Technology in Education Symposium: Making TIES @ Western

Accessible Version

On March 8th the first Technology in Education Symposium (TIES) was held at Western in the Faculty of Education building with over 300 people in attendance. The TIES @ Western symposium was created with the intention to highlight the tremendous work being done on our campus to integrate technology into teaching in new and pedagogically effective ways. This daylong symposium featured presentations and panel discussions by more than 70 faculty, staff, and students from all areas of the university demonstrating and sharing their innovations in teaching. The keynote address, “The End of Wonder in the Age of Whatever” was given by Dr. Michael Wesch (Kansas State University), a renowned digital ethnologist and educator. His talk generated a great deal of interest from the Western community and was an excellent start to a very successful day.

The conference attendees were welcomed with remarks given by Dr. Vicki Schwean (Dean of Education), Dr. Janice Deakin (Provost & Vice-President Academic), and Dr. John Doerkson (Vice-Provost, Academic Programs and Students). Schwean’s aspiration for the symposium was to bring together a strong cluster of individuals interested in the research and dissemination of e-Learning from across Western in order to foster excellence in this area.

Dr. Janice Deakin, in her introduction to Dr. Michael Wesch’s keynote, stressed the importance of teaching with technology: “The most important call comes from our students - our students assume and expect social media and other online tools will be available as part of their education mix of blended learning pedagogy.” She further stated that we need “to position Western as an exemplar for innovative curriculum and pedagogy that is sophisticated in our use of technology in our multiple learning environments."

Dr. John Doerkson in his remarks imparted his belief that TIES would “serve as a significant stepping stone as Western enhances its e-Learning presence”, which is very timely given the importance placed on supporting e-Learning initiatives in the context of higher education in Ontario and around the globe.

Dr. Michael Wesch’s keynote presented the audience with a series of stories illustrating creativity, collaboration, and knowledge creation in an ‘Age of Wonder’. But any enthusiasm about these remarkable possibilities, he suggests, is immediately tempered by that other ‘Age of Whatever’— an age in which people feel increasingly disconnected, disempowered, tuned out, and alienated. According to Dr. Wesch, what we need more than ever today is to inspire our students to wonder, to nurture their appetite for curiosity, exploration, and contemplation, and to help them attain an insatiable appetite to ask and pursue authentic and relevant questions. Today, three billion people have created a ‘knowledge machine’ on the planet and are collaborating and connecting with one another as they have not connected before. What makes this so fantastic is that it’s the people and not the technology that matters. No institution could be more central to this revitalization of wonder than our universities, which are historical hubs for the free exchange of ideas and innovations. Wesch’s presentation explored what we as educators are doing wrong, and what we are doing right, as we try to bring wonder back to our students and communities.

To watch Dr. Wesch’s inspiring keynote “The End of Wonder in the Age of Whatever” see Western’s YouTube channel.

Following the keynote, 19 concurrent sessions held over the morning and afternoon illustrated technology integration in learning and its critical examination by Western’s faculty, staff, and students. A small sample of the concurrent session topics discussed at TIES included social media, blended learning, online and face-to-face instructional and e-Learning technology tools, promoting online learning communities, MOOCs, developing online teaching skills, information literacy in the digital age, and the legalities and ethics of using teaching technologies.

The symposium was organized by a committee of staff, faculty, and graduate students from across the campus. John Barnett, Colin Couchman, Kim Holland, and Elan Paulson acted as Co-Chairs and Luiz Capretz, Deanna Grogan, Kim Martin, Mark McDayter, Deb Tieszer, and Julie Whitehead comprised the organizational committee. Without the generous financial contributions received from Student Services, Teaching Support Centre, Faculty of Education, Information Technology Services, and Western Libraries along with the efforts of the organizational committee and conference volunteers, TIES @ Western would not have been possible.

With this successful first TIES conference, discussions are already occurring, and will continue to occur in the coming months, about how to continue the momentum that was achieved at TIES. If you are interested in furthering e-Learning change at Western or becoming part of a learning community on technology-enabled learning, please contact Kim Holland in the Teaching Support Centre (kholland@uwo.ca).