Technology in History Classes
Much More than Word Processing

Karen Pinto, Assistant Professor of History, is an Islamic and Middle Eastern History specialist. Her specific research interest is in Islamic maps and map makers. She delights in sharing her passion for her broader subject as well as her research with her students. In order to do this effectively she utilizes technology to keep her students informed and involved. Of course, she uses her class Moodle web sites extensively for this purpose. In fact Karen’s Moodle sites may be among the most extensive, carefully laid out and complete in the college. However, her use of technology goes far beyond Moodle. Karen has used Skype to provide her students face-to-face contact with people living in the Middle East. This semester Karen is using the video game, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, to provide students with the feel of the Turkish city of Constantinople (Istanbul) at the time of the Crusades. Technology is providing her courses with a dimension that augments and goes beyond standard student research and paper writing. Students actually experience their subject matter on a completely different level. They use these experiences as a spring board for their learning and research.

The addition of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations to History 330, The Ottoman Empire 1300-1923, came about when one of Karen’s students, Harry Fones ‘15, a video game enthusiast, told Karen about the game and that the developer, Ubisoft, was known for paying careful attention to historical details. Karen worked with Eric Remy, Director of ITT, to iron out technical details and obtain 4 X-Boxes that students use for “playing ” the game. Since the class is made up of students with a wide range of experience from non-gamers to experienced gamers, Karen set up groups with an experienced gamer in each group. Kaitlin Davis ‘12 is a group leader who explains her role as helping non gamers to use the game and have a good visual learning opportunity. The object is not to win the game, but to use the game to explore renaissance Constantinople. The experienced gamer helps the less experienced gamers avoid pitfalls and disasters so that they can move about the city. Thus, the game becomes similar to an extended field trip. Harry is the class technical advisor and troubleshooter. He also has a term project of checking the historical accuracy of the games depiction of Constantinople and writing a paper on his findings. Other students tie in material from their Ottoman History class, History 330. Natalie Zink ‘14, and Kelsey Chapman ‘15 are both students in Arabic 102 as well as History 330. They applied their interest in language into a project with the game. Every week they play Assassin’s Creed: Revelations for about two hours. They walk around the virtual city of Constantinople and write down as much of Turkish as they can hear from the game characters. Then they go to Professor Pinto and have her translate the Anglicized Turkish into English. They hope to compile as much of the translated Turkish phrases in the game as possible to put onto a Wikipedia page for future gamers to view. Julian Weiss ‘15 and Shaw Bridges ‘15 are interested in architecture and say that playing the game is like having an opportunity for a “trip back in time”. Thus, the game is deeply woven into the fabric of the course and not a diversion from the course objectives.

In History 330, US-Middle East Interaction 1776 - 1979 Fall Term 2011, Klaxon Wilson ’13 said that he came into one particular class meeting and saw a screen in front of the room with six live images of people from different Middle East countries that were located in their home countries. There was also a webcam in the front of the room and a chair positioned at a front desk facing the screen. Professor Pinto had arranged for a live Q&A session between the participants from the Middle East and her class via Skype. Each of the six participants could see the entire class as well as each other. The plan was to allow each of Karen’s students to cycle through sitting at the front near the camera and asking one question that would then be discussed by the participants in the Middle East. The conversation became so enthusiastic, that not all questions could be asked because they ran short of class time. The overall experience was informative and eye-opening for everyone. Klaxon said that he found that by the end of the hour he had a much broader perspective than he had before this class period. It brought real life faces to the subject he was studying. Once again, the creative use of technology brought a dimension to the class that was not possible without its use.

IT is continually interested in assisting faculty and students, such as those in Professor Pintos classes with using technology in creative ways. The ITT Department has that as its basic mission, but all members of the IT staff are eager to assist with educational projects.

How the AV Team Spent Spring Break

Since the 1990’s digital learning centers have been an important part of the classroom. The task of installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting the installations is the responsibility of Travis Mathna, Audio Visual Systems Integration Specialist, and Mark Rosensteel, Instructional Media Specialist. There is one constant in technology: “nothing is constant”. Equipment not only improves, it changes drastically. TV and projection devices have gone from analog to digital to HDMI. Video devices go from tape to DVD, to Blu-Ray, and equipment is constantly becoming more green. In response to this, Travis and Mark have been replacing the original classroom learning centers with vastly improved truly digital, up-to-date centers. During the summer breaks, they have been upgrading the campus building-by-building. Scheduled for this summer was the last classroom building to be upgraded, McKnight Hall. There are seven classrooms in the building that have digital learning centers.

Recognizing the importance of having the McKnight Hall project completed prior to the 2012 - 2013 Academic Year, ITT Director, Eric Remy, met with Mark and Travis about the best strategy for getting the job done with its special challenges. It is a three-story building with no elevators and narrow stairwells. The cabinets containing the necessarily prewired AV equipment weigh 150+ lbs. each. This meant that the cabinets would need to be prebuilt and wired (see photo and inset) prior to moving them to McKnight. It would also require the assistance of Facilities Services and the moving crew of Brian Derr and Brian Herrell, as well as some other FS staff. Without them, the job would be impossible. It was also decided to start at 6:30 am Saturday of spring break and be done in time for classes following the break. In addition to the cabinets, four of the rooms had to have 50” Samsung Flat Screen HD TVs hung and wired to the cabinets and the remaining three had to have projection screens replaced and hung. This was a massive project! Also joining Travis and Mark were two student assistants including Maggie Tosten ’13.

In addition to the tight timeframe, the annual Adams County Schools Career Day was scheduled for Wednesday of that week using most of the classrooms on campus. Travis, Mark, and their crew worked around this conference. By class time the following Monday, McKnight was up and ready to go with the new power-efficient and enhanced digital learning centers installed. It wasn't quite a spring break on the beach, but a rewarding break indeed. Congratulations and kudos to Travis, Mark, their student assistants, and most especially our friends in Facilities Services.

Signs of Spring at Gettysburg College

Building Connections Across Campus