Catawba College's Corriher Linn Black Library has been awarded a $15,000 grant for Digital Learning Lab pop-ups across the campus.
The funds will go towards purchasing mobile 3D printers in an effort to provide digital literacy opportunities for students.
Director of Digital Pedagogy and Scholarship Amanda Bosch said that in talking to students, she learned many of them never had access to 3D printing. When the grant opportunity came along, Bosch said it was important to try to make that technology more accessible.
“So we thought, let's look at a way to bridge that divide and to give digital access and equity to students who might not otherwise have an experience with this kind of technology,” she said.
Then, she thought about the students who might not know about the resources available in the library or might feel intimidated to visit. That's what led to the idea of mobile 3D printer pop-ups.
The plan is to host one pop-up a month in different locations around campus. Students can try out using the 3D printer and hopefully, Bosch says, get a little more comfortable with the technology.
She says these kinds of tools can help students engage with the material they're learning. For a biochemistry class, Bosch said she's printed out 3D protein molecules with students. Recently, she incorporated augmented reality components into that project.
“Students have to be able to focus and learn content. And this is just another way to engage them with the content,” she said. “But then, our students also need to be prepared to go into the workforce and know how to use emerging technology. So this exposes them to emerging technologies and gives them experiences with creating, and using that technology.”
The Alcorn Digital Learning Lab is located inside of the library. It's equipped with touch screen computers, a video editing studio with a green screen, a laser engraver, virtual reality goggles, 360 cameras and more.
Bosch said students can visit that lab, learn about new technologies and elevate their class projects using the various tools.
She recalled one student checking out a GoPro camera for a class that involved a hiking trip. The student used the camera to capture images from the hike and create a more professional-looking project for her class.
Another student used a drone and 360 camera from the lab to take pictures for a virtual reality website. One student used a 3D printer to create a model of hands. He then used Christmas lights to show how different parts of the brain would light up different parts of the hand.
“It's content driven, but they're using the technology to engage with the content and demonstrate their understanding,” Bosch said.
But to access those resources, students need to know that it exists. Bosch said she hopes the pop-ups will raise awareness about what is available in the Digital Learning Lab.
“The goal is to get students who may be a little out of their comfort zone to come into the Digital Learning Lab,” she said. “Maybe if we bring it to them and we get them comfortable, then the next time they think about a project, they might consider coming in.”
Right now, Bosch says she is still in the “ordering equipment phase.” Once the equipment arrives, she says she hopes to continue the learning lab pop-ups for years to come.
Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.