Getting Wired

Pirates Collaborate, Communicate and Create Using Technology

At Armstrong, technology plays an increasingly important role in teaching and learning, both inside and outside the classroom. As part of the university’s mission, faculty members in fields ranging from the arts to the sciences are preparing students to use technology as a critical tool for collaboration, communication and creativity.

Ramon Hartage, a junior majoring in chemistry at Armstrong, has the unique opportunity to work with Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy instruments, which are used to determine the structure of molecules. Hartage works side by side with associate professor of chemistry Suzanne Carpenter, to develop the best protocol for using NMR instruments in organic chemistry labs.

“Students who take organic chemistry at most universities in the United States are not even allowed to touch an NMR,” Carpenter explained. “Many universities think the instruments are too expensive to let sophomores handle, but I’ve always felt that touching and using the instruments helps you better understand the data you get from them.”

Linda Wright, professor of health sciences at Armstrong, uses technology to communicate. She incorporates the latest teaching tools in her courses on campus, as well as her online learning classes. She gets student feedback in real time in the classroom on Twitter, encourages undergraduates to collaborate on projects through Dabbleboard interactive whiteboard software and edits student white papers on Google Docs.

“I’m not afraid to try new technology in and out of the classroom,” she said. “It’s all about engaging students and helping them learn in different ways.”

Technology can also be used for artistic endeavors. Jessica Roche, a senior majoring in art education, recently collaborated with ten other fine arts students to develop “Wo(Men),” an experimental play that uses technology to explore gender roles.

Roche’s group project is part of SIMR, which stands for Student Interactive Media and Research. During the spring 2012 semester, students in four different fine arts classes at Armstrong—the computer in art, fabric design, scene design and acting for the camera—used technology to develop performances that offered different perspectives on local 19th century arts patron Mary Telfair.

“Technology is integrated into each project in different ways,” Roche explained. “For instance, some students created digital paintings that each group will project as backdrops.” The students presented their plays at the Women and Arts Symposium at Armstrong on March 22.

Technological advances also allows for high-tech haptics research on campus. Ben Page, a graduate student who recently completed his M.S. in Computer Science, used the university’s NEWS (Network Enabled Work Spaces) laboratory to develop interactive three-dimensional simulations to teach physics.

Under the guidance of NEWS laboratory director Felix Hamza-Lup, an associate professor of computer science and information technology, Page and 30 other graduate and undergraduate students have collaborated on a range of training and simulation projects since the lab’s founding in 2006.

Some of the most exciting work involves haptics, which uses tactile feedback and hand-held devices to manipulate virtual objects in space. “This technology has many applications in the medical training and e-learning fields,” Hamza-Lup explained. “This is the next frontier of learning and training.”

To experience the full story, read the Spring 2012 Armstrong Magazine.