New CommLab is Creative Space for Practicing Communication

The Communication Center will regularly feature Celebrity Tutors. President Peterson was the first at the Grand Opening of the Communication Center on September 28. From L to R: Karen Head, Director of the Communication Center; Rohith Rajan (Class of 2015, Major: Electrical Engineering, Minors: Economics, Music Technology); Chelsea Cerame (Class of 2015, Major: Mechanical Engineering, Minor: Japanese); President G.P. "Bud" Peterson; and Joshua Friedberg (Class of 2015, Major: ISYE). (Used with permission: R.E. Burnett 2011)

From teleconferencing to YouTube videos, project posters to green-screen presentations, slide design to report writing, the new Communication Center is designed to help Georgia Tech students develop professional competence in 21st century communication. The center has been designed as a leading-edge model for communication education. It uses conventional technology in unconventional ways.

“This is a creative space,” explains Karen Head, who is Director of the Communication Center. “Yes, we are coaching students in processes and strategies and techniques, but we are also providing the space and equipment needed to practice.”

The Communication Center’s main space, CommLab, is in Clough Commons room 447, but the center includes a suite of rooms with meeting areas, computer workstations, and four rehearsal studios. Each studio reflects a different presentation style – from formal IBM to laid-back Google – and each is equipped with video capture and playback that allow students to review and refine their performance. The Communication Center was designed by an Institute-wide Task Force, chaired by Rebecca Burnett, Director of the Institute’s Writing and Communication Program.

The students tutored by President Peterson were brainstorming approaches and topics for the upcoming Pecha Kucha presentations for their Honors English 1101 class, taught by Robin Wharton. From L to R: President G.P. "Bud" Peterson; Joshua Friedberg (Class of 2015, Major: ISYE); Chelsea Cerame (Class of 2015, Major: Mechanical Engineering, Minor: Japanese); and Rohith Rajan (Class of 2015, Major: Electrical Engineering, Minors: Economics, Music Technology). (Used with permission: R.E. Burnett 2011)

The center may prove an oasis for students because they define what they want to work on and choose whether to work individually or in groups, with coaching or without.

“We intend this to be a safe place for students to experiment and take risks,” said Head, “without the pressure of assignment deadlines and grades.”

Part of the Institute’s Writing and Communication Program (housed in the IAC School of Literature, Communication, and Culture (LCC), the center’s staff focuses on the program’s WOVEN approach, working across every form of communication modality — written, oral, visual, electronic and non-verbal. The physical resources encompass virtually any medium. Faculty can provide coaching in strategies and performance, guidance in brainstorming and collaborative planning, and individual and small group tutoring.

Head is careful to note that the center is not a “fix-it shop.” Rather than remedial work, the emphasis is on keeping students apace with what’s next in technology. Overall, the center is a place for all students at all levels to find ways to be better communicators.

The Communication Center’s first goal is to serve undergraduate and graduate students; ultimately, it will also be a resource for faculty and staff who wish to improve their communication skills. Its mandate and location complement Georgia Tech’s Academic Success Program and the Library’s software/media training resources.

Head’s team is comprised both of professional tutors who are Brittain Postdoctoral Fellows from the Writing and Communication Program and of undergraduate peer tutors. Future plans include graduate student tutors, research tutors from the GT Library, and ESL tutors from the GT Language Institute.

The center is one of the few in the country that is run by tenure-track faculty. Dean Jackie Royster advocated for that – a center explicitly built on research, with research as an explicit and expected outcome. Head and her team will conduct communication research that focuses on writing and communication theory and practice. Initially, the research will illuminate how members of a communication ecology present their literacies to others through self-promotion and effacement and how these interactions affect the development of budding scientists, engineers and humanities scholars.

For fall term, the Communications Center is open for scheduled and drop-in appointments six days a week:
Mondays 9 am – 9 pm
Tuesdays & Thursdays 9 am – 11 am & 12 pm – 9 pm
Wednesdays 11 am – 9 pm
Friday 9 am – 3 pm
Sunday 5 pm – 9pm.

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Diane Jakacki

About Diane Jakacki

Diane Jakacki received her PhD from the University of Waterloo, where she specialized in early modern printed drama, and participated in federally-funded digital humanities research projects. She has published two articles on applying social semiotic methods to early modern theatre history, an edition of Wit and Science, and co-authored an essay on developing digital image annotation tools. She is a software consultant to imageMAT and the Records of Early English Drama. At Georgia Tech she applies digital humanities methods to pedagogical solutions. Jakacki is currently developing researching the Elizabethan clown Richard Tarlton and his touring relationship with the Queen’s Men troupe.
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