The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Oct. 21, 2002

(Photo: Students attend class in the Information Arcade)

Information Arcade electronic classroom celebrates 10 years of changing education

For decades, educators knew technology would change the way students and scholars learn.

When the Information Arcade opened in the UI Library in 1992, it showed just how limitless those possibilities were.

More than just a computer lab, the Information Arcade was a fully-integrated multimedia teaching facility that included a state-of-the-art electronic classroom with computer, audio and visual components, all of it controlled from a single location by an instructor. The computers provided access to databases, networks, multimedia technologies and software that students couldn't access otherwise. In the early days, it was one of the few places on campus where students could access the Internet and use the now-long-gone Mosaic browser to surf the World Wide Web.

The Information Arcade was so innovative that dozens of other universities and colleges across the country have used it as a model for their own electronic classrooms. The American Library Association presented it with the ALA/Meckler Library of the Future Award in 1994 for being the first library in the country to integrate access to electronic primary source materials with high-end multimedia equipment in a classroom environment.

To commemorate the Arcade's 10th anniversary, the UI Libraries are planning an open house and symposium that examines how libraries, education and technology intersect. "Standing at the Crossroads: Technology, Libraries and the College Classroom -- The Information Arcade Ten Years Later" starts at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29 in the second floor conference room in the UI Library. Jeff Porter, director of multimedia studies in the department of English and recipient of 2001 President's Technology Innovation Award, will make the presentation. A panel of faculty who use the classroom will include Brooks Landon, professor and chair of the department of English; Connie Delaney, professor, College of Nursing; and Tom Rocklin, professor and chair, Division of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

The open house will be from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

"I believe the Arcade played a key role in facilitating the efforts of educators to re-think their approaches to teaching with technology," said Jim Duncan, assistant director for technology services in the Hardin Library for Health Sciences.

"The Information Arcade continues to build on its tradition as a place to create, teach and learn about all manner of digital information," remarked Lisa Martincik, current head of the Information Arcade.

Paul Soderdahl, former head of the Arcade and the current coordinator of the Information Systems Support Team for the UI Libraries, notes that the Arcade's mission is not specific to any one technology. "The two biggest factors that distinguish the Arcade from a computer lab are an emphasis on public service drawn from our library heritage, and an emphasis on the use of the technology as a tool and not an end in itself. For example, in computer labs, staff will focus on how to use the software. In the Arcade, the focus stays on what the person is actually trying to accomplish in the end, not on how to use the tool. As a result, the tools can change from year to year, but the focus remains the same."

Faculty members who teach in the Information Arcade said the facility provides students with access to information and faculty with methods of teaching they wouldn't have otherwise. Bob Boynton, a professor of political science, has been teaching classes about global communication and political communication in the Information Arcade since the day it opened. Boynton's students can access his entire collection of audio and visual clips, which include newscasts from CNN and the BBC and more than 600 television campaign commercials, analyzing them and creating multi-media Web pages.

"They couldn't do anything even remotely like this if there were no Information Arcade," Boynton said. "They can work with materials that they wouldn't have access to and do things with them that they wouldn't be able to do, thanks to the technology."

Besides getting hands-on experience in skills like HTML programming and digital editing, "students learn how to analyze audio and visual communication, which is good because that's how a good deal of communication is done today," Boynton said.

But the Arcade did more than just change the way faculty teach students -- it also changed the way people see a university library. Now a library is more than just a place to store information and do research, it's a place for active teaching, too.

"I don't think a lot of people felt libraries would do something like this," said Janice Simmons-Welburn, the UI Library's director of central public services and facilities, and a member of the committee that planned the Information Arcade. "This was always seen as a role for IT or the academic department, but we didn't get hung up on turf battles. We came together to build a facility that could help our faculty educate our students and do research."

Although the Information Arcade is ten years old, the constant change in technology means it has never really been completed, and never will.

"We're constantly asking faculty what they need to make the Arcade more useful and how can we work collaboratively to make it happen," said Simmons-Welburn. "As a result, the technology we offer will always be changed and updated."