by Dr Adriana Wilde (ALTC23 committee member)
Since ALT stands for Association for Learning Technology, at first approach, it is natural to think that it is the home of learning technologists, and that, therefore, its annual gathering (ALT-C, this year branded as ALTc23) might not be for you if you do not identify as one. But what is a learning technologist? As cited in jobs.ac.uk,
“Learning technologists are people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology.”
The above definition came from ALT, which also defines learning technology:
“…as the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that are used to support learning, teaching and assessment.”
As a term, it has been used for many years, and despite the unprecedented increased adoption of learning technologies (especially during the COVID years and ever since), a quick glance at Google trends suggests that the exact use of the term has significantly declined (at least in what concerns this search engine) in the last twenty years. This visualisation is in stark contrast with what is a buoyant job market (just today there are currently more than 1,500 job posts in LinkedIn for learning technologists).
Digging further into the large collection of blogs in ALT, I found that in 2019 Daniel Scott-Purdy, Karoline Nanfeldt and Simon Thompson wrote a series on “What makes a Learning Technologist?”, and without wanting to replicate what is already said there, I did want to reflect on what it means to me, and others. Learning technology does not appear formally in my job title, nor explicitly in my job description, but it is underpinning my roles both as an educator and a researcher (i.e., in “managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology”).
Is ALT the right place for you?
Definitely, yes! If it is in your title, job description, or even just “hidden” as underpinning aspects of any of your roles. However, anyone engaging with learning technologies in some capacity (all of us, especially post-COVID) would feel at home in ALT.
In my case, I have witnessed this growth as the conversation around what were regarded as novel practices only a few years ago, are now commonplace across many educational environments, from schools to universities, and beyond. To name only three of these:
- Lecture capture: Now seen across the sector, possibilities for its positive impact were discussed in ALT years ago (Williams, J., and Fardon, M. (2007) “Lecture recordings: extending access for students with disabilities.” In (ALT-C 2007), pp. 139-148.)
- Technological pedagogy: Again, during the pandemic, educators have had to integrate technology effectively into their teaching practices, “pivoting,” yet these needs had been discussed long ago in ALT-C, for example by Lameras, P. et al., (2010) “Transforming teaching and learning: changing the pedagogical approach to using educational programming languages.” In Into something rich and strange – making sense of the sea-change. Research proceedings of the 17th Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C 2010).
- Lifelong learning – anywhere, anytime: During the pandemic, continuous learning and professional development became commonplace, with a large proportion of it taking place in personal devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, however, these themes had been discussed in ALT-C long ago, for example by Barbaux, M.T. (2006) “From lifelong learning to m-learning” In The next generation. Research Proceedings of the 13th Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C 2006).
Many of the themes once explored in ALT-C have undergone phases of acceptance from initial controversy and resistance to widespread adoption. In its 30 years, ALT-C has been a broad church, welcoming all who play roles in the digital technologies space (either managing, designing, researching, or facilitating the use of). The discussions taking place in this conference were both acutely relevant at the time and have been future proof as my reflections above demonstrate.
So, if you would like to take part in the discussions this year, this is, highly likely, the place for you too. Will I see you in Warwick in September? Drop by and say hello!
The ALT annual conference (ALT-C) is in its special 30-year anniversary, leading people through digital technologies and enabling culture change, all aspects celebrated in the conference this year. ALT-C will take place from the 5th-7th September 2023, at The Oculus, University of Warwick, UK. Register now.
Dr Adriana Wilde is a Lecturer in Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. Her PhD thesis “A Platform-Agnostic Model and Analysis of Learner Engagement within Peer Supported Digital Environments: FutureLearn MOOCs and PeerWise.” is available here.