Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Re-designing Learning Spaces for a Laptop Environment

One of the things that I love about my job is that I never really know what my next project will be. This past year I became involved with furniture design. Not in the "lets start with wood and glue" kind of way, but in the "how do we make our open spaces more accommodating to students with laptops" way. We needed to rethink what defined a "learning space" and how we could make the open spaces of our building collaborative areas for students to work. We also wanted to re-think our Media Center space and how that could be made more collaborative.

One of the easiest and biggest changes we made was adding additional power. You could see students all huddled around the power outlets to charge their many devices. We added 16 outlets to each of our atriums - the large gathering spaces in the foyers (i.e. atriums) of our building. This was probably the biggest investment we could have made. We immediately saw students using these areas more.

We then had to think about furniture in those spaces. It needed to be multi-functional (we have "social" events there) and movable, but not so movable students would walk away with it and furnish their dorm rooms with it. In the end we decided on a large collaborative table (seats 6) at cafe height (see how I use those designer terms - I tell you I have a new calling) that had lamps that could be removed and be transformed into a serving buffet. Then we set-up one Atrium to be more comfortable, with lounge chairs and the other atrium with more tables and chairs. On the two-top tables we added plug extenders and lamps that I used zip-ties to attach the cables to the table pedestal. This allowed for cord management, but provided just a bit more of a deterrent for would be thieves. The four-top tables are movable and can be reconfigured to fit our needs. Overall for the past few months we have seen students using the area in all the ways we have intended  and nothing has gone missing!

The Media Center I was less involved with, but just as proud of. They did an excellent job of creating collaborative spaces for students to work together on projects as well as keep places for individuals to do homework or study. My favorite spots are the meeting areas that allow for six laptops to be connected and then switch between users. It truly demonstrates what a 21st century learning space can be!


lindseybp said...

Thank you so much for sharing how you transformed this space into an engaging and organic learning commons that provides for a variety of social and individual learning experiences. I will share this post with colleagues and administrators and have tweeted it.

Kudos to you and your team, Bethany. Great job!

Bethany Smith said...

Thanks! It was nerve racking to make sure everybody was happy with the space, but I am really happy with how it turned out!

Allan Ben said...

Nice post for Laptop Tables Environment.