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Tagged with: faculty collaboration

W.I.T. 2009

If you ask somebody at OIT what WIT is, they’d probably tell you “it’s a summer technology internship for Williams students.” If you ask me, I’d tell you “it’s a bunch of multi-talented, diverse, and ambitious students who are rounded up at the end of the school year, locked up on the second floor of Jesup with no air-conditioning, and at the end of 10 weeks, they emerge with beautiful T-shirts and a dozen websites for faculty to play with.” I’d also tell you that for ten weeks I was part of a Family, a Playground and a School. That is what WIT really is to me- a Family, a Playground and a School. more...

On the first day, I reported to work at 9:00 in the morning where I met the other student interns. Some of the faces were new and some were quite familiar. However, there was a hint of strangeness that could not be ignored. I remember saying to myself, “This is whom I am going to be working with for the whole summer?” And if that wasn’t troubling enough, the air-conditioning did not work. I was always doubtful as to what sort of dynamics would be realized in the course of the program. I was doubtful as to how teams are going to relate, work and be productive. I was doubtful as to how prepared or cut out I was, for the projects that would be presented to us.

But then, before we got into the thick of things with web design and coding, we went through a two-week training period that cast away a lot of doubt. First, there was digital storytelling, and what an experience that was! In making digital stories, I was learning about new technology while exploring very personal aspects of my life at the same time. I had the rare opportunity to tell a personal story however I wanted to tell it, and at the same time, learn more about my fellow interns by sharing their stories. The Family was well on its way at this point in time.

Being a WIT intern this past summer was more of an eye-opening experience than a regular nine to five job. There was always something to look forward to learning every single day. I am now equipped with the necessary skills to work with HTML, CSS, PHP and can design a fully functional website from the ground up. However, it did take a while for me to get comfortable with the basics that would enable me to take up the projects. The training project surely played a big role in steering me in the right direction. Our student managers, Bret Scofield and Jeff Perlis, presented us with a project, which we were to work on individually or within groups. The amazing thing about the training project is that it created an avenue for us to learn about each other’s unique skills that would be applicable in the work setting. When I needed help I first consulted a fellow WIT Student then maybe an ITech (instructional technology) staff member. WIT, the school, taught me self-reliance, but most importantly, taught me to learn to rely on my colleagues.

They say work without play makes Jack a dull boy. We had game night to remedy that. Tuesday nights, the family got together and played strange board games, Wii sports, Rock Band, and Texas hold ’em, or occasionally jammed to the tune of Trevor Murphy’s (an ITech staff member) mandolin. Friday lunches were exceptional as well. Every week there was tasty food from a variety of local restaurants that we enjoyed with our sponsors, and the whole family. We also had a blast canoeing and mini-golfing. The rest of the time, we had each other, our sponsors, the ITech staff, our projects, the internet and YouTube.

The projects were interesting and fun to work on. There were times when we burned the midnight oil in the name of getting something to work. But even then, we had the backing of our fellow students, the student managers, and the ITech staff. At the end of it, we emerged with our beautiful WIT 2009 T-shirts and presented our projects to our sponsors and the Williams community. All in all, it was a great experience. From this summer, I derive a great sense of pride and fulfillment in my fellow interns, the WIT program, and myself.

-written with Azd Al-Kadasi ’12

For more information about the WIT program, visit the WIT site.

Breathing New Life into Media

Did you ever read the book Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson? It’s about a boy, Harold, who draws pretty much anything he needs with his trusty purple crayon.  For example, Harold ends up floating in the ocean during one of his adventures, so he whips out his purple crayon, draws himself a sailboat to climb into and sails away. Problem solved. How cool, right? What if we all had purple crayons that could solve problems that easily? more...

That concept of “what if” combined with a theoretical purple crayon has cropped up repeatedly in my work as an instructional technologist and media production specialist. Faculty, students and staff are wonderful at imagining a continuous supply of the what if’s, while digital technology, software and the web, have afforded us an amazingly diverse box of “crayons” and canvases to “draw” upon.

And I certainly would not classify the what if’s only as problems that need solving. They most often fall into the category of “How would I incorporate X into my class?” with X being something like:

  • collaborative writing/publishing via a wiki with mixed media content (images, audio, video)
  • multimedia narrative projects/visual histories
  • incorporating video clips into assignments and for peer review and commentary
  • student audio/video recording and editing (e.g. fieldwork, interviews, etc.)
  • blogs as presentation/publishing tools

The list is limited only by their imagination.

Work stations in Jesup 316 now have both a Mac and a PC sharing a monitor.

316 work station

Since returning to Williams late last semester as the Media Studios & Technologies Coordinator in the ITech group of OIT, I have consulted with faculty, students, and staff on multimedia production and support on campus, and more specifically, media scholarship in the curriculum.  I am very pleased to share with you now some of the physical and philosophical changes in supporting multimedia development that ITech is adopting in Jesup and the other Media Production Studio locations in an effort to better serve and educate the campus community.

