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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Champlin Foundations' grant to URI creates dynamic digital production center

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

KINGSTON, R.I. -- January 31, 2005 -- University of Rhode Island students learning about such things as oceanography and volcanic eruptions, the effect of world population growth on the environment, and the Vietnam War will now be exploring these topics and more from a whole new dimension thanks to a recent $101,350 Champlin Foundations grant.

A new Digital Production Resource Center (DPRC) at the University will provide faculty and their Student Technology Assistants (STA) with access to state-of- the-art equipment needed to produce and deliver a wide range of high quality multimedia instructional materials for use in the classroom, CD, DVD, videotape and on the Internet.

The center will include both a permanent lab at the Instructional Technology Center in the Chafee Social Science Center and mobile units. The permanent site will feature five sophisticated computer workstations and the software and support needed for digital production needs. The traveling stations will include two high-end laptop computers to allow faculty and their designated research team to collect, review, edit, archive and transmit data while they are working on projects in the field. Both the permanent and mobile units will provide the users with digital video cameras and all the tools needed to produce broadcast-quality audio/video, 2D and 3D animation, computer graphics, and much more.

"What this means is that faculty members from all colleges will have access to the technology and the assistance needed to bring their teaching, their classroom materials and their research to life," said project leader Roy Bergstrom of Charlestown, a senior information technologist of IITS, who did extensive research and wrote his Masters practicum on the use of computer technology in education and training.

For example, Bergstrom cited the pilot materials developed and in use for an entry-level oceanography class being taught by Professors Steven Carey and Haraldur Sigurdsson.

"As a supplement to the lectures, multimedia materials such as compressed video and interactive 2D animations of things like volcanic eruptions are now on their course website. Faculty contribute their expertise of the subject matter and the outcome is based on the professors' own background, research and experiences," Bergstrom said. "We're also working with Political Science Professor Gerry Tyler from the College of Arts and Sciences on materials for her class about the Vietnam War and Professor Tom Husband from Natural Resource Sciences about the effect of world population growth on the environment. "

Bergstrom said the new DPRC is a win-win for all involved -- the faculty who gain new teaching techniques, the student assistants who gain hands-on experience in helping to produce multimedia materials regardless of their major, and to the students enrolled in the actual class being taught become involved with the material in thought-provoking and exciting ways.

"Our goal is to make the classroom material 'click' with the students, and the feedback has been that it really does just that," said Bergstrom.

Tyler agrees with Bergstrom's 'win-win' sentiment about the technology. She has been working with Diana Ventura of Warwick, a sophomore nursing major and Sandra Reichman of Trumbull, Conn., a junior broadcast journalism major to build an interactive website to be used with Tyler's class, entitled "The Politics of the Vietnam War."

"It is exciting to work with my team of Student Technical Assistants to develop materials that supplement classroom teachings. This will bring the War into a whole new dimension," said Tyler of Kingston. "Steven Carey's initial work with this as a teaching tool in the sciences was an inspiration and is a model for the social sciences. We're looking forward to going live with the site in the fall," Tyler added.

Bergstrom proposed the project with Carey, Husband of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, and Trent Batson, director of Information and Instructional Technology Services.

The DRPC was one of five grants totaling $508,327 that were recently awarded to the University by the Champlin Foundations, one of the oldest philanthropic organizations in Rhode Island. The Foundations' generosity towards URI spans more than three decades.