TLT Symposium 2008 Recap

OK, so its been nearly a week since our own TLT Symposium took place here at Penn State. It has honestly taken me this long to sort of let the dust settle and for me to put what I took part in into perspective. I could probably write a couple of sentences and be done with my reflection, but I know the feelings I have for the events of last Friday and Saturday are fleeting and not capturing them at length would be a long-term mistake for my own historical reference.

I’ll start by saying the simple first — it was an overwhelming success that only happens when lots of dedicated people come together to show and share their passion. The planning teams thought of nearly everything … as a matter of fact I really can’t point to anything and say, “that could’ve been done this way or that way.” I just can’t. That doesn’t mean we aren’t thinking about how to do just that — you know, make it better. It just means that this year’s event was perfect for this moment in time. I knew it was going to be special when a late night Twitter stream pushed a group of us to create all sorts of stuff built around our people tagging stickers … something strange was happening and it felt really powerful.

What jumped out at me? Let’s see … our keynote speaker, Lawrence Lessig, was amazing. I was one of the lucky ones who got to spend quite a bit of time with him. On Friday alone I had the opportunity to have lunch with him, attended private sessions that we had planned between he and other Colleges here at PSU, and had a wonderful dinner with him that evening. All of it happening on my 36th birthday was an interesting twist — I can only think of one other way to spend a birthday and that is with my family. Friday was an intellectually challenging days on lots of fronts. As an example, working to engage Professor Lessig in authentic dialogue was a complex task — he is a very introspective and quietly intense individual who really takes his time in sharing his thoughts. I don’t want to make too much of it, but he is a model as it relates to really working to understand the dialogue before contributing to it. I guess my point is, if you didn’t challenge him he had little say. When he was asked intelligent questions his answers were of the prose his presentations are made of. It was a pleasure having time with him and as the day wore on he settled into a great rhythm and had plenty to share … one of my favorite quotes of his while speaking to some colleagues from PSU Public Broadcasting was, “Public Broadcasting should pay more attention to the public and less to broadcasting.” That was not an insult, it was a sentiment that everyone in the room wanted to rally behind.

On Saturday Professor Lessig was introduced by our President (who stayed for his entire talk) — BTW, having President Spanier do an introduction would have been unheard of for our modest conference a couple of years ago but there he was sharing insights and generating laughs as he made his remarks. Lessig’s talk was nothing short of breathtaking … all I can say is watch it for yourself and listen to how he crafts a message that tells a story that is so complex but yet shares it in the simplest of terms. It was brilliant and it left all of the 325 or so of us assembled in a state of awe, shock, amazement, and I have to admit, empowered. Where do you go from that? Well, you move into faculty sessions that were fantastic. The thing I noticed about the faculty presentations this year was that they were a heck of a lot more like extended conversations than presentations. No one sent an email to presenters and directed them to think about how to engage the audience — they just all did. Each session I went to is worthy of its own blog post, but that has already happened over at the Symposium site.

The other thing I have to mention here is something that can be observed, but not measured — the emergence of a community. I’ve been saying for quite some time that about a year ago I started to notice that there was a connected learning design community ready to just explode here on our campus … it has been building over Twitter for quite some time, but Saturday it emerged in full force — faculty, staff, and students all engaging in real face to face conversations that were meaningful. Many of these relationships were ones that had started in Twitter, through blogs, or over podcasts. I can’t tell you how many times I heard or said, “it is so nice to finally put a face to your (user)name!” I don’t know how to share how I am feeling about being a part of this community, but it is a great place to be. If you want to see just a little evidence of it all check out the hashtag space, the Flickr photos, or listen to the “man on the street podcasts” … not sure if that even gets at it, but it is a shot.

Sorry for the long post … maybe a couple sentences would have been more appropriate, but this is the best I can do at articulating the feeling I have walking away from the 2008 TLT Symposium. I want to personally thank everyone who contributed to its success and to let everyone know that this year our thinking will be even more wide open with more opportunities available for everyone to contribute. I don’t want to overuse something I just said to the new Symposium project manager, but maybe the “community is the committee” for the next event. Keep watching and keep contributing. Thank you!

