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By Katie Grayshan – Kaneb Center Graduate Associate and Amanda McKendree – Kaneb Center Assistant Director

On March 3, Dr. Keith Davis, director of the Digital Visualization Theater (DVT), offered a workshop on how to utilize the impressive technology of the theater to enhance student learning. The DVT is a digital projection system that displays visualizations on a 50 foot diameter dome located in the Jordan Hall of Science.

Digital Visualization Theater - Jordan Hall of Science - Notre Dame, IN

The Digital Visualization Theatre (DVT) projection system provides state-of-the-art visualization opportunities for all disciplines.

The DVT enhances student understanding and enthusiasm by creating an experience that immerses students in course content. As Keith mentioned during the workshop, “Professors can explain the concepts to students, and the DVT allows students to experience them.” Keith also provided demonstrations that highlighted the differences between viewing visual content (movies, graphics, etc.) on a standard rectangular screen versus on the dome. The audience compared these presentations and an interesting pattern emerged. When audience members spoke of the small screen presentation, they referred to the information shown to them on the screen – “When you showed us the inside of the skull, … .” In contrast, when discussing the same material on the dome, individuals spoke of the what we did – “When we flew into the skull, … .” These comments made it quite apparent that the dome offers a unique experience for its audience unlike that often available in the classroom. The Digital Visualization Theater offers the academic community a medium to simultaneously educate and excite students about the information we wish to share with them.

The workshop concluded with participants articulating educational goals for their courses with Keith offering ideas about how the DVT could help accomplish these goals. For example, one participant interested in teaching students about demographic data could use the Geographic Information System (GIS) data currently available to visualize in the theater. Keith provided additional individual advice and suggestions, all the while modeling effective teaching practices throughout the entire workshop.

Faculty from several disciplines including Creative Writing, Philosophy, Physics, and Biological Sciences have partnered with the DVT to create presentations in the dome. For instance, Philosophy Professor Katherine Brading has collaborated with the DVT to develop models of the universe through Johannes Kepler’s eyes to supplement the history of science portion of her class. Professor Lara Phillips, from the Physics Department, worked with DVT to custom-make several classes which highlighted various cosmological principles. For instance, she illustrates the existence of a supermassive black hole by zooming in incrementally at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Chemistry Professor Olaf Wiest oversaw the development of a 30 minute presentation utilizing both live models and prerendered animations which demonstrated how the digestive enzyme Chymotrypsin breaks up molecules.

The DVT staff is continuously expanding the theater’s repertoire by working with professors to create new content, improve old content, and find new ways to use the technology. They offer a wide range of possibilities to the Notre Dame community- offering services that take very little time to prepare to those that can involve years of collaboration.

To read more about the DVT, see http://science.nd.edu/jordan/about/digital-visualization-theater.shtml

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