All posts by Matthew Taylor

MADS Fall 2020 Operations

A comic photo where a round microphone says to a webcam "Hey webcam! So, are we like the peanut butter and jelly of remote learning?" The webcam replies, "I guess so. The computer is the bread?"

MADS new equipment decides to get a little chummy.

We are open for fall!
Well, as much as we can be!

As various campus units work to plan for a mix of remote instruction and a very sporadic few on-campus classes and activities, so also is the MAD Studio making plans for modified Fall operations. In addition to our traditional equipment pool, we have added a few new resources to support acute remote instruction and video conferencing needs. There will be a revised circulation process to reduce contact and allow greater time to more thoroughly clean equipment and facilities between uses.

Of particular note is that, with very few exceptions, all of our facilities and resources will be available only by reservation and transactions made only by appointment, even when our doors are open.

Activity Space and Equipment Circulation

Immediately following the Wildcat Wellness quarantine period, the Media and Design Studio will open its doors to receive staff, faculty, and students with resource reservations and/or who have made equipment check-in or check-out appointments. Contactless equipment transfers may also be arranged during Wildcat Wellness.

Fall Quarter Hours

September 21 through November 25
Monday – Friday  10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Please note the following changes to our procedures:

  • Equipment circulation is by reservation only (24+ hours in advance) with all pick-ups and returns scheduled during our open hours (weekdays 10:30am – 2pm)
  • Patrons should use the WebCheckout patron portal to reserve equipment. Beginning Tuesday September 8, our new items and new lending policies will be reflected on WebCheckout.
  • Email requests are discouraged, and telephone requests are strongly discouraged due to reduced staffing.
  • While our lab will be officially closed at this time in observance of the Wildcat Wellness quarantine period, equipment will be available via contactless “front-steps-pick up” on weekdays Thursday September 10 through Friday September 18.

Available Equipment

We have a variety of equipment available for specific remote instruction needs:

  • Second generation iPads (note, these are compatible with Zoom screen sharing but do not run the latest iOS nor support Apple Pencil — if you require this feature, contact us for alternate recommendations)
  • Logitech BCC950 Conference Cameras (with integrated speaker and microphone and remote control zoom, pan tilt)
  • Zoom/Panopto Portable Studio kits (includes Logitech webcam, ring light, camera tripod, headset, studio microphone)
  • USB Studio Microphones (podcast-quality tabletop microphone)
  • Headsets (integrated microphone and over-the-ear headphones)
Loan Terms
  • Unless otherwise specified, equipment loans will be for a period of up to two (2) weeks. Equipment loaned will have a specified return date which must be honored.
  • As always, a renewal may be requested but they must happen prior to the item(s) becoming overdue.
  • Depending upon observed demand, equipment loans may be renewed or potentially extended to the full academic term. Term loan equipment will be due back before or during finals week.

Cleaning protocol

After items are returned to the Media and Design Studio, they will be both briefly quarantined and thoroughly cleaned by electrostatic misting and/or ultraviolet light. Once this process is complete, items will be reassessed and discharged. The items will not be released from your responsibility until after they are cleaned so you will receive two notifications upon return of borrowed items: (1) The item has been received and (2) The item has been discharged.

Space Reservations

The Media and Design Studio offers spaces which may be useful to students, faculty, and staff during this period of remote instruction. Reservations can be made via Bookings beginning Monday September 14.

Computer Workstations

Six (6) computer workstations in the main Activity Space of the MAD Studio are reservable for all patron classes during our open hours (M-F 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.). These workstations offer access to Adobe Creative Cloud applications and a host of other useful programs. Select workstations also offer additional capacities such as document and/or photo scanning.

These workstations are reservable for periods of up to 2 hours, with a required spacing of 1 hour between users.

To reserve, visit this Bookings page:

Lecture Recording Classrooms

The two MAD Studio computer classrooms (K2524 and K2530) are equipped with whiteboards, resident computers, and remote controlled lecture recording cameras which can be used to pre-record or broadcast a (synchronous) class lecture.

Classrooms are reservable according to the following scheduling policy:

  • Reservations for Faculty only
  • Operating Hours: Monday through Friday 9am-5pm
  • Maximum 3-hour reservation
  • Minimum 1-hour gap time required between users

Lecture/Audio Recording Suites

Additionally, MAD Studio offers two recording suites that are available for seated lecture preparation, capture, or live presentation. Each of these is equipped with a resident computer, studio microphone, and optional drawing tablet.