TLT Symposium 2008 is Here!

So the day after my Birthday and on the day of my Dad’s Birthday I am heading to the Penn Stater Conference Center for the 2008 TLT Symposium. No need to go into detail on what this thing is as I’ve been talking about it for months, but I will say I am excited. Excited my be a bit of an understatement as I am so jacked to watch Lessig deliver the keynote this morning. I was lucky enough to spend several hours with him yesterday, mainly listening. My favorite quote from the day was when he was talking to people from our Public Broadcasting group, “Public Broadcasting should focus more on the public and less on the broadcasting.” It was just one of those kinds of days.

At any rate, Lessig gets started this morning after PSU’s President Spanier provides some opening remarks and introductions … I can’t tell you how stunning it is that our little event has ballooned into something of this size on our campus. Not only do we have hundreds of faculty coming from all over the Commonwealth, we have learning designers coming — and that is where the real buzz is. I have been watching the excitement build in my Twitter stream for days and weeks now … it is so cool to see and I am really looking forward to meeting some new friends from my own campus and getting to hang out with the ones I’ve known for years! So, more posts later today both here and at the Symposium site … the Flickr feed of public images is already exploding as is the Twitter space for the Symposium, and the Hashtags site — all worth a peek. I gotta get dressed and get out the door.

Oh, Happy Birthday Dad!

My Twitter Community

I have been writing and talking about how Twitter has seemed to re-emerge in my life recently. I can’t seem to shake my re-found need to connect and share with the vibrant Twitter community. As a matter of fact, we spent quite a bit of time talking about it on ETS Talk 41 this week as well … So much of it has to do with the extended network I can connect to, but recently I am finding myself really engaged in my local tweets. As my friend Scott McDonald remarked at lunch the other day when I was saying I haven’t been this plugged in since this time last year, “its the energy leading up to the Symposium.” He is right on several levels, but I would contend that it is more than that. Let me share a couple of recent examples.

The first started on Wednesday evening when I decided to post the Symposium Tag images that were created for the people tagging at the Symposium. I made a simple post over at the ETS site that explained the tags and provided a simple download for the whole group. The ETS site is setup to send an automatic tweet, so it hit the Twitter stream. After that I decided to change my Twitter icon to one of the tags and wondered out loud if others would do the same.

Twitter Change

Within minutes I was getting tweets from every direction … and a strange thing was happening, people were changing their icons. Then I jumped and used CafePress to make myself a tag t-shirt. I let people know via Twitter and several people wanted one. I made a few more and shared the link and some amazing things started to happen — several people Tweeted back that they too bought some of the “Tag Swag” right then and there. The more amazing thing was the flow of the whole thing … people firing Tweets back and forth all getting hyed up for the Symposium next week. It felt like it was the kind of thing Twitter is designed for. At the end of the evening, people were recounting their purchases and expressing how much they enjoyed the interaction … the community had emerged, come together, and was ultra engaged.


When I got on Twitter the next day I was amazed at what my Twitter stream looked like … nearly all the PSU people (and I follow a heck of a lot of non-PSU people as well) with Symposium Tags flying around as icons.

Twitter Stream

Now on to the second example — and I promise I will make it quick. Thursday is the day Scott and I teach our “Disruptive Technologies” course … about half of the class is on Twitter and they all went through the Alan Levine Twitter Curve cycle … started with “this is the stupidest thing I have ever done …” and have ended up with, well, I’ll let their tweets tell the story.

Class Tweets

I know this is a long and twisted post, but if you’ve made it this far I’d love to hear if you are finding similar things in your environment. I know that Twitter started to make me ultra aware of how lucky I am to live and work in such a vibrant community like PSU … now I am seeing how amazingly connected and interesting all of them are. Being able to push the walls of a class out by several hundred miles and also push beyond the normal roles our identity assign us (teacher, student, staff, faculty, etc) has been an amazing eye opening experience.

