The University Record, June 19, 1995

New Media Center offers tools to bring technology into the classroom

By Jared Blank

The University's New Media Center is one of 50 centers established by a consortium of universities and private companies to further the development of multimedia teaching applications. The U-M's center is located on the third floor of the School of Education building.

Louis King, manager of new media initiatives, says the center "is a place where people can use computers as media, as a way of communicating. New media today is becoming a basic tool for the academic community, much like the typewriter once was."

Professors who wish to bring this new technology into their classroom begin by contacting staff in the Office of Instructional Technology (OIT). "OIT staff are interested in teaching and learning--nearly half of our staff have advanced degrees in education --we analyze what professors want to do and discuss the technology that would be helpful. We don't just put people in front of machines," King says.

Faculty work with OIT programmers in the Instructional Technology Laboratory (ITL) in the Chemistry Building to create software and applications that will enhance teaching in their classrooms. The ITL is a multimedia laboratory with all the "bells and whistles" necessary for multimedia teaching. Faculty have access to color scanners, hardware that will digitize images from VHS and 8mm tape, projectors, hardware to produce their own CD ROMs, digital cameras and an assortment of Macintosh computers.

Emily Cloyd, associate professor of English, found that the software she helped to create has enhanced student interest in the classroom.

Cloyd's classes often focus on English literature in relation to the art and history of the period.

"I found students often had trouble imagining the historical references," Cloyd said. "And carrying around tons of photos and cassettes was extremely inefficient." Her answer to this problem was software she helped to create called Calliope's Sisters.

With the expertise of OIT programmer Tricia Jones, Cloyd wrote a program filled with images, text and sound clips that relate to her subject and are easily accessible in the classroom.

"I've tried to create an encyclopedia of 18th century life which can be brought up in relation to literature that we are reading," Cloyd says. One of the major benefits of the software, she adds, is that she can call up information on the spot, without having to fumble around with slides and audio cassettes. "I just bring the Powerbook to class and LS&A media takes care of the projector and speakers. When students ask questions, I can immediately bring up any information to help illustrate the answer."

Calliope's Sisters allows users to simply point and click on any image or sound that they find useful. "I wanted a versatile tool that people could suit to their class. You can pull up what interests you," Cloyd says. For example, she has created an animation clip, complete with music, that shows the architectural changes in the Stowe house in England.

The house "morphs" from one facelift to the next to illustrate what parts of the architecture are changing. Cloyd says that students better understand the architectural changes when she uses the animation clips because the style changes are highlighted by the animation.

King believes it is OIT's job to "empower people to embrace the technology available to them. We look at the human reaction to technology. We ask how people feel about the technology. We look at the entire pedagological issue and ask ourselves if it is appropriate to use the technology for each person's course."

Faculty interested in exploring new media technology for instruction can call the Office of Instructional Technology at 763-4664 or the Instructional Technology Lab at 936-1140.