Media Commons Tailgate tech showcase branches out to University campuses

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- At Penn State, tailgates aren’t just for Beaver Stadium.

Earlier this month, educators, administrators and students from around the University converged at Paterno Library for Penn State's annual Media Commons Tailgate. The event, which aims to explore the possibilities for digital media in teaching and learning, was launched by Lori Hepner, associate professor of integrative arts at Penn State Greater Allegheny, with a keynote address on digital online identities. Several other pedagogical specialists added to the day, fostering discussions on new and evolving education technologies to underscore this year’s theme “Branching Out.”

Ryan Wetzel, event chair and Media Commons University Park coordinator, said the goal of this year’s conference was to highlight the emerging education technologies used in higher education today.

“We wanted to focus on the different multimedia projects happening at diverse areas of Penn State and how we can take advantage of those strategies for all faculty and staff,” he said. “While not everything discussed at the Tailgate is a current Media Commons service, it was all part of the broader conversation about multimedia in higher education.”

The Tailgate kicked off at Foster Auditorium, with keynote speaker Hepner commenting on the unique challenges and opportunities in maintaining and evolving an online presence. Attendees then chose between several “breakout” sessions, which included discussions about creating media for massive open online courses (MOOCs), working with mobile apps and Penn State’s all-in-one video production system One Button Studio, among others.

Among the options was a technology demo room where participants could try some of the new technologies, such as Occulus Rift (a virtual reality head set), Leap Motion (a motion-sensing computer controller), 3-D printing and Doceri (a virtual whiteboard app).

Another interactive feature of this year’s tailgate was the addition of the Commonwealth Campus Live gatherings. While the event was available to anyone for Web streaming in the past, this year marked the first time that official viewing parties were held at other campuses. Gatherings were organized at Harrisburg, DuBois, Hazleton, Lehigh Valley, New Kensington, Wilkes-Barre, Worthington-Scranton and York, so faculty and staff could participate without needing transportation to University Park.

“We wanted to add an additional element of collaboration this year,” said Nick Smerker, traveling media consultant and western campus coordinator. “About 50 percent of participants usually come from other campuses, so we wanted to give them the opportunity to participate in the tailgate without traveling. Also, it was an opportunity to showcase the Google Hangouts On Air feature to show people what can be possible with off-the-shelf technology.”

Smerker said they plan on continuing the Commonwealth Campus Live sessions next year, and the team hopes to find ways to make them even better. For those who missed the tailgate, go to http://tailgate.tlt.psu.edu/media/ to see videos of the day’s sessions.

For more stories about IT at Penn State, visit Current at http://current.it.psu.edu/.

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Last Updated October 25, 2013