Computers and TV monitors line the walls, and a 3-D printer buzzes quietly in a corner. A Google Glass sits perched on a shelf next to a camera-equipped drone. There is also a circle of low-slung lounge chairs, and at the center of the room rests a collaborative work table. This is not your typical computer lab.
Opened in February and located just off the entryway to the Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library, Bucknell's new Digital Scholarship Center (DSC) is the heart of a strategic digital scholarship initiative at the University, which also include efforts to improve access to scholarship published by Bucknell faculty and students, increase student and faculty use of GIS technology, and to develop new and innovative teaching methods. Funded in part by a $700,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the center aims to find novel uses for emerging technologies in teaching and scholarship, with an emphasis on collaboration.
To foster that collaboration, Library & Information Technology has hired two digital scholarship coordinators: Andy Famiglietti and Diane Jakacki, as well as a post-doctoral fellow, to partner with faculty in integrating technology in their teaching and scholarship. The coordinators work to inspire innovation in teaching and scholarship, and to partner with faculty and students in finding the most appropriate tool for their educational goal or method of inquiry.
"Our job is to engage intellectually with faculty and students and help them get on the path they want to be on," Jakacki said.
To spread the word about the services the center offers, the digital scholarship coordinators have begun hosting regular demonstrations to show off the center's tools and engender curiosity among faculty and students.
Faculty have already taken note of the support the center provides. Professor Virginia Zimmerman, English, worked with the DSC on an online annotated edition of Wilkie Collins' mystery novel The Moonstone that she is assembling with students. Zimmerman also directed a student to the center to borrow its drone copter, which the student used to shoot aerial footage for a video project.
Art Professor Joe Meiser, a sculptor who uses 3-D rendering software to build models, stopped by to learn more about developing technologies like photogrammetry software, which constructs 3-D models from two dimensional images, and the Xbox Kinect Sensor. The digital scholarship coordinators also noted, though, that using technology in scholarship doesn't always require the most cutting-edge solution. Educators can find new use for technology that has become ubiquitous.
"I'm working with Professor Mike Toole in civil engineering on wiki-based assignments to encourage his students to think about writing for an audience," Famiglietti said. "It teaches that if an engineer can't communicate his or her findings, then it doesn't matter how good the math is."
The important thing, Famiglietti said, is finding technology that best fits the goal the researcher or teacher wants to achieve. To emphasize that point, Famiglietti and Jakacki said the center was designed to de-emphasize technology as much as possible. The technology is kept to the sidelines, while a table, a space for people, sits at its center.
"In the traditional campus computer lab, you're focusing on a desktop computer away from everybody else," Jakacki said. "It's very hard to collaborate in those spaces. "It's equally difficult if you're a faculty member in that environment because there's no way to look at the people with whom you're collaborating. Here the technology is all on the side of the room, and the physical connection of people is what's centralized."
Kasha Scott, a senior and executive intern to the vice president for Library & Information Technology, said it's easy to see how an innovative use of technology in the classroom can ignite a spark of interest in her peers. While using technology in the university classroom today evokes the trend of massive online open courses, she appreciates Bucknell's more personal approach.
"I think this is one factor that really differentiates a university like Bucknell from a typical research university, and even from other liberal arts institutions," Scott said.
Jakacki added that other colleges and universities have taken notice of Bucknell's approach.
"Even just a few months in, we are ahead of the curve," Jakacki said. "Other liberal arts colleges as well as R-1 institutions are really intrigued by this. We're not the only ones out there doing it, but we are demonstrating a progressive approach."