U showcases technology use across campus

About 20 University departments showcased their technology use at Coffman Union.

Meghan O'Connor


The University of Minnesota is transitioning to 21st century instruction, along with other colleges and universities across the country.

More than 70 displays representing 20 University departments showcased many technological advancements Wednesday at Coffman Union.

The College of Education and Human Development, College of Liberal Arts and the Office of Information Technology teamed up to host the University’s first academic technology showcase.

Individual departments used to present their own technology developments separately, but the showcase was a chance to see how technology is being used across the entire University.

“There is a lot of innovation happening at the University. All over the place,” said Brad Cohen, OIT director for collaborative academic technology. “Before today we were limited to local context within our individual colleges.”

One innovation that was stressed during the showcase was the wide availability of e-books. Colleges across the country are updating their libraries to include more electronic resources for students. The University of Michigan, has more than 2 million readily available e-books for its students, said Kathleen Folger, electronic resources officer at the University of Michigan Library. 

 Through Minnesota’s university library system, students have access to more than 415,000 e-books.

“We are making it a priority to offer e-books to students across the campus,” said Lois Hendrickson, a librarian at the Wangensteen Historical Library.

E-books give students access to materials in the library at any time. This helps when late night studying or paper writing kicks in, Hendrickson said.

 “We are trying to stress the importance of e-books and gain permissions from publishers,” she said.

The University is also working on enhancing the capabilities of the iPad at an academic level. More than 10 million U.S. consumers have already bought or intend to buy an iPad, according to trends statistics.

CEHD and the University’s Office of Classroom Management teamed up to enable students to engage with faculty in the classroom through an iPad connected wirelessly to an AppleTV.

The pilot project is being run in Appleby Hall. This allows CEHD and OCM to assess its capabilities and address any glitches.

“Not only is this affordable classroom equipment, but any form of multimedia can be shared with a simple click,” said John Knowles, an instructional technology coordinator with OCM.

In February, Ohio State University issued a campus-wide distribution of iPads to faculty and students, emphasizing that iPads can be educational tools.

“We are accommodating students’ learning styles,” said Katharine Keune, the director of communications at Ohio State. “Teachers tend to prefer them over laptops because they are flat and don’t allow students to hide behind them.”

While many developments focus on using consumer technology in the classroom, some programs have custom technology for their fields.

The College of Public Health is continuing technological research on the best way to be prepared in times of emergency.

Using OpenSimulator, a virtual world program, evacuation plans are being developed to assist emergency personnel in case of potential outbreaks or terrorist attacks.

“We are bringing in the environment and spatial understandings to public health education,” Gail Brinkmeier, translation coordinator for CPH. “These are things that can’t be experienced within a classroom setting.”

At the University of Wisconsin, the computer engineering program has a virtual reality room allowing users to engage in various topics.

“Students can virtually interact with a body part or machine,” said Brian Rust from the division of information technology. “Technology like this is changing the way we view education.”

Over the past few years, interest in online courses has been at an all-time high, said Amy Scheller a continuing education specialist at the University.

Scheller has made it a point to attend professor’s face-to-face lectures and make note of their techniques to help translate that to the web.

“It’s our intent to start remixing education,” said Joel Dickinson, another continuing education specialist.