Last Friday I went to the ARC Timetabling Practitioners Group Conference at the University of Kent. It has a great day with fantastic presentations, that gave a real insight into the importance of teaching space design. As you may know teaching space design is something I am very interested in and always try to promote, so it was great to hear from experienced academics as well as those dedicated to improving teaching design within institutions.
I am going to touch on the topic of teaching space design and student learning over the next couple of articles as I believe it will begin to have an even greater impact on space management, timetabling and the University/College estate over the next couple of years.
Don Gray, Head of Architecture at University of Kent gave a really interesting presentation at the ARC Timetabling Practitioners Group Conference on how student learning behaviour is changing creating two sets of people – “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants”. I believe this is the most suitable place to start this discussion as understanding how today’s and tomorrows students learn, is the key to creating great teaching space where students can be effectively taught.
Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants
This concept put together by Marc Prensky looks at the impact digital media has had on today’s students and discusses how the very way they learn has changed as a result. This new generation of students – Digital Natives – has had access to digital media throughout the entirety of their lives, with practically limitless information at their fingertips – quite literally.
In contrast the previous generation – Digital Immigrants – were brought up without the availability of digital media and since its introduction have had to adapt to its use. Therefore although some Digital Immigrants are just as adapt at using new technology as Digital Natives, they always retain their “foot in the past”. An interesting example of this that I find myself resisting all the time in order to not waste paper – is the want to print off information to read and edit in physical form rather than read and edit on my laptop or tablet. I find I have to get over the mental barrier of this action each time, but once over I can read and edit just as effectively – yet it is still always my instinct to want it in physical form, unlike that of a Digital Native.
I have put together a table below that outlines the key differences between a Digital Native and a Digital Immigrant that Marc Prensky refers to .
These differences are apparent in the new generation due to the changed environment they have been brought up in. For example the average American aged 8-18 now plays video games 13.2 hours a week, whilst on average 15-19 year old’s are now only reading 4.2 minutes per day, that’s only 29.4 minutes per week! Stats such as this show the significant changes in how children of today are spending their time and this is resulting in students that “think and process information fundamentally different to their predecessors”.
The knock on effect of this is that there is now a significant difference between how todays and tomorrows students (Digital Natives) learn in comparison to those that teach them (Digital Immigrants). Therefore in order to teach effectively, Digital Immigrants must now adapt their teaching methods to suit the new generation of students learning behaviours which are quite different from their own.
This is of course much easier said than done as those who teach and are Digital Immigrants will need to develop their teaching style into a form that they are unfamiliar with in order to effectively teach their students, despite their previous teaching methods being the most effective method that they learn with. To add to this, there is no definitive, one size fits all method for teaching the new generation of learners i.e. Digital Natives.
However what is clear, is that the traditional style of teaching i.e. 100’s of students listening to a lecturer present factual information in a step by step process, is no longer an effective way of teaching the new generation of Digital Natives. The demand for technology enhanced fast and parallel information, with regular interaction in a more gamified environment needs to be tackled not only by those that teach but also by those who provide the physical University and College estate.
Without the physical estate providing suitable teaching spaces to accommodate the necessary changes to teaching pedagogy, the University/College is severely constricted in how it can address the changing student learning behaviour. It is therefore becoming more and more important for those responsible for teaching space design to tackle this issue head on.
Both the changes in teaching pedagogy and the teaching space provision must occur hand in hand in order to be successful and therefore there is now an even greater need to involve the students and teaching staff within the design and decision making process regarding teaching space design. By increasing involvement and the ability to influence teaching space design, University’s and Colleges can create spaces that not only reflect the changing student behaviours but also spaces that those teaching will actually use effectively.
The ability to teach the new generation of Digital Natives relies not only on those that teach to change their methods but also on the estate’s ability to adapt accordingly. This therefore demands a much more strategic approach to teaching space design, ensuring that teaching methods and teaching rooms move forwards together.
I see this change in student demands having a very significant impact on not only how students are taught, but also the type of teaching facilities a University and College estate has to provide. With the growing need to create more interactive environments, the effectiveness of using large lecture theatres to teach diminishes and at some point HE and FE will have to adapt accordingly, changing the historical structure of the estate.
The potential problem with this is that in order to provide the more personal and interactive spaces that the Digital Natives require, large scale changes to the historical structure of an estate will be required . If student contact hours were to remain the same this would put a huge amount of strain on the estate with additional teaching space having to be created to cope with the more space demanding nature of the new space types, plus University’s and Colleges would have to cope with the demand of increased teaching hours which comes hand in hand with smaller group sizes. Can all this be accommodated within the existing and already restricted budgets of HE and FE institutions?
I hope you have found this article useful, I am going to continue looking at the subject of teaching space design over the next couple of weeks so remember to check back, or you can sign up to the Education Space Consultancy newsletter and you will receive a fortnightly newsletter containing links to all the latest articles, news and resources.
If you have anything you would like to add, please feel free to do so using the comments box at the bottom of the article, it would be great to hear from you.
All the best