As Net Generation students walk the corridors and cross campus, they’re constantly connected—to iPods, cell phones, and laptops—moving seamlessly between their “real” lives and their digital personas. Today’s students are more digital, more mobile, and more social than previous generations. They build complex social networks through online games and sites such as Facebook, spawning impromptu and dynamic affinity groups and complex social webs. They create and share content with a worldwide audience, finding Internet glory on Flickr, MySpace, and YouTube. When they walk through the doors of their campus classrooms, however, they frequently leave behind these fast-paced, technology-rich environments, entering spaces they feel disconnected from and confined by in comparison. They encounter spaces designed for the transfer of knowledge from expert to student, not for active, learner-centered activities designed to engage students and cultivate new forms of learning.
The changes in our students and an evolving understanding about how people learn generate new discussions about the roles of technology and pedagogy in the design of learning spaces. How can we design spaces that facilitate the active construction of knowledge? How can a physical space support flexibility, interactivity, and collaboration? Is the curriculum a factor? That is, are the implications of learning space design for a history class the same as those for a physics course? Are there emerging practices (or guiding principles) to designing technology-rich learning environments? We know—and students tell us—that learning spaces can significantly influence teaching and learning, but how do we maximize that impact? What role will technology play? And what role should pedagogy play?
We met in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the 2008 ELI Fall Focus as we revisited those emerging trends and changing practices in learning space design first explored at the 2005 ELI Fall Focus Session. This session brought together a variety of professionals to examine how today’s technologies and ongoing research on learners and learning theory can create new opportunities for the design of physical and virtual learning spaces.
We focussed on:
- Rethinking formal and informal spaces to encourage participatory learner-centered activities and collaboration
- Emerging trends in learning space design, including new criteria to model learning theory in the classroom
- Designing for the disciplines
- Connections between learning space design and student outcomes
- Emerging practices for designing technology-rich learning environments
- Assessment strategies for designing and evaluating learning spaces