Celebrating learning technology success with ALT
Monday, 16 June 2014
The Association for Learning Technology brings together members of the education community who are working to innovate with the use of technology in education.
Some of their most well known activities include their autumn conference sharing research and practice in learning technology, and their prestigious annual awards for individuals and teams showing outstanding contributions to the field. It was a privilege on Friday to host the judging process for these awards, which had this year received a record number of applications. Nesta hosted a day of face to face and remote presentations and interviews where a panel of judges, including myself, explored some outstanding examples of use of learning technology.
I was on the panel for the award two years ago, following my own receipt of the individual award for work on web based collaboration with Primary school children. In the space of two years, two significant shifts were apparent to me in the nature of projects being presented.
Firstly, there has been a shift in the range of education sectors who were engaging with the process. The roots of ALT are in higher and further education, but in recent years they have been engaging with all sectors and age ranges and this was evident in the shortlist.
The process of publishing and disseminating practice is prevalent in higher education, as is reaching out and applying for funding and awards such as this. This is much less the case in the Early Years, Primary and Secondary sectors, as I explored recently over on my own blog. It was heartening to see colleagues in compulsory education sharing and contributing their work in the field, as well as reaching out for opportunities such as this award.
The second shift was that the key focus of submissions was unanimously on addressing a learning need or solving an educational problem. In all the cases we looked at, technology had been brought into the picture as a solution and not an end in itself. The structure of all the projects was learning first with technology as a tool to achieve that learning.
This may sound obvious, but in a field where the technology is moving faster than the institutional structures and practices, those seeking to innovate can often end up focusing their interests on implementing the most cutting edge piece of software or hardware just to explore the technology. This can result in implementation that makes a neat project but little lasting change, in the worst cases without buy in or even addressing any real need.
All of the projects we saw were looking at catalysing innovation in a broader sense than just putting technology in classrooms (or lecture theatres, wider environments or even homes). They were also starting by researching existing practices and consulting students and staff on what they really needed.
There was evidence of both of these factors two years ago, but this year it felt much more cohesive with everyone taking a similar approach to sharing their practice and focusing on learning and lasting impact.
Throughout the day we saw some great examples of learning technology, but I can say no more… The results are traditionally revealed at the ALT annual conference in September, so keep an eye here and over on their site to hear who we decided to award the title of ‘Learning Technologist of the Year’.