Experiencing the Learning Lab
Q&A with Shelly Richardson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Social Work
Why did you want to use the Learning Lab (Science 1206) for your class?
The first attractive quality was Jane Sims' excitement, experience, passion and research on the interaction with students and technology to engage in learning. Jane, Amy, Meg, and Eric made sure I was trained on the room, the hardware and the software. Jane and Amy trained me on active learning techniques to scaffold learning in this setting, Meg was on call during my class times if there was any back up needed, Eric came into the class and provided technical support (particularly for Mac users) and also taught us tricks for using Google Drive and storing Zoom videos.
I teach face to face classes in research and policy. These are classes that can seem dry to students based on the course description. All of my classes are hybrid and I use a flipped classroom approach to teaching. The active learning classroom was a natural fit to my approach. My students are starting to fall into the Generation Z category and need to be aware of how to use technology to interact with each other and the world as this will be the expectation when they are in the field. I want to make the classroom experience as interesting and as applicable as possible for them.
What benefits are there to having a modular teaching space like the Learning Lab?
In other classrooms I do not have space to write on boards when I use technology on the projector, the tables and chairs are hard to move around in other classrooms to create a small group learning environment, and I have to interrupt groups constantly to gauge where they are at. In the Learning Lab, I am on my feet interacting with students constantly because I can physically see where they are at by examining their white boards, laptops, or TV screens from across the room. I can intervene at the teachable moments instead of interrupting the learning process.
What advice would you give to instructors who want to teach in spaces like the Learning Lab?
Meet with someone from the Academic Technology Team first, they will listen and provide you with great ideas and examples. Know that you are not alone if you choose to use the Learning Lab. The team will give you ideas that have the potential to amp up to something you never thought possible. In my case, I would call it "mind blowing".
How do you see spaces like the Learning Lab changing your style of teaching?
My time with the students is more efficient and effective, which gives it more value. I am interacting the entire time in the classroom, interjecting at critical moments of the student's processing, and promoting the concept of "learning by doing" with technology.
What is the student's response to learning in the Learning Lab?
After every class they tell me how much the love the space, the technology and they want it every class session. Having been in our assigned room and the Learning Lab, they groan when I tell them we will be meeting in our assigned room.
Anything else you'd like to add?
This space would not have the same impact on my teaching and the students learning without the support, enthusiasm, and knowledge of Jane, Amy, Meg and Eric. It is only through their efforts the room, teaching skills, and student's learning come to life through technology. I am with my students, I don't ever want to go back to the "standard" classroom.