Making Room for Learning Spaces

Early Summer mornings are great times to catch up on overnight news.
This morning I had a alert to Colin Warren’s Technology and Curriculum Transformation page.
Colin linked to a Steve Wheeler post on Learning Precincts. Steve’s post was written at the New Zealand Tertiary Education Summit. In the post, Steve considers how universities might create learning spaces that are conducive to learning for all.
Steve shared news of Rob Allen’s talk on Auckland University of Technology’s Learning Precinct. The Precinct is due to be completed in 2013 and will increase the campus by 25%. Its features include:

  • a 12-floor tower, a plaza, glass atrium, and a green quad
  • linkages between key buildings on the City Campus and a major gateway to AUT
  • an additional 20,000 square metres of new facilities
  • lobbies and break-out spaces have been designed as collaborative social study areas, with a range of furniture types to cater for multiple ways of learning

I enjoyed reading Steve’s account and learning about AUT’s plans. The post has encouraged me to think again about how learning is supported by moments of concentration of people in spaces and their dispersal into other physical and virtual places. I am keen to find low cost, sustainable options for these interactions. I believe that connected (ubiquitous computing) social spaces are keys to convivial learning.
After a year of working without a fixed office on my University campus I am wondering about the possibilities of transforming all spaces to open spaces. This does involve being relaxed about Cloud based support for mobile learners.
It involves contemplating Betaville too! There was a comment on Steve’s post from Vincent Driscoll. Vincent is working on a Betaville project and points out that:

The emphasis is on self-sufficiency and taking responsibility for our own learning. We are encouraged to find the answers ourselves – we even get roped in to research topics and present our findings back to peers at workshops.  Information moves partly from the tutors to us, as you would expect, but also between the learners peer-to-peer. The programme is designed so that this happens spontaneously. We were told at the intro session that we should think of ourselves as essential parts of a system of learners, a learning organisation even and the Betaville project is just one, though significant, element designed to facilitate it.

I like the Betaville suggestion that:

the future of a street corner, a blank wall, a vacant lot, or an entire city can now be tinkered with on an ongoing basis at negligible cost by the full spectrum of subject matter experts: the people who know what it’s like to live there now, the people who know how to make new things happen… and people with great ideas to share, anywhere in the world, whenever they can and care to.

This kind of approach is helping me move further towards an edgeless university that is people-centric located within the community … organopónicos for learners and teachers.
Shortly after posting in this item I learned about the CAUDIT Study Tour of Learning Spaces and Technology that took place last week. Visits were made to the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Griffith University, Victoria University and the University of Melbourne.
The aims of the tour were to:

  • Engage IT leaders in the area of good design for Learning and Teaching so they can appreciate and represent the holistic design concepts in their own institutions;
  • Explore identified exemplars in learning space designs and understand what facilitates good learning and teaching practice;
  • Develop some basic best practice guidelines around technology integration to share with the wider CAUDIT membership;
  • Establish a Community of Practice for Learning Space and Technology across Australia and New Zealand.

My colleague Danny Munnerley was on the tour and has alerted me to his collection of photographs of the tour and to James Sankar’s blog posts about each of the visits.
Photo Credit
AUT’s Brand New Precinct



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