My session slides from my presentation at ATD Core 4, happening this week in New Orleans.
Source: Cammy Bean
Source: Cammy Bean
Source: Cammy Bean
With the start of a new academic year swiftly approaching (I realise many have already started, sorry) I am again having discussions with academics on the best way to use the spaces they’re given.
It’s not only about the size or resolution of the screen/projector. It’s not about the fact there is always a spot-light right above the screen which makes it so difficult to see the content. It is about whether the space is too cold or hot. It is about whether there is enough natural light, or is it annoying neon strip lights? Is there (enough) power sockets spread around the space so trailing wires aren’t a trip hazard? Can students get in and out of the room and seats quickly to enable a quick or easy change between classes? What about the spaces outside the classroom – does the next class block the exit as they hover outside waiting to get it?
This is the kind of thing that needs attention when looking at learning spaces, not just about how flexible the seating arrangement is. Yes, it’s good to have flexibility of room layout and the kind of devices that can connect to the infrastructure, but not at the expense of comfort or access. Can they bring a drink with them (most classes and lecture theatres say ‘no food over drink’, yet sessions over lunchtime often mean the students are flagging from lack of energy.
All this has an impact on how the students view these ‘spaces’, how they interact with it, even how they like or dislike it. If you’ve annoyed the student before they’ve even sat down, will you ever re-capture them for the reason they’re there?
So, with Universities committing to new buildings, the question is .. are ‘we’ doing enough to make the spaces fit for learning, or just fit for bums-on-seats?
Here are two of the best learning spaces I’ve seen, either in person or online:
Loughborough University: Lecture theatre – The first meeting of the East Midlands ALT group was here, and we used this space fantastically. A series of presentations and small group work enabled us to collaborate and discuss projects with colleagues on our desk, but also engage and interact with others on similar and surrounding desks. Each table can sit four comfortably, six at a push, getting in and out (for activities and a swift room change) is easy and I even remember power sockets available too (can someone check this for me please?).
The room itself was quite shallow but wide, and perhaps I’d prefer a little less of a ‘stage’, and a more flexible workstation for the presenter/facilitator, but this is one of the few spaces I always talk to people about when the topic of spaces for learning is raised.
University of Birmingham: Collaborative spaces – I’ve seen many of these spaces (University of Dublin, at the 2014 Blackboard Conference – but I didn’t get a photo. Silly me) around but this is the best photo I can find. A slightly tiered floor enables those further back to still see the front/presenter, but every other row of seats can turn round and engage with the row behind. The desks are curved to enable a slightly less formal appeal/structure, and aid getting in and out.
Schools of the future: Stephen Heppell – This video is from 8 years ago (2008) and we’re still talking about these learning spaces. I think (I have no proof) that we have moved on somewhat from this discussion, there are more spaces described by Stephen here, but it does also still feel we are having the same conversations, seeing the same spaces being replicated, and that those who design (and pay for) these spaces are not moving things forward.
Here are some more resources I’ve been saving as I surf, all about learning spaces in all sorts of shapes and sizes:
If you know of a learning space, or indeed work in one, that should be shared and shouted about (good or bad), please let us know in the comments below.
Update: How about this great set up Neil Morris and Stewart Ross at the University of Leeds? Fantastic, love it. I would love to hear more about the reasons for the different elements, and also see it being used for teaching and learning .. please?
— StewRossLeeds (@StewRossLeeds) October 6, 2016
— Neil Morris (@NeilMorrisLeeds) October 7, 2016
Source: Technology Enhanced Blog
To gain insight on how we learn in the real world, he’s reaching out to L&D professionals, CEOs, entrepreneurs, actors and artists who have mastered complex skills, with the aim of uncovering our “learning secrets”.
Arun asks 4 specific questions and my answers are as follows…
Q1. In your working life, how have you learned effectively from experience, please provide an example if possible? (e.g. how have you used intentional practice, learned from failure, learned from ambitious projects and/or used reflection)
When I first got into e-learning, it was all very new for everyone. Of course computer-based training had been around for decades, but when the World Wide Web took off in the 1990’s, it transformed education.
