Informatics professor attends conference on technology and missions

Goshen College associate professor of Informatics Kent Palmer attended the International Conference on Computers and Missions at the Taylor University campus, June 17-21, 2011. He was accompanied by Paul Housholder, senior multimedia specialist of ITS Media on campus, and sophomore student of Informatics Micah Miller-Eshleman. Represented at the conference were a variety of church-affiliated groups including Wycliffe Bible translators and Calvin College. Housholder’s father was the keynote speaker of this year’s conference.

This annual conference seeks to bring together innovators in multimedia technologies as they apply to mission organizations working in various capacities around the world. As Professor Palmer pointed out, technical support is just one of a long list of components that allows a mission organization to help those they are trying to reach, but groups often do not have the necessary resources.

Professor Palmer has attended many past conferences, often presenting his own insights on managing websites and other related topics. The main reason for attending these conferences, however, is for his to discover new opportunities for his students to work on real-work projects outside of the classroom. Past students have written software to accommodate a particular organization’s bookkeeping needs, which are typically to unique to utilize off-the-shelf programs. For example, organizations receive donations from a wide variety of sources that are designated to help a specific need (like building schools in Tanzania). Within a large relief organization, like Mennonite Central Committee, keeping track of where it resources should be going is difficult.

The type of students Professor Palmer has in mind for these projects are those pursuing degrees in Computer Science, Informatics, and Communication, among others. This is the nature of informatics as a field of study, which investigates how computer technology can be applied to a wide variety of arenas and careers.

Next year’s conference is schedules to meet in Colorado Springs, Colorado.