As a stepping stone to OIT’s planned Center for Media Initiatives (CMI), part of the Sawyer/CMI building project, we are pleased to announce the creation of the Media Education Center (MEC) in Jesup 316. We envision the MEC as the primary destination for individual consultation or small group training and support for multimedia projects, digital video production, and media scholarship in the curriculum. Key to the MEC’s success will be our focus on providing some of the core services outlined in the mission statement for the future CMI:

  • Promoting the use of multimedia and technology in teaching and learning.
  • Providing multiple levels of support from solving basic problems to complex multimedia production.
  • Promoting faculty/faculty and faculty/student interaction and collaboration assisted by OIT Instructional Technologists as needed.
  • Provide facilities where students can collaborate on multimedia projects with Student Media Consultants and professional backup nearby.

The MEC is open for use weekdays, 9 AM – 5 PM. We are also staffing the MEC weekdays 10-12 in the mornings and 2-5 each afternoon. We encourage you to drop in during these staffed time slots with your media questions, problems, and ideas.

As the plan for the MEC developed, we also recognized the need to more precisely duplicate there the physical resources found in the other Media Production Studios.  If we imagine our community will come to the MEC to explore and learn, then we must outfit the Studios to produce in the same manner we teach, right?  Additionally, appreciating changes in the patterns and culture of media production methods gave us an opportunity to create media studios that provide a mix of traditional production workstation layouts interspersed with soft seating, laptop areas, and large screen collaborative spaces.  The emphasis on establishing creative and inviting environments, that are functional for individuals and groups interchangeably, remains our high priority.

Large display in Jesup 316 for teaching and collaborating

Collaboration station in Jesup 316

Notable tidbits about the Studios:

The Aquarium– (Jesup 101), is now officially named The Aquarium since that’s what everyone already calls it!  It has a mix of MAC and PC video editing stations, flatbed and slide scanners, and includes an open area with soft seating for laptop use. The Aquarium is only staffed in the evenings and on weekends when the MEC is closed. The timeslots for staffed hours are posted on the door and also linked on the MEC website.

The Cellar – (Jesup B03) – contains PC’s only. It includes a large screen collaborative station for group project work, or easy hook-up for laptops, peripherals (or even gaming consoles – user supplied!) and is intended to promote a more social computing atmosphere.

Jesup 204 – is a mix of high-end media production stations, both Mac & PC. It has a dedicated music composing/recording workstation, flatbed scanners and an open area with soft seating for laptops. Jesup 204 is intended as a quieter studio for more serious work.

We have also moved our dedicated Training Station for use to Jesup 204, recognizable by the bright yellow poster and icons. is gaining in popularity with our users as a one-stop, self-paced, video tutorial training site with offerings on just about any software you can name for media production and office productivity.

Other Studio locations include Spencer 216 (Art Studio building) and reservable Final Cut Pro editing suites in Dodd Annex and Jesup 316A.

To browse a listing of Media Production Studios and the MEC and related equipment, you can visit the OIT site.

To request an appointment with ITech professional staff to talk about media scholarship opportunities in teaching and learning, or other project ideas you may have, contact

Please visit the Media Education Center (Jesup 316) soon! We would love to share our big box of crayons with you!

Creating Teaching Tools: GeoShear

Aside from the penthouse suite*, company car*, and three-hour lunch breaks*, the best part of my job is working with people to create new technology tools for teaching, learning, and research. These projects generally start with a small problem to be solved, and grow into a more general, powerful tool. A great example of this process is the creation of the GeoShear application. more...

Professor Karabinos of the Geology department teaches rock deformation and analysis in GEOS 301. He had a stack of cards with drawings on the side which could be deformed by shifting the stack, and a series of computer images which could be flipped through. He felt there had to be a better way. He contacted OIT and got together with the project development team to figure out what could be done. In discussion, it became clear that animating images for demonstration in a lecture was just the beginning.

The idea quickly evolved into an application that students could load onto their own computers and play with to see how various deformations occur. From there we added some analysis pieces (numbers and charts) to show not only what a deformation looks like, but also how it relates to the underlying data. The next leap was the realization that with the analysis piece in place, this tool could be useful for research… if data from real, deformed rocks could be entered. So, we added ways to load in images of rock cross-sections, and trace out relevant parts of those images.

After all this (plus some back-and-forth to refine the user interface), we have a technology that not only illustrates rock deformation, but also allows students to explore the ideas further on their own, and even opens up research possibilities by making some kinds of data analysis much faster and easier. Professor Karabinos has demonstrated and shared GeoShear at national conferences as well as within the Williams community. GeoShear, and some other software we’ve released publicly, is available on the OIT site.

