By Thea Morgan, March 2019
Our Engineering Design students have been trialling out our two new collaborative, technology enabled design studios this teaching block. The brain-child of CAME’s Sean Lancastle and Joel Ross, this introduction of the very latest in technology enhanced learning has been eagerly awaited by both students and teaching staff. The two studios together have capacity for 72 students.
The exciting new spaces contain ‘pods’ for group design work, with each pod featuring a leaf-shaped table for six students, a large display screen, and a Microsoft Surface Studio. Each pod is linked to the main lectern, which itself has a Surface Studio and main display screen behind. From here you can control all six pods, which can either be in ‘teaching mode’ for lecturing (all pods show the lecture slides), or ‘collaborative mode’ for group work (each pod displays its own Surface Studio content). The Surface Studios are installed with digital sketching software (Autodesk Sketchbook), allowing students to sketch directly onto the screen.
Early feedback from students on the new spaces has been excellent. They love the Surface Studios, and the possibility they provide of group interactive sketching and design work. The Surface Studios also enable the keeping of group digital design logs, where all project information can be recorded, manipulated, displayed, and accessed easily as a group. The leaf-shaped tables also help facilitate this collaborative work, by allowing groups to sit facing each other, whilst still having a good view of the pod’s display screen, Surface Studio, and the main lectern.
From a teaching perspective there seems a noticeable difference in how groups are interacting. When working in previous, more conventional lecture-style spaces, groups have had a tendency to splinter into pairs or individuals to work on their own laptops, or to leave the space altogether to use the computer rooms elsewhere in the school. The new pods enable the groups to stay together in one place, and to work-on the same material together. There certainly seems to be more group discussion going on!
Whilst these initial observations are anecdotal, they are promising, and there are plans afoot to carry out formal studies of collaborative learning in these spaces by members of our very own EERG. Watch this space!