Learning About Learning Spaces


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Elisa Lanzi, Smith College presentation at VRA 28 Atlanta conference session "Transition to Learning Spaces: Redefining Our Space for the Digital World."

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  • When a colleague asked me to be on this panel she noted, “We think your experience with the Imaging Center as an already established learning space would add a unique viewpoint to our panel.” Ten years ago I was here presenting a paper called, “Imagining an Imaging Center,” noting that we had created a state of the art environment. Today I’m here to share with you why we need to “re-imagine” our spaces and environment. I call this paper “Learning about Learning Spaces” because we are in the exploration phase.  First, I’d like to introduce the topic of learning spaces and the emerging theme of learning environments. The concept of learning spaces in academia is part of a larger social phenomenon often-called “The Interaction Age.” All of us are familiar with contributing factors such as: mobile computing, social networks, global access to information, and the blurring of personal, community, and work boundaries, among many other factors. These factors, together with the ubiquitous insertion of technology in every discipline across our campuses have impacted pedagogical methods and supporting infrastructures like visual resource centers. A scan of recent strategic plans from colleges and universities shows that active engagement in the learning process and providing for a diversity of learning styles is a fundamental precept.
  • Today I’ll use a helpful checklist from the Denison University Learning Spaces project as a brief general overview of Learning Spaces.  Learning Spaces should:- support a diversity of learning styles, e.g., both independent and social activity dynamics at the same time.- be versatile, for example include movable furniture and flexible technology- be comfortable and attractive, or what I call the Barnes and Noble effect, i.e., creating aesthetics that motivate learners. - be information rich and technologically reliable, e.g., appropriate and consistent hardware.- be maintained continuously, e.g., staffing, back-ups, spare parts.- ubiquitous in space and time, e.g., consider ad hoc areas as learning spaces and equip them.- be used effectively, e.g., there may be special spaces for discipline specific activities like visual arts labs.- sufficient resources must be allocated, e.g., long-term holistic approaches vs. short-term ad hoc silo-ed fixes.
  • Because learning spaces are heavily dependent on innovative design and furnishings, supporting industries such as educational furniture companies are now offering a range of options at various price points. For example, Herman Miller, Steelcase, and K1Education. In addition, such companies are partnering with education by publishing white papers that help us to better understand Learning Space Design concepts.
  • There are many more vendors, plus, you can find plenty of inspiring images from organizations such as the Joint Information Service (better know as JISC) info_netPhotostream in Flickr. JISC’s mission it to inspire UK colleges and universities in the innovative use of digital technologies.  For the visual resource community it is especially important to understand how our spaces are part of a larger concept called Learning Environments.
  • The concept of Learning Environments moves beyond space planning into a broader dimension. This distinction is best described in a recent EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative paper by Tom Warger and Gregory Dobbin. Fortunately the literature on learning spaces and learning environments is rich and mostly online. I’ve included a few moreresources on the last slide of this presentation. One of the best places to start is the “EDUCAUSE Learning Space Design Constituent Group” web pages, full of bibliographies, blogs and model projects.
  • I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge my colleague, Tom Laughner, Director of Educational Technology Services at Smith College. One of Tom’s research interests is making learning spaces more effective and he is leading that effort at our College. Tom and I are part of a team working on strategic planning for spaces in our Visual Arts building. I want to show you a few examples of new learning spaces on the Smith campus that demonstrate some of the key concepts from the Denison checklist. I present these as a backdrop for our discussions on learning spaces in the Visual Arts, underscoring that we need to coordinate this effort across the institution in order to be viable. This space is in our new engineering building, Ford Hall. It shows the concept of a learning space in a simple form: a pleasant, semi-private space, informal seating, wireless, and adjacent and accessible to other types of learning spaces.
  • Ford Hall provided an opportunity to create an organic structure with formal and informal settings as an integral part of the design from the beginning. There’s even a roof top green space for outdoor study and group meetings. The image on the left shows another informal learning space with on-the-fly projection for mobile devices and café style seating. The right side shows a multi-use seminar-conference room with tiered seating, smart desks and boards surrounding it.
  • But, of course, not every building is a new at our College. And most of our efforts are targeted at transforming existing spaces, many times at minimal cost. On the left is one of our most used classrooms in the visual arts building, Hillyer Hall. Just ten years ago this was considered state of the art. But today faculty find the oversized tech booth in the back, originally for both slides and digital equipment, is a barrier to student engagement because it divides the room in half. This is supposed to be a colloquium room, but the desks prevent the students from working together and the podium is immovable and bulky. The Seminar room on the right is very attractive but it has it’s own pedagogical drawbacks. The table with wired ports down the middle is overly large for conversation, it has that same large podium and the oversized equipment booth in the back. Faculty want the freedom to use technology outside of the podium and to sit at the table with students in a seminar.