* exists only in my imagination

Geoshear: before and after

Geoshear cards
Geoshear screnshot

WIT Intern Program & Projects

The Williams Instructional Technology Program (WIT) had another successful summer. 16 projects for 11 academic departments/programs and 5 administrative offices were completed. WIT is a summer intern program designed to bring together students and faculty to work collaboratively on technology projects. For 10 weeks in the summer, 12 student interns work in teams of three. Each team is responsible for ~3-4 projects which have a broad range of components, including audio/video production, graphic design, web development, animation, and programming. At the end of the summer, the interns give a public presentation on their projects, and prepare documentation for their sponsors explaining how to maintain and update the projects. The technical and project development skills learned by WIT interns make them excellent candidates to help with further projects for faculty and staff during the academic year. more...

WIT hires only Williams College students. Preference is given to first-years and sophomores, but the occasional junior is hired for a specific skill set. One returning student is also hired to serve as the student manager of the program. To be qualified for WIT, students should have basic technology skills, and desire to learn more.

Many people assist with the program- workshops were given by Ed Epping, professor of art, on graphic design; Rebecca Ohm, reference librarian, on copyright issues; and Shawn Rosenheim, professor of English, and Satyan Devadoss, associate professor of mathematics, on how to give engaging presentations.

Instructional Technology staff gave workshops and ongoing training in Photoshop, iMovie, Flash, HTML/CSS, database design, programming, project management, and technical writing.

Highlights from WIT 2008

Math Department Site/Blog: A new Mathematics and Statistics department web site was designed that incorporated blogging technology. The site allows prospective and current majors, as well as faculty (both internal and external to Williams), to keep up with departmental events and information. The math faculty keep the site fresh by posting their thoughts/ideas on mathematical topics, and starting discussions around them.

Admissions Virtual Tour: The interns created an interactive online virtual tour for prospective Williams students and their families. Visitors can see the campus through a collection of image slideshows, student descriptions, and an interactive map that takes you from location to location. The site manages to be informal and engaging, while still conveying important information about the College.

Online Citation Tutorial: The Library and Academic Resources Center commissioned an online tutorial on citation, documentation, and study habits for new and returning Williams students. The site features original comic-book style illustrations from one of the interns.

Obrecht: The interns created a website documenting Jacob Obrecht’s St. Donation Mass. It provides cultural context, a media player that allows visitors to view/hear segments of the reenactment, and animated/annotated scores for the mass.

If you are interested in WIT, the completed projects, or would like to explore using technology in teaching, learning and research, contact or visit the WIT websitefor more details.

WIT interns working with their sponsor

WIT team Cyanide Delirium consults with their faculty sponsor, Jennifer Bloxam, on the Obrecht website.

What is Instructional Technology?

It’s not your grandfather’s Instructional Technology.

The Office for Information Technology is organized into four branches: The Desktop Systems group focuses on personal computers and runs the Help Desk; the Admin Systems group focuses on the big, back-end databases that track grades, manage payrolls and so on; the Networks and Systems group focuses on the cabling, servers and services that connect the campus to the Internet, provide email and so forth; and the Instructional Technology group does… what exactly? more...

ITech at Williams is the group charged with helping faculty make good use of technology in teaching and research, but the broader field of Instructional Technology is an academic discipline in its own right, taught at over 130 graduate schools in the U.S. alone. In Instructional Technology: The Definition and Domains of the Field (1994), Seels and Richey defined Instructional Technology as “the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning,” the definition that was adopted by the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). AECT narrowed its definition in 2004, pointing out that instructional technology is a more focused subset of educational technology, and stating that “Instructional technology refers to the concept, theory, and field that focus on facilitating learning through technology under conditions that are purposive and controlled.”

Even with the clarification made in 2004 though, it’s not immediately apparent how to translate these theoretical objectives into a practical program. Here at Williams, the goal is to take the historical trajectory of the department, make it intentional through the application of the principles of design and evaluation, and develop programs and technologies that support faculty and genuinely facilitate learning. As with most things that have their roots in technological innovation, the rate of change in instructional technology seems to be accelerating. Twenty years ago, instructional technology was little more than mimeograph machines and slide projectors- the pre-cursors to today’s electronic classrooms. While the electronic classroom is arguably still ITech’s most visible and widely used service, the emphasis today is placed as much on the “instructional” than on the “technology”. It’s oriented toward the services and collaborations- the verbs- rather than the machines and artifacts of technology, the nouns.

This orientation is reflected in the internal structure of the group. A little over a third of the group has the development and maintenance of the electronic classrooms and labs as their primary responsibility. Around another third of the group, the Instructional Technology Specialist team, is charged with working directly with faculty, both to understand how faculty are currently teaching and doing research and to help them leverage technical tools in more effective ways. As much as possible, members of this group have educational backgrounds and teaching experience that overlap with the disciplines they support. The last group supports both faculty and the rest of ITech, with project management and development skills, by collaborating on the development of applications and tools that further the pedagogical goals of the faculty.

Working together, ITech has as its mission to help faculty use the existing technologies of the classroom and the network more effectively. But going beyond the obvious examples of technology, the larger mission is to help faculty envision ways that intransigent problems , of teaching or within the discipline, can be re-envisioned and addressed.