I had a chance to see a number of interactive and projects-based learning spaces at MIT yesterday, both formal and informal. Jim Crain from the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology gave me a quick tour. Below are some observations/images/impressions from that tour; my main takeaways in a nutshell are:
- it's really important to have lots of old technology writing surfaces (whiteboards, chalkboards) that can, ideally, also be shared
- to make courses in these spaces successful, significant resources went into course redesign
Here are the spaces:
1. Biology projects-based lab space, housed in what used to be a personal computer lab. A bare-bones, cheap, but successful renovation in an old room - total cost was about 25K, most of it for new furniture, and for a rolling sink unit to get water into the room. Microscopes wrre already owned. Existing computers were re-used. The room is used for a freshmen projects-based bio course; only about 18 students. There are several TAs, so the ratio of teaching staff/students is about 1:2. Very successful course; the first time it was run 3 successful patent applications came out of the projects work.
2-4 students share a work table, microscope, computer.
The area at the far end of the room has a large sitting area, whiteboard, projector - this is where the class gathers when it comes together to share/discuss.
2. Dept. of Urban planning and design
Just walked through here on the way to Physics dept. - this space is a good example of the move towards glass and transparency at MIT. The brand-new media lab is the most striking example of that, but even old departments/spaces are being transformed: solid walls separating meeting rooms and classrooms have been replaced; the work and collaboration becoms visible. This gives the are a very different and much more dynamic feeling. In the pictures note: pin-cushion walls onto which posters can be affixed; both ceiling-mounted projectors and large display monitors. Display monitors seem to be more popular
3. Hallway spaces in Physics dept.
What's notable here, other than more glass-walled open rooms, is the proliferation of chalk-boards throughout the hallway spaces, interspersed with seating areas and glassed-in rooms. Chalkboards were used, and all were stocked with chalk and erasers
4. TEAL room 1:
The TEAL rooms are at the other end of the spectrum form the small and staff-intensive bio lab - they seat 100+ students for large Physics intro courses. There are 9 students to a table, i.e. 3 groups of 3. Each 3-person group has a monitor. Numbered whiteboards line the room. There are multiple ceiling-mounted projcetors and projection screens which can be lowered. The numbered whiteboards have fixed cameras trained on them - so it is possible (and apparently often done) to share one whiteboard with the rest of the class via projection. The central console for this room was located in the middle, not the front. Note the cameras for whiteboards and projectors in the images below.
5. TEAL room 2:
Similar to the other TEAL room - but had a class in session. Students working in groups; projection was being used to throw up the problem they were working on. Whiteboards being used by some students to solve problems. One instructor and one TA circulating in the room, helping direct students. Central classroom technology not being used very intensively, if you think about it - spatial organization of the room, project-based approach, availability of whiteboards much more important.