2013 Emerging Learning Design Conference

Check out the website for the 2013 Emergin Learning Design Conference Montclair State.


There are some really good sessions, including one on 3D printing, which I happen to think is going to be a Big Deal for education.

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Building Design Can Affect Student Progress Up to 25%

A recent article in Building and Environment: The International Journal of Building Science and its Applications identifies six physical environmental factors that can have a significant impact on student learning.

The article, “A Holistic, Multi-Level Analysis Identifying the Impact of Classroom Design on Pupils’ Learning,” studied 751 students in seven different schools in the UK. Their progress was tracked over the course of a year, and statistical modeling demonstrated clear differences in outcomes correlating to six environmental factors: color, choice, connection, complexity, flexibility, and light.

Natural light and artificial light were both important. Good classrooms received natural light from more than one orientation, and the space adjacent to the windows remained uncluttered, free from obstructions.

Choice is described as “the degree to which the distinct characteristics of the classroom allow the sense of ownership.” In particular, furniture, fixtures and other equipment was a significant factor. Quality furniture that supports the learning activities, and is comfortable and ergonomic, and does not scrimp on space correlate with this variable.

Flexibility refers to classrooms having zones that allow for a variety of learning activities happening at the same time, as well as the degree to which it is easy for the teacher to change the space configuration.

Connection focused on pathways or corridors between space. A typical deficiency in a connecting space would be a hallway that is also used for storage, and become cluttered and more difficult to navigate, or even to traverse with one’s eyes.

Complexity attempts to describe a balance between an interior decor that is stimulating and eye-catching, but remains balanced and ordered.

Color is important, but many of us know that at many of our institutions the choices that are made for walls and carpet in instructional space are primarily to fit in with the building’s overall decorating scheme. This study points out that the color of walls and floors is important. At the same time, appropriate color choices may vary depending on the students’ ages. This study suggests warm colors for younger students, and cool colors for older students. I need to read much more about how colors affect learning.

The permanent link to the study is at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

You may find it via your institution’s online resources by searching for:

Building and Environment
Volume 59, January 2013, Pages 678–689
A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning
Peter Barrett, Yufan Zhang, Joanne Moffat, Khairy Kobbacy

If you have suggestions for further reading on related topics, please consider sharing that in the comments section.

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Technology is Not Neutral

Ran across a short essay by Gary Stager today, entitled “Technology is Not Neutral.”


His focus is on K-12 education, but the principles still apply, and should give all of us in higher ed something to ponder. I would say that those of us in IT in higher ed should ponder more than most.

We ITers often think of ourselves primarily as service providers (which we are) and we focus a lot of attention on how quickly we respond to requests from the faculty, students, and staff whom we support. We should respond quickly, and we should have the highest committment to service.

In my opinion, we should have an equally high committment to serving our institutions as thought leaders. Technology is not neutral, and we should evaluate and recommend technology in light of our institