Anne Marie Fallon: Paving the way for digital natives

Things have changed. College students today have not known life without Google, Skype and cellphones. As students change, campuses change with them.

In 2013 Mass Maritime Academy created a new VP position, overseeing technology and library services. Cape Cod Technology Council board member Anne Marie Fallon filled that position as Vice President & CIO, IT Services.

“The idea was to have someone put together a strategy for the use of technology for the academy and oversee tech staff, including instructional technology,” she said.

Mass Maritime is big in simulation and experiential learning, with a number of simulators on campus. If you are ever on a tour of the campus, she says to be sure and see the 360 simulator.

The 360 full mission bridge simulator is the most popular on campus. It’s an immersed simulation of being on the bridge, with harbors from all around the world. You can bring up darkness or a storm – including specific storms like Hurricane Sandy. Anne Marie says it’s so realistic people get seasick. There are only nine in the world.

They also have a tug simulator, a radar simulator, global marine distress system, navigational lab and a cargo simulator. Students are immersed in these prior to going out on the training ship.

Anne Marie also works with instructional technology, working directly with the faculty in terms of  utilizing more tech in the classrooms, and putting together online classes.

The library too has become very technology based. “Our collection of resources is more online than it is in hard copy,” she said. “We need to decide how to support that ever growing collection of digital assets.”

As anyone who has interacted with a teen knows, they are online constantly, using social media to communicate. Having technology in the classroom helps students to be engaged learners. Staff communicates with students through twitter feeds and other social media platforms rather than emailing.

“Their way of learning is different,” Anne Marie says of today’s students. “We’re leveraging technology to help engage students and provide new resources, including what faculty has available to use in the classroom.

Anne Marie started her IT career at Harvard, where she enjoyed the higher ed environment. Following Harvard, she joined the public sector, working at different companies. Most recently she was in corporate IT at Acushnet Company in Fairhaven.

When she heard of the opening at Mass Maritime, she felt she could help the Academy with the needs they had around technology. She also has experience as a technology instructor, including networking, security, and system administration.

“One of the things I heard here was that IT was always behind closed doors,” she said. “That’s fine, but you need a customer facing entity. One of the first things I did was add a help desk. There are technicians anytime the library is open. It gives our customers a place to take their issues.”

Mass Maritime doesn’t have computer science programs, “but some students are naturals,” she said. “We also have students who handle IT issues on the training ship when they’re out on sea term.”

Because even when they are out to see, these students are plugged in.


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