Jahn Westbrook, Technical Manager, Classroom Media Services, New York University For than 25 years, Jahn Westbrook, technical manager for Classroom Media Services, part of the of the umbrella Campus Media Department at New York University (NYU) has witnessed and helped usher-in many pedagogical changes.
Founded in 1831, NYU is one of the largest private universities in the United States with 40,000 students attending 14 schools and colleges at six different locations in Manhattan and in over 20 study-abroad countries around the world. To say that Westbrook’s role has expanded in recent years is modest, as the Classroom Media Services department is responsible for the AV and control systems integrated into 200 general-purpose classrooms throughout the NYC, Washington Square campus, as well as collaborating with the Global Technology Services (GTS) department to provide video conferencing capabilities to enable an immersive learning environment for NYU’s Global Network University (GNU) comprising three comprehensive campuses (New York, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai), and 11 fully connected study away sites (Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Washington, DC). We caught up with Westbrook after InfoComm 2015 and asked her to share a few insights on new classroom technologies, pedagogy, and managing the human and technical sides.
AV Technology: What is the scope of responsibility of Classroom Media Services and your role?
Jahn Westbrook: Classroom Media Services oversees general-purpose classroom AV including computer, laptop and mobile device support; projection and digital display support; audio (both speech and program); faculty and student demonstrations; maintenance and trouble shooting. Collaboratively, we also have video conferencing, course capture, and audience response card, in our purview. As the technical manager, I am directly involved in either the planning, design, or installation of domestic and global classroom technology. I work with AV integrators, architects, and contractors for some projects, and coordinating our department’s technical staff for our own projects.
AV Technology: Impact of Global Network University?
Jahn Westbrook: The Global Network University (GNU) initiative has created new teaching paradigms, faculty collaborating on a real-time level heretofore not seen at NYU. I think this has equated NYU with sister Universities exploring similar teaching advancements in the effort to keep a high quality of education and attract esteemed faculty to want to teach here at NYU.
Our department collaborates with the IT/GTS department in our Collaborative Learning initiative. These classes are meticulously designed with remote video conferencing in mind for a more immersive learning environment across the Global University. It is a seamless and exciting technology experience across the GNU. There is also the development of enhanced academic methodologies to promote cross cultural teaching and learning and collaboration to realize these projects.
AV Technology: Biggest challenges?
Jahn Westbrook: Our biggest challenge is keeping pace with the advancement of technology, providing connection and presentation for both legacy equipment (VGA and Composite video) and latest equipment (DisplayPort and Retina Display), and streaming media content. Now with USB-C on the horizon, that is yet another technology we’ll have to incorporate into our support model.
AV Technology: Trials, tribulations, and successes?
Jahn Westbrook: I prognosticated that Blu-ray would supplant DVD, better and larger storage. The stalemate of having Blu-ray adopted as a distributing format allowed streaming video to gain momentum. Streaming and DVD are the two primary media support methods now. Document cameras—though a brilliant technology and so versatile—have been largely dismissed by our faculty. Adding an auxiliary panel supporting additional VGA w/Audio, HDMI, USB connections was a big success. I’ve had these in included with all our installations for about the last 15 years. Finally, wireless keyboards and establishing a rechargeable battery office were a big success.
AV Technology: What new classroom technologies are you looking to implement in the near future?
Jahn Westbrook: I am very much anticipating the use of LED and laser projection. Affordable 4K projection. Wireless presentation from mobile devices, especially in the interest of more student engagement and collaboration during class time. I love trying new ideas, new things to enhance the user experience. Maybe there will be an application for gesture technology for teaching — that would be fantastic.
NYU’S GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY SERVICES (GTS)