  • Fortunately, Smith faculty have the opportunity to “try out” possible solutions in a newly created “Incubator Classroom,” located in a central part of campus. The Incubator allows them to experiment with and provide feedback on classroom design configurations.  Primarily for use by early adopter faculty, various furniture configurations, emerging technologies, and other classroom aesthetics can be evaluated in this room as a means to consider their use in other Smith College learning spaces. Because of its purpose, those using the incubator classroom agree to allow staff to observe classes through a variety of methods, including but not limited to direct observation, or a web cam.
  • Like many institutions Smith College has applied learning space concepts in the creation of “Commons” such as the Information Commons in the main library and this Media Commons, which was a former lab. I don’t have the time today to show you more examples at Smith, but I chose this one as a segue into my next part of the talk on the Imaging Center. This space demonstrates how one space can support a diversity of learning and work styles in a comfortable setting. Where does an Imaging Center fit in to the campus wide learning environment and which concepts can we apply in our settings?
  • As Peter Brantley so aptly pointed out in our opening session, all of us are part of a “networked mediated social environment.” Lately when we talk about how we go about our business in the Imaging Center we use words like collaborative, creative, interactive, flexible, and mobile. Years ago faculty and students had to come to the old “slide room” in order to teach, now they don’t. Courses are built by virtual teams composed of faculty, staff, and students. No longer the only teaching content provider in town, the 21st century visual resources center needs to articulate how we remain central to the pedagogic process. This means integrating our spaces within the context of the campus learning environment, no matter which unit administers our VR facility. When we first began converting to digital teaching there was a push to transform VR centers from slide factories into digitization production facilities. But now we need to think more broadly and “emphasize interactivity over mere content delivery.” [p. 14 Milne, see last slide].
  • In fact, today it’s difficult to talk about the Imaging Center as a single physical space because of several factors. The older idea of the Imaging Center as a separate confined space with a discreet staff is no longer a reality. Today the Imaging Center is but one part of the building’s technology resources. One of the reasons is the insertion of technology into all of the visual arts curriculum; art history, studio art, and architecture. Our 3rd floor staff serve other areas of the building and are often on site in classrooms or labs.
  • Our exploration of the learning spaces concept as it applies to the Imaging Center is timely and fortuitous. At this time there are several college and department initiatives and activities where the topic can be addressed and distributed to administrators and partner units. As we gather information from faculty and students we are beginning to see that learning spaces for the visual arts may be different from other disciplines.
  • Our first step in the exploration process was a survey about all of the possible spaces in Hillyer Hall. We started with these questions:From your experience with teaching in Hillyer, please identify what you liked and what you haven’t liked?What improvements would help you in your pedagogy?The survey was conducted in focus groups with the goal of bringing the various wings of the art department together to think holistically about spaces. It also gave the staff an opportunity to link the broader pedagogical needs to service spaces and to introduce the concept of learning spaces to all of us. Fortunately, aesthetics is not an issue in our well-designed building. Rather the survey noted ways to improve functionality. For the Imaging Center we’ve identified several key goals:1. Better integration with other teaching and learning spaces in the building2. Create collaborative work spaces for faculty, students, and staff3. Leverage current space for collection storage and access Furthermore, today’s Imaging Center and the associated areas have various functions characteristic of both digital libraries and multi-media creation labs. One of our challenges is to create efficient hubs of activity that work for all of the activities of a visual arts curriculum.
  • What is the message we convey to patrons when they walk into the 3rd floor Imaging Center? For example, patrons usually ask about how to connect to wireless and not how to check out slides. We are examining our signage and workspaces with this in mind. Users need to know what types of activities are possible when they walk into our space, that is.replace how to file slides with “entering wireless zone, mobile devices welcome.”On the right is our former Student Slide Study Room. It is completely transformed into anEquipment Check-out Room andit’s now bursting at the seams. But, this space is very convenient because it is adjacent to our central service desk. We’re thinking about how to accommodate more specialized equipment in another area.
  • Collection storage of analog materials takes up over half of the real estate in the Imaging Center. Today almost all faculty are using digital images and the slide collection is mostly used as a source for scanning. Actually, the photo collection is used more often, especially by the studio faculty and students. Some of the best natural light in the Center is blocked by these little used collections. Our strategic planning will include a phased approach for more appropriate storage and access for these materials.
  • The Visual Communications Resource lab (VCRC) is a specialized lab on the 2nd floor of Hillyer Hall. While it was intended as a place for students to work on creative assignments, today it is booked solid with classes and can no longer can accommodate drop ins. The dual monitors, the instructor station that allows faculty to project any monitor in the room, and a suite of high-end output devices are special features that are critical for pedagogy. But, otherpedagogical needs such as pin-up display for critiques, a combination of daylight and controlled light, and mobile furniture for small groups are not available in this space. These factors plus others have been a catalyst for exploring possible conversions of other spaces in the building.
  • The 3rd floor Imaging Center rates high in terms of aesthetics. The attractive maple paneling, the light-filled space overlooking the rest of campus, and the overall design is truly impressive. But, the older slide room idea of enclosed carrels for each faculty member is no longer how many of our faculty work. Most of them work in their offices and when they do work with staff and students they gravitate to the public access areas. These carrels as configured take up a large swath in the middle of the Imaging Center. Are there ways that we can re-adapt some of these carrels to serve new styles of learning?
