Monthly Archives: February 2014

What the IT Convergence Center should be

UMW IT Convergence Center

I originally wrote this back in August of 2013 to express some of my ideas about the ITCC. This is where the birth of the DMCI came from. I began thinking, why should we wait until we get into the building. Why not think about these collaborative projects before we get there. – Andy

It’s called the Information and Technology Convergence Center and every indication points to it being on-track for completion in the spring of 2014. Even though we are 9 (+/-) months away from opening, we are finalizing much of the AV technology going into the building. Those involved in many of the various meetings regarding the building are doing their best to specify the technology, furniture, and functions that will happen here.

It’s tricky though. There is always that uneasy balance between what we do now, in higher education technology, and what we want to do in the future. There’s even that variable of what we THINK we want to do, and what will ultimately make sense to do. Plus, there’s lots of different people involved and lots of different ideas. Like I say, it’s tricky.

There will be several different organizations in this building. There will be the Writing Center and the Speaking Center, most of the various IT divisions including the Help Desk, the data center, and the IT business office. The building will have “traditional” classroom spaces (albeit loaded with technological capabilities), “active” classrooms that will encourage collaborative learning, and even an “incubator” classroom that will encourage out and out experimentation in teaching with technology. My division, the Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) unit will be there thinking about the technological possibilities along with the pedagogical ones.

With all of the conversations that have taken place about this building, going on 7 years of realistic discussions, and more if you count the pipe-dream conversations of long ago – there is still a prevailing question of “what is going to happen in this building?” My knee-jerk reaction is to blame higher education’s lack of imagination for asking such a question. “Isn’t it obvious?” I want to scream! It’s a place where we will foster creativity! It will be a busy beehive of excited students, faculty, and staff who come into the space and imagine all kinds of new ways to contribute to an educational community. It will be, as the narrative on the webpage describes, an academic commons. “A place where a variety of technology, information, and teaching resources will come together.” It will literally converge with the library where the research and reference components will be added to the mix.

I actually prefer the “Commons” moniker as opposed to the “Convergence” one. The reason being is that I prefer it being a space where sharing is an integral part of what happens in the space. And that sharing experience happens because people are exposed to the space. It becomes an experience as soon as you walk on the grounds of the building, from its courtyard and amphitheater on the outside, to its video wall, collaboration spaces, and digital auditorium on the inside. DTLT envisions it as an extension of what we are able to do in our current offices – bring our ideas to each other in an open environment. The innovation that occurs happens because we all bring our good ideas (and our bad ones that get shot down) to a common space.

This building will have lots of possible activities – Lectures, Conferences, Teaching, Theater Events, Movie Nights, Receptions, Training, Consultations, Technology Production (to the nines), Art Exhibits (especially on the Video Wall), even Vending and Coffee Drinking. Who knows, maybe one day Weddings and Bar Mitzvah’s. The building has physical resources to get all of those activities accomplished. What I want to make sure of is that the activities of knowledge, ideas, and creativity are exposed as well.

So I’m not disheartened that people don’t know yet what this building will do, because people haven’t stepped inside it yet. When they do visit and explore, when they experience what is going on in and around the building, I wish for them to be transformed by it and “get” what can happen.

I could stop here and be self-satisfied that I have fully explained the Convergence Center to one and all. However to get people into the building, you’ve got to say more than “if you build it, they will come.” When we first started thinking about a building at UMW, many of us had Emory University’s Cox Center in mind. An interactive map helps begin to explain the space, but the closest thing to a mission is this statement – “flexible space with integrated technologies that enhance and encourage communication and collaboration among the Emory community.” OK. That’s a good start, but maybe I want a bit more.

Recently, the Hunt Library at North Carolina State University was brought to my attention.

This video gets at what I want the Convergence Center to be. A place that immediately puts you in a creative mood, with the context being scholarship. Statements like “we’ve got something great here”, and wanting the building “to grow and breathe with technology”. A building that is almost being treated as a developing child. I’m not a big fan of the “competitive edge” talk, but that will be used by the recruiters, I’m sure. However, they do further talk about the space being “an experience” and “having surprises around every corner.” Yes!