  • Studio 2531
  • Studio 2533

Suites are reservable according to the following scheduling policy:

  • Reservations open for all class of patrons
  • Operating Hours: Monday through Friday 9am-5pm
  • Maximum 3-hour reservation
  • Minimum 1-hour gap time required between users

Here for You

These are unprecedented times for our University and our world. We know that there are many challenges associated with remote instruction and are here to assist in any way that we can, through our facilities, with our resources, or by sharing advice and expertise related to teaching and/or scholarly technology.

Together we’ll make it through this!

MAD Studio to Join Weinberg College IT Solutions

There are some some exciting behind-the-scenes organizational changes taking place at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year for the Media and Design Studio. We hope that these changes will enable new opportunities for growth and enhancement of our services, all while keeping the same commitment to our faculty collaborators, their manifold instructional support needs, and the continued development of innovative pedagogical and scholarly projects.

As the main part of its organizational change, the Media and Design Studio is shedding its legacy classification as an academic program and becoming an administrative unit that is fully connected to Weinberg IT Solutions (WITS). In many ways, this new classification better reflects the technical nature of the work that we do, and follows decades of existing partnership.

Although we are changing organizationally, our mission is the same. With a nod to our 50-year history that began as the Northwestern Language Laboratories, we keep our attention to the technological and pedagogical needs of language instruction, even as we bring many of the techniques and solutions originally pioneered in this area to the benefit of scholarly activities spanning the broader humanities.

In the new organization, I will continue to oversee the unit’s development, services, and support operations as Director of the MAD Studio. In this capacity, I report to Mike Satut, Senior Director of Information Technology for Weinberg College. Together, Mike and I look forward to identifying all of the ways our technology teams can nurture a helpful cross-pollination of ideas​ and improved sharing of resources.

Working with me in MADS is the same great team that has earned accolades for their professionalism and performance:

  • ​​​Cecile-Anne Sison, a leading voice on instructional technology and the focal point of the daily operations in the “lab”
  • ​Sergei Kalugin, the Studio’s lead developer whose design and engineering are behind all of the unit’s stunning web and mobile projects; and
  • ​C.A. Davis, a resident digital storyteller who has engaged with faculty to help them communicate their research and teaching to wider audiences

We are the same team, have the same mission, and so also do our services remain the same. For example:

  • ​​We offer customized technology enhanced teaching spaces with computers equipped for individual and group audio activities, videoconferencing equipment, and ultra-high-definition presentation systems. ​
  • Faculty can request cameras, audio recorders, or iPads for a course, receive advice on sharing audio or video with students, or simply check out a missing adaptor for their computer.
  • Our web and mobile development projects remain very much in progress, as are plans for support and upkeep. And, we eagerly await many more innovative and collaborative project ideas to come.
  • ​We offer workshops on various topics of interest to faculty and students, and stand ready to provide teaching assistance for digital tools and techniques in various courses.

We will endeavor to keep our services and support responsive to what is most valued or needed. And, with the help of your input and feedback, we anticipate continuing to​ update and enhance​ our offerings in the future.

For services and support, our e-mail contact addresses are the same:

  • ​Room reservations and questions:
  • ​Equipment reservations and questions:
  • ​General inquiries, feedback and project questions:

Please feel free to share requests, ideas, suggestions, or questions through these channels or with any of us personally!

Telling Refugee Stories

Project Profile: Notunterkunft

Last spring a group of twelve Weinberg students traveled to a refugee shelter in Berlin to conduct research at the Notunterkunft Wilmersdorf, a World War II-era government building repurposed to accommodate the influx of displaced families from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. The students were enrolled in an advanced German course taught by Franziska Lys, who challenged them to inquire into lives almost unimaginably different than their own.

“Students need to know about diversity all over the world,” Lys said. “They need to understand their own backyard, but they need to contribute to that diversity in a more global sense.” Students interviewed refugees in German, English and Arabic. They also volunteered at the shelter, assisting with childcare and custodial chores.

One compelling outcome of that experience is Notunterkunft, a bilingual collection of digital stories, which Lys and her students assembled in collaboration with the Media and Design Studio. These stories are derived from a combination of interviews and immersion research, and take multiple forms that go beyond the page. Students crafted essays enhanced with sound and image, short documentaries, even a collection of plays.

What these stories depict is, at times, harrowing.

In a graphic memoir by Courtney Chatterton, a Syrian child regards a sturdy structure made of Legos as something invariably ruined, with lives cut short. Yet the Notunterkunft project is not without some room for hope. In a podcast produced by Maya Daiter, entitled “A New Life,” we meet Hayat, a Syrian woman expecting her first child. As she receives prenatal care at the shelter, there is no mistaking her determination to build a better life.

