The Mosaic Initiative regularly invites the Learning Spaces team to observe class meetings in Mosaic classrooms, we call these gatherings Classroom Observations. These Classroom Observations are a great way to bring stakeholders together that might not normally engage and to encourage conversations around the intent of space design and actual use.
On November 13th, 2017, we held a Classroom Observation in LE 104 on the IUPUI camps with Professor Lisa Contino (Psychology) and several members of the Learning Spaces team. (To see Lisa’s perspective on this observation, read Part 1 of this blog series.)
During the observation, the Learning Spaces team and Mosaic staff watched the class session, taking notes of what we noticed, questions that arose, and noted what tools were used and not used during the class meeting. At the end of the class meeting, the instructor, Lisa, passed out a very simple anonymous survey asking students what about the room helped their learning, and what about the room hindered their learning.
After the class session ended, the Learning Spaces team members, the Instructor, and our Mosaic Staff immediately sat down to debrief about the experience. We talked about our notes and questions as well as quickly reviewed students shared her questions and what she found most and least useful about the design of LE 104.
IU’s Principal Learning Spaces Engineer, Gary Cummins, was one of the team members able to attend this class observation. A few weeks after the experience, we asked him a few questions about his experience and what it meant for his team. The responses reveal how irreplaceable these unlikely conversations and experiences can be for all those involved.
What it was like to observe the class with your colleagues:
This was my first opportunity to see a class using the technology I helped implement. The experience was invaluable. It was great being able to see both the benefits and pitfalls of an active session and then immediately share those findings with my peers. We were able to see how furniture helped the teaching plan…and since we were sitting at a student table…we were able to see how furniture can literally be in the way.
What you got out of the conversation with Lisa:
Lisa was amazing. It was a fantastic session where she showcased both the “digital” and “analog” aspects of this room. After class, our conversation seemed to focus on ease of use of the technology. In previous classes, she was confident that she knew how to use the control system to show each student table their own computer, but when she tried it wouldn’t work. The issue ended up being that the computers were going to sleep. That problem sparked a couple of ideas.
- The instructor should never have to “troubleshoot” the technology. We have enough resources during the design and programming stage, that key notifications like this should be apparent to the instructor. In this case, we should have visual indicators on the user interface that there was no signal from the appropriate computers.
- We should not have our computers going to sleep. The energy savings would be insignificant and would drastically improve functionality in the room.
Both issues are easy to fix and could be implemented within a couple of hours but would have increased productivity in the class.
What you got out of the feedback from the students:
They absolutely loved the learning environment of room. Being in peer groups, technology enhancements, and the furniture all seemed to draw great feedback.
I was, however, immediately drawn to the Cons section of each student’s feedback. I know why the room is good…I really wanted to know why it wasn’t. It seemed that most students agreed with Lisa. The technology is a beneficial learning tool but becomes frustrating when it doesn’t work. The primary lesson I took away is that malfunctioning technology not only hinders the instructor from teaching, but it also causes a challenge for the students as well. Focus on the lesson is lost when they see the instructor struggling.
What happened after the meeting:
The design team took two major action points away from the meeting. The first and most pressing was to resolve the issue of computers at the student tables going to sleep. While we weren’t able to change the timeout of the computer, we were able to add a visual cue on the user interface for the instructor. Each table can now show that there isn’t a signal from the computer and text explaining a resolution. My team also noticed that it would be difficult to choose which table should show on the video wall. There are numbers adhered above the TV of each table, but they are difficult to see from a distance. We decided that a distinctive back-lit number above each TV would make it extremely easy to choose. It also added the benefit of a flashing “Help Us” light. In a new classroom design, students will be able to press a button to flash their light notifying the instructor that they have a question.