The Stories that Learning Technologists tell

I wrote five articles called “Who are the Learning Technologists?” which was inspired by a series of articles written by David Hopkins (Hopkins, 2009). David was very kind and gracious to critique my articles (Hopkins, 2014) which seemed to have generated a lot of interest and debate about the role and nature of a learning technologist.

It was in David’s critique that he brings to my attention another learning technologist, Sarah Horrigan, and I would like to recite a quote that David took from Sarah’s blog entry:

The best learning technologists aren’t all about the technology. They’re not all about the pedagogy either. They walk the line between the two and care about what they do and what they *could* do as well. And if you come across a really good learning technologist – talk to them. They’ll fire you up so that you’ll believe you could do anything with your teaching!” (Horrigan, 2012, para 10).

Sarah goes on to explain what she thinks are those qualities that maketh a learning technologist:

  • Curious
  • Playful
  • Connected
  • Proactive
  • Passionate
  • Learners

In a similar vein, Preskett (2011) asks the question:

What are the qualities I need to possess to have the maximum positive impact? By positive I mean giving people a good understanding of key issues with regard to LTs and allowing them to make informed decisions on their appropriate use” (Preskett, 2011, para 2).

Though Preskett’s list of qualities is perhaps a little more pragmatic than the ones offered by Horrigan:

  • Good communication/good teaching
  • Finding opportunities to spread the word
  • Adapting your message to the audience
  • Initiating and taking control of your own learning

Indeed others have attempted to list those qualities that are inherent in a learning technologist’s DNA (Beetham, Jones & Gornall, 2001; Conole, 2004). What I am struck with by David and Sarah’s blog posts are the stories that learning technologists tell as a way of making some sense of our role as we see it (which would vary according to our institutional contexts) – if we can articulate what we do to ourselves, it makes it a little easier to articulate what we do to others. It’s a way of addressing our own “ontological insecurity” (Unwin, 2007) within the Higher Education sector. It’s is a way of positioning ourselves within a much wider political and societal perspective (i.e. The Dearing Report [NCIHE, 1997]), especially in a disruptive and turbulent climate of change and uncertainty. Indeed, Alison Hudson (2009) devotes a whole chapter entitled “Professional autobiographical narrative: insights into the practices of a new professional” in her doctoral thesis which positions herself as a “new professional” within a changing political and educational landscape.

These narratives are currently on my mind at the moment as I begin my own doctoral “pilgrimage” and will need to look at my role as technologist-researcher within it and try to make some sense of it within a much wider political and historical perspective. I will need to consider my own positionality, which is currently changing and shifting as my liminal and intellectual pilgrimage begins to navigate its way through the “swampy lowlands“.


Beetham, H., Jones, S. & Gornall, L. (2001). Career Development of Learning Technology Staff: Scoping Study Final Report. JISC Committee for Awareness, Liaison and Training Programme. Bristol, England: Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Available at: [Accessed 23.11.2013].

Browne, T. & Beetham, H. (2010). The positioning of educational technologists in enhancing the student experience. Report funded by The Higher Education Academy under their Call4: Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the use of Technology. Oxford, England: Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: [Accessed 23.11.2013].

Conole, G. (2002). “The evolving landscape of learning technology”. Association for Learning Technology Journal (ALT-J), 10(3), pp. 4-18. Available at: [Accessed 23.10.2013].

Conole, G. (2004). “The Role Of Learning Technology Practitioners And Researchers In Understanding Networked Learning”. In: Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Networked Learning 2004. Lancaster University, England, UK, 5-7 April 2004. Available at: [Accessed 23.11.2013].

Conole, G., Ingraham, B. & Cook, J. (2003). “Learning technology as a community of practice”. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 11-13 September 2003. Available at: [Accessed 21.10.2013].

Hopkins, D. (2009). “What is a Learning Technologist?”. Technology Enhanced Learning Blog, 13.8.2009. Available at: [Accessed 14.3.2014].

Hopkins, D. (2014). “‘Who Are The Learning Technologist?’ by @HeyWayne”. Technology Enhanced Learning Blog, 18.2.2014. Available at: [Accessed 14.3.2014].

Horrigan, S. (2012). “On being a learning technologist… and farewell!”. Learning Technologies at the University of Sheffield blog, 18.12.2012. Available at: [Accessed 14.3.2014].

Hudson, A. (2009). New Professionals and New Technologies in New Higher Education? Conceptualising struggles in the field. PhD. Umeå University, Sweden. Available at: [Accessed 24.11.2014].

National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (NCIHE). (1997). Higher Education in the Learning Society (Dearing Report). London, England: HMSO. Available at: [Accessed 22.11.2013].

Preskett, T. (2011). “What a Learning Technologist Needs to Be Good At”. Educational Technology & Change Journal, 24.2.2011. Available at: [Accessed 14.3.2014].

Unwin, A. (2007). “The professionalism of the higher education teacher: what’s ICT got to do with it?”. Teaching in Higher Education, 12(3), pp. 295-308. Available at: [Accessed 22.10.2013].