To realize this multiform digital project, the Media and Design Studio supplied equipment for students to document their experiences, including field recorders, lights, cameras and other gear. We also sent our instructional technologist, Cecile-Anne Sison, to Berlin, to provide project-specific training and logistical support. Cecile shot and produced this video, which, in addition to serving as a mosaic of student experiences at the Notunterkunft, rather wonderfully complicates one’s definition of the word refugee. Lastly, MAD Studio developer Sergei Kalugin conceived and developed the Notunterkunft website with assistance from Lys and her students, ultimately delivering a sensory-rich and intellectually rewarding record of this era-defining story.

* * *

Write-On Surfaces in the MAD Studio

Many of you know that both you and your students can reserve small meeting spaces in the Studio for tutoring, group study, or team meetings. But did you know that you can now write on most of the wall surfaces?  Over break, we painted several walls with “Activity Paint.” These vast writing surfaces allow for highly creative and collaborative diagrams, think maps, grammar explanations, or any other impromptu drawing. For those who don’t have dry erase markers handy, we offer them for check-out at the front desk.

Excitement About our Move

As the Spring 2016 term closes, we celebrate another great year of creative and scholarly pursuits by our team, the faculty who call upon us, and, most of all, the students whose classes and projects often take shape in our labs and studios, including:

  • Developing a virtual walking tour of Ancient Rome in Chicagoincluding in-depth video explorations of various sites
  • Learning how to research and author online maps to chart Shakespeare’s Circuits around the globe
  • Honing skills to ‘write’ audio essays, including one on Tom Dooley which won the History Department’s annual Joseph Barton Essay Award
  • Adding 84 new entries to the WildWords dictionary
  • Taking one of the 1,965 online language placement tests processed this year
  • Being in a group of 597 fellow students who perfected and evaluated their language pronunciation using DiLL in our computer classrooms

Full Post

Humanities and Computer Science — What?

It’s holiday time. Time for big dinners, friends, family, and cheer. At the dinner table there might be those half-interested questions of “What do you do?” or “How is your work going?” This month, after attending the 10th annual Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science (DHCS), followed by an exciting talk by Mark Guzdial on how to boost society’s computer literacy, my response will be energetic and as clear as Ralph Parker asking Santa for a Red Ryder BB rifle : “Work has never been better! Increased access to tools and digital literacy are critical to scholarship and instruction of the humanities, and I’m happy to be a part of it!”

But it’s never that easy.

Full Post

Students Produce Virtual Walking Tour of Ancient Rome in Chicago

Students of a recent course taught by Classics Professor Francesca Tataranni titled “Ancient Rome in Chicago” have completed an impressive virtual walking tour that explores how the city showcases its engagement with the classical past through its streets, buildings, and monuments.

A student-produced virtual walking tour highlights ways in which the classical world is memorialized in Chicago. The virtual tour uses StoryMapJS from the Northwestern University Knight Lab.

The 300-level research seminar course was designed to allow students to take ownership of their learning through knowledge creation, and to explore the nature of the humanities in the digital age. Full Post

The Personal, Adaptive, and Sensitive Future of Learning

So I may be a language technology nerd. But I’m not alone. Each year, some of the geekiest geeks meet at the annual conference of CALICO, the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium.  This year, Cecile and I attended and occasionally pushed up our glasses as they would slide down the bridges of our noses — as all nerds do — and tried to fit in.

If there was a take-away message that prevailed, it was this: the future of learning will be increasingly personalized, adaptive, and deeply aware of the learner. Just how deeply aware? Perhaps more than we think. The growing prevalence of smartphones, smart watches, and other monitoring devices combined with an emerging interest in big data and data science could spell a future where learning systems can psychologically and physiologically detect and reproduce the conditions under which individual students learn best.

The vision shared at CALICO, even if more focused on language instruction, is nonetheless a harbinger for the rest of the educational field. In a recent EDUCAUSE article written by Learning Initiative Director Malcolm Brown, “Six Trajectories for Digital Technology in Higher Education,” Brown sees the opportunity of mobile devices in a post-digital-divide era, looks forward to open educational resources and learning spaces, and eyes a future for learning analytics. The language nerds at CALICO obsess over these themes constantly as they imagine the future.

The future, it turns out, is not only talked about in abstract far-away presentations. The future is taking place here at Northwestern, too. Full Post

Open Door Archive Launches

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 11.06.50 AMThe MMLC is pleased to announce the launch of the Open Door Archive, an exciting new digital repository of poetry and print culture in and beyond the United States. The project is led by Northwestern English Professor Harris Feinsod, working with a large collaborative a large team of scholars, poets, librarians, students, and technologists.

Development of The Open Door Archive follows earlier planning and prototyping made possible by the Arthur Vining Davis Digital Humanities Summer Faculty Workshop, co-organized by the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, University Library, and the Weinberg College during the summer of 2014.