April 23, 2020
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Kenyon professors and students can now get dedicated help with various multimedia tactics — from blogs to podcasts to videos — to share their scholarship, supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Ashley Butler is the College’s new digital media instructional technologist. The $400,000 Mellon grant pays for part of her salary, for faculty workshops and for equipment that Kenyon faculty can check out from the Center for Innovative Pedagogy.
Joseph Murphy, director for the center, said digital media is an important tool to get a professor’s work to audiences outside a scholarly journal. “Ashley gives us a familiarity with digital media editing that really informs us in how to use digital media for classroom purposes,” he said.
Butler will help students and faculty use video, audio, still images and web publishing for curricular projects and will facilitate workshops that promote teaching with multimedia.
She said, “Technology gives students a lot of choice in how they can complete a project. That student choice is important to get them to invest themselves in the way they complete the project. Students are very busy, so meeting them where they are at with technology is very important.”
Butler is originally from Ashland, Ohio, and has a bachelor’s degree in English and psychology from Otterbein College (now University). She received a master’s degree in English from Purdue University and worked for the Purdue library system prior to coming to Kenyon, developing multimedia content for classroom use.
Butler hopes to promote software that lets professors and students share screens so they can discuss projects remotely, makes PowerPoint presentations more robust and makes informational graphics easier to build into projects in the humanities.
“The kids in grades K-12 are using a lot of digital tools already,” she said. “This is what students are learning, and when they get to a college that is not using those tools, it will be confusing to them.”
The Mellon grant will fund a mobile kit that faculty can check out for an entire class to do digital storytelling, Murphy said.
“The library already has a lot of loaner equipment, but it’s based on the model of one person who checks out one thing, not a whole class doing a project. What if a faculty member wants to use 15 microphones or 15 iPads to shoot video on for a whole week?” Murphy said.
Provost Joseph Klesner said the new position that Butler fulfills will specifically help students in the humanities who are not in studio arts.
“If a student needs technical help on a project, such as a podcast or a documentary film for a senior project, where do they go for help? In the past there was not a dedicated person to offer that assistance,” Klesner said.
The new position fits with a new technology manager hired for the film studio at the Wright Center and a new technology manager for music on campus. Murphy foresees collaboration between these staff members, Butler and the video producer in the College’s communications office.
“Ashley positions us to help students create something they can be really proud of as they really learn how digital media works. Their classroom projects are going to look better, sound better and be more engaging. They will be something they can show a future employer,” he said.
When the grant funding ends in June 2019, the technologist position will become a part of Kenyon’s operating budget.