Q2. In your working life, how have you learned effectively from people, please provide an example if possible? (e.g. how have you learned from project teams, mentors, coaches and/or broader social networks)
Over time I’ve realised that learning from other people is not only important but crucial to my professional development. Conferences get a bit of a beat-up these days, but I always learn something useful from seeing what other people have done. I also like meetups, and social media has taken my peer-to-peer networking to a whole new level.
I think it’s important to maintain relationships with people who are not only knowledgeable and experienced, but also open and generous; these relationships are two-way streets as you learn from each other. I also know someone whom I respect immensely and whom I consider a mentor; I seek his insight on matters that I’m thinking about, and I’ll bounce ideas off him to get his perspective.
So my recommendation is to actively engage with other people, utilising all the various means of doing so.
Q3. In your working life, how have you learned effectively from courses, research or investigation, please provide an example if possible? (e.g. how have you learned from reading on the web, reading books or attending conferences/courses)
It’s all very well to learn from experience and roll with the punches as you go along, but you have to beware not knowing what you don’t know.
When I decided to make e-learning my career, I went back to university to do a Masters in Learning Sciences & Technology. This course opened up my eyes to concepts that I would never have appreciated otherwise, such as learning theory, and raised my awareness of important empirical research.
Post-uni, I read lots of blogs and keep an eye on the academic journals. I also like to run my own “mini” research studies at work by trialling something new and seeing how it goes.
Q4. What’s your top advice for someone who wishes to develop faster and learn complex skills in modern workplaces?
You have to do it. Yes, read widely and talk to lots of people, but not at the expense of giving it a go. Only then can you gain the insights you really need and appreciate the nuances of real-life application.
The workplace is only ever going to get more VUCA, so by maintaining an experimental mindset you can be confident to take on whatever comes.
If you would like to respond to Arun’s questions, he invites you to do so here.
I’ve often wondered about the relevance of 3D printing in the corporate sector because we rarely produce a thing. Our products – such as bank accounts and insurance policies – are essentially 1’s and 0’s floating in the ether.
Then I attended a webinar presented by Jon Soong from Makers Empire. This Australian startup is active in the K12 sector, helping teachers bring 3D printing into their classrooms.
With the right hardware, software and guidance, teachers and their students can visualise abstract concepts (Mathematics, Science), produce replica objects (History, Geography) and create original objects (Art).
As the following video demonstrates, the technology can also be applied to problem-based learning.
I like what I see at St Stephen’s School, not only because of the pedagogical benefits that 3D printing affords, but also because it makes sense to familiarise our children with emerging technology.
This particular technology is already impacting manufacturing. A diverse range of products is currently being 3D printed, including clothes, jewellery, candy, teeth, prosthetics, tools, car parts, architectural models, furniture, toys and accessories.
I predict one day in the not-too-distant future, hospitals and medical device companies will dispense with their warehouses. Instead of stockpiling surgical equipment in big rooms – or worse, waiting for products on backorder – a hospital will be able to build the device it needs on-demand. No more need for storage and transport; just a licence to print the proprietary design.
In the corporate environment, however, we don’t make widgets.
In this context, I suggest we turn to the students from St Stephen’s for inspiration. When the kids use 3D printing to solve a problem, a by-product of that activity is collaboration. Following their lead, we could split our colleagues into teams and task them with producing a 3D artefact; whether or not that artefact has practical application is irrelevant. What is relevant is how the team members work together to achieve the goal.
The technology is the vehicle with which a collaborative situation can be engineered, experienced, observed, and reflected upon.
And we can go further. Consider a methodology such as Human Centered Design. By baking HCD into the task, the team members can practise it in a low-stakes scenario – for example, creating an office mascot. If the artefact doesn’t gain the target audience’s approval, it’s relatively cheap to make the necessary modifications or even go back to the drawing board.
After the team members build up their experience with the methodology via this seemingly silly exercise, they can apply it to the organisation’s real products and services.