This design is for a museum education annex. I’ll explain more in class on Tuesday!
These are the images you created around the key theorist we have been working with this semester. We will revisit them in class tomorrow, and begin to think about them in terms of their relationship to learning spaces.
First, we are in the Krause Innovation Studio, at last. Second, no Cole today. We will marshall on without him, but we still have plenty to talk about. There are (as usual) some opportunities that have arisen as part of the work we are doing with Occupy Learning, and I want to poll the class on those. We have the second synthesis post to discuss and an activity to engage you in that. Finally, we have the new Occupy Learning posts to admire and see where we are in the process of our movement. This coming week brings a community themed post for the two teams and week one of the next two week cycle for Occupy Learning posts.
- Occupy Learning
- New Occupy Posts
- Commissioned work in Learning Spaces
- Journal article for Journal of Learning Spaces
- Three Themes/Synthesis Posts
- Community Themed Posts
- New Occupy Classrooms
- Wenger pg. 230 – 277
Our given challenge for the week is to yet again hitch up the wagons and recursively circle Community, Identity, and Design. The ‘design‘ of this course overtly prompts us as participants to continually return and reassess our understandings of these three themes through habits of mind, modes of participation, and social practices and processes that revisit our core themes within the contexts of learning and teaching. Recursive practice is a repetition of a procedure. Our readings and blog posts recursively draw us into readings and writings surrounding the three core themes, yet although we repeat the procedure, our encounters are not returns to static points but new encounters with something known before but now seen in a new light, through a new lens. Our journeys as individuals, as teams, and as a larger class tint our ‘looking glass’ in particular ways. Indeed our lenses are likely ‘tinted’ in ways that differ from classes, individuals, and teams before us because of our community and individual identities, our shared repertoires.
Google Doc as Our Learning Map
Nearly two-thirds of the way through the course, the metaphor of the journey seems appropriate for the ways we may consider our synthesis post at this point. Surely, journey has taken on literal meaning for us as we venture out to ‘occupy’ learning in various spaces across campus. Journeys connote movement along paths and may include discovery and perhaps new understandings. Adopting the journey metaphor as the lens through which we consider this week’s post, we look back reflexively at the path behind us. Reflexivity permits us to consider how our own individual processes of coming to know and consider the core themes formed along the journey. Our mode of participation for reading discussion has been writing via the Google Doc established at the start of the semester. Although our team has utilized other modes (Skype & Google Hangout discussions and in-person meetings) and other media (email & Flikr), our written work in the Google Doc reflects our immediate, and necessarily “rough”, reactions to the readings and our encounters with learning in classroom spaces. Consequently, we chose to look back at the path we charted in our collective Google Doc as the material trail with which to analyze and our journey.
Visualizing Perceptions with Many Eyes
Our in-class discussion of IBM’s online visualization tool Many Eyes revealed a potential path to blend our team’s interest in visuals along with our reflections on the course readings. Visuals are used in many ways in the research community and in learning contexts. More traditional conceptions of visuals are used as illustrations for topics discussed in the written portion of the text. However, visuals can also provide new perspectives, new ways of looking and of learning. In our case, our looking through the glass of Many Eyes provided a sort of evolution of synthesis from illustration to new, previously unknown or unseen perspectives on our own work.
Many Eyes offers a range of visual representations for data, both numeric and written text. Our interest in using a word-based document limited our options to Word Tree, Tag Cloud, Phrase Net, and Word Cloud Generator. Word Tree and Phrase Net appear to be the best options for visualizing relationships along our journey. Word Tree functions upon the principle that the researcher must specify the coordinating or primary focus for the tree with the selection of core words. The natural choices appeared to be our themes for the post. The first tree “Community of Practice” is displayed below; however, this visualization appears to merely function in the traditional sense, restating or illustrating text. No clear ‘new ways of seeing’ were gained.
A similar restatement of text was found when the Word Tree was used for identity and design. Again, neither visualization appeared to ‘say’ anything new. However, when the medium was changed, the meaning became visible rather than simply text. Uploading our Google Doc to Many Eyes and using the Phrase Net analysis tool channeled our writing into an analysis path that looked for relationships or themes that surfaced in our writing. In other words, rather than specifying search criteria prior to creating the visualization as an illustration of text, Phrase Net facilitated our discovery of ideas that were important to us in our recursive practice of examining the themes through written discussion.
Please select the link above to view the full image of the relationships that Phrase Net revealed.
Note that relative importance is depicted through larger font size and relationships among topics or concepts are indicated with arrows of varying density corresponding to the emphasis we gave those concepts in our written discussion.
Adopting a reflexive lens, we discovered that Phrase Net not only created a visualization of our document but also permitted us to look through the surface-level glass of our course themes to see the substance of our discussions – the entanglement of ideas, priorities, and journeys. This new lens helped us come to know and understand our own learning (embodied in our Google Doc) and the themes of community, identity and design not as destinations but as vehicles that have brought us through journeys that emphasize learning as social, distributed, and situated as we consider readings (primarily Wenger as a pivotal influence), spaces, and identities.
Layered Visual Understandings
The image can be read in many ways that help us consider major and minor threads. Following what appear to be minor threads in the visualization, for example, reveals converging pathways to larger meanings. The ‘blog’ connects to ‘post’ via a slightly larger thread and follows through to ‘shared’ ‘language’ ‘making’ ‘meaning’ in a parallel construction with the ‘post’ connecting to ‘shared’ ‘technology’. These threads convene through ‘design’, ‘social’, and ‘learning’. ‘Learning’ looms as a larger surface formed through the contributing threads of ‘social’ and ‘design’, and in turn feeds ‘community’, ‘space’, ‘contexts’, ‘identities’, and our occupy learning destinations.
There is an inherent value in exploring our work reflexively through the Phrase Net visualization as it brings the essence of our interests as a community of practice to the visible surface. Synthesis as recursive practice in this course then serves as a check-point to not only explore the course themes but to also reflexively consider our own positions an identities as collaborating peers in terms of the purpose for our practice, our mutual engagement, and our shared repertoire. Our visualization emphasizes our inherent interests to continually address learning as social and community centered. Although overtly examining community, identity, and design on a weekly basis, the strength of our journey is learner centered and social in nature – just where we’d like it to be.
Intellectual: study, reflection, speculation, creative use of intellect
Mash-up: combination or mixing content [mash-uhp]
Artist: creative juxtaposition, appropriation, and re-contextualization
Also, Stayin’ Low.
From the Cluetrain Manifesto’s 95 Theses
Community: (95) We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.
Communities are constantly forming and connecting ideas. They are not standing still, or waiting for someone to tell them what to do; they are making a difference. Occupy Learning is attempting to link to other communities that may have the same concerns as we do. We’re moving forward as a community to try to connect with these other communities by posting an assignment and watching for others to join us.
Identity: (16) Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.
Authenticity and identity are inextricably connected. We can recognize “phoniness” and do not care to be part of its perpetuation.
Design: (85) Your product broke. Why? We’d like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We’d like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she’s not in?
This thesis speaks to the gap between who decides design (the CEO) and who the design is for. Tied to our discussion about Occupy Learning today, we need to begin considering the voices of those who the design is for (of spaces, of products, of tools) instead of only the voices of those in power. When those who use the design want to their voice to be heard, often the decision-makers are not present, don’t want input, and resist change because it’s not their idea. This strikes me as true but backwards.
Hi Internet! The students of CI598 in Spring 2012 would like to give you an assignment. We will be asking you to attend various learning spaces on your campus to better understand the affordances of these spaces related to teaching and learning. We are calling this movement “Occupy Learning.”
Over time we will collect from you, Internet, small reports on spaces on your campuses. The goal is to produce artifacts that contain text, digital images, audio, and video into blog posts all across the Internet. Here are two examples:
Your contribution to this project can follow the criteria below, but feel free to be creative as you work towards your own Occupy Learning artifact.
- Title: University Name, Name of Building, and Room Number
- Top Summary: Select the 3-5 most important constraints and affordances about the teaching and learning space to highlight.
- Background/History/Location: Including, but not limited to, providing detail about the building in which the learning space is found (location on campus and history of construction or renovation). Provide detail concerning how the learning space is primarily used (ex science lecture hall).
- Physical Layout: The overall landscape of the room, including the furniture and fixtures.
- Impact on Learning and Teaching
- Classroom Ambiance: Environmental and intangible elements such as temperature, light, air quality, noise, smells, etc.
- Impact on Learning and Teaching
- User Experience: Describe affordances (opportunities & challenges) for teaching and learning activities and interactions; when possible incorporate comments related to actual scenarios from students, professors, and observers.
- Impact on Learning and Teaching
- Technology: The space includes a wifi network to accommodate mobile devices and/or offers computing devices such as desktop computers or laptops.