Back at It

Well we are now less than two weeks away from the TLT Symposium here at PSU. It is a very exciting countdown given the program looks great, the surround activities look fun, and with Lessig coming I have a real sense of excitement. Less than two weeks to wrap up the lose ends and to add a couple new little wrinkles to the mix.

One such wrinkle is the addition of the “Tag Team” table to help Symposium visiters get started in the social software space … what we have decided to do is to have a table where people can walk up and feel supported in understanding how to use the conference tag tltsymposium2008 with Flickr, the blogs,, and Twitter during the Symposium. The idea is simple, we are asking people to share thoughts during the event, but with an expected crowd of 350, it will be tough to see more than a quarter of them really contributing. Most of that is awareness and an unfamiliarity with the tools. That is where the Tag Team comes in. There should be to on duty throughout the day to help people get accounts and understand tags. Should be interesting … oh, and my students don’t know this yet, but we’ll be asking them to take shifts at the Tag Team table. Shhh don’t tell them!

Symposium Tagging

One of the nice new additions to this year’s TLT Symposium are the beautifully designed Tag stickers. These were designed by Audrey Romano in ETS — I think the overall idea was a joint venture between the Symposium project manager, Allan Gyorke, and all the members of the committee. What I like is that they focus on the idea that people all over our campus are doing really interesting things with the platforms we are working on … in a lot of cases, many of these people don’t get the chance to talk directly with each other about what they are doing. So one way to overcome that was to take the idea of people tagging to a new level and let people use these stickers to indicate what they are into by sticking them to their badges. Hopefully conversation will occur with people informally sharing their interests and ideas. Here are a few samples:

podcasting tagblogging taggaming tagsocial tag

The stickers are produced by the people at and they are of the highest quality. Last year we did Moo Cards and they were a real hit, so this year we embraced the idea that we should use some visual design in a more obvious way. I’ve started to integrate these into the ETS website as well to indicate project groups … we also make heavy use of the concept at the ETS Community Hub.


Lessig to Keynote this Year’s TLT Symposium!

When we sat down to talk about who we wanted for this year’s TLT Symposium Lawrence Lessig was the firsdt name we threw out. We then instantly said it would be incredible, but probably not realistic … well, guess what? We got him — for real, here is the official word. For those of you who do not know who Lessig is, he is a professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of the school’s Center for Internet and Society. He is also the author of several books and is world class speaker. I am thrilled! Save the date, the Symposium will be the day after my birthday, March 29, 2008.

Bryan Alexander at the TLT Symposium

I gotta tell you … it was too hard to get the good stuff here. Stay tuned for the podcast.

Social Media and Web 2.0: Two Themes

Emergence in Time and Space

How do we react to emerging technologies? In many cases it is with panic and hesitance … other times we trust venders who give us things, establish futurism methods, among others. How many of you are gamers? Not many hands … how many have played games — the whole room presumably. In academia we see games as childish.

We used to say social software to emphasis that software can be social … that has been replaced by the notion of web 2.0 … it is also important to note that the web has a real history. Bryan says web 2.0 is a series of micro-content items, authored by multiple authors — even on the same page. This kind of an approach leads to a networked conversation … discussions “rippling across the blogosphere.” Speaking of the blogoshpere, he spends a little time on Technorati and the number of blogs … will it be become the human race, or stay small and emerge into something as silly as the novel.

Loved this one … RSS is the most frustrating web 2.0 technology … it is a geek only technology at first blush.

This one blew my mind … CyWorld — In S. Korea nearly half of the population is in there.


He says teaching with web 2 is not much different than web 1 … web 2 makes it much easier. Think of journaling and you can see how all this is supported in a very easy way. Flickr with notes and working on fine art projects — all through annotation and the conversation gets extended … “object oriented discussion.” Podcasting and blogging have brought discussion and discourse back into fashion.

