Plenary Sessions

Opening Plenary Session

Friday, September 30

5:15 p.m.–6:30 p.m.

Windows Revisited: Computers as Frames for Learning

Presenter: Gardner Campbell, associate professor of English and special assistant to the provost at Virginia Commonwealth University

This is not a talk about software or operating systems. Instead, it’s a “metalogue” about computers as windows we must look at as well as look through. Computers in networks don’t merely deliver content. They don’t simply automate information transactions. They are states of mind, points of view, screens that are horizons, windows—and often mirrors, too. Networked, computer-mediated communication, what we once called cyberspace, frames both time and space differently from other media, and can therefore situate learners in newly liberating or harshly constraining frames of being.

I will suggest ways in which these seemingly abstract realizations can be put to immediate use to catalyze deeper learning and greater student engagement across many different learning modalities, whether face-to-face, hybrid, or fully online. By the end of my presentation, I will have provided you with several strategies—some direct, some oblique—for using the meta-perspectives I have described to design powerful learning experiences for your students, and for you as well.

About the presenter

Gardner Campbell

Gardner Campbell is associate professor of English and special assistant to the provost at Virginia Commonwealth University, where for nearly three years he also served as vice provost for learning innovation and student success as well as dean of university college.

He is an intellectual omnivore, a former radio announcer, a Miltonist, and a bassist. Dr. Campbell has worked in teaching and learning technologies for more than 25 years and is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences in the U.S. and internationally.

Gardner blogs at and tweets as @gardnercampbell.

Breakfast Plenary Session

Saturday, October 1

8:30 a.m.–9:30 a.m.

The Illusion of Rigor

Presenter: Ike Shibley, associate professor, Penn State Berks

Teachers who make learning enjoyable are often accused of lacking rigor. The time has arrived, however, where difficult, direct questions must be asked about the implicit assumption that an enjoyable course has been “watered down.” For too long, higher education has focused solely on the scholarly training of a college professor, paying scant attention to the professor’s pedagogical skills. At the same time, the teacher with the most erudite lectures has long been assumed to be a great teacher.

By combining work on cognitive psychology and pedagogical scholarship, this session will smash “the illusion of rigor” that has influenced higher education for far too long. Along the way, the notion that lecturing is teaching will be deconstructed. Effective course design, with the mindful integration of technology, will emerge as the primary means for helping students learn more effectively. Rigor, after all, does not mean grueling, joyless work. Teachers who want to design courses that students enjoy will leave this presentation feeling empowered to create dynamic, engaging, fun . . . and rigorous courses.

After this talk, you will be able to:

  • Defend criticism that learning should be difficult . . . and boring
  • Identify pedagogical strategies for keeping students focused—both inside and outside the classroom
  • Explain how properly deployed technology can save the instructor time in the long run, even if it requires an initial time investment

About the presenter

Ike Shibley

Ike Shibley is an associate professor at Penn State Berks, where he helps coordinate the biology, biochemistry, and life science degree programs. Dr. Shibley teaches a wide variety of courses, including chemistry, organic chemistry, and several philosophy courses focused on science, the mind, and bioethics.

His recent pedagogical work has focused on the inclusion of technology in course design to improve student learning.

The title of his talk arises from more than 20 years of responding to criticism about students enjoying learning activities in his courses.