Five years ago, I hosted a conversation with my colleagues at RMC about what the classrooms of tomorrow might look like. Since that time, I've led a handful of workshops at conferences where design thinking has similarly led eductors to envision the future. Yesterday I went on a professional development field trip to the Western Active Learning Space at the Weldon Library on the Western University campus where many of the ideas my colleagues dreamt up, have become real.
To add context to the video, you should know that this is the prelimary test of concept space, in the next few weeks, the full scale WALS, consisting of seven learning pods will be opening in as new research classroom on campus. The final design will see the teacher's work station moved to the centre of the room, with each pod moved slightly from the touch sensitive projection screens to more easily facilitate multi-user access.
Each collaborative pod can be accessed by a wide range of mobile devices that connect via Internet to a specific IP address. While each pod has been provided with a notebook computer, any device with the freely downloadable Crestron app, can access any of the seven sub-networks. To foster collaboration, each screen can host simultaneous projections from up to four unique devices.
There are two mounted cameras in the space either of which can be fed to the pod screens. One captures the entire room in 360° and is intended to track student engagement and participation by researchers, the other is a remote controlled camera that can focus on particular area, to record or share the work of any pod or individual.
It's an expensive venture and one that will continue to evolve. From my perspective, I'm content knowing that Western University has found a way to promote active collaborative learning among large groups of students. If the vision proves productive, new classrooms at the university can be built using this prototype as a template.