Involved in the Parklife project is one of our Learning Technologists and he was kind enough to observe a session in a Learning Commons on Friday, these are his observations:
I’ve observed two Park Life sessions, with the aim of looking at how students use the physical environment and the use of the technology they have to hand.
In both cases, groups seemed comfortable with the concept of dispersing within a designated area and being lightly supervised by roaming tutors. A few students had physical impairments that made the most direct dispersal routes difficult or impossible to use, so forming and reforming on a locus in a Learning Commons should, ideally, be physically easy in a bespoke environment. It was noticeable that groups were less willing to disperse in the last seminar group, but whether this is a sign of wanting to be quickly aware of a dismissal or just the growing darkness making dispersal less attractive is unclear.
During both sessions, groups had been tasked to capture ideas as a group and select a favoured answer or solution. At the end of October, it was noticeable that the most popular way of capturing information was using pen and notebook, with a few laptops and tablets in evidence. In this session, smartphones were widely used for research.
In the December session less research was required as the focus was on collecting opinion, which might account for the lower level of smartphone use, or this might also have been increased engagement with the task. While paper notebooks were in evidence in this session too, fixed and mobile whiteboards, along with student laptops, were much more evident. Efficiently capturing and sharing ideas – especially among the larger groups of four or more – is clearly something that needs facilitation within a Learning Commons.
It would be interesting to know how students are sharing information amongst their groups so that we can consider ways to support them – this might be a physical tool or just advice on how best to do this. I will try and do this informally on my next observation, but it needs to be taken into account in the final survey of student attitudes to the project.