Yesterday I attended the IBM/Melbourne Uni Virtual and Physical Learning Spaces public forum, which was also broadcast live in Secondlife. During Professor William (Bill) J. Mitchell’s keynote speech, he discussed the Stata student street project – a purpose built public space with free wifi (there is free wifi throughout MIT), designed for informal and open collaborative meetings. He spoke of the evolution of architecture, the shifting roles of libraries as a source of information and as a meeting place, influence of ubiquitous computing on public spaces & architecture, and the walls of authority that are tumbling down through the rise of emerging backchannels like Twitter.
Student Street at MIT – image originally uploaded by MIT
There was plenty of other interesting content throughout the day as each working party presented their findings, and attendees were given the opportunity to discuss further during Breakout sessions.
The Architectural Determinism party discussed opportunities for the creation of policies to create comfortable, safe ergonomic spaces with free wifi for students to collaborate. For instance, the potential to convert existing public spaces and university gardens to include powerpoints and tables, so that students no longer need to balance precariously against sculptures, juggling their laptops, multiple phones and sandwiches while trying to collaborate.
The Fragmentation and Recombination working party talked about “seamfulness” and the creation of “beautiful seams” so that fragmentation of Learning Management Systems, devices, storage and access could be exploited. I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately; how we instinctively try to recombine and integrate or create a “home” for things but how there is something quite wonderful about the fragmentation of the web. I really liked this idea of seamfullness. The questions raised yesterday included “which seams are important? Who should manage it?”
Our Segmentation and Integration working party highlighed events as a common theme in the creation of communities and the importance of enablement, purpose and resource.
Community Engagement was an interesting theme, with the discussion around physical icons in public spaces (for instance artwork, water fountains etc) as memorable and formative in the development of community spaces.
The Control working party posed questions around the shift of power from staff to students, the growing need for staff to develop facilitation skills, informal spaces on campus, and the diminishing role of the uni in the social dimension of the “university experience”.
The concept of “Bazaars” as an exchange of ideas, swapping and linkages was put forward by the Teaching and Learning boundaries working party, and I believe it raised some interesting discussion during the breakout session!
Overall, there were some great observations and insights from all participants. Emerging themes that I noted from the event:
- Enablement of individuals to use technology, to collaborate, to create communities
- Respect of the voice of the student and different learning styles
- Information literacy and the growing role it plays in the life of students and teachers
- Interdependency between physical and virtual learning spaces
- Life long learners and knowledge workers. Developing a culture of learning, not just courses and content.