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New Tools Enhance APLA Teaching

Technology in the classroom

The Education Technology Committee, chaired by APLA Unit Technology Manager Steven Wall, has dedicated itself to both the increase and improvement of technology resource use in the classroom and studio environment at APLA. The committee meets monthly to establish priorities for technology resources and strives to maintain a continuous and forward-looking attitude toward the use of technology in our pedagogical efforts.

The group has recently made it a priority to increase the use of portable technology—equipment that is designed to move between different student groups and disciplines in an effort to move the use of technology out of the digital labs and disperse it into the studio and classroom environment. The initial phase of this project was the implementation of five MakerBots. Makerbots are 3D desktop printers that use plastic filament that is essentially melted and extruded through a printer head to lay down layers of plastic in a line-by-line fashion to create a three dimensional object. The Makerbots are currently deployed into the studios, with one Makerbot on each level of Dudley Hall. These printers are available to all disciplines within APLA and move freely among them, depending on student and studio need. The Technology group has also implemented a Mini Makerbot that can be checked out by faculty and students. Due to its extreme portability, it has been employed primarily in off-campus design competitions.

The second phase of the portable technology initiative has been tied into an ePortfolio grant awarded to Margaret Fletcher, Assistant Professor of Architecture, Joel Beckum, IT Coordinator for the CADC, and Steven Wall. The ePortfolio grant was awarded for the Documentation Station: an initiative to create and improve the ability for students to document their studio and design projects. The grant has supported the purchase of additional servers dedicated to digital documentation storage, digital SLR cameras, tripods, camcorders, LED lighting, a large format high-resolution scanner, photography backdrops, as well as tethering software to support a hands-free photography studio environment. In this environment, students can control the camera at a computer station, rather than at the camera and can work from a large format digital screen instead of the small viewfinder on the back of the camera. The portable aspect of this technology initiative has been the addition of a mobile photography studio. With this mobile unit, students can set up a full photography lab in any location. The unit includes backdrops and backdrop supports, LED lights, camera, tripod: everything needed to set up a complete photography lab.

The third phase of the portable technology initiative supports an increase in the visibility of digital material within the studio setting. Over the past few years, the technology group has implemented portable Smart Board technology throughout the school. Now they are adding pocket-sized, short throw projectors to the studios. The short throw projectors can be quickly attached to any computer in a studio to essentially produce a digital pinup in studio and acts as a device to make more public the design work that currently resides on the small screens of student laptops.

Steven Wall has charged his committee with “committing their work toward increasing and improving the use of digital tools to enhance the learning experience in the studio and in the classroom.”