- Impact on Learning and Teaching
- Unexpected Phenomena: What about the physical layout of the room or activities within the space that surprised you?
- Improvement Ideas: Share thoughts on how your team might improve the design given the realities of the space.
Tag posts with #occupylearning
When tweeting send to @occupylearning
- Is designed to educate more students, not necessarily educate students better.
- Is designed for teacher-to-student transmission with little personal interaction between students or teacher to student.
- Is teacher-centric. The technology, physical design, and acoustics seem designed so the instructor can be heard, seen, and understood and less that the students can be heard, seen, or understood.
- Assumes a positivistic approach to learning and teaching.
Located in the Eisenhower Auditorium area of campus, Thomas Building was named after Joab Thomas, former president of Penn State. Offering seating for over 700, 100 Thomas offers sophisticated multimedia and computer technology for professors and students along with technical support for its use. Orientation and training sessions are available for all room users, both university faculty and outside parties interested in renting the space. 100 Thomas is used extensively each semester by University classroom courses, but is also available for student organizations, colleges and departments to reserve through the Student Activities Office in 125D HUB.
Comfortable seating, wide aisles, easy access to well marked exits, storage areas, and more. In terms of ADA accessibility, the back row of seats can accommodate a wheel chair or other mobility-enhancer, however not one of those who used them had any visible impairments. They seemed to fill up faster than other sections of chairs (esp. the front rows). The space is a wedge-shape, with about a 60 degree angle to the front of the room. It has one large screen at the front, and two podiums at the very front. The walls are different rectangular modules of green and white. There is also a ADA section in the front row of each side. You may notice that there is a single chair on the aisle side. This is to “mark” the row and give the wheelchair person someone to sit with if desired. The wheelchair can take the elevator down to the bottom level and come in the side door. There is certainly a unified “vanishing point” of instruction that would exist behind the screen at the front of the room; this is where the instructor is supposed to be positioned. The clock is located there, and the projector and sole computer are locked in the line of that vanishing point.
Impact on Learning and Teaching
In this video, Dr. Shannon Sullivan, department head of Philosophy, discusses the challenges, the benefits, and the implications for student learning. She discusses her difficulty accessing/engaging students in the back of the room (where, in our observation, most students sit), her navigation of the room’s technology, and the inherent limitations of a amphitheater-style lecture room.
Based on our data, the room seems to be best fit for transmission-style, direct instruction from teacher to student. As addressed in the video, student-to-student interaction and teacher-to-student interaction are made difficult by the space, although there are certainly examples of ways to make the participation and engagement with and between students wide-spread.
The classroom has no windows, and was kept somewhat chilly on a cold winter’s day. Many students kept their hats, scarves, and/or jackets on. Others placed their outerwear in empty seats, taking up extra seats. Fluorescent overhead lights made the room incredibly bright, washing out the screen projection. A sign on the inside door of the classroom demanded “No Food or Drink Allowed,” but multiple trash and recycling containers were placed around the room. Sounds resonated and seemed to echo across the large space, making coughs, sneezes, and murmurs easily audible.
Impact on Learning
While the space is quite large, the lack of natural light creates a bunker-like atmosphere. Perhaps the colder climate and bright lights are meant to keep the students alert and focused (instead of falling asleep, a very likely situation in a large lecture hall–see Penn State Meme below). However, the lighting washed out the screen projection, making it more difficult to see digital presentations. The sheer number of trash cans and recycling bins easily accessible across the room challenged the no eating policy. Bodily functions are never pleasant to hear, and the profusion of coughing and sneezing was quite jarring.
Comments about the use of the room vary among students and instructors. One student felt that for a large lecture hall, the wide aisles and upholstered seats made the space quite comfortable. She suggested that if you choose to sit close to the front, it had the feeling of a smaller classroom. Another student felt that there were only certain parts of the room that are conducive to participating (the front rows of sections), although the GAs roam around the room with microphones so student responses and questions can be heard. When taking an exam, students were given alternately colored test booklets and after only 30 minutes, students began to get up, hand in their exams and walk through the hall to the exit.
Impact on Learning
If students have questions about the course content, asking can be difficult. You have to first have your need to ask a question acknowledged, then you must get the attention of a GA with a microphone. However, there are those bold enough to shout out a question from their seat, which two white males were observed doing. Would others be so audacious as to shout out? Two students interviewed, however, said that they had a good relationship with their instructor, having met with her on several occasions during office hours. The space, arguably, does not allow for close contact with the instructor. The lecture hall also does not lend itself to small group discussions.
