ITS showcases the future of academic technology

Members of the Academic Technology Team display monitors. (Cristina Matamoros/The Phoenix)

3D Printing, Mobile Devices in the Classroom, Web Video Galleries, Pen Display Graphics Tablet, Cinematic HD Video, New Tripod, eBooks, Moodle Q&A Booth, Open Source Electronics Projects … Do these terms sound familiar?

On Monday afternoon in the Scheuer Room, the annual Information Technology Services (ITS) Academic Technology Fair displayed these nine fascinating new technologies that broadened participants’ horizons and gave faculty and students new ideas about teaching and learning processes. ITS, the Language Resource Center and the Library arrange this fair each year to raise awareness about the emerging technologies and help students and faculty alike take advantage of the resources.

E-Books and the new Tripod provide patrons with a larger platform for resources’ searching. According to Sarah Hartman-Caverly, a serials and electronic resources specialist at the college, the school library has subscribed to a total of 45,000 new collections of e-Books through the vendor e-Book library EBL. These new sources can be read online through the vendor’s browser application directly or off-line by downloading the e-Books to portable electronic devices. Along with this increase, the tri-college library catalog, tripod, will be updated in the spring semester. Spencer Lamm, Digital Initiatives Librarian, said that the new Tripod can be used to search for both articles and books, but in the old one, people can’t search for articles. It also includes facts on authors, dates, subjects and other materials that will make the whole research process faster and more efficient.

Associate professor Benjamin Berger of political science department, came to the fair and commented on the potential contribution of the new catalogue system. “I loved the new Tripod platform. It should help students who are beginning a research project to get immediate results across different databases instead of having to try their searches in many different databases trying to find one with good results. I’m excited to use it for my own research.”

Besides the creation in the library, Miro community, an online community with web video galleries, is also a new technology that closely relates to people’s everyday life. People can create different catalogues and, under each catalogue, can collect all kinds of web resources, like videos from YouTube, Vimeo and Blip.tv. “It takes the videos across the web and brings the videos together into one place with one commenting area.” Michael Kapper, a web UI (user interface) specialist at the college, explained. This aggregation of relevant information helps build discussions on specific topics. And with the convenience of sharing the video content on social networks, the Miro community ensures timely updates to the audience. These advantages make this technology indispensable for academic discussions at the college.

Berger said, “I also liked the Miro community video display. Miro seems as if it could help faculty as well as students to gather all kinds of online video content that’s relevant to a course’s subject matter, stimulating discussion and new perspectives on the course material.”

In fact, almost all of the new technologies are designed to facilitate the process of acquiring, keeping and understanding information. Judith Voet, a senior research scholar who taught biochemistry at the college, found the 3D printing technology extremely useful for biology and chemistry teaching. She believes that people can make models of proteins by using that new technology and it can make the model easier for students to understand.

3D printing is a technology where three dimensional objects can be printed by specially designed printers. Z Corporation, which exhibited the machine at the fair, explained how the printer works in its introduction brochure. After a 3D CAD file is imported into a special software — ZPrint — the software slices the file into cross-sections that can fit in the printer.

Then, as the brochure explains, “The printer creates the model one layer at a time by spreading a layer of powder and inkjet-printing a binder in the cross-section of the part.” The same process is repeated until the model comes out. This printing technology has become increasingly popular and the most successful architecture and engineering companies use it in the process of designing and project delivery.

Technology will never stop bringing people surprises and new concepts. It is important to be ready to learn from these emerging ideas and put them into practical use.

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