Following on from the study tour, I attended a 2 day Learning Spaces Summit in Sydney and was joined by 3 other Tour Participants. Here is a link to the Summit Information.
What was ironic about the Summit venue was the poor room layout which was perhaps an exemplar of how not to arrange a collaborative space. Serried ranks of desks facing a fixed podium at the front with a screen that was difficult to see. The space would have been almost impossible if any of our speakers had any kind of mobility difficulties let alone wheelchair bound. As it was, we all found it difficult to engage with each other and it made networking very difficult. We were also not permitted to have a list of the delegates so continuing the conversation was also very difficult. It’s an interesting example of a good idea, poorly executed I think and in itself is a useful message for us all in ensuring an holistic design when we think of spaces and collaboration.
|Not quite what we expected from a Learning Space Summit!|
Nonetheless, the overall content of the Summit was relevant and useful covering a number of learning points we had encountered on the tour.
There were a number of important messages for us to consider during the summit and the course of the tour:-
· The consumeristion of technology –Mobile technology enters the consumers hands before large enterprise gets hold of it, a reverse of what we have traditionally seen. This is important because students are making choices that drive expectations around how they engage with us and we, of course, need to be ready.
· Last year, we talked about the “Window of Wow” and how it is becoming increasingly short. Kay from LaTrobe referred to the Museum of Obsolete objects:. Very interesting to see what is now obsolete which, at the time, seemed so cutting edge. Those of us of a certain age would know precisely what to do with a cassette tape and a pencil!! Kids now would be utterly confused.
· In my own teaching about the future of technology and support of ICT, I would talk about the link between Science Fiction and innovation. SciFi maps out our desires and aspirations which (in some more pragmatic form) we see realised in practice. Consider movies such as Avatar which presents a different image of telepresence and immersive technology – how close will technology get in the future to this kind of experience? When I first started work as a graphic artist, cutting and pasting involved sharp knives and now it involves a couple of clicks.
· Gaming skills were talked about as an important ability. When we look at the way we learn and consume information, construct knowledge and understanding through interaction with technology, this is an interesting point. Our children have a completely different expectation about the ways things ought to be (see the Broken iPad clip): Kids coming from schools like the Northern Beaches Christian Schools already understand how to learn their way and they will expect (and demand) that Universities are ready for them.
· Spaces can be agents for change. (makes you wonder why we steadfastly continue to design the same old spaces then!). Universities are the last bastions of resistance of change. We are no longer just about selling knowledge. We can get knowledge online, often much more accessible than trying to empty an academic's head. Students need to see us add value in our learning spaces. If students can consume a lecture online without coming in, then let them! We can do something else with the face to face experience. Transmitting knowledge blandly through the old fashioned paradigm of the lecture is not what adds value, students will get that knowledge more readily on line in some way. What they need is wisdom, knowledge in context and preparation for the world (the one we are all living in now, not the 10,20, 100 year old world).
· Desire Paths were a common theme throughout the whole week – students will find their own way. We often try to resist when our vision is different (e.g. cable-tying table legs together or bolting down furniture). I reckon we’ve all done it, but why? Why not let the students show us the way and shape their spaces. I think that sometimes, we are not as prepared to learn from them as much as they are from us.
· Magic Formula: Last year we identified a “magic formula” for group study spaces:-
o A comfy place to sit
o A table
o A writable surface
o Some kind of presentation technology
Throughout the tour in 2011 and 2012, we found that the most popular spaces in terms of student utilisation had deployed this formula. We identified some useful additions this year that relate specifically to social learning spaces or learning commons following discussions with students in the spaces we visited and those who had designed them. This makes the list a lot longer so I’ve tried to make it easier by using a mnemonic (Fit Spaces):-
F – Flexibility (reconfigurable spaces that promote student’s desire paths. However, include anchor points to avoid creating a soulless space without structure. Some solid pieces provide structure and interest to the area)
I – IT (Students may bring their own, but often some presentation technology will be needed)
T – Table (at an appropriate height)
S – Safe (for 24/7 access)
P – Power (for their own devices)
A – Accessibility (ensure people with disabilities can make good use of the spaces)
C – Comfort (personalised – this may mean a cosy private spot, a beanbag or a chair and desk)
E – Eat (Students want to eat and drink in these spaces, include kitchenettes, a microwave, hot water and vending machines for 24/7 access)
S - Surfaces to write on