  • On the top right we see a lab that was envisioned as a public access lab. But, today this space is needed for staff to launch new hardware and software, administer databases, and coordinate the tech support services throughout the building. The bottom images show another public access area that allows for solitary work, but is not very effective for the collaborative work that often takes place. For example, all of the computers are facing a wall, the counter does not have space for other materials, and the original wooden chairs, while attractive, are not as comfortable as they could be. We’re learning about learning spaces - how these concepts can be applied to the Imaging Center and how we can connect to the larger Learning Environment in our building and beyond.
  • Learning About Learning Spaces

    1. 1. Learning About Learning Spaces<br />1<br />Elisa Lanzi, Smith College elanzi@smith.eduPresented at the Visual Resources Association Annual Conference, 18 March 2010<br />Opening slide images from JISC infonet'sphotostream<br />http://www.flickr.com/photos/jiscinfonet/<br />
    2. 2. Learning Spaces<br />support a diversity of learning styles<br />versatile<br />comfortable and attractive <br />information rich & technologically reliable<br />maintained continuously<br />ubiquitous in space and time<br />used effectively<br />sufficient resources allocated <br />2<br />Denison University Learning Spaces Checklist<br />http://www.denison.edu/academics/learningspaces/checkl.pdf<br />
    3. 3. 3<br />http://www.hermanmiller.com/Education<br />http://v2.steelcase.com/na/higher_education_Markets.aspx?f=25228<br />http://www.kieducation.com/<br />
    4. 4. 4<br />http://www.flickr.com/photos/jiscinfonet/sets/72157594535259942/<br />
    5. 5. Learning Environments<br />“The first dimension is spatial: the redesigning and weaving together of classrooms, libraries, labs, informal spaces, and virtual/mobile spaces to form a coordinated, institutional learning web that offers students and faculty new opportunities before, during, and after class. The second dimension is organizational: the call for campus stakeholders to unite in designing, developing, and sustaining these disparate yet cross-functional spaces and places.” http://www.educause.edu/Resources/LearningEnvironmentsWhereSpace/188507<br />5<br />
    6. 6. Learning Spaces at Smith College<br />6<br />Ford Hall<br />http://www.smith.edu/fordhall/<br />
    7. 7. 7<br />Ford Hall<br />
    8. 8. 8<br />Hillyer Hall colloquium and seminar rooms for the visual arts<br />
    9. 9. 9<br />Incubator Classroom, Seelye Hall<br />
    10. 10. 10<br />Media Commons, Seelye Hall<br />
    11. 11. 11<br />The sun is setting on the little house of slides<br />
    12. 12. Now a suite of services and spaces throughout the visual arts building<br />Integrated staff from two departments<br />Activities are creative, production, pedagogical Participants are faculty, students and staff<br />Partner projects filter in and out<br />12<br />Imaging Center http://www.smith.edu/imaging<br />
    13. 13. 13<br />Convergence of opportunities<br />Campus Strategic Plan<br />Decennial Review for Art Department<br />Self-Study<br />New Campus Classroom Committee<br />Grant possibilities<br />Learning Space awareness on campus<br />Hillyer Hall survey on spaces<br />
    14. 14. 14<br />Experiencing, Making, Learning, Describing, Teaching, Connecting Virtual and Real<br />Smith College Art Department, Janotta Gallery http://www.smith.edu/art/<br />
    15. 15. 15<br />Imaging Center<br />
    16. 16. 16<br />Imaging Center, Slide and Photo Collections<br />
    17. 17. 17<br />VCRC lab for creative production and teaching <br />
    18. 18. 18<br />Imaging Center, carrels<br />
    19. 19. 19<br />Imaging Center, public access area and digital development lab<br />
    20. 20. 20<br />More Resources<br />EDUCAUSE Learning Space Design Constituent Group<br />A forum for the exchange and archiving of information and for discussions of key issues in the field. http://www.educause.edu/cg/learningspace<br />Learning Environments: Where Space, Technology and Culture Converge, Tom Warger, Eduserve and Gregory Dobbin, EDUCAUSE<br />http://www.educause.edu/Resources/LearningEnvironmentsWhereSpace/188507<br />Entering the Interaction Age: Implementing a Future Vision for Campus Learning Spaces<br />By Andrew J. Milnehttp://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume42/EnteringtheInteractionAgeImple/158107<br />Learning Spaces, edited by Diana G. Oblinger, an EDUCAUSE E-book http://www.educause.edu/LearningSpaces<br />Opening up Learning: From Spaces to Environments <br />By the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Advisory Board<br />http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume44/OpeningupLearningFromSpacestoE/171784<br />
    21. 21. 21<br />Presentation text ©Elisa Lanzi<br />elanzi@smith.edu<br />The opinions expressed in this presentation do not necessarily represent the official opinions of my employer, Smith College.<br />Please note that the images in this PowerPoint presentation may be under copyright. This presentation was created for an educational lecture at the Visual Resources Association conference March 18, 2010. <br />http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/<br />