Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Outstanding classroom spaces

A recent LinkedIn question got me thinking about the optimal learning environment.

Posted here to save mouse-clicks was my response to the question . . .

What are, in your opinion, some of the best classroom and training facility spaces you have seen? What constitutes a condusive (sic) learning space for you, in terms of space, layout, presentation utilities (boards, projectors), integration of technology, etc.
My favorite conducive learning space is one where a facilitator (instructor, professor, teacher, etc.) and participants (students, scholars, etc.) are able to engage, in an environment that encourages learning and is unrestricted by man-made boundaries. The best learning spaces are actually hybrids - with a live and online interface.

Here's why this is so powerful. In the "normal" class, we break up on a Thursday, having had several stimulating discussions during class. On Friday, one of the students sees a news article (or re-reads the chapter or article we were discussing, or talks with a co-worker), and the light bulb goes on over their head regarding the topic discussed the previous afternoon/evening (meaning they "got it"). By Tuesday, he or she has forgotten the original point made during class, and nothing in that (Tuesday) class discussion seems to be an appropriate place to bring it up, so he or she doesn't. Note that in this scenario, the learning opportunities are limited.

In the unlimited learning environment, or "hybrid" (live teaching supplemented with online interactivity) class, the same student reads the same information on Friday. He or she logs in to the Virtual Classroom, and posts the website of the news article, the page/paragraph number of what he read, etc., and says something like, "when we were discussing the possibility that terrorists were funding their operations with drug money, is this what you were talking about?" Another student then responds with a clarification, "not all funding is from drug money," and another, "and not all terrorist organizations have access to drug money." Another posts another link with an explanation, and a fifth posts a counter-position.

Do you see the difference?

This all happens before the weekend even begins, and every student that logs on (even if they don't post) is reminded of what we discussed in the previous class. The professor shows up for class on Tuesday and begins to set up while everyone else has already started reviewing the material from the last class! Honestly, how likely is that with the traditional classroom?

Another reason I feel this is an excellent tool is that there are some students (often referred to as triple type A personalities) who need no encouragement to participate in class. Others (perhaps more introverted) feel more comfortable thinking about their response before they "go public." The discussion board allows for quality participation by both -- kind of like the Answers section here at LinkedIn.

Does that make sense?


What do you think?

No comments: