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Michael Roy, director of Academic Computing Services and Digital Projects, works on a project inside the Science Tower Lab.
 
Posted 06.15.05

Director of Academic Computing Services and Digital Projects Partners with Faculty to Implement Technology in Teaching

Q: Mike, you’re director of Academic Computing Services and director of Digital Projects. What is your personal interest with technology?

A: My personal interest in technology comes from being curious about how technology can solve problems, about how it can improve our ability to understand the world, and how it can allow us to communicate that understanding in new and effective ways.

Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

A: I came here in 1996 as the Humanities Computing Coordinator. A year later, I became Director of Academic Computing Services for Information Technology Services.  Last year, I added to my ITS job responsibilities in the Library as director of digital library projects.

Q: Where are your degrees from and in what?

A: I have a B.A. in philosophy from Dartmouth College and a M.A. from Duke in English.

Q: How did this lead you into working in information technology?

A:  After graduate school, I started working at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research on a large-scale publishing project, creating microfiche edition of literary materials from African-American periodicals from the late 19th and early 20th century. In order to manage this process, I had to learn a wide range of technologies that we were using to make the project more efficient. The Institute became increasingly interested in how emerging technologies – at the time, CD-ROMs and primitive multimedia programs – might serve as a platform for documenting and making available African American resources, and so allowed me to learn these new technologies as a form of research for the Institute. I had learned some computer programming in high school, and so this was an excellent chance to return to an area of interest that I had ignored during my college and graduate education.

Q: In Academic Computing Services, you provide Wesleyan faculty with resources to help them incorporate technology into their teaching and research. How would you describe what you do?

A: Academic Computing Services consists of three major groups: The first group is the Academic Computing Managers, who work directly with faculty and at times with students to use technology resources for in their teaching and research. The second group is Instructional Media Services, which focuses on classroom technology, the public computer labs, support for special events, and most recently, the WebTech program. The third group is the Learning Object Development Group, which is a grant-funded initiative that provides professional design and programming resources for faculty projects. My work mainly focuses on trying to make sure that these three groups work well together, have the resources that they need, and receive the support they need from the rest of ITS.  I also spend a fair amount of time working on collaborative projects with the Faculty Career Development Center with Andy Szegedy-Maszak on the Academic (Technology) Roundtable and our Teaching Matters booklet.

Q: What is your role as director of Digital Projects?

A: The work I do in the library on digital projects focuses on identifying ways that ITS resources can be brought to bear on library initiatives, and in identifying opportunities where ITS and the Library can work together on projects that will improve the campus computing and information environment. Examples include work on a new facility that will open in the fall in Olin library, work on Information Literacy, which is one of Wesleyan’s new key capabilities, and work on building a catalog of departmental resources -- books, videos, etc. -- that can be viewed via the library Web site.

Q: What are a couple examples of ways faculty members are using these services?

A: More and more faculty are using technology in some aspect of their teaching and research. Part of that is because of our investment in putting technology into the classroom. Part of that is because of changes in the way that academics do their work that are happening on a national scale. Most faculty are very pragmatic about how they incorporate technology. They rightfully don’t want to invest too much time in learning something new if they can’t see an obvious benefit to that new thing. That said, there are many examples of Wesleyan faculty who are doing new things in their classrooms and in their research:

  • In the Economics Department, Tanya Rosenblat and Alberto Isgut have developed a very interesting game called the Ricardian Explorer that they use to teach their students about comparative advantage and international trade.
  • David Schorr in the Art Department teaches typography and design in our interactive computer classrooms.
  • Pete Pringle in chemistry uses Web-based multiple choice questions to help his students review the material he has presented in class.
  • Barry Chernoff in the Earth & Environmental Sciences Department uses nearly every gizmo in SC150 to enliven his large lecture classes with the use of rich media that he draws upon from a wide range of sources and in a wide range of formats.
  • Madgalena Teter is developing a rich resource for a working group that she is part of that is studying early modern Jewish history, using the Web to provide access to primary source materials, translations and commentary on those resources, and video of discussions.
  • Cecilia Miller is creating with Alan Nathanson a rich set of annotated links to materials for her students in her Intellectual History courses to use.

One of the most interesting things about all of this is that the way we have set up our environment here. There are no doubt dozens and dozens examples of effective and innovative uses of technology that we don’t know about because of the fact that we provide technology that faculty can use without needing to necessarily ask for help.

Q: In some respect, are you teaching faculty?

A: I don’t think of our work as teaching faculty, but rather as a partnership where we work together to think about how various technologies might be put to appropriate use, and as importantly, which technologies should we not be pursuing. I don’t spend as much time as I would like working directly with the faculty, but do spend a fair amount of time in conversation about projects and initiatives.

Q: Are you a member of the Academic Technology Advisory Committee? What topics would be addressed at meetings?

A: I am a member of ATAC. We meet two or three times per semester. ATAC serves as a sounding board for us, providing us an opportunity to have conversations with faculty and other key constituents about our planning, and to evaluate our existing services. We spend time talking about our course management system called Blackboard, the classrooms and labs, software licensing and our wireless strategy.

Q: Are you a member of other professional organizations?

A: I participate in meetings of Nercomp, Educause, New Media Consortium, and MANE IT Network.  A group of us are also just about to launch a new project called Academic Commons, which will serve as a place for faculty, librarians, technologists, and other academic professionals to discuss the role of technology in liberal education.

Q: I understand you were an English instructor at Duke and a writer for the Dictionary of Global Culture in the early 90s. Are you still a writer?

A: Yes. Last fall I published a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “The Open-Source Bazaar Makes Scholarship Available.” For the Academic Commons project, I am serving as the interviews editor, and so will be spending time interviewing people about their views on technology and liberal arts education. 

Q: You’re obviously very well-rounded. Why is this important to you and are you glad to be working at a liberal-arts college?

A: I like working at a liberal-arts college because it allows me to spend time working on a wide-range of topics, and to spend time with people who think hard about interesting things. I also believe that this kind of education is important, and so like to be able to play a small role in the way liberal arts education is transforming itself in the face of the challenges that this forms of education faces, from technology, but also from myriad other forces.

Q: What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of work?

A: I like to go running with my new puppy, play guitar not very well, and I coach soccer.

Q: Do you have family or pets?

A: My wife Lisa and I have three kids, Ethan, 12, Anna, 9 and Julian, 3. We have two cats, a puppy and a lizard.

By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor