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Conference at Ohio State supports future of teaching and learning

The Ohio State University is celebrating 150 years as an institution with a series of summits focusing on the future of higher education. The first one centered on a critical topic: teaching and learning.

Hundreds of educators filled the ballrooms and meeting spaces in the Ohio Union this week for Think Beyond: Reimagining Teaching and Learning. Speakers and panelists discussed new trends and ideas in education.

President Michael V. Drake opened the conference with a history lesson. He pointed to the Morrill Act of 1862 which established land-grant universities like Ohio State. He said higher education has helped shape the country we live in today.

“One of the things that was so profound about this act was that it understood it was the pathway to the importance of education in the industrial and post-industrial age we live in,” he said. “The power of knowledge was very important to those who wrote the Morrill Land Grant Act and those who passed it and brought it into being.”

The university has pushed to improve teaching. Ohio State’s new strategic plan calls on the university to be “an exemplar of the best teaching.” Last year the university launched the Teaching Support Program – a professional development initiative providing additional support for teaching faculty in the classroom.

“As we are increasing our research on campus … we are also being recognized for our focus on teaching and learning,” Drake said. “We want these twin towers to work together.”

Keynote speakers addressed the role of education as a way to improve society overall: to disrupt poverty, to bring about greater equality and to build better communities.

Speaker Jaime Casap, Google’s chief education evangelist, discussed how educators can help students out of a cycle of poverty.

“Whether you are a professor, whether you are a program director, whether you are an administrator, wherever you are on the education pipeline, the impact you have on students goes on for generations and generations and generations,” he said.

Drawing inspiration from Maya Angelou to Sojourner Truth, speaker Elaine Richardson, professor of literacy studies in the Department of Teaching and Learning, discussed the importance of supporting the voices of marginalized communities in education.

Eli Pariser, author of “The Filter Bubble,” closed out the conference and discussed the need to build communities that bring people together. Pariser said the healthiest public spaces are characterized by structure and shared ownership.

The summit is part of the university’s Think Beyond: Academic Summit Series in connection with Ohio State’s sesquicentennial celebration. In January the summit will focus on urban universities and the connection to communities. Defining the 21st-century land-grant university is the focus of a summit in March.

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