The general argument advanced in this paper is that in the changing context of present‐day higher education it is vital that our educational purposes and student needs are clarified before decisions are taken about the means, including the use of learning technology, of satisfying those purposes and needs. The development of a critical understanding is still seen as the central purpose of higher education even in the context of a more vocationally relevant mass higher education. It is argued here that dialogue is the key to critical learning based on a process of dialectical communication. The task then is to construct an understanding learning environment which fosters interaction between students, staff and resources, reconciling individual needs with collective purposes. The specific role of learning technology as a means of encouraging dialogue within a learning environment is illustrated through examples of language learning such as TLTP CKS33 and the RACE Hipernet Project. Through a dialectical process, the appropriate use of learning technologies in meeting students’ changing needs can be progressively refine
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