Monday, January 23, 2012

TEAL Teaching Room at University of Canberra

Last Friday to Saturday I attended Recent Changes Camp 2012, with Wikipedians, in the new TEAL Teaching Room of the "INSPIRE Centre" of the University of Canberra. TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning) is a room set up for a combination of short presentations and student group work.

The room has a flat floor with tables for up to nine students each (total capacity around 100). Normally the presenter stands in the middle of a TEAL room, cabaret style, with the students all around at the tables (the UoC room had the lectern in one corner of the room, but I assume it can be moved to the middle). There are projection screens on all four walls and the walls are entirely converted in white-board paint.

The UoC room is more flexible than than other TEAL rooms, in that there is no fixed furniture: all the tables are on wheels and fold up so they can be packed away. There are no computers provided. There are only a few power points around the walls and ion the center, where computers could be plugged in (people with laptops, rather than tablet computers tended to congregate at the power points).

This flexible room arrangement has the advantage that the room can be filled with rows of chairs for a traditional lecture. This looks a much better idea than the stepped floor approach with fixed furniture which some universities seem to be adopting for new buildings. The rooms with stepped floors and fixed furniture will be very inflexible. It will be very difficult to move furniture up onto the stepped parts of the room and a constant risk of it falling off the edge and injuring someone.

For the event I attended we reconfigured the room several times a day, with chairs in a circle for the morning and afternoon single group sessions, then bringing out the tables for small group work. The vast expanse of whiteboard wall proved very useful, allowing all notes from the three day event to be kept: we started in one corner on day one and worked our way all around the room, filling the last section during the closing session. This provided a very useful group memory.

What also proved useful was to use the projectors on different walls. For the single group sessions all projectors showed the same content. But for other sessions, each screen could show a different presentation for each of four groups.

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