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Using multimedia technology for classes just got easier with the opening of one facility of MIT's New Media Center (NMC) on the lower level of Building N42.
MIT last year joined the New Media Consortium, a partnership of about 75 universities and companies in which universities get heavily discounted multimedia software and equipment. With the completion of renovations in Building N42 (the new home for much of Information Systems), I/S opened the Faculty Development Lab, a cluster with Macintosh computers, Zip drives, VCRs, scanners and software including Macromedia's Director and SoundEdit and Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator.
The lab, located next to Academic Computing Support, gives faculty and teaching assistants the tools to create multimedia materials for academic purposes -- for example, scanned class notes, interactive quizzes, "flashcards," and digitized stills and video for a subject'sweb site.
"We realized there were tools that students needed to get work done and that faculty would like to have that were not available on [Athena's] UNIX platform," said Katie Livingston, I/S faculty liaison and director of the NMC.
The N42 lab is intended primarily for faculty and TAs and is available only during business hours, but I/S will open another multimedia cluster known as the Project Lab this summer. That facility in Rm 26-139, with 13 Power Mac G3 workstations, will serveas both a classroom and a lab for students who can use it in the evening for course-related projects. However, Ms. Livingston cautioned that it will not be a general-purpose Macintosh cluster -- the machines will not have word-processing software, for example.
Eventually, the Project Lab will have equipment such as digital and video cameras that students can borrow for academic purposes. The facility will also offer equipment to make CD-ROMs, so a student could assemble a CD portfolio of his or her work before graduating, for example. Staff and students not enrolled in courses requiring multimedia work will be allowed to use equipment during evening hours as space permits.
Individual departments can take advantage of the consortium discounts to set up their own NMC satellites, as long as the equipment is open to students. The Edgerton Center has already opened a satellite, and the foreign language and literatures section (which has already produced several academic multimedia packages) plans to do so shortly.
At the Faculty Development Lab, I/S staff members are on hand to provide training and consultation, though it is not a drop-off site for services such as tape digitization or duplication.
The term "new media" is actually a bit of a misnomer (the NMC derives its name from the New Media Consortium). "This is consumer-level multimedia, not research-grade, cutting-edge Media Lab stuff. We have things that students can use in their classes today," Ms. Livingston said. "Part of the goal is to help people realize what the possibilities of this technology are."
For more information, see the New Media Center web site.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 1, 1998.