Learning Spaces (2)

Earlier in the week I posted on the importance of appropriate Learning Spaces to effective teaching and learning.

Gardner directed attention to the July/August 2005 Educause Review whose theme is “Learning Space Design.” I’ve read the Review and want to report back. The first two featured articles are about design and planning of learning spaces. I didn’t find them all that exciting. But the third article was something else. The article was “Future of the Learning Space: Breaking Out of the Box” by Phillip D. Long and Stephen C. Ehrmann. It was the answer to my earlier posting, exploring a variety of ways that the learning space can revolutionize teaching and learning. I particularly recommend the two sections titled, “From Ubiquitous Computing to Situated Computing,” and “Distributed Real Time Classrooms.” This was the most powerful discussion of why learning spaces matter that I’ve ever seen. Here’s a piece that particularly struck a chord:

So, should all lectures be translated into readings and digitized? We certainly need to go some distance in that direction. Faculty time is too precious to waste it doing something that a streaming video could do as well or better (students can replay streaming content as many times as they like in order to grasp a subtle point, and they can watch such lectures anytime and anywhere they need to).

However, there are many reasons why interactive lectures�lectures that are influenced, moment by moment, by the students�are likely to continue to be useful. [Emphasis added; this point reflects back to my question from earlier postings about the purpose of class sessions.] If students feel that the instructor is paying attention to them, interactive lectures can help motivate them and make them think about what is being discussed. Faculty can adjust content �on the fly� in response to students and to recent changes in the discipline. Good lectures are the educational equivalent of good performance art, and some faculty are artists in this medium. Unfortunately, however, that�s not true of all faculty all the time, so rethinking the balance of broadcast and engaged interaction can significantly leverage those face-to-face lectures with technology that augments collaboration.

Shifting some or most one-way presentations from face-to-face to homework (that process began years ago with textbooks and readings) frees time for more interactive formats, when students can schedule times to interact with faculty and other students. Asynchronous interaction and project work can be done when students are outside classrooms too. The challenge, as all faculty know, is how to be sure that students come to class prepared. Fortunately, technology can help.

You may notice that there’s nothing explicit about learning spaces in this quote. That’s because the emphasis of the article is, as it should be, on the pedagogy, not the infrastructure. Reminds me of a not-very-old proverb: “It’s not the technology; it’s the pedagogy the technology enables.”

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5 Responses to Learning Spaces (2)

  1. Great stuff. Ehrmann and Long are top-drawer people. You may remember Long from the draw-the-physics-experiment presentation at ELI in New Orleans last January. And Ehrmann’s associated with the TLT Group and heads up their Flashlight initiative.

    That last quotation is certainly true–but it’s also true (and you and I have talked about this) that technology enables us to think about pedagogy in fresh ways. That’s the real challenge, it seems to me: not just letting the machines help us do the same old things more efficiently, but thinking about ways in which IT augments human intellect and interaction, then applying those ideas to new ways of thinking about fundamental pedagogical challenges and goals.

    To put it another way, what would an ideal school look like? What is education for, anyway?

  2. Jeff says:

    Why to get a job, of course…. 😉

  3. Cynic! Yes, or a realist.

    I’m tempted to say that we get a job in order to fund lifelong learning instead of getting an education to find lifelong employment, but I’m dangerous that way.

  4. Jeff says:

    I’ve shaped my life in accordance with your view on this issue. The question is how many other people do.

  5. Steve Myers says:

    “It’s not the technology; it’s the pedagogy the technology enables.â€? I too have used this, but not in this eloquent manner. I may have to use this…

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