I also found this regarding Occidental College’s Academic Commons:

A knowledge environment, intellectual community, and information center with spaces, resources, tools, and support for teaching, learning, and study at the College … the developing Academic Commons helps to integrate the scholarly life of the campus.

They then take it another step:

Imagine … a premier scholastic environment that makes visible Oxy’s commitments as a 21st century liberal arts and sciences college. The Academic Commons at Occidental College is becoming that space. [emphasis mine]

So a “knowledge environment” that “makes visible” a commitment to a 21st century liberal arts and sciences college (or in our case University *wink*). Lest you be confused, I am not talking about a new curriculum with new programs that reflect the jobs of the 21st century. I’m talking about the traditional liberal arts, in a 21st century context.

Ed Ayers, President and Professor of History at the University of Richmond wrote recently in the EDUCAUSE Review about the importance of digital scholarship.

To be recognized and rewarded as scholarship in the traditional sense, digital scholarship must do the work we have long expected scholarship to do: contribute, in a meaningful and enduring way, to an identifiable collective and cumulative enterprise.

That’s the Commons. And what should be called the Digital Commons. And it will function as an Academic Commons. One day we might even stop using “Digital” and “e-” in front of everything. The Commons will be physical as well as virtual. Online. Offline. Synchronous. Asynchronous. It will be shared. But like all Commons areas, there will also be the need for caretakers. Anyone who has heard of the digital scholarship work here at UMW knows that we have a solid group of caretakers ready to unleash the possibilities on the UMW community and beyond. It all starts with a place to gather.

Epilogue – I have much more to write about this building, and specifically the technology that will be available in it (which I am helping to specify). It’s what I do, and what I love to think about.

Nice To Meet You

IMG_9443 copy_4x6

I have met with all of the participants of the Digital Media Commons Initiative (DMCI) and I can tell you I am pretty excited about the potential of the projects that have been proposed. I can also see the excitement in the participants as they talk about the possibilities of what we can create. From the very start, people were talking about possible collaborations with other groups, and in turn expanding their ideas into something possibly bigger.

Many of the participants I already know, but there were several, especially students, who I’d never met before. So without further ado, I present the 2014 DMCI Participants.

As we move forward we will link to the blogs that people will create so that they may reflect on how their project is moving forward. Send me the URL to your newly created blogs!

We are in the planning stage, so people are envisioning what their projects will look like. As we move forward, participants will need to:

  • Set up or use an existing personal domainGo to UMW Domains and sign-up for a domain (scroll until you see “START HERE”). Think about your domain name in the context of your identity. You may use your name or even a phrase, but whatever you choose must be available (the sign-up process for UMW Domains will tell you), and you’re stuck with it for a year even if you find you don’t like it. Think about it over a cup of coffee (or tea, soda, juice).
  • Make a “pilot” video that “pitches” your project (think Kickstarter) – Check out this Kickstarter project and watch the video for an example of how to sell your project. It does not have to be this “produced”. Make it simple for now (doing it on your webcam is fine).
  • Create a separate storyline called “The Making of (project name)” – I want to know, and the world wants to know, how you are going about creating your project. We want the behind-the-scenes look into how you are producing your vision.
  • Be mindful of the Information and Technology Convergence Center (ITCC) as this project moves forward – This initiative is about what the ITCC is going to do. It’s not here yet, but you’ll use similar equipment to what will be available when the building is finished. Keep in mind the potential of having a great space to collaborate and create.
  • Access individual space on the “MediaHub” media server – We’ll be using the UMW MediaHub to host the different forms of media that you’ll use in your projects. Accounts have been set up for DMCI participants.

If you have any questions, please let me know. You can send an email to arush at umw dot com.

It’s just the beginning.


UMW New Media Center website – General resource site for new media

Making Movies for YouTube – Basic instructions on how to get your video made using YouTube

YouTube Video Editor – Once you’ve uploaded videos, you can edit them further with this tool


photo credit: Nongbri Family Pix via photopin cc

Here We Go!

On Your Mark

So here we are at meeting #1 of the DMCI. By now you know what that stands for, but for anyone looking in on this initiative who is not participating, it is the Digital Media Commons Initiative (here’s a little bit more about the DMCI).

It’s time to get started, so our first meeting will be an overview of where we are going and what we expect from you over the next several weeks. We’ll also try to answer any questions you might have.

As with most projects, the first stage is the Planning stage. It’s also what I like to call the “Imagining” or “Vision” stage. I want you to be working toward reaching the vision you have in your head of what the final product will look like. A vision is just what it sounds like – a dream of what people will see when you’re done. We’re going to work hard to get you as close as possible to that dream.

You might not have very much (or any) experience completing a digital project. That’s fine. That’s what we’ll help you with. If you do have a strong vision, that’s great too. The only other thing I’ll say about that is, be prepared to produce different versions of your project for different audiences. We’ll talk more about that as we go along.

I don’t want to get too far into this before giving you what is required from this initiative.

Part One (to be completed in the Spring 2014 semester):

  • Set up a new site/web address to blog about this process. With permission, it can be one site for a project that has multiple collaborators.
  • Do a “pilot” pitch in the form of a video. State your name, department/major, and then “sell” your project.
  • Think about not only the story that you want to tell, but tell the story of your process. We want a separate story called “The Making of . . . “ Not only are you going to make something, but you’re going to show how you made it.
  • Keep in mind the Information and Technology Convergence Center (ITCC) as you produce your projects. What do you wish you had that isn’t currently available on UMW campus in terms of equipment/facilities? You are the “transition” group going from no ITCC to having an ITCC. We want to document the before, and after the building is in use.

We’ll talk about Part Two in the near future, but basically this is you finishing your project and publishing it (we’ll talk bout that too).

Now that the requirements are out of the way, I want you to promise me you’ll have fun doing this. I’m hoping it will be fun because you will learn new things. You are also the inaugural group creating projects for and about a new “digital technology” building. It should allow you and others to imagine the possibilities of the Information and Technology Convergence Center (ITCC).

You will need to have “two brains” about this project. One brain will be imagining your specific project, and single-mindedly working toward finishing it (don’t forget to be thinking about “The Making of…”). Your second brain needs to be thinking about where this project fits into a bigger whole (not a hole 😉 ). What is its relationship to the UMW community? How does it fit in with different departments, disciplines, and majors? What does it mean to be thinking digitally and about digital scholarship? (you did read the Ed Ayers article right?) And, oh yeah, “what is going to be happening in this new building? From all of this will come a larger “story” of the ITCC.

Finally, here are some things to think about in the planning/imagining stage:

  • Imagine – An Idea or Vision – Communicate your idea or vision before you start the process (ex. scouting for examples of similar projects to bring back to the commons)
  • Storyboard
  • Getting organized – Media Commons | Video Project Calculator
  • Where are you going to shoot? – Studio, “On Location”, or both? How about virtually with a “green screen”?
  • Think about where are you going to publish your project? UMW Media Hub. YouTube/Vimeo. Multimedia website.

As you are planning, be thinking about the stages that follow:

Production/Creation (Stage 2)

  • Tips
  • Get your Equipment
  • Capture – Video – iPod & iPhone, Webcam, Traditional Video Camera (Vixia HF R400), DSLR and separate audio (see digital audio recorders below)
  • Capture – Audio – USB headset, Computer USB microphone
  • Digital audio recorder – Edirol, Tascam, Marantz, Zoom — 3.5mm or XLR input
  • Get Permission from people or rights to media – Copyright
  • Forms – getting permission from people to film them – “Release Forms”
  • Editing – Some resources from the Digital History course, What is editing?

Publishing/Sharing (Stage 3)

  • Encoding/Share/Upload to Media Space* (including tools for upload)
  • Embed on WordPress or Canvas
  • Share at various venues and showcases

* – UMW Media Hub, YouTube, Vimeo (and other???)

Here is a good summary of the process with resources.

Grand Valley State University Library vision

UBC Learning Commons

USC Annenberg Virtual Commons

Story, Vision, Tech model

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Craig Piersma