Mobile devices offer the ability to access more content, annotate in the moment, and accelerates the ability to interact and change it all on the fly. His “mandatory device” slide was just great. The best covereage of the London Subway Bombing came from cell phone photos … why is mobility good?

  • Information on demand
  • Swarming
  • Spatial mapping
  • Mobile Multimedia, social research
  • So much more …

Gaming is an amazing cultural presence … that in and of itself is why it is important for us to understand. If gaming is this important we need to study it so we can help students understand it as a medium. Gaming is macro-content, unlike web 2.0 which is micro-content. How are games like web 2.0? I am guessing the social aspects. The SecondLife pedagogy advantage is virtual reality and emotional bandwidth (eb). EB is the ability in SL to watch people react — laugh, dance, smile, and other things. Half way between video conferencing and chatting. I need to explore Alternate Reality Games — new forms of digital storytelling.

I just couldn’t keep up … too interesting at the end. The podcast will be available.

Lee Rainie at the TLT Symposium

“Who’s blogging this right now?” That was the opening question from Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project … over 20 people in a room of about 200 or so faculty, staff, and some students who are here to see what the day holds for them raised their hands. He then asked how many people planned to do so after the fact … wow, surprised me at the number of bloggers in our community. Great start and a nice way to make the point that events are and will continue to be more open than ever before … let me just say that this post is a weak attempt at trying to keep up with the self proclaimed, “rain man.”

Realities of the Digital Natives

Digital media ecology is ever expanding … in the 1970’s there were these little things that were in the home … phone, TV, radio and not much else. Now the world is so insanely crazy in the way in which we access and control information is outrageous. 43% listen to radio not on their radio … 20% watch TV not on their TV. What is going on is that the young are allocating their time differently because of all this — 8.5 hours a day consuming media. That is more time than they spend in schools, sleeping, or any other activity.

New gadgets allow people to enjoy media, gather info and carry on communication in real time … the cell phone is at the center of this. What is interesting is that they are using their phones for so much more than calls. Adults don’t take advantage of their phones — he calls it feature fatigue. Young people are sharing their pictures at a very high rate — somewhere between 50-67%. Big change was in 8/2005 more laptops sold than desktops for the first time — “the Internet has become the computer.” You can be present when you are absent, and absent when you are present. Presence has been changed by all this. The devices let conversations continue even after the face to face is over … “conversation is in the air just as oxygen is in the air” … interesting point.

The Internet (especially broadband)is at the center of the revolution … “if you can’t be found on Google you don’t exist.” We are now right around 50% of broadband in the home … broadband users are much more likely to be producers of content than dial up users. Young people are much more interested in the amateur video content and are much more likely to comment on it. The audience now wants to be a part of the media maker market … this makes multi-tasking a way of life. The availability of media adds more stress to our lives — we dare not come off the grid. Some research is showing that young people can toggle between activities much more quickly.

Ordinary citizens have a chance to be publishers, movie makers, artists, song creators, and story tellers … new report coming next week talking about teens and their use of social networks. 55% of teens have online profiles … they are sharing photos, videos (22%), and anything that they can make. A third of them are the ones who build and support websites and other technology for their families and organizations they belong to. 33% of college students have blogs. 20% of young adults have created avatars that interact with others online. In many cases they feel as though they are creating and sharing with a very small audience — mainly for a small group of friends.

Everything will change even more … in other words, buckle up b/c we have no idea where this is heading. Computing, storage, and communications power are increasing and growing at a very similar rate as Moore’s Law. In the next few years we’ll figure out how to push even more data through the air. Michael Wesch’s video on web 2.0 is the wrap up.

I gotta say, seeing 240 PSU people sitting and thinking about all this is inspiring to me … I’m sure I’ve missed stuff, but the podcast will be available soon!

Lee obviously cited his own work at Pew, but also pulled some very interesting results from the Kaiser Family Foundation report, Generation M.