Tuesday, October 09, 2007

We all know what that looks like...


David Stow
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
You may or may not know that the Education Faculty of the University of Strathclyde (where I work) is going to move. The plan is to move us from the Jordanhill Campus to a new location in the town centre by 2010. It will be a shame to leave the old buildings and all the history behind when we move but it is interesting to consider what it will be like - "State of the art and fit for purpose. An education building fit for the 21st century." we are told.

There has been consultation on the design, but from where I am, it has mostly been bickering about how big our offices should be. :-) However, recently I found myself on a sub-committee looking at the AV/IT support that should be available in the new building's learning spaces. We were looking at three levels of provision for three types of rooms: rooms for small groups, rooms for medium sized groups and "lecture theatres" for large groups. We had a good first meeting talking about how the spaces could be used and the kind of activities they could support. It was good to talk about learning and teaching issues rather than just who gets what space.

However, it was a throw away comment made near the end of meeting that really started me thinking. The chair of the meeting said something like, "Lecture theatres, well we all know what they look like..." and the discussion moved swiftly on to the other types of rooms. It was only afterwards that it struck me that I know what lecture theatres look like just now, but what about a lecture theatre that's "fit for the 21st century"?

What do we want from a space that can hold hundreds of students? What should a lecture theatre look like? Can it be designed to support effective learning where there is one lecturer and hundreds of students? Can we justify dedicating such a large space to this way of learning?

Over to you. What do you think a lecture theatre should look like?


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7 comments:

Chris said...

Erm....something in Second Life? (I was at one t'other day)

Seriously, though - what will happen to the current campus? Part of my youth, that!

Kenneth... said...

David,
you're welcome to visit the St Andrew's Building to see how Glasgow University has arranged the facilities. I'd be glad to show you around and answer any questions.
Kenneth...

David said...

Hello Chris

The current campus will be sold off for housing. As far as I know, the David Stow Building is listed, so I guess they'll just gut it and turn it into flats.

Hello Kenneth

(Thanks again for the moustache movies - TacheBack - the final push!)

The Building User Group - the BUG group :-) - has seen a good number of buildings already. It's not so much about how others have arranged their facilities as have they've got it right? So the question is, did Glasgow get it right? Does the lecture space work? Will it continue to work and serve the needs of your learners for the next 15 years? ...And can you tell us honestly without getting the sack? :-)

Rebeca said...

Well, a lecture theater should at least have desks for students to write on or chairs with a small desk built in...
Happy October Break!

David said...

Hello Rebeca

Thanks for the comment. However, I want to think a bit more radically. For example, do we really need desks or writing surfaces? If everyone has a handheld computer, do they need a desk? Perhaps each seat could have tablet style computer on a flexible arm.

Is getting students to write stuff down the best way to arrange things anyway? Do we just want them to listen? Do we want them to be active, or discussing, or adding notes to the main display for everyone to see (assuming there is a "main" display)?

What do we want at each seat?
- A microphone?
- A network access point?

Do we want the seats to be movable or fixed? Do we want lines of students or some other arrangement?

There are lots of possibilities, many which would be too expensive or impractical but I wanted to brainstorm. Has anybody reading this got ideas about how we could change the way we look at lecture spaces?

Barry Hudson said...

Hey David, I was thinking about some research that I came across when I was doing my Masters about a lecture theatre in the states. Students were given wireless tablets to share between the rows and an IM system set up that allowed them to chat to each other and to the lecturer when they wanted. The lecturer would show worked examples or challenges on the big board and whomever had the tablets at that point would then draw their contributions up on the big board with other students encouraged to type in or vocalize their comments.

David said...

Hello Barry

Interesting. I don't suppose you can find that research again?