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New Moment for Maker Technologies: Q&A With Barnard College's Melanie Hibbert

Melanie Hibbert, Director of IMATS and Sloate Media Center, Barnard College, Columbia University (Image credit: Melanie Hibbert)

In her role as Barnard's director of IMATS (Instructional Media & Technology Services) and Sloate Media Center, Melanie Hibbert sees, first hand, the value of learning space technologies and the push for interdisplinarity on campus. In Part 2 of this exclusive T&LU interview, Hibbert shares her perspectives on maker technologies and emerging technologies on campus. 

Melanie Hibbert: Maker technologies are very popular. Barnard College opened a Design Center in Fall 2018, and they received over 2,000 visits in the 2018-19 academic year, and they safety trained over 600 patrons. It is a space that is always busy with people using the 3D printers, the laser cutter, sewing machines and tools, and so forth. It's interesting that "everything old is new again." I think there is a real desire for hands-on, tactile modes of production and learning, for personal and course-related projects. I don't know if this is a reaction to the digital—wanting more "analog" experiences—but it's interesting that "shop" class, once maligned, has a prominent space in education at the moment.

There is a lot of interest around AR/VR tools, and our team has continued to experiment. One example is our "Digital Repatriations" project. Currently, there are broader ideas around “digital repatriation,” where digital representations of tribal artifacts can be added to collective knowledge and “returned” to their origins. 3D imaging of the Picuris collection at AMNH would be a tremendous addition to graphics on display at the tribal museum. For further reading on this project, visit https://etc.cuit.columbia.edu/content/hp-campus-future

Maker technologies are very popular. Barnard College opened a Design Center in Fall 2018, and they received over 2,000 visits in the 2018-19 academic year, and they safety trained over 600 patrons. It is a space that is always busy with people using the 3D printers, the laser cutter, sewing machines and tools, and so forth. It's interesting that "everything old is new again"—I think there is a real desire for hands-on, tactile modes of production and learning, for personal and course-related projects. I don't know if this is a reaction to the digital—wanting more "analog" experiences—but it's interesting that "shop" class, once maligned, has a prominent space in education at the moment.

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Interdisciplinary courses are key

The new Barnard Milstein Center at Barnard College

The new Barnard Milstein Center at Barnard College (Image credit: Barnard College)

T&LU: What do you think will ensure a vital and thriving future for higher educational institutions as they try to recruit and retain new students? 

I think collaborative and interdisciplinary courses and programs are key to the future. At Barnard, several new centers have opened with the Milstein Teaching & Learning Center, such as the Design Center, Media Center, Digital Humanities Center, and Movement Lab. We're giving students opportunities to work with tools such as video cameras, motion capture systems, 3D printers and laser—and shaping curriculum to involve the use of these centers (e.g. the Thinking Tech + Dig requirement).

More broadly, I am concerned about the student loan debt crisis, and rising tuition costs. I think higher education is going to have to address these issues, especially if they truly want a diverse and inclusive student body.

Read Part 1 of this T&LU interview to learn how how Barnard is using AR/VR in its "Digital Repatriations" project. 

Margot Douaihy, PhD, is a contributing editor of Tech & Learning University. She teaches at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire.