FUTURE ROOMS: THE INTELLIGENT USE OF SPACE | Tech Learning

Surely you’ve heard the not-so-funny joke that if Rip Van Winkle were to wake up today he’d recognize only one thing: the classroom, with its cookie-cutter rows of desks and a blackboard and teacher up front. But we all know that mobile devices allow digital learning to take place anywhere—on a bus, a beach, a bed, or at a ball game. That’s why some districts are turning their libraries, unused closets, and classrooms into open, collaborative spaces that better reflect the open, collaborative learning of today.

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Across the country schools are rethinking how to design learning spaces. In this article it’s not just libraries that are the target. Districts, like Elizabeth Forward near Pittsburgh, have created game design spaces, maker spaces in former technology education rooms, and immersive learning in a former classroom.

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Collaborative Learning Spaces: Classrooms That Connect to the World

[I serve as the co-chair for the CoSN Emerging Technologies Committee. One of our future reports will look at Remaking Learning Spaces. Here’s an Edutopia article that outlines innovative ideas and technology to make those spaces more collaborative and global.]

October 16, 2015

Photo credit: Brad Flickinger via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Editor’s note: This post is co-authored by Fran Siracusa, co-founder of and educational technologist for Calliope Global.

As citizens of the world, students in today’s classrooms seek global contexts for learning. Opportunities for networked and international collaborations are bringing both the world to classrooms and classrooms to the world. With a focus on international standards of instruction, globally-minded programs inspire students to be curious through investigation and reflective in analysis of thought. These pathways lead to the development of cultural literacy by allowing students to examine issues of global significance through interconnected sharing of experience and exchange of ideas. Collaborative learning spaces empower students to work with each other and with students in classrooms of the world to assume multiple perspectives, explore alternative solutions, and thoughtfully solve problems.

By examining the landscape of the classroom, educators can design collaborative learning spaces that will support the teaching and learning of skills needed for the interconnected world of today and tomorrow. By seamlessly connecting pedagogy, technology, and space, teachers can create spaces that promote social learning and maximum engagement. These collaborative classrooms are alive with action — teaching, learning, innovating, creating, making, and exploring. Innovative learning spaces can encourage both individual and collective voices, and, through use of emerging technologies, they inspire students to become skillful curators of their digital worlds. Though there cannot be a single universal blueprint for designing a collaborative learning space, teachers can use the goal of global collaboration to inspire classroom design that allows for connected sharing and learning.

While there are many design ideas that could help drive this transformation, we suggest the following three as a starting point.

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Virtual Reality Space Lets Students Experience Big Data

[In the past few years there have been two movements that have not intertwined – Big Data and Redesigning Learning Spaces. In this Campus Technology article you’ll discover a new space that immerses people in Big Data. It’s a fascinating concept that may change the way we look at both learning spaces and data.]

A new facility at Virginia Tech uses large-scale visuals and sound to immerse users in vast amounts of data.

Virginia Tech’s Cube (photo courtesy of Virginia Tech)

Imagine walking through a black room four stories high, 50 feet wide and 40 feet deep, populated with speakers. As you move through the space wearing a head-mounted display (no mouse, keyboard or joystick needed), you’re immersed in vast amounts of data — both visually and aurally — collected from an actual storm that took place a little more than two years ago. As the recorded data shows the formation of some kind of supercell, your ears detect something distinct from every other sound that permeates the space — akin to hearing your name being spoken across the room during a lively cocktail party. You turn and move toward the sound to explore it further. Before your eyes a gigantic tornado forms. Your experience — and the exploration sparked by it — could result in a better understanding of how to interpret the data generated by tornados such as the one that hit Moore, OK, in May 2013, killing two dozen people and injuring hundreds.

That’s the thinking behind Virginia Tech’s Cube, an adaptable space for research and experimentation housed in the campus’s Moss Arts Center. A joint project of the university’s Center for the Arts and the Institute for Creativity, Arts & Technology (ICAT), the Cube officially opened for business in January but has already hosted numerous performances as well as events in big data exploration and immersive environments.

According to Ben Knapp, director of ICAT, the Cube shows the potential for immersive environments to help remake learning, design and collaboration. “That’s the amazing thing about being immersed in visual and aural and sonic environments — that ability to do what we’ve done for the history of human beings and primates: use our hearing to detect change, to pull things out from patterns and then use our vision to turn around and look and explore that. That’s what the Cube is really able to do.”

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