Because Hamilton [Innovates]
A 2013 Oxford University study concluded that “nearly half of U.S. jobs are at risk of automation within the next 20 years.” Higher education must adapt or risk graduating students ill-prepared to participate in the world they will inherit.” — Hamilton College Strategic Plan 2018
For generations, being a Hamilton graduate has meant being a person who writes and speaks with clarity, understanding, and precision. Speaking well and writing well are evidence of one’s ability to think well. But people communicate in many ways. Bicentennial Initiatives, Hamilton’s last capital campaign, addressed the importance of communicating through art and expression.
Because Hamilton seeks to instill, among our graduates, the skills necessary to communicate and work effectively in a digital world. Just as we teach students to write and speak well, we want our students — no matter their academic concentration — to understand the power and limits of computing processes; the potential uses of data, analytics, and computer modeling; the use of digital media to communicate and collaborate; the privacy, security, and other ethical and societal implications of living in an online world; and the basics of information fluency, including how to find, organize, evaluate, and interpret online information.
Achieving this new academic priority will require investments in additional faculty, technologists, and a new digital learning hub and research incubator that will foster digital discovery and provide support for our faculty and students to create, share, and explore digital learning and research.
Over time, by incorporating the initiatives funded through this campaign, Hamilton students will leave College Hill with four proficiencies fundamental for future success:
- they will write well
- they will speak persuasively
- they will demonstrate quantitative literacy
- they will exhibit digital fluency
Because Hamilton is the College’s response to an exciting new mode of communication and understanding that ensures students will not only find their future, but are prepared to lead their professions.
My focus in broad terms, what I’ve always wanted to do, is to democratize technology both in its innovation and use.
A core tenet of the group was to get to know an underserved community by asking its members what problems need to be solved. One of TechBridgeWorld’s brightest successes was the Braille Writing Tutor, an affordable device to help students with few resources to learn braille. Its partner in the venture was the small Mathru School for the Blind in India.
The Braille Writing Tutor provides audio feedback and can be used with a computer or as a standalone device. In 2014, the Center for Braille Innovation gave its Louis Braille Touch of Genius Award to TechBridgeWorld. It was the group’s first project. Even amid its other work, interest in the tutor keep the effort alive and growing.
“We could probably have commercialized it, but I chose not to because everyone who approached us didn’t really want to keep it accessible to the developing world, and I thought it would be disingenuous, given that a lot of the world co-designed this, if you look at it that way. So we kept it open-source,” Dias says.
The Braille Writing Tutor provides audio feedback and can be used with a computer or as a standalone device. In 2014, the Center for Braille Innovation gave its Louis Braille Touch of Genius Award to TechBridgeWorld, which was founded by founder Bernardine Dias ’98.
Augmented reality, where you see the physical world and there’s digital information that you can mix with it, can facilitate people’s curiosity and learning, and connect people.
“In the last three waves of computing — desktop, laptop, mobile — we’ve conformed to technology. We’ve figured out how to type or how to swipe. I think in this next wave, technology can meet us where we are,” Werner says. Control won’t be limited to keyboards, but will be through hand gestures, voice commands, and eye tracking. Interactions won’t just be visual, but will include sound, touch, even smell.
And we won’t be bound by screens, staring at handheld devices inadvertently cutting us off from the world — we’ll be accessing digital content with augmented reality (AR).
Werner is vice president of strategic partnerships at Meta, an AR startup he’s helping to shape into a leader at building partnerships, recruiting talent and investors, and thinking innovatively about the unknowns of a new product in a new space. Werner did similar work with the MIT Media Lab as head of innovation and new ventures for its Camera Culture Group, which creates technologies to augment vision.
Digital technology and modes of thinking are changing the world and Hamilton prepares its graduates to work effectively in this new environment