Amherst Magazine

Forty Years Later, Amherst’s First CIO

Interview by Caroline J. Hanna

Today, Amherst has a thriving information technology department led by Gayle Barton, who arrived in July as the college’s first chief information officer. She spoke to Amherst magazine about the latest trends she’s seeing in IT.

Multimedia: “We are talking about how we can transform the spaces in Seeley Mudd to provide additional support for multimedia development,” Barton says. “We want to make it easier for students, faculty and staff to do more video, audio or graphics—more visual communication. Another thing that we’re working on is the Global Classroom Initiative. Through that program, we’ll support Amherst faculty working with colleagues around the world videoconferencing and sharing materials and ideas. The goal is to bring a more global perspective into Amherst classrooms.”

Mobile devices: “We have Apple TVs in most of the classrooms this year, enabling people to project
to a large screen from an iPad and connecting through an Apple TV. One of this year’s Spanish classes is using the iPad to record video, edit it and play it back in class using
an Apple TV.”

Etc.: “We have a new digital repository, virtual computing lab services, a ‘citizen science’ app for the iPhone—lots of innovative projects. The college created Amherst Mobile, which has shortcuts to web pages that are popular with people on campus, and we’re promoting that with iPad kiosks in key locations, such as Valentine Dining Hall and Alumni Gymnasium. We’re also rolling out Moodle, an open-source course management system, and are working with Public Affairs on reconfiguring the college website to work well on mobile devices.”

Trends to watch: “I think the trend toward mobile devices and cloud computing is very strong, exciting and inevitable. We’ve talked for years about ‘any time, any place’ computing, and now it’s becoming ‘any time, any place, any device.’ With more access to our data and services through a web browser, we can share files and services across devices and among colleagues. Another exciting area is the move toward ‘open’: open courseware, open textbooks and open access to scholarly publications. I’m thrilled to be a part of it all.”