New tools and technologies are taking one Honors English class online and into the future
UTA Magazine Online, Spring/Summer 2001
When students in Martin Danahay’s Honors English class get ready to work, they don’t pull textbooks out of their backpacks. Instead, they each slide a thin, black Toshiba laptop onto their desk, flip up the cover and log in to UTA’ first completely wireless class.
A pilot program to test not only a wireless environment but a laptop loan proposal, Multimedia Authoring: Games and Game Theory has its backers enthusiastic for more such courses.
In exchange for a responsibility waiver, UTA loans the laptops and software for the duration of the class, which allows any student to use the latest technology regardless of income.
“We know of no other honors program in the country that provides students with laptops,” said Carolyn Barros, dean of the Honors College. “We see this as a way to begin to move toward a wireless campus and as the next step for the University.”
Dr. Danahay says the course has presented few glitches and many benefits. Unlike with conventional desktop machines, the wireless arrangement allows more relaxed seating and facilitates breaking into groups. “From a pedagogical perspective, this is an incredible advantage,” he said. “I would like to see the whole campus go wireless eventually.”
Multimedia Authoring doesn’t just address the challenges of writing for games or Web sites; it also introduces students to basic design principles and software, areas that a traditional English curriculum might overlook.
“Web design is a great career choice for English majors,” Dr. Danahay explained. “Graduates who can use imagination, writing skills and design sense will have an advantage. There are lots of Web sites out there, but not always ones you’d want to visit; they’re boring, not well-designed.”
Karen Honea, a public relations and marketing major, believes Multimedia Authoring will enhance her career prospects. “Public relations includes the Web nowadays. I’m from an older generation; I didn’t grow up with computers like my children did. This class was a way to become more involved with computers and design.”
Computer science and engineering major J.R. Sawyer has a slightly different perspective. “I plan on going into graphics and multimedia, including game design. This class will be a big help when I apply to graduate school. It also allows me academic freedom that lets me set my own limits.”
Dr. Danahay smiles when asked what inspired him to take an English class in this direction. “When I proposed it, the chair asked me, ‘What’s this doing in an English program?’ But being connected to the Web will become essential to students. Human interaction is what makes a successful online game, and that’s something unique that liberal arts students can contribute.”