The physical setting in which instruction occurs is not simply a neutral backdrop, without influence or importance. Indeed, the physical setting will affect the learners' behavior...[both] directly, by the behaviors the setting allows, and indirectly or symbolically, by the message the setting communicates about what behaviors are permitted,...and what the roles of the learner and teacher should be. (Weinstein, 1992, p. 6; emphasis in original)
At the IDP event on March 14, Brenda Farmer, ETS Senior Learning Environment Designer, introduced us to the new Active Learning Classroom "Test Kitchen" in 127 Dwinelle. The room has freely configurable seating; four monitors capable of showing two different images for video, web or slide presentations; and moveable white boards (Steelcase Huddleboards) for group collaboration. There are no computer workstations, so laptops would have to be brought in for library instruction involving individual or small group work on computers. There are a limited number of floor outlets, but power strips with multiple rotating plugs are available.
Brenda described the ways in which the room is currently being used; one film studies professor uses half a dozen different seating configurations, depending on the class activity. Student comments have generally been positive. Participants discussed ways in which this classroom might enhance learning activities, both in the context of library instruction and more generally. As Smith (2002) has noted, most computer classrooms have been designed to support individual mimetic learning at the expense of group interaction; this "test kitchen" is designed specifically to encourage collaborative learning activities. Brenda encouraged library instructors to apply to use the active learning classroom using ETS' web form (requires CalNet login).
Smith, S. A. (2002). Designing collaborative learning experiences for library computer classrooms. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 11(2), 65-83.
Weinstein, C. S. (1992). Designing the instructional environment: Focus on seating. In: Proceedings of Selected Research and Development Presentations at the Convention of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (ED348039)