Reflections on the main themes from the ALT 2019 Conference

It was announced earlier this year that the 2019 annual ALT Conference would be focused on three core themes: “Data, Dialogue and Doing”. But now the ALT conference has been and gone, we’ve decided to reflect on what was covered within these themes and to share some highlights from the conference.

Data 

Within the learning technology and education world, data is crucial for many reasons. The reasons were elaborated on in numerous sessions throughout the conference and data was discussed in many ways from learning analytics, data protection and transparency, student projects, the learner progression to inspecting the analytics of student engagement. Considerations throughout these discussions included: the ethical use of data, best practices of data processes and ways to utilize data to get the most out of it.

 

Chair of ALT, Sheila MacNeil mentioned on Twitter and in her blog post that ““Ensuring our staff and students really understand about data use is an increasingly important and urgent issue. Whilst the education sector does have a duty of care in terms of the technology systems it uses, it also needs to ensure that the curriculum(s) it supports also include opportunities for students and staff jointly to critique and understand how data is used and often abused. GDPR alone will not “solve” this.  In many ways I think it can just make institutions more risk averse.”

Focusing more on the understanding of student engagement data, an article produced by Matthew Lynch (2017) on ‘The Tech Edvocate’, suggests that learning and engagement analytics can help to identify student performance and behaviors. Data analytics can help to increase student retention rates, student engagement and to improve individual performances. Lynch states: “The best EdTech software relies on learning analytics to help personalize teaching methods and tailor instruction to meet each student’s individual strengths and weaknesses, learning disabilities, and prior subject knowledge. With the help of learning analytics, every action educators take will move towards helping students achieve their learning goals and objectives.”

 

Dialogue

Communication is fundamental to Universities due to the constant shifting parts and changes that happen throughout an institution. It’s also vital to maintain an ongoing dialogue with students throughout the learning process. Dialogic pedagogy is a key part to involving students in class forums and engaging students in critical thinking, thought-provoking discussions and increasing learning engagement. Doing this both in verbal flipped learning discussions and utilizing digital Q&As such as Vevox are just some methods that lecturers take. This academic journal on “Dialogue, thinking together and digital technology in the classroom” (Mercer, Hennessy, Warwick 2017) indicates that dialogue “is a key factor in academic attainment… our own and others’ research indicates that dialogic teaching can increase a student’s capacity for dialogue and reflective thoughts as well as developing subject knowledge”.

Keeping a dialogue going between all educators and digital learning staff, and even at community events like ALT, is important to the development of new ideas, coming up with solutions and sharing insights to improve the student learning experience. There were many dialogues and forms of collaboration that took place at the ALT conference, from verbal discussions and networking, to the digital Q&A on the Vevox App and Twitter threads using the #ALTC.

Sheila MacNeil highlights this and states that “there was a quite a bit of dialogue around justice in the conference, social justice in education in particular. We can’t take 200 years to address the political context we are living in. Quoting Paulo Friere, we all need to ensure that we are challenging and changing what needs to be challenged and changed. We, in education need to ensure that our students, our colleagues, our leaders are doing just that. We also need communities like ALT to continue to provide spaces for community dialogue to continue, to allow us to line our ducks up to address these challenges.”

 

Doing: 

The theme of ‘doing’ was covered in the conference by reflecting on how both educators and digital learning teams are constantly on the go with planning, implementing work and reviewing every academic year. Throughout of all this, there will always be changes and staff have the challenge to keep up with fast-paced developments of projects. The act of ‘doing’ was also discussed within the area of student learning, learning by doing (otherwise known as ‘active learning’) has shown to be in several studies as an effective way to increase knowledge retention. “Active learning leads to higher grades and fewer failing students… with students in a traditional lecture course are 1.5 times more likely to fail compared to those on an active learning course” (Bhatia, 2014).

Throughout the conference, Vevox’s anonymous Q&A and polling was used to gather anonymous feedback from Learning Technologists in attendance. This audience participation symbolized the three conference themes of ‘data, dialogue and doing’, as experts and members of staff at Universities shared their opinions and collaborated with each other to give their own insights and advice.

 

 

Note: Please feel free to share these wordclouds on social media or with your colleagues.

The Vevox word cloud polls above shows the challenges and the aims of what learning technologists are facing in this academic year”. “Staff, engagement, development, technology, learning” all being the most popular responses to the question for challenges for 2019/20.

If you want to see all of the highlights and news from the ALT conference 2019 then check out the #ALTC on Twitter. You can also see our top 5 ALTC tweets and our highlights on this article here.

Bibliography: 

  1. Lynch, M. (2019) Why are learning analytics so important? The Tech Edvocate Available at: https://www.thetechedvocate.org/learning-analytics-important/ (Accessed: 6th September 2019).
  1. Mercer, N. Hennessy, S. Warwick, P. (2017) ‘Dialogue, thinking together and digital technology in the classroom: Some of the educational implications of a continuing line of inquiry’, International Journal of Educational Research, 3(1), p4.
  1. Major, L. Warwick, P. Rasmussen, S. Ludvigsen, V. (2018) ‘Classroom dialogue and digital technologies: A scoping review’, Education and Information Technologies.
  1. Bhatia, A. (2014) Active learning leads to higher grades and fewer failing students in science, math and engineering. Wired. Available at: https://www.wired.com/2014/05/empzeal-active-learning/ (Accessed: 6th September 2019).
  1. Vevox (2018) ‘The benefits of Student Response Systems’. https://www.vevox.com/resources/guides/the-benefits-of-student-response-systems (Accessed: 6th September 2019).
  1. Waugh, B. Vevox. (2019) ‘3 ways a student response system can help increase student engagement’ https://www.vevox.com/3-ways-a-student-response-system-can-help-increase-student-engagement (Accessed: 6th September 2019).

About the Author

Ben Waugh is the Content Manager for Vevox and graduated from the University of Southampton. He is a fanatic of the Creative Arts, be that journalism, art or music and he even composes film music in his spare time.

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