New Media Technology Literacy: Communication Beyond the Written Word

ACANS News & Information Center

New Media Technology Literacy: Communication Beyond the Written Word

The quaint patio on the north end of Milton Hall is the welcome area for yet another addition to NMSU’s technologically advancing campus. Besides housing several English graduate assistants, this area is host to the English Departments new Design Center. 

The Design Center is a Power Mac lab constructed specifically for the English Department’s graduate students, adding to the growing departmental participation in NMSU’s move towards a more technologically equipped learning environment.

Upon entering the north end of Milton Hall you find several graduate assistant cubicles neatly arranged, accompanied by a comfortable sitting and study area. There is a room situated at the heart of it all that is the Design Center. It is here that I meet Dr. Jennifer Sheppard to explore the new addition. Sheppard is an assistant professor in the English Department, as well as the acting web designer/coordinator. Included in these duties, Sheppard is also the coordinator of the Design Center, and sole caretaker of all its equipment and facilities at this time.  

Sheppard, who has worked and taught within the English Department for the past three years, explains that the plans for the Design Center were in development for quiet some time before being actualized, “The plans actually started before I began working at NMSU; getting the space remodeled and moving the graduate students over here.” The purpose for building the Design Center was to give the graduate students in the Rhetoric and Professional Communications field an opportunity to put into practice the new media literacy technology knowledge. Although the Design Center is only for the English Department’s use at this time, they do hope to collaborate with the English undergraduate program and the Creative Media Institute in the future, “We just opened the Design Center last semester and we are still in the process of getting it going, getting it staffed, and getting it occupied and used on a regular basis.”

The basic, yet eye-catching, equipment that the student will be using in the Design Center consists of Power Mac G5 dual-processor machines, accompanied by 23 inch Apple Cinema HD Displays and two IMac GV computers. The Power Mac G5 has two dual-core processors, which perform at speeds up to 2.5GHz per core. This means that the user can manipulate mountains of images and footage, encode HD video or high-bit-rate audio, and compile and crunch large amounts of data sets all at very fast speeds. These machines also have PCI Express Architecture, which are expansion cards to the Mac platform, allowing students to design the latest video I/O and audio DSP. As exciting as the software and technology available in the Design Center can be, Sheppard says that “A lot of our students are not used to working with Mac computers, so we’re trying to get the students comfortable using them, while teaching the basics.”

The English Department, along with the College of Arts and Sciences, was instrumental in getting the equipment into the newly renovated space. Additional funding for design of the physical space and for the presentation equipment (projector, speakers, DVD/VCR, document camera, and PC) came from the Milton Hall Renovation project. The Design Center is filled with many kinds of equipment for doing multi-media production, web-based multi-media, print work, and video.

This semester, Sheppard will be using the media technology in the Design Center to teach a multi-media theory and production class. Students will be using video cameras and audio recording equipment, and will be working on projects “that help them learn the hardware and the software, and also allows them to integrate the theory we talk about in class, using the rhetorical and communicative aspects of production.”

Sheppard seems to voice the English departments thinking about the tools their graduate students will need upon completion of their education and entering the workforce in saying that “it is critical that students leave all of our programs with the ability to use technology and communication software, and be able to create multi-mode texts. I think its imperative for them to do this because it makes them more marketable, while also allowing them to go out and do jobs in different industries. In many industries students will have to be able to create web pages, or edit video, so what they learn now will be a set of practice that they can take to help them get jobs. Whether they become technical writers, work in multi-media, or in an academic field, it is important for students to know what is available, how to use it, and how to teach other people to be comfortable with it”.

As the many functions of technology evolve, English students will be required to use these tools in the work place. The English Department, along with faculty like Dr. Sheppard, is keeping up with this shift in workforce literacy by implementing the technologies of expanding multimedia within the Design Center. Sheppard says, “ To me, literacy is not just about being able to write, it is about being able to communicate in all these different modes.”

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