The growth of technology in the classroom

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Photo courtesy of RIT Archive Collections

Applied art faculty member Clifford Ulp used motion picture technology in his drawing and illustration classes. This photo was taken in 1930.

RIT’s Wallace Center reaches nearly every person on campus. Two services of the center—Academic Technology and Teaching and Learning Services—have roots that trace back to the 1930s.

The application of technology in the classroom dates to the 19th century with the development of photographic technology. In the 1930s, RIT was in the vanguard of the movement to use slide shows and motion pictures in the classroom to enhance learning. Applied art faculty member Clifford Ulp pioneered the use of motion pictures in his drawing and illustration classes by using specially designed films of short cycles of the actions of dancers and athletes, which the students sketched. This sharpened their observation skills and resulted in more dynamic drawings that better captured movement.

The push to enhance faculty instruction gained currency in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1959, Maurice Kessman was hired as director of educational research to keep abreast of the new research in education. Kessman set up the Instructional Resources Laboratory to assist faculty in improving teaching effectiveness by using charts, graphs, posters, slides and other visual aids. A few years later, an audio-visual center was launched to assist faculty with presentations. At the same time, plans were under way to install a closed-circuit instructional television system on the new Henrietta campus.

A decade later, with the beginnings of a centralized computing facility, the Office of Instructional Development and Planning was formed. RIT President Paul Miller directed the department to make learning more efficient, blend instructional technologies in new ways and encourage innovative projects with the colleges. With a staff experienced in advanced audio-visual skills and a research arm that conducted studies on every aspect of education, the department was, as Miller noted, prepared “to enable several special emphases in educational technology and the dynamics of human learning.”

Today’s Wallace Center services are built on this well-established foundation.