As the Program Team lead for the 2013 Symposium for Teaching and Learning, I am excited to share some of the things we have on tap for this year’s event. To start with, we offer not just one but TWO keynote speakers this year! That alone would give our attendees their money’s worth (ok, sure, it’s a free event) but the Symposium teams are working very hard to bring you an event that really ties into our theme of “Unlocking Our Potential and the Culture of Teaching and Learning”. By providing high-octane and topical conversations around innovation, learning analytics and emerging educational trends and then placing them within the context of the ongoing work within teaching and learning at Penn State, we feel that this year’s symposium is shaping up to be a great day!

As was announced a few weeks ago, our morning keynote speaker will be Frans Johansson. Frans is an author, speaker and consultant for organizations worldwide in which his work focuses on how groundbreaking innovation occurs at the intersection of diverse disciplines, cultures and backgrounds. The Symposium committee really feels that his message is an extremely good fit for what the Symposium represents when it comes to technology for teaching and learning. On a personal level, I was fortunate enough to see Frans’ keynote at the DevLearn conference 5 years ago and his energetic and engaging presentation personally struck a nerve for me at the time. In fact, it helped put me on the road to changing career paths, a change I undertook just over a year later when I left the corporate track I’d been in for 17 years and landed, for the first time, in the innovative learning design culture here at Penn State. I’m not saying he will change your career path, but if you want to hear passion and great stories of how innovation occurs, you’re going to enjoy Frans’ keynote.

Our lunchtime keynote will be George Siemens. George’s keynote will highlight a sub theme at this year’s Symposium on Learning Analytics. The topic of Learning Analytics has exploded over the past couple of years as learning organizations begin figuring out ways to strategically tap into the volumes of data available in order to optimize decisions at various levels, including learning outcomes. George’s keynote offers fantastic insight to a rapidly developing area of focus in higher education. In fact, we have planned a “mini track” of sessions around Learning Analytics after George’s keynote that will provide attendees the chance to immerse themselves further in this conversation.

As for the program itself, the Program Team is nearing the end of the proposal selection process. Over 60 proposals were submitted this year and there are a large number of interesting ones from which we must select. We look forward to finalizing this process and announcing our program session agenda. Suffice to say, we have a lot of very good proposals to choose from.

We are also working with our Rogue Team on ironing out the details for the end of day activities and we look forward to announcing them officially soon. “Unofficially”, one of them will revolve around a discussion on one of the hottest topics in higher education, “MOOCs” a.k.a Massive Open Online Courses. We are having trouble pinning down a format for this activity mainly because so many things are happening in this space that it’s hard to envision where we will be by the time March 2013 rolls around. But no matter! We are thrilled to be putting this event together and we can’t wait until it actually unfolds in just over 3 months.

In addition to the Symposium website, we are experimenting with another way to reach out to the Symposium audience this year: through a public Yammer group. For those that are not aware, Yammer at Penn State is the university’s supported social networking platform. Internally, our Symposium Planning Committee and sub-teams have been using Yammer heavily as a project management forum to do the event planning itself. It has been very successful for us and figured, “why not create a group for the general Penn State public as well?” This Symposium 2013 Yammer group offers anyone who joins the opportunity to not only digest information about the event but also participate in conversations by sharing and even collaborating with others in the group. It is available now and we encourage you to join right away. We are not exactly sure where this group’s discussions and collaboration will lead us, but we do intend to see what happens along the way!

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