By: Diane Stirling
Visitors to this week’s “Future Friday” event will get to experience something of a space-age show-and-tell.
Several varied demonstrations of emerging technologies—projects that student teams in the School of Information Studies (iSchool) course, New Explorations in Information and Science (“NEXISClass” – or IST 200) have researched, built, and tested—will be on display.
The event takes place from noon to 3 p.m. on Friday, December 6. Student team exhibits will fill the NEXIS lab space with their demonstrations of learning.
Students completed their technology exploration assignments this semester in the inaugural offering of the course, assisted by a variety of new technological equipment acquired through a special grant. Microsoft Corp. awarded a gift of $24,000 to the iSchool’s NEXIS lab, after a visit by company representative Shelly Farnham, who witnessed the type of research underway by students there.
The grant enabled the purchase of Fitbit Force monitors for the entire class; a Makerbot 3D printer; Occulus Rift technology; Little Bits, which are electronic building blocks; and a Arduino inventor kit. Also purchased with the funds were LED light installations; a MaKey MaKey inventor kit; and assorted items to stock the NEXIS Lab. Also featured will be Leap Motion units, which were provided to NEXIS courtesy of the Leap company.
NEXISClass has been designed to serve as a confidence-builder for students, said Professor Anthony Rotolo. The class provides a forum that permits opportunities “to explore non-traditional areas of our field, whether those are areas the student may or may not have been equipped or personally aligned to tackle, and whether or not that ideation is something the curriculum offers,” he added.
The course is designed along the lines of a studio art class, Rotolo noted, where the professor serves as guide and students are able to use technologies as a medium, “much the way an art student might take a course in painting,” he observed.
Initial course exercises required of students–including managing HTML language and building CSS code and templates–are technological efforts many people view as difficult skills to master, yet, students find they can reach those objectives, Rotolo said. “That is why the class is structured around achievements, rather than grades. We are not looking for excellence in every single one of these explorations, but for the kind of creativity, initiative, effort, and guts that students can put forward.”
Outlet for Exploration
There are many benefits for students in a course that offers the freedom to explore a range of topics, he said. “The idea came from the concept that there are lots of possibilities when it comes to technology–but one school and one curriculum can only cover so much in a definite way per a college degree.” Consequently, the course is designed to offer an outlet for not-yet-explored or tested domains.
“Conceivably, there are lots of students who want to try out something new, but may not know just where they fit,” Rotolo observed. “Having one course that embodies that situation, and that works to bring those students into exploration” is the offering’s goal, he said.