Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Creating a Sense of Collaboration

When we want to create an environment which engages faculty with learners, we need to consider creating spaces that promote discussion and collaboration. First we need to have curriculum which promotes opportunities of collaborative learning.  Then, we can focus on some of the ways we can enhance this experience through a series of design and technology options. 

An innovation room conceived to complement collaboration
Selecting tables and chairs with wheels helps to promote an environment of flexibility and innovation.  In addition, providing plenty of "analog" white boards encourages the sharing of concepts and ideas.  Providing a main projection screen, along with flat panel monitors located around the room provides the opportunity to direct attention to the front of the room, or to group work. 

In this room faculty have the flexibility to select multiple video sources in the front of the room, or to the "group work" at one of the three flat panels around the perimeter of the space. The faculty also have full control of lighting and presentation sources via a touch panel at the podium.  This innovation room make the learning environment flexible, engaging, and very collaborative.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learning and Social Meeting Spaces Redefining Learning Experiences

250-seat auditorium and teaching podium
As new academic buildings are conceived and constructed, considering teaching and learning activities along with social interactions are important issues to think about.  We are at a point where we need to consider what we want as outcomes of our space design, before we put faculty, staff, and students into our environments.  At the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Centennial Hall was developed with an eye on the past 100 years of the university's existence, and an eye on the next 100 years.  There are a number of key concepts that personifies how we can blend teaching and learning, and student and faculty interactions.  In the building there are traditional lecture halls of 250 occupants. These lecture halls are carefully sloped for easy access, provide exceptional sound treatment and accoustics, comfortable seating, full HDCP digital switching capability, and dual screen projection.  In addition to traditional seating, the building also has innovative collaborative, flexible collaborative spaces.  

Open areas with comfortable seating promote interaction

The building also provides large open areas for students and faculty to interact, network, and collaborate. These open areas provide comfortable seating, wireless Internet, and pleasing color scheme and lighting.  In providing multiple effective learning environments, coupled with open meeting spaces, a cohesive and integrated space can promote learning and social interaction.

Open areas with good lighting and digital signage

In future reviews, I will anlayze in more detail specific learning spaces within the building, and explain how certain spaces can enhance interation and collaboration during the teaching and learning activities.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001 Remembered

On September 11, 2001, we all watched in disbelief of the terror attach on the U.S.  We had just finished remodeling our Wing Technology Center with the latest in classroom technology and new learning space environments.  I was very proud and gratified of the result. Then, early on September 11th, we all watched the stunning events of the fateful day unfold as the video and images were projected in our new classrooms throughout the building.  Here we had the latest technology to enhance our learning, and there on the screens were images of tragedy and destruction. Several days later, I asked and received permission to put an American flag, framed on red, white, and blue burning, on the front of our new building.  When I look at this photograph a decade later, I can still clearly remember what I felt and thought on that day. 

Friday, September 02, 2011

Social Media in Politically Charged Environments

I recently presented a first-in-a-series session on the use of "Social Media in Politically Charged Environments." This in-depth and well documented project, includes images, videos, blogs, YouTube video, and Twitter feeds as it portrays the impact of social media on the political environment in Wisconsin since February 2011. Included in the presentation are CNN iReports which were tracked through the U.S. news media, and worldwide. Screen shots captured the dramatic speed and distribution of information throughout the world. In addition, comments highlighted and documented the high emotions of people globally, on the political issues and environment in the state. Analytical data highlighted from selected YouTube videos through "YouTube's Insight" illustrated the age group, gender, geographic location of the viewership. Faculty at the presentation were engaged and, at times, overwhelmed of the emotion from the documented videos.

One faculty commented, "I was at the March 12th protests in Madison, and seeing the video makes my hair stand up on the back of my neck." Another faculty member, who originally was from Iran reflected, "I thought this footage was from Washington, DC!" I informed her that no, this was shot in Madison. She continued by saying that these protests look like the ones in Iran over 30 years ago.

More presentations and writings are planned for this topic. If you'd like to know more, or contribute, please let me know. Let's discuss, collaborate, and learn.