To expand the use of technology in both classes and daily life, students and faculty are taking advantage of the new resources available in the Media Commons, located in the basement of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library.  

Opened in September, the Media Commons gives students and faculty alike access to resources from iMovie to a soundproof voice-over booth called the Whisper Room. There are two studios, one specializing in audio and the other in video, with additional resources like a green screen, microphones, headphones, lights for film and photography and a variety of software for video editing, sound recording, photography and 3D animation. The Media Commons also has screening rooms of various sizes, an electronic classroom and  multiple Mac computers. Student lab assistants are available Sunday through Thursday in the afternoon and evening to help with software and equipment questions for both academic and personal projects.

At a panel on April 8, several professors discussed how they integrate video and other technologies available in the Media Commons into their classes. Some departments— such as visual arts and the Cinema Studies Program—make heavier use of the Media Commons and other technology resources than others, but many others include video production or viewing in some capacity. 

Assistant Professor of Economics Stephen Morris is one of the professors on campus taking advantage of some of the possibilities the new technology brings to the classroom.  

Morris uses a tool called Learning Glass, which allows him to take videos of himself giving short lectures on specific topics. He then uploads these videos to Blackboard where students can watch them on their own time.

“I found that often just lecturing and giving textbook examples just wasn’t helpful for everyone, so what I wanted to do was to be able to give people something that would be analogous to office hours whenever they needed it,” said Morris.

He added that he noticed students might sometimes search for context on particular subjects by consulting Wikipedia or other online resources.

“I wanted to provide that kind of context in a more rigorous fashion,” he said.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies Sarah Childress has also worked to integrate more technology into her classrooms. For Childress, technology has been important in allowing her students to immerse themselves in the activity of video production through creating short videos using the ideas they study in class.

Video has also helped Childress change who is responsible for communicating information in the classroom. Instead of assigning readings and lecturing, Childress has students read and create presentations on the information. In effect, the students teach each other, simultaneously developing mastery over the subject matter and the technology they use to create their presentations, while Childress provides guidance and clarifies points of confusion.

Childress described how she works in tandem with the Office of Academic Technology and Consulting in order to provide the best learning experience for her students.

“There’s an explicit support for people who want to integrate more technology, but like me, don’t really know how, or have an idea that they’re not really sure how to carry out,” she said.

The Office of Academic Technology and Consulting has existed under various names over the years and helps enhance professors’ teaching and research through technology, often using technologies that professors are not necessarily familiar with. 

“The projects and the things that faculty envision are just so out of the ordinary oftentimes that they require some special expertise,” Director of Academic Technology and Consulting Stephen Houser said.

“A faculty member will have an idea for a project,” Academic Technology Consultant Paul Benham said. “They kind of know an end result that they want to get to, but they’re not really sure how they’re going to get to it using technology.” 

The increasing technological resources at the College have also opened new doors for extracurricular and personal projects. Students regularly use the Media Commons to record music, film and edit movies and take photographs. 

The Commons, a student-written, edited and produced podcast, focuses on telling stories about Bowdoin that are also relevant to the wider world. Another project, Bowdoin Stories, aims to create an archive of conversations between students in which they reflect on their experiences here and discuss topics that they might not usually bring up, such as how they learned to ride a bike. 

Academic Multimedia Producer and Consultant Kevin Travers sees video and other technologies continuing to play a significant role in Bowdoin’s future. 
“Students are telling stories with video and photography in ways that are expanding exponentially on a regular basis,” he said.