Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Australian Computer Equipped School Learning Centre

Australian Architecture magazine ("Lilley Centre: Learning and the city" by Clare Newton, May/June 2010) features an excellent article on the new Lilley Centre at Brisbane Grammar School. This is a multipurpose building providing a lecture theatre, smaller teaching spaces, learning commons, library and offices. This was featured on ABC Radio By Design (28 April 2010), and Australian Design Review. The new AA article provides more detail, including floor plans of the building.

The three most prominent features of the floor plans are "The Forum", a lecture theatre seating about 160 and two "Flexible learning and teaching" spaces seating 84 and 60 (or 30 x 2) students. The Forum is a low teared lecture theatre featuring independent chairs and generously sized desks. The front four rows appear to be equipped with computer keyboards (but no screens), presumably for some sort of "clicker" student feedback system.. The Forum appears similar in design to the Advanced Concept Teaching Space (ACTS) in the University of Queensland's General Purpose North Four (GPN4) building.

While providing an impressive looking space, it is not clear what the Forum is for. The stepped floor precludes the use of the room for functions. The spread out nature of the room is inefficient for traditional lectures. The lack of full computer facilities precludes it use for computer based learning. The school might have been better off with a flat floored room with removable furniture and non fixed computer equipment.

One "Flexible learning and teaching" space has 14 oval tables arranged radially in a roughly circular room. Each desk has three chairs facing on two sides. At the outer end of each table there appears to be a large flat screen. There appears to be a space left in the centre of the room for a teacher. The arrangement appears similar to the Personal pods in GPN4. These appear to be designed for teams of up to six students to work on projects.

What is most interesting is the other "Flexible learning and teaching" space. This is hourglass shaped, with the room bisected by a removable partition. With the partition closed there are two rooms each with five desks of six students. The desks all point towards a projection screen in the middle of the removable partition. This room appears to be design for larger group work. With the partition removed the room is roughly circular. While the removable wall provides flexibility, it is not clear where presentations are projected onto in this format.

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