TLT Conference 2009: Lauren Oswald

Transforming Informal Learning Spaces

[Evaluate this presentation]

Oswald1.jpg

Classrooms are no longer the only learning spaces on campus. Learning
now takes place wherever the learner is inspired. Missouri University
of Science & Technology has transformed an informal learning space
that enables collaboration, socialization and individual work. This
presentation will discuss the importance of informal learning spaces
and how our campus began the process to transform these spaces.

EdTech goes to Educause 2008 in Orlando, Florida

Angie Hammons and Lauren Oswald, members of the EdTech group here on campus, recently had the opportunity to do a poster presentation at Educause 2008, which took place in Orlando, Florida, Oct 28 – 31.

Here is what Angie experienced:
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I had the privilege of being accepted to present a poster
session at Educause 2008 in Orlando with Lauren Oswald. I have presented at
multiple conferences all over the United States but wasn’t prepared for what
Educause was truly like. To give you a little idea of what the conference was
like, there were over 8000 attendees from around the world. The theme this year
was “Interactions, Ideas and Inspiration.” It was incredibly exciting to share
with individuals what we are working on here on campus and know that we have
many interested in coming to visit with us to see what we have been doing. It
was a great conference to connect with other professionals involved in higher
education. It was a great opportunity for me to explore the issues surrounding
pedagogy that got me into education originally. So often, I focus on the
technology but truly enjoyed this opportunity to explore how we use technology
in the classroom and how it can truly impact the education process. The
integration of technology into any classroom should not be about having a shiny
new toy. It truly should be about providing new tools that enhance the learning
process. It is incredibly important that the addition of technology to a course
should be carefully planned out and designed.

The poster session was scheduled for late Thursday
afternoon, so I was expecting a lot of people to not be interested in coming.
Boy was I ever wrong. There was an incredible amount of people who descended on
the presentations. For the entire hour and fifteen minutes, we didn’t quit
talking and sharing how we have been transforming informal learning spaces on
campus. I had the opportunity to connect with many universities around our state
as well as around the world. Informal learning spaces have become an important
topic in higher education.

Where does learning take place?

 

This
was a question that began the process of examining the learning spaces on
campus.  Learning takes place anywhere
and everywhere in our society today. Classrooms are no longer the only place on
campus that learning takes place. 
Learning now takes place wherever the learner is inspired. “All learning
takes place in a physical environment with quantifiable and perceptible
physical characteristics.” – Graetz, Ken “The Psychology of Learning Environments”,
Learning Spaces, Educause 2006,
http://www.educause.edu/LearningSpaces/10569

 

How do universities and colleges
transition their traditional spaces to accommodate the needs of an
ever-changing student population?

 

If
learning takes place anywhere, how do we as universities plan spaces or
vignettes that support a process that is ever changing? “Learning is the
central activity of colleges and universities. Sometimes that learning occurs
in classrooms (formal learning); other times it results from serendipitous
interactions among individuals (informal learning). Space – whether physical or
virtual – can have an impact on learning. It can bring people together; it can
encourage exploration, collaboration, and discussion. Or, space can carry an
unspoken message of silence and disconnectedness. More and more we see the
power of built pedagogy (the ability
of space to define how one teaches) in colleges and universities” – Oblinger,
Diana, “Space as a Change Agent”, Learning Spaces, Educause 2006,
http://www.educause.edu/LearningSpaces/10569

 

Our goal was to define a process that could be repeatable on
our campus and others. We have begun the process to standardize how we design
these spaces. It is the design process that can be repeated.  You can’t have cookie-cutter rooms where all
informal spaces are the same. They must truly be tailored for the students and
the discipline that will utilize that space the most. We are continuing to
develop this process and will be excited to share it in the January issue of
Educause Quarterly.

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Next-Gen.Edu Classrooms

This month’s issue of Campus Technology has an article by Dian Schaffhauser (Incubating Next-Gen.Edu) wherein she discusses how universities across the country are learning from each other to create new technology-enhanced classrooms to enhance the student learning experience.
"Incubator classrooms", as she calls them, usually have a number of distinguishing features: multiple projector/video displays, pods of computer workstations, collaboration software, and SMART boards. The real difference seems to be in how the technology is deployed in any given learning space and for what purpose they are deployed as determined by faculty and university administrators.
For instance, the University of California-Riverside has a standard set of technology deployed for all of its centrally-scheduled classrooms (much as we do here at Missouri S&T, though UC-Riverside had their standards established a few years before we did). However, they also have a set of "flex classrooms" which have additional technology above and beyond the standard baseline level of technology. Finally, they have their premiere showcase facility–the Hyperstruction Studio, which debuted its first course in January 2008. After looking at the Hyperstruction Studio web site, it seems as though the room is equipped with technology similar to our own University Center Technology Classroom (UCTC). The presentation displays in the room are connected to Dell Optiplex GX280 PC machines, which is about the equivalent of the lower-end systems found in a few CLCs here on campus. Students use Gateway M285-E tablet PCs, which are stored on a cart in the classroom when they are not in use (students can bring their own laptops, too). The Hyperstruction Studio does have a few added features that our UCTC does not, such as 42" plasma displays and videoconferencing capabilities. We do have videoconferencing capability elsewhere on campus (CS 212/213), just not in the UCTC.

Hyperstruction Studio at UC-Riverside — Click and hold the mouse on the image above to rotate 360° around the room (Quicktime plugin required).
Also in California, Santa Clara University recently built a $95 million facility (Santa Clara is located in Silicon Valley, so money apparently isn’t an issue there like it is on our campus) that houses its Learning Commons, Technology Center, and Library. This brand new facility is home to a number of classrooms that include neo-traditional learning spaces such as the one described above at UC-Riverside as well as very small "educational experimentation rooms" where instructors can explore the potential uses of new technology before rolling it out on a larger scale.
One of the more interesting aspects of Santa Clara’s facility is a room that allows the instructor to redesign the space for different learning applications on a whim, more or less. The room has a very flexible power grid that means an instructor can completely reconfigure the design space in about 30 minutes (using the already existing technology, of course). In actuality, it appears as though they have a few standard configurations that they can set up fairly quickly depending on needs.

[Read more…]

Technology Learning Space Implementation — We are not alone

cs213-04.pngEducause Quarterly has an article in their most recent issue about technology learning spaces–more specifically, a technology-enhanced learning studio implemented at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), one of our sister campuses. According to authors Jim Tom, Kenneth Voss, and Christopher Scheetz, their project was an unqualified success, leading to increased student and faculty satisfaction with the learning process. However, it is still too early to determine what, if any, impact there may be on the overall student learning outcomes.
The space they designed is very similar to a number of ongoing projects the Educational Technology team is currently working on here on this campus. The first technology-enhanced learning space with all the bells and whistles was in University Center 105. Although it still has a lot of great features (and is solidly booked all the time for classes), it is starting to show some significant wear and tear. The laptop machines also need to be upgraded to keep up with the changing technology. EdTech is working on improving this learning space and also to develop newer learning spaces on campus with the active cooperation of various departments.
The UMSL learning space described in the article had a number of specific goals it had to meet:

* Be flexible to accommodate differences in teaching and learning styles, activities, and content.
* Be social spaces that enable collaboration and interactivity during class time [or outside of class time — EdTech]
* Address creature comforts and ambiance because these can enable learning in significant ways
* Ensure that equipment, facilities, and furniture are accessible to students and teachers and comply with regulations derived from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Missouri S&T Educational Technology is also working to create learning spaces that meet these goals. We have a number of projects in progress for 2008. We are upgrading Physics 104, creating a new space for the Civil Engineering department, adding a new Faculty Learning Studio in Norwood 208, upgrading the new learning space in Toomey Hall (the new Mechanical Engineering Building), and redesigning Engineering Management 222.
We have already transformed Computer Science 212/213 into a very comfortable study lounge that gives students the opportunity to use the same technology on collaborative projects as their instructors use in the classroom. Indeed, CS 212/213 gets quite a bit of use–I almost never see it empty during the semester–and it is a very good place for students to work together on group projects.
We have also upgraded the Language Learning Lab in Humanities and Social Sciences (I think it is Room 202). The foreign language instructors love it because it allows students to record themselves speaking their new foreign language and also allows them to hear themselves speaking it as well.
If your department is interested in creating a new learning space on campus, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to work with you.