Some professors have invited students to talk to the person beside them or stand and turn to a partner, but with 700 students, debriefing these experiences are difficult to personalize. When taking an exam, there were distractions as students finishing early begin to move to the front to hand in their testing materials and then exit to the rear. Thirty minutes into the exam, there was a lot of movement, clearly creating a distraction for those still working. From the instructors point of view, those who utilize 100 Thomas are often interested in using different types of media as part of their presentation. Professors, such as Sam Richardson, are able to use the space quite effectively by being willing to “walk” while instructing, asking for student participation and getting in close proximity to students. Amina, a teaching assistant in philosophy, illuminates these points from an instructional perspective.
100 Thomas offers a wide assortment of technology choices for instructors. A PC and Mac for projection purposes can both be running at the same time while also taking a texting survey. Music can be playing from an iPod or similar device as class is beginning by merely “plugging in” upon arrival. There is a microphone on the podium and also lapel mics are available. An interactive touch screen allows instructors to monitor their computer screen and interact as needed. The computer monitors are password protected for added safety. There are speakers behind the porous front screen, a large center channel speaker above the screen and two rows of round fill speakers embedded in the ceiling in the back to balance the sound throughout the space. Tools such as a digital document camera and laser pointers are also available. Clickers are also utilized in this space, but must be purchased by students. Settings to control the lighting have been modified to make the adjustment settings more user friendly. Outlets are located on both sides of the room and are also embedded in each student chair and in the ADA table space in the back of the room.
Impact on Learning
The plethora of technology available definitely provides an enhancement to learning in such a large space. Although there is often a significant amount of whispering and murmuring, the professor’s voice is still very audible through the microphone. PowerPoints are usually easy to follow, although one student shared that occasionally the PowerPoint doesn’t project properly and when that happens, it’s very difficult to follow the instructor’s lecture. Students are often able to purchase printouts of the PowerPoints ($20) but they are not eligible for buy-back. Clickers also impose a financial burden on students. Overall, the technology plays a central role in delivering the content and setting the stage for instruction in 100 Thomas.
Unexpected Issues or Positives
The sheer number of students visiting 100 Thomas every day makes it a target for solicitors. During one visit on a Thursday afternoon, a young woman from a sorority (who was not in the class being held) stationed herself at the front door and passed out fliers to a charity event. Her organization assigned different members to this duty on different days. The cavernous room was also once home to a bat, and animal services had to be called and classes were canceled until it was captured. Much of the room’s equipment is publicly accessible, and the supervisory technician spends time reorganizing the setup before classes start in the morning. The space is first come, first served when classes are not scheduled. Since outside scheduling is completed separated from class scheduling, double-bookings occur.
Impact on Learning
Although we are constantly bombarded with promotional materials, students may feel uncomfortable fending off hustlers while entering a classroom. On the other hand, this method of advertising appeals to those who block out other means of communication. Catching a bat is one of the coolest reasons for canceling classes, although professors may not have been as amused with missing course time. Movable and accessible equipment also has its shortfalls. The supervisory technician recalled a time when the tables and podiums were moved and one of the wires broke. One quick fix that could easily solve a common issue is instating a better scheduling system that avoids double-booking the room.
- Embed an amplification mechanism for student voices to be able to speak across to each other and be heard easily (ceiling mics/mics that pick up sound built into the railings, perhaps). Students need to be heard as much as being able to hear. This problem is illuminated by Jimmy, an undergraduate student.
- Create an aisle through the middle of the rows. This means more one more column of space and more access for instructor, professor, and teaching assistants to students. Students and instructors can have more one-on-one contact if space would enable it.
- Develop swivel and lock mechanisms on the chairs so students can easily create small groups between partners/trios/quartets within the spaces they are in.
- There’s a glare on the white board/paper projection that makes, based on your position, the board difficult to read. The light reflects at particular spots based on your angle. Perhaps put the lighting toward the front of the space on a dimmer.
- Several students in the back of class commented on their difficulty reading the board: “What’s that say? I can’t even read that”; “Can you make it bigger?”; “What’s that on the bottom left say?”
- There are long, wide tables in the back with built-in plugs in the back. These tables could easily be used for places of collaboration if they were smaller and had attached, swiveling chairs.
Our Occupy Learning assessment for 100 Thomas Building can be accessed through the following link: