After a brief hiatus, RIOT returned this week with the opportunity to reflect on teaching in the Learning Labs and using the new technology, led by Sarah Brandt. The topic was introduced with some guiding questions and an article that covered the TPACK framework, which posits technology as an integrated instructional component, alongside content knowledge and pedagogy.
It was great to hear people share the ways in which the Learning Labs, both the physical space and the technology, have sparked new approaches in instruction and classroom design. Having no obvious front of the room has created a decentralized, flexible arrangement, and the table groupings have allowed for better flow in addressing students and circulating around the room. People also expressed that the screens have provided a positive new structure for group work and collaboration, while also making student work visible, which increases accountability and facilitates discussion. In terms of specific learning outcomes, people felt that the whiteboards had been very useful for keyword instruction and that the screens supported evaluation activities. It was also appreciated that the Learning Labs are ultimately student spaces, which helps create ownership and engagement.
With regard to the TPACK framework and the role of technology, people connected with the idea that technology can refer to any tool, digital or analog, and that its use should be directly tied to what it is you are trying to accomplish. We discussed implementing technology in support of our teaching goals, as opposed to throwing it in because it’s the hot new thing. People also shared the importance of being able to think on your feet and adapt instruction for whatever tools are available or in the event of technical difficulties.
There were also some challenges discussed, namely transitioning between activities, time constraints, and dealing with faculty interruptions. Potential strategies included:
- Have groups assign roles (scribe, reporter, laptop driver) before starting an activity so they know what they’ll be asked to do.
- Tell students the agenda for the whole class (first we’ll be in small groups, then we’re going to share out, etc.), then have a student repeat it back to you.
- Communicate ground rules and expectations for both students and faculty prior to the session.
- Designate a time slot for faculty to make announcements.
- Ask faculty to prep the students beforehand with the purpose and goals of the library session.
- Establish with faculty what can and cannot be covered or included in a session. Suggest multiple sessions or encourage extra activities (tours, browsing stacks) to be scheduled separately.
There was also the opportunity to share any tips or techniques for teaching in the Learning Labs or in general. Some excellent ideas were brought up:
- Play music as students are coming in, creates a welcoming atmosphere and can be a good conversation-starter.
- Give a Google form pre-test, and have the responses live populate on the screens.
- Put questions on the whiteboards for students to answer as they come in.
- Have students use post-its on the whiteboards for organizing keywords or other information.
If you’re interested in additional ideas for teaching with technology, check out this article from the ALA Instructional Technologies Committee.
Need some training or a refresher on using the technology in the Learning Labs? Contact Sarah Dupont, and she’d be happy to meet with you!