In less than a decade, MacAdmins at Penn State has evolved from a one-day event solely for University employees to one of the most highly-regarded industry conferences in the world. From July 9-12, 2019 the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center will welcome hundreds of attendees from around the world to the 10th annual MacAdmins Conference at Penn State.
Registration for this year’s conference is open now, and early-bird discounts are available until May 14. Attendees get access to an all-day workshop of their choice, three days of conference sessions, and meals each day of MacAdmins. Evening events are scheduled throughout the conference and provide plenty of recreation and networking opportunities.
“MacAdmins is an event we look forward to each summer, and we’re excited to welcome everyone for the 10th annual conference this July,” said Michael Kubit, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Penn State. “The true strength of MacAdmins is the large, diverse group that comes together to talk about and learn about how to solve human problems with technology.”
MacAdmins attendees will have access to over 60 breakout sessions covering topics like Mac deployment tools, system monitoring, mobile device management solutions for iOS devices, and programming for system administrators. Sessions will feature representatives from influential tech companies like Google, Facebook, SAP, Walt Disney Animation Studios, and more. Also, the conference’s opening day will feature seven workshops from which attendees can choose.
Mac and iOS systems administrators and managers will come to University Park from throughout North America and as far as Europe. Despite the vast distances that some travel to attend MacAdmins at Penn State, it has become a close-knit community that provides valuable professional development.
“My favorite thing about MacAdmins is just how friendly the community is,” said Gretchen Kuwahara, systems administrator with Teaching and Learning with Technology. “They’re all so willing to help each other out and share solutions with the whole community. It’s a really positive energy.”
For more information, please visit the MacAdmins at Penn State website.
A few hours made all the difference when it came to how the Open Innovation Challenge (OIC) at the 2019 Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology was won. If Rodney Allen Trice, professor of practice in graphic design at the Stuckeman School in Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture, hadn’t visited the Dreamery on January 25 the contest’s outcome would have been entirely different.
“I had only even found out about [the OIC] the day the first 250-word pitch was due,” said Trice. Zach Lonsinger and I met to tour Teaching and Learning with Technology’s facilities and he said, ‘By the way, OIC proposals are due at midnight tonight if you’re interested.’”
Trice had been tinkering with an idea for an immersive, empathy-building project for some time and knew the proverbial iron was hot and the time to strike was right.
“Of course, I had to take the challenge on and hustle to shape a few ideas into the proposal that was due within a few hours of hearing about it,” he explained.
Those few hours were enough for Trice to submit a successful proposal that led to a chance to present his project, called “Walk a Mile…” to an audience of over 500 at TLT’s marquee event, Symposium, on March 16. While he had weeks to prepare and fine-tune the presentation, Trice still got caught up in the whirlwind of activity that is Symposium.
Trice makes his OIC-winning presentation
“Presenting that day was 120 miles-per-hour and before I knew it, I was on stage and my video was running and I was talking,” Trice said. “There was not a lot of time to get fussy or overthink anything. It was exciting and being the New Yorker I am, I loved that kind of challenge.”
For Trice, the challenge was met because his project received enough votes from the Symposium attendees at the Penn Stater to take it from an idea to an actuality. Similar to a career path that has seen him spend 30 years as an art director for magazines such as Essence, People, and Vibe before returning to teach at his alma mater, Trice’s path to bringing “Walk a Mile…” to life took some time.
“In the last few years, I’ve split time between my adult home in New York City and my hometown just outside of Pittsburgh. As I walked the streets of both those worlds, it thoroughly troubled me how polarized we are,” he clarified regarding the inspiration for the project.
“’Walk a Mile…’ was born of my observations in that time, and its goal is to use the impact of immersive experiences to communicate our common struggles and challenges,” Trice continued. “Imagine being a part of a conversation at the kitchen table where a black parent talks to their eight-year-old about police violence or standing for a few minutes in the fenced cages full of children at our southern border. It has the power to stimulate the conversations we need to have.”
Discussions of immersive experiences typically center around technology like 360-degree video, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). These are still nascent technologies whose promise is growing in the public eye. Global law firm, Perkins Coie, recently published its third survey on AR and VR, and the number of respondents who see applications for the technology in fields like education, workforce development, and manufacturing grew from the prior two. On a personal level, Trice was sold on its educational potential from the first time he tried it.
“Way back, a friend had me put on his VR headset and I found myself inside a mud and grass yurt that was barely high enough inside to stand up,” he relayed. “I was standing by a fire in the center surrounded by a tribe of seven or eight weathered men from the more remote regions of South America. At the time, this was my one-and-only VR experience and it went so much deeper than a film or photo. I felt them and their space, and it’s weird because I remember it, now, similar to real-life experience.”
While the Open Innovation Challenge triumph required its share of legwork, now the heavy lifting for Trice and his support team from TLT will begin. It’s work that Kyle Bowen, director of innovation at TLT, says his team is eager to undertake.
“Rodney is extremely talented at producing compelling visual stories and artwork, and his vision for ‘Walk a Mile…’ is inspiring. We’re thrilled to work with him and the
Kyle Bowen introduces the OIC participants
immersive technology at our disposal to make this happen.”
“I hope to meet with the TLT team as soon as possible to talk about a time frame, the process of shooting the shots, and how to use this project in the biggest way possible,” Trice added.
The current focus for the group working on “Walk a Mile…” may be to gather the resources needed to make it all happen, but Trice’s ambition remains rooted in the future; whether related to his teaching or his OIC-winning project.
“My inspiration for teaching is the future,” he noted. “My students are humanity’s future, and what we’re working on each day is the future of graphic design and visual communication.”
“When it comes to ‘Walk a Mile…,’ I would love to see this show travel around the country,” Trice added. “I would love it to inspire people to begin the process of mending we desperately need, and to spark a tide of empathy projects that pierce into real-world spaces and the hearts that most need it.”
Trice was part of a quintet of OIC presenters at this year’s Symposium. Each finalist was selected from dozens of submissions and was given five minutes to present their idea to Symposium attendees. Voting took place from the conclusion of the final presentation throughout the afternoon sessions. The faculty who presented their OIC ideas alongside Trice were:
Faith McDonald, Assistant Teaching Professor of English, Penn State University Park
“Success Stories: Equipping Students to Face Workplace Challenges”
Christopher Palma, Teaching Professor of Astronomy; Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs in Astronomy & Astrophysics, Penn State University Park
“Embodying Planet Formation”
Josephine Wee, Assistant Professor of Food Science, Penn State University Park
“Reimagining Classroom Textbooks”
Matthew Woessner, Ph.D., Associate Teaching Professor of Political Science & Public Policy; Immediate Past Chair, Penn State University Faculty Senate, Penn State Harrisburg
“Transforming Teaching and Learning at Penn State with Virtual Reality”
Each academic year, Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) welcomes a new cohort of Faculty Fellows who work on projects that explore ways technology can help overcome pedagogical obstacles and maximize opportunities for student success. Since 2009, 38 diverse Faculty Fellows have worked with TLT to help transform education and drive digital innovation at Penn State.
The call for 2019-20 TLT Faculty Fellows is now open. TLT is inviting faculty to submit proposals focusing on this year’s theme of “Learning Spaces.” All Penn State faculty, from any discipline, are encouraged to share their innovative idea by submitting a proposal for exploring, enhancing, or engaging students in the many spaces where they learn. Learning spaces can include physical, digital, virtual, blended, and data-informed places where students interact with course material.
Faculty who submit successful proposals will work collaboratively with TLT staff to combine ideas, innovative spirit, and academic expertise to apply emerging technologies to teaching and learning. The deadline for proposals is April 19, 2019.
To request more information or to submit a proposal, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) will continue to support Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) at Penn State for the 2019-20 academic year. This program allows tenure and teaching faculty to explore topics like learning spaces, scholarship of teaching and learning, data science, and more in peer-led groups.
Leaders are needed for the upcoming year and applications are now being accepted until April 12, 2019. Faculty whose proposals are selected will receive a $500 stipend and up to an additional $500 to fund supporting activities such as lunches, guest speakers, and tech tools. Proposals selected for funding will be announced the week of May 3, 2019.
Applications can be submitted on any topic related to teaching, learning, and technology. Communities that form around these topics will be cross-college, cross-campus, and cross-discipline. Leadership for the FLCs will come from a full-time faculty member along with support from TLT.
Stephanie Edel-Malizia will host virtual open office hours on March 20 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., April 1 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and April 5 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Stephanie can be contacted at email@example.com for more information on these sessions, or on applications for 2019-20 FLCs.
Rest is not commonly associated with the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, also known as THON. Dancers are on their feet for 46 consecutive hours. Committees and volunteers work for a year to organize the event, collect donations, and ultimately execute the event. Thousands of supporters, who are gently encouraged to not sit down, fill the Bryce Jordan Center and sustain the dancers’ spirits. In the end, the energy poured into the event raises millions of dollars annually for Four Diamond families in support of their battles against pediatric cancer.
Throughout THON weekend Four Diamond families travel to University Park to take part in the festivities and share the energetic atmosphere. Unlike the dancers, the kids fighting childhood cancer, their parents, and other guests occasionally need to step away from the BJC and catch their collective breath. This is where THON’s Family Relations Committee steps up with strategically planned experiences that provide a respite from all the hustle and bustle. This year, a brand-new event at the HUB-Robeson Center’s Break Zone aimed at helping a special group of THON teen participants gave Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) a chance to contribute to THON for the first time.
At the Teen Adventure, dozens of kids played pool, ping-pong, and video games. The sunshine filled the Break Zone on a Saturday afternoon as Colin Murtha, teen and adult coordinator on the Family Relations Committee, reflected on the ideas that brought this supportive event to life.
“A lot of THON is geared towards younger kids – that’s part of what makes it so special – and this year we’re really making strides to provide all ages, from teenage years through adulthood, with emotional support,” Murtha said.
The scope of that support is larger than just the Teen Adventure. Murtha helped create the THON Engagement and Empowerment Network (TEENetwork) whose efforts include teen-focused programming during the THON Family Carnival and “Teen Nights” that take place four times per year. But THON weekend is the big showcase, and Murtha was quick to recognize everyone who had a hand in making the Teen Adventure possible.
“It’s a lot of coordination and planning to bring together 40 teens and their guests, members of the football team, and groups that provided programming. It’s great to see all the effort pay off,” he said.
TLT, whose day-to-day efforts center around collaborating with faculty and students across the University to discover and advance technology that supports engaged learning, was one of those groups. With TLT in attendance, the Teen Adventure kids enjoyed some hands-on experience with augmented reality and other educational gaming technology. It a chance to work with THON that the staff jumped at according to learning experiences designer Zach Lonsinger.
“This was a great opportunity to support THON and also advocate for emerging technology. A lot of kids dream about being a Jedi, but not many get to experience an actual lightsaber battle with Darth Vader. Thanks to the technology that’s been developed, this is possible,” he said.
The lightsaber battles that Lonsinger referred to were made possible by a mobile phone, an augmented reality headset that projects holograms into the player’s vision, and a beacon and game controller that respond to the player’s movements. Most of the teens in attendance that afternoon hadn’t experienced augmented reality previously, but they were eager to try it out and adapted to it quickly. One of the “Jedis” in training, Josiah Garcia, didn’t quite get the ending he expected from his first try at the game.
“The augmented reality was a lot of fun, but I didn’t like getting ambushed by the Storm Troopers at the end. They just ganged up on me!” he said, laughing.
While gaming is often people’s first exposure to augmented or virtual reality, it can open their eyes to other ways the tech can be applied, such as in an educational setting.
“As a society, we are just beginning to understand what is possible with immersive technologies. It’s not that far off from anyone being able to experience what a THON dancer sees from the floor,” said Lonsinger. “Someone from across the world could put on a headset and experience the powerful moments of THON as if they were on the floor.”
Ethan Munoz was another teen adventurer who spent time with the augmented reality game, and the Nintendo Labo technology that showcases principles of engineering, physics, and basic programming. As a middle school student himself, the educational potential of the technology wasn’t lost on him.
Ethan Munoz plays with the Nintendo Labo during THON weekend
“The Labo could help kids who need to work on motor skills, and augmented reality could be used to improve hand-eye coordination,” Munoz said.
Education technology is something close to Murtha’s heart as he is studying education policy. He thinks that aside from giving the kids a chance to play and relax during a busy THON weekend, the immersive technology could have a meaningful impact on their future as students.
“Besides the gaming aspect, the technology presents learning opportunities where you can put yourself into an entirely different environment and learn about it with almost hands-on interaction,” Murtha said. “It has the potential to give teenage students a tangible learning experience which is something that speaks to them as people who like to be engaged.”
Lonsinger echoed Murtha’s sentiment.
“Kids are growing up with access to mobile and immersive technology. Just like I grew up with the internet and expected it in my classrooms, students now are going to expect immersive technologies to be a part of their learning experience,” he said. “As with any technology, immersive tech should be viewed and used as a tool or a complement to learning.”
Josiah Garcia dances at the THON talent show
Once the Teen Adventure wound down and the HUB’s Break Zone cleared out, the kids, their guests, and family members made it back to the BJC to rejoin THON’s festivities. And while he performed admirably in augmented reality, Josiah Garcia saved his best performance for the THON stage as showcased his dance skills in Saturday evening’s talent show. Ultimately, everyone who took part in the weekend came away from the experience touched by THON’s magic.
“THON has impacted me completely; it’s how I’ve met some of my best friends,” said Murtha. “Really, though, it’s such a humbling experience to work with the families and be a part of their lives.”
Lonsinger added, “THON is so much more than a 46-hour dance marathon. It transcends higher education and goes beyond just getting a degree. It’s about making an impact on the world and changing the way you view the world. When you are invested in something that’s bigger than yourself, it changes you in a meaningful way.”