a framework for designing student learning environments for the future

Affordances in local and International settings

In simple terms the ‘affordances’ offered by a room or space are things that the room lets you do.  A room may be outfitted with wireless, so that students and staff can tap into the internet.  Or it may be large enough to afford drama students to put on a play for fellow students.  In our travels to learning spaces in the United States and Europe we discovered that the affordances of the room must be intuitively grasped by the users of the room – the flow of the learning space must not be disrupted by confusion about how to use the room – and it is the design principle where the physical and the virtual really come into play.  And affordances do not replace the teacher – instead their role is to enable a variety of teaching method – it is the blend of technology and teaching that is key to the SKG approach.

The basement of the ultra modern North West Science Building at Harvard University is an open space available for a variety of uses – from student exhibitions to theater productions to Conferences. The large red sofas can be reconfigured to suit the situation.

The chalk to plasma continuum is in evidence in this refitted classroom at Harvard University. Many Professors at the University still prefer to use a blackboard for teaching so this classroom has incorporated traditional teaching methods with high tech advances. Notice the wires supporting the technology have been discreetly embedded into the wall below the blackboard.

Students in the STATA centre MIT. Notice the power outlets neatly tucked in under the seating – this allows the students to plug in their own laptops and the open wifi access means they are not restricted to the MIT site only.

The STATA centre at MIT has open wifi access and a variety of seating arrangements so students can work alone or in groups.

These Mobile Collaborative Workstations (MOCOW) set up in a classroom at Stanford University allow groups of two or three students to break out during a class and work together on the big screen. The MOCOW’s are on wheels so they can be moved to different parts of the room. Using software such as Teamspot  the screens can be accessed by the students own laptop or one of the laptops the university provides with the room.

This odd shaped room in the Meyer Library Stanford University affords multiple uses as it has sturdy but flexible push/pull tables that can be moved against the wall, chairs on wheels, whiteboards, partitions and powerpoints hidden under the carpet – notice the square ‘lid’ on the carpet bottom left of photo.

Stanford University have set up this square room with a variety of flexible furniture, and a range of technological options, to provide a space to enable teachers to trial different configurations and  technologies to determine which suits their teaching needs the most.

The coating on the glass walls in the North West Lab Building at Harvard University not only lets the light in and doubles as a white board, but also offers the occupants of the rooms some privacy.

This simple design – a table with square corners – allows more students and staff at MIT to sit around a table.

These informal learning booths have been placed in a corridor outside a classroom at Stanford University, allowing an easy break up of the class for group work. As the booths have access to power and wifi they are often used by students outside of class time.

This classroom in the Wallenburg Hall, Stanford University, has tables and chairs on wheels so the room can be configured by the class to suit their learning purposes. It also has polyvision screens, a bank of 20 Macbooks, and wireless keyboard so any student can use any one of the Macbooks to start presenting on the screen.  The flexible furniture and technology provided make the ‘action possibilities’ of this room endless!!

Further Information

Read more about how Stanford University use the Teamspot software in their group spaces.

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