It is not often that one can say a college both added new technology and invented it as well. But that is exactly what Endicott College can say that the School of Arts & Sciences did with strong contributions from Associate Professor, Computer Science, Henry Feild and Professor, Biology, Joyce Shaw under the guidance and leadership of Dean, School of Arts & Sciences, Gene Wong. Let us tell you more…
Enhancing the Classroom
To start, Shaw has added some new technologies to her pathophysiology class, a course which is made up of nursing, athletic training, and bio/biotech students. The first technological advancement was virtual reality classroom integration.
For those who are not aware, Endicott has an on-site virtual reality lab, which is run by Academic Technology where students, faculty, and staff can quite literally expand their perspectives. There are many programs available for use, but Shaw chose to use one called “Sharecare.”
“Sharecare” allows students to look inside organs and examine the effects and treatments of certain diseases including asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease, the placement of a stent in a patient with coronary artery disease, and observation of both colon polyps and overactive bladder. This technology gives full-picture, interactive access to concepts previously drawn in detail in medical text books or recorded during live videos.
The second innovative technological integration was that of the anatomage table. Endicott acquired the table in 2014 through a grant from the Evelyn Lilly Lutz Foundation at Beverly Hospital and there have been new features added since. Those software updates have enabled Shaw and her students to do more virtual dissections using high-resolution images of the body systems she covers in her classes. Full body scans of actual patients who had relevant diagnoses are a part of the table, in fact, there are over 1,000 case study patients to choose from. Enough to satisfy even the hungriest scientific mind!
An anonymous survey was sent to Shaw’s students and the feedback on the new innovations was phenomenal:
"I loved the lab work. It helped put it into a human body perspective."
"It was very helpful to see the topic we are learning in a much more up-close and hands-on way."
Shaw says, "Using these new technologies makes students more engaged and allows them to apply what they are learning in the classroom. The addition of technology to an otherwise classroom-based course was transformational and I definitely want to use more of it next time.”
A Sabbatical with Little Rest
Typically, a sabbatical is associated with study or travel. In the case of Feild, it was spent creating something worthy of future study. He says, “I'm wrapping up my sabbatical, during which I've created a web application called EntiTies, along with Tim Amello (computer science major ’21) and Phil Lombardo (associate professor, mathematics). The work was inspired by Sam Alexander (associate professor, English), and his research focus on analyzing character networks in literature.”
For anyone who has ever struggled with understanding relationships within literature, this program is effectively, a revelation. It takes the busywork out of the mapping phase and allows analysts to get to the meat of the problems they are trying to solve.
Feild says, “EntiTies allows users to upload a plain text document—a book, a play, a legal document, a historical document, or anything else—and then annotate it to extract a network of connections (ties) between entities within the document. We expect several faculty at Endicott might find EntiTies useful for class as well as their own research. EntiTies supports three modes: (one) completely manual annotation, where the user annotates each of the entities in the text and connections (called ties) between them; (two) fully automated, where the app automatically extracts entities and ties between them; and (three) semi-automated, where the user runs the fully automated annotation, then edits it. This third workflow is the novel feature that EntiTies provides. EntiTies also allows texts and annotations to be shared with others publicly or privately, and allows forking so that someone can easily modify an existing annotation (e.g., to correct or extend it).”
Our three academic pioneers wrote a demonstration paper that was accepted for inclusion in the ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR) that will take place this coming March in Vancouver, Canada.
At the moment, EntiTies is being “polished,” but it will be available to the public, for free in January 2020. The drop-dead launch date will be January 23 as it will be presented as a part of “Meet ALICE: An Interactive Workshop on Digital Research Methods” from 9 a.m.–noon in the Hospitality Suite in the Post Sport Science & Fitness Center.
Feild says, “Our next steps are to get some faculty to use it and run a few user studies to understand which workflow is best. Then we will start researching and implementing advanced automatic network extraction algorithms and improve the user experience. This work fits in nicely with the digital liberal arts initiative at Endicott, which Phil, Sam, and I have been helping out with. Sam and I co-taught an honors seminar two years ago as part of the initiative about analyzing networks in real life, movies, tv shows, and novels. EntiTies would have been a big help in that class.”
Acquiring and creating new technology ties in well with the experiential learning objectives of Endicott at large, and we are excited to see what comes of both in 2020.