Mary Beth Foster
By Eric Fergason
Since the SALT Center moved into what is now the Patricia A. Bartlett Building in 2001, the bottom floor has housed the Computer Resource Lab (CRL), which has traditionally provided students with educational technology to help them achieve academic success. With all of the technological advancements of the last decade, a new position was developed to keep the SALT Center on the cutting edge. Former Learning Specialist, Mary Beth Foster, now serves as the SALT Center’s first Educational Technology Coordinator. She oversees the CRL and pioneers new innovations in learning and assistive technology. We sat down with Mary Beth to learn about the exciting changes that she’s bringing to the CRL.
The Computer Resource Lab (CRL) at the SALT Center has served a variety of purposes over the years. In the past, its large bank of desktop stations gave students access to the hardware and software that they needed to be successful. However, the traditional model of a computer lab has been turned on its head with the advent of mobile technology. Enter Mary Beth Foster, the SALT Center’s first Educational Technology Coordinator.
Mary Beth has been with the SALT Center as a Strategic Learning Specialist for a number of years, and has observed firsthand both the benefits and challenges that technology presents to students. She has a Master’s Degree in Information Resources and Library Science, with an emphasis in technology. At the SALT Center, she has worked on various committees and projects devoted to learning through technology. Most recently, she served on the Technology Integration for Learning Task Force (TILT), a SALT Center committee dedicated to evaluating educational technology and making recommendations for optimizing its use. Together, she and the committee members generated some incredible new ideas to make the CRL an outstanding resource for students who learn differently. In her new role as Educational Technology Coordinator, Mary Beth plans to transform these ideas into reality.
The first big change was the introduction of the new E-Scape Lounge. “With more and more students bringing their own technology to campus, we wanted to give them a space to work with their mobile devices while receiving SALT Center support,” says Mary Beth. “It’s a quiet and comfortable area where students can work independently or in groups.” The lounge offers convertible seating and furniture arrangements that students can customize to fit both their technology and their study needs. It is also equipped with iPads that allow students to explore selected educational apps at their leisure.
In addition to the E-Scape Lounge, the CRL offers a variety of services to help students get acquainted with new technology that they’ll use in college, including peer-to-peer support with student Technology (Tech) Consultants, who are part of a new internship program that Mary Beth launched in the Fall. The Tech Consultants, who are students currently enrolled in the SALT Center, come with strong backgrounds in assistive and emerging technology. “Because these students have used educational technology to support their own learning, they are an incredible resource for their peers,” explains Mary Beth. The Tech Consultants assist students with everything from learning to use assistive technology software, to helping them navigate key University web platforms, to recommending apps for time management. Some of the Tech Consultants are also working on developing an app for the SALT Center while earning credit for a senior project.
As technology continues to evolve, Mary Beth will make sure that the CRL stays at the forefront of innovation. She and her team will collaborate with students, coworkers, and campus partners to provide support and services to an increasingly mobile audience. Mary Beth’s time and experience at the SALT Center have been invaluable. We thank her for her dedication and enthusiasm for student achievement, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for her team and for the CRL.
To learn more about the CRL, visit http://salt.arizona.edu/services/educational-technology.