Past, Present and Future of Learning Technology: A Review from ALT

The ALT Annual Conference, 2018 was hosted at Manchester University 11-13th September. The keynotes focused on the past, present and future of Learning Technology/Technologists.

Dr. Tressie MacMillan Cottom, a digital sociologist at the Virginia Commonwealth University opened the conference with an animated discussion: “Context Matters: When and where we enter with learning technology.” In her keynote, she reminded us that learning technologies do not exist in a vacuum; learning technologies have emerged from administrative units; learning technologies, both analog and digital must be embedded in academic disciplines to create more just learning communities. Of course, she unpacked the context in which learning technologies exist: in a financialized higher education eco-system; in the liberalisation of academic funding and labour; and within historical inequality frameworks at every stage, which include: students, staff, faculties, institutions, disciplines and nation-states. To view her keynote, please watch here:

Amber Thomas launched Day 2 of the conference with her keynote reflecting on her journey through educational technology, spanning national and institutional roles. She has worked on several big projects in UK FE and HE over this time and now leads  academic technology from within IT Services at the University of Warwick. She shared her observations on  the complexity of the field, both within institutions and as a community of practice. She also discussed at length how the discourse around ‘disruptive innovation’ is often assume to come from the outside, from private funding, commercial vendors and through market-driven forces. She identified that this is not the case and that as a community of practice, learning technologists have brought shared services, open standards and open source. Watch her talk below.


Dr. Maren Deepwell, CEO of ALT, looked to the future on Day 3, posing the question, ‘who shapes the future of Learning Technology?’ She explored current thinking about what drives how we use technology in learning and teaching and questioned the promise of tech that never quite delivers. For decades, technology has promised solutions to help us learn, teach, assess and care better, she argued, and yet these visions of the future are always just beyond the horizon. She asked: “How do we move beyond that promise? How do get beyond tech advocacy and realise the potential of our professional practice for the benefit of learners and the greater good?” Maren explored how professional practice has developed all the way through into  ALT’s CMALT accreditation scheme. Listen to her keynote here:

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