. Theory Into Practice, 22(3), 182-189. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405848309543059
Watters, A. (2015, February 19). The history of the future of education. hackeducation.com [blog]. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from: http://hackeducation.com/2015/02/19/the-history-of-the-future-of-education