In early summer, even before the Symposium teams are fully formed, we began talking about the theme for 2011 and who we should ask to be our keynote speaker. Those two elements really set the tone of the day and often shape the rest of the Program Team’s work. Also, for nationally-known names like Lawrence Lessig and Michael Wesch, we need a long lead time to make sure we can get them before they are booked for something else.
After Wesh’s keynote presentation, we began thinking and talking about what it means for faculty to work with their students and explore common problems together. Wesch asks his students questions like “Why does colonization happen?” They explore these kinds of questions together and it has lead to activities like the World Simulation.
If we continue along this line of questioning, what other examples have we found where groups of people have come together to create new knowledge or solve social problems? That lead us to Clay Shirky’s work. He has recently written two books that have caught our attention, Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus. These are great books – I could imagine them being of equal interest to faculty and students in business, philosophy, sociology, history, or information science.
So we signed Wesch for the 2011 TLT Symposium and came up with the theme “Community Engagement and the Culture of Teaching and Learning” to solidify what we mean when we talk about groups of people working together on common problems.
With the keynote speaker signed and the theme selected, we are now working on drafting the proposal form. We’ll be looking for sessions that will be appealing across academic disciplines, address a both technical and pedagogical aspects or the topic, and will be interactive in some way. Sessions that also address the Symposium theme will be scored higher (after all, that’s the point of having a theme).
We also like for sessions to have faculty as presenters. The reason for that is pretty simple. If a technologist stands up and says “blogging is easy”, other technologists will agree, but faculty may be skeptical. On the other hand, if a faculty member says “blogging is easy, plus my students are writing better”, then the technologists agree, other faculty agree, and we have addressed both the technical and pedagogical issues. I’m oversimplifying a bit here, but I think you can follow the logic.
So for now, the proposal form is the most pressing task. I’ve created a draft version in Google Forms that is being reviewed now and will hopefully go live shortly.