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spoiler alert 300 wI am using some of this post as part of a longer article about experimental technology-rich learning spaces. I know how much our readers love to know about what other schools are doing with their technology so I decided to share some interesting tidbits with our readers prior to the full piece being published. Here is the teaser:

I sat with a professor the other day who was part of a team of instructors, students, technologists and administrators who helped create, install and evaluate a brand new active learning space in one of their design buildings. I am still in awe, a week later, about how much prep goes into every phase of this project. Design and room planning, equipment evaluation, installation, instructional design, interactivity and feedback/ analysis. And even though this is the second semester that this room is being used for instruction, the work still continues to determine how to use the room, what type of activities/ interactivity results in the most student success, and if this room should be duplicated in other areas throughout campus?

Summary of room layout: the room is a large, long open space with windows on one of the long sides and the other, a wall of glass overlooking a hallway- this wall of glass has two entry doors. There are four collaboration tables set up in the center of the room, each with a local display and cabling for up to four student devices. The tables seat eight students each. The “front” of the room is set up with a larger interactive whiteboard and instructor station outfitted with a school issued computer. The “back” of the room has a lounge area with banquette seating in a semi-circle design and another local display. The side of the room with the windows has two high top, pub-type tables with stool seats that can be used for break out small group spaces but which don’t have cables or displays. The room is painted with bright colors, and the furniture is modern and clean. Can you picture it?

Owners make the difference: Keep in mind that for this project, teachers, students, technologists and administrators were all part of classroom design team. The administration made sure ALL stakeholders have ownership of the process, products and space layout. Further, the administration determined that modifying class structure and pedagogy must be attempted by instructors who are “change advocates;” possessing the reputation as early adopters who are not afraid of technology and see it as a compliment to their strategies and classroom learning objectives. Success depends upon patient and communicative teams of these change advocates who work off each other’s successes and failures.

The results of their feedback analysis: The team found that there are mixed reactions to these spaces from both instructors and students. Instructors find prep time cumbersome and sometimes complain that the open plan is distracting. The other part they have trouble getting past- the way the collaboration tables are set up mean that from the instructor’s station one may be looking at back of student heads. Another must for professors: the hybridization of classrooms and pedagogy/ lesson plans. Active learning requires a lot of prep work for instructors. They find it exceptionally time consuming to create lesson plans for active learning spaces. Detailed instructional design is essential. They also question engagement?

Ready for the “real world:” Students are not used to the type of learning environment. They have questioned the role and effectiveness of the teacher as a mediator (in this room) as opposed to an instructor (in a traditional classroom). Right now, test scores indicate no significant difference between active learning space and traditional space. But by the end of the semester students in the active learning room understand and value teamwork, pride of work, cooperation, motivation and “real world” professional and respectful interaction. Creating trust and communication among team members.

A more detailed account to follow- stay tuned. Do you have a similar learning space you are currently testing….tell us about your challenges and successes below.

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