With a mere ten days to go, we have officially hit the deep part of the home stretch for this year’s Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology. I’m taking a moment to share a bit of my perspective on what kind of a day our Planning Committee has been working so hard to provide for our Penn State community. As Overall Chair for this year’s event, I have watched this enthusiastic team collaborate and work like never before in order to bring you what we hope is the best Symposium yet. So what have we been up to for the 2014 Symposium? In quick summary, we have worked to enlarge the event, add  some ‘firepower’ and a number of innovative ‘wrinkles’ to make your experience as an attendee better than ever. This post is a brief effort to provide our attendees with a glimpse of the great day in store on March 22.

Bigger Than Ever!

First and foremost, the committee took on the challenge of delivering the biggest Symposium to date. We went bigger in order to provide our attendees with a broader selection of sessions to choose from and the result is that this event will provide over 33% more presentations than last year. In fact, this year’s Symposium will be on both the first and second floor of the Penn Stater, a first for this event.

Co-Sponsor with COIL

To help TLT grow this year’s Symposium, we are working with the Center for Online Innovation in Learning (COIL) as our co-sponsor. This has been an exciting partnership and attendees will have plenty of chances to see what COIL is about, what they are doing and get a look at the impact in teaching and learning they aim to have moving forward.  The establishment of COIL as a means for propelling innovation in teaching and learning has been one of the most exciting developments at Penn State in recent years. We are so glad to have them as a partner and I encourage you to investigate one of their sessions or stop in during the day at their COIL Links area to learn more.

Two Great Keynotes: Dan Pink and Robbie Melton

I’m also very excited that we landed two fantasic keynote speakers for the 2014 Symposium: Daniel Pink and Robbie Melton. Dan Pink will bring his energetic message for new ideas in leadership, innovation and motivation, drawing upon recent research in social science and practices in real organizations to his keynote to our Penn State community.
And for our afternoon keynote, Robbie Melton will provide our attendees with her dynamic showcase of cutting edge mobile technologies and applications within a framework of new teaching and learning practices. Robbie will put on a show that will leave our crowd buzzing about the possibilities. I simply cannot overemphasize how excited I am to enjoy our 2014 Symposium keynote addresses!

First Time Offering Session Tracks

With so many more sessions than we’ve ever had before, we have included session tracks for our attendees. These tracks provide multiple sessions throughout the day for you to investigate certain topics. The tracks for 2014 are:
  • Flipping Classrooms: See what instructors throughout the Penn State community are doing in this space.
  • MOOCs: Find out how much we’ve learned at Penn State since last year’s symposium. An amazing journey.
  • Hybrid Courses: These course designs are an emerging trend, thanks to so many factors including technology, pedagogy and collaboration.
  • COIL: A great opportunity to see what this new organization can mean to the Penn State TLT community…and beyond.
  • Faculty Fellows: TLT’s 2013-14 Fellows are ready to share their experience in our TLT program.
These tracks reflect some of the incredible changes we’ve seen since last year’s symposium. For example, last year, we had one session on flipping classrooms. It was an extremely popular session; so popular, in fact, that people lined up in the hallways to join it. We heard you loud and clear- this year, this topic gets its own series of sessions! Also last year, we provided a panel on ‘MOOCs at Penn State’. Just one year later, we have amazing stories and experiences to share about the MOOC movement here, so it, too, has an entire track!

Informal Discussion Sessions

Past feedback has shown us that people enjoy so much of the informal networking and discussions that occur at Symposium. To help expand upon this preference, we’ve added a series of informal discussion sessions during the day. These sessions are less presentation and more discussion. These will be in Room 116 and if the topics in this series interest you, I highly recommend participating in these sessions and let us know what you think!

The ‘Accidental ‘Overall Chair

When the 2014 Symposium planning process began last summer, I had no plans on being on the official committee. But, ‘transition issues’  and circumstances changed all that and, before I knew what happened, I ended up as the Overall Chair for this year’s event. While it’s been a lot of learning and a lot of work, I honestly could not be more proud and excited to be part of this year’s event. The planning committee and all those working in support (and it’s a LOT of support) have worked so hard to bring this all together. I think I speak for all of us when I say we absolutely can’t wait for you to attend!
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