I have spent THE most amazing day today being a part of the most amazing experience. Today I had the pleasure of attending the TLT Symposium that is the brainchild of Cole Camplese’s group at ETS. This is what ALL symposia should aspire to be when they grow up. But how they did it, I believe, is a result of two parts planning, one part social networking, and one part buy in from the very community it helped to create.
Some things really are no different from last year: a one day event, started off by a keynote speaker, and then breakout sessions that focus on (ironic, I know) teaching and learning with technology. Throw in a lunch midway through, and you’ve got a respectable recipe for a standard one day meeting. So what happened to make this one so different?
Needless to say, the keynote speaker was beyond extraordinary. Lawrence
Lessig, father of Creative Commons, was an inspired choice that drove
home the concept of shared responsibility for our future as a society.
I don’t know of anyone in the audience who wasn’t affected by the voice
of reason, the challenge of his call and the possibilities of tomorrow,
if we only use our collective voice today. Having a keynote speaker of
this caliber would have been a respectable step up by any measure of
success. Yet, this was only part of the equation.
Another vital part was the admirable selection of speakers. Once again, the TLT peeps
brought together a number of participants from a number of campuses to
discuss the use of technology in their classrooms. I found any number
of these discussions fascinating, and wished I could have attended
several more. So many thoughts to take away, so many questions to be
explored further, and insights to collaborations I would never have
considered before this.
And yet, if anyone were to ask me, I
believe this day was actually the culmination of a social networking
process that took on a life of it’s own to create an even stronger
sense of community. Two weeks ago, Cole released the tagging images
they were going to use for this year’s symposium. Almost immediately,
people adopted their favorite tag for a Twitter icon. Then they adapted it
to better suit their own interests. Names, one-offs, ideas that hadn’t
been previously anticipated; everything was fair game over the next two
weeks leading up to the symposium. You could feel the community
gathering, bouncing ideas off of each other, a palpable excitement
brewing as the symposium drew near. So much so that today started out,
at 6:00am, with a heightened sense of anticipation that had built over
the course of the previous two weeks. Even a last minute idea of
hashtagging was incorporated into the day’s events–a serendipitous
move that added yet another facet of technology to the overall event.
So, by the time we all converged at the Penn Stater, a community was
ready and raring to go for the start of the day’s events.
this normal? Not, in my experience, to the extent with which it happened today.
There was real excitement generated by the community; not only by those
who were in charge of creating the symposium, but also by those who
were looking forward to participating. I’ve blogged a number of times
about my surprising love affair with Twitter. A silly little
application, and an even sillier concept (I mean, seriously, life
status updates in 140 characters? Please.), but I’ve grown to find it
addictive nonetheless. Like any other technology, by itself it is
merely a tool for us to use. But these tools, when applied at the right
time, in the right forum, can be invaluable. Today it was the perfect
vehicle for us to use to communicate and bond within our community.
separately, any one of these pieces could have added to the success of
this year’s TLT Symposium. However, it was the synergy of the whole
that far surpassed the simple sum of its parts. I was loathe to leave
such collaborative energy, such a masterful group of colleagues, and
simply unwilling to end the day hours later. Even now I have much to
think through, and additional posts will most likely get blogged later
on, but this is a start.
I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next.