Annual Conference 2011 – international studies throw new light on power of learning technology

Issued 30 August 2011

New research evidence reveals the power of social networking through the use of mobile web technology to give learners greater control over the way in which they learn while taking the fear out of the learning. The evidence comes from research carried out at Unitec, a leading technology institute in New Zealand, into the use of mobile web 2.0 technologies to improve professional development programmes for lecturers who then themselves form a community of practice to further enlarge the successful use of learning technology.

The research will be published at the 18th annual conference of the Association for Learning Technology Thriving in a colder and more challenging climate, which runs from September 6-9 at the University of Leeds. The ALT conference this year has a distinctly international flavour, addressing needs across all sectors, from schools to universities, and involving considerable public and private sector collaboration.

The power of social learning technologies to give greater self-control, improve motivation and explore new possibilities in learning at a time of considerable austerity is a constant theme. A joint Anglo-German study addresses the effectiveness of a public-private partnership to help teachers integrate technology into learning in the UK, Germany and France. The initiative has created cheaper, more flexible, customised training and already reached more than 400,000 teachers.

A study by Durham University shows that students do not feel cheated or sold short if YouTube and other free videos replace expensive teaching resources in lessons. Moreover, students continue to take a “traditionalist” view of teachers as leaders of learning despite greater opportunities for self-directed learning.

Work at the Islamic Azad University, Iran, casts some doubt on the power of “hypermedia” – giving language students access to multiple text, audio and video recordings – to have lasting effect on vocabulary learning. Meanwhile, a study carried out by the University of Education, Freiburg, Germany, of alleged plagiarism by students suggests that it may not be the result of “cheating” but failure to recognise the need to attribute sources and differing attitudes to literary property.     

These papers are a sample from more than 250 research papers, symposia, workshops, and shorter presentations to be debated by over 500 delegates at this year’s ALT conference, which is given a personal message of support by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science. He says: “It gives me great pleasure to record, once again, my support for the Association for Learning Technology. Its members use ICT for the right reasons: to provide students with access to the best learning resources; to prepare them for a predominantly digital world; and to help universities, colleges and other providers thrive in an increasingly competitive educational environment. I wish every success to the delegates gathering at this year's conference in Leeds.”

Conference co-chair, John Cook says: "The central challenge: can our current sites of formal learning adapt to and incorporate the power of ‘always on’ technology and social media. Is the climate cold? It depends who is asking the question and who is doing the positioning?  Now’s the time to be a digital learner but, we are seeing new patterns of power, participation and inclusion emerge."

Fellow conference co-chair Sugata Mitra says: "When people are continuously connected to the Internet what meaning do learning and assessment have?"

Seb Schmoller, Chief Executive of ALT says:  “In 2011, education systems throughout the world are attempting to do more, better, and often with less. As the political, economic, social, agency and technological landscapes change, it is tempting for people in the learning technology community simply to follow Pitt the younger and “go on with vigour, hoping for the best". But this would be to miss a major opportunity.”

“Innovation is strongly stimulated by crises and pressures of all kinds. Our challenges are to:

  • analyse and plan, and create and marshal evidence;
  • demonstrate the benefits of astute deployment of technology to support learning;
  • listen to and involve learners, teachers, and institutional leaders;
  • draw on know-how and practice internationally;
  • take an institutional approach, whilst focusing on openness and frugality.”

Three high profile keynote speakers and nine invited speakers of international repute lead debate at the conference next week at the University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.

Keynote speakers

  • Miguel Brechner, President of the Uruguayan Centre for Technological and Social Inclusion (CITS)
  • Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education
  • John Naughton, Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology at the Open University

Invited speakers

  • Rajeev Arora, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for Blackboard Collaborate.
  • Jo Axe, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Management at Royal Roads University, Canada.
  • Anne-Marie Cunningham, Clinical Lecturer and Academic Lead for eLearning in the School of Medicine at Cardiff University.
  • Dónal Fitzpatrick, Lecturer at the School of Computing at Dublin University.
  • Josie Fraser, ICT Strategy Lead (Children's Capital), Leicester City Council
  • Sonam Penjor, who leads on educational technology at the Royal University of Bhutan.
  • Malcolm Read, Executive Secretary of JISC.
  • Gilly Salmon, Chair of ALT and Executive Director and Professor of Learning Futures at the Australian Digital Futures Institute at the University of Southern Queensland.
  • Ewart Wooldridge, Chief Executive of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Conference co-chairs

  • John Cook, Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning at the Learning Technology Research Institute, London Metropolitan University.
  • Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, Visiting Professor at MIT Media Lab.

The programme is available online now at: From Thursday 31 August, all the conference materials will be available at

Major conference sponsors

The following twelve organisations are sponsoring the 2011 ALT conference:

Adobe, BIS, Blackboard, Desire2learn, Google, Intel, Intellect, LSIS, Pearson, Positive Internet, Sonic Foundry, and the University of Leeds.

For details on attendance, visit email

-          Ends    -

Notes to Editors

About ALT

1) ALT (the Association for Learning Technology) is a professional and scholarly association which brings together those with an interest in the use of learning technology.

2) Well over 700 individuals belong to ALT, as do over 200 universities, colleges, other learning providers, Government Agencies, and businesses. Sponsoring members of ALT include:

3) If you are writing about, blogging or sharing images and videos about ALT-C 2011 using tools that support tagging, please use the tag 'altc2011' - without the quotes. On Twitter, please use the '#altc2011' hashtag - again, without the quotes. Thank you.

Association for Learning Technology, Gipsy Lane, Headington, Oxford, OX3 0BP Tel: +44 (0)1865 484 125 Fax: +44 (0)1865 484 165 Email: URL:

ALT is a Registered Charity in the UK, number: 1063519

4) For media information on ALT, images, or to apply for a press pass for ALT-C 2011, please contact

For further information contact

Ian Nash

Nash&Jones Partnership

Journalism and Media Consultancy

01992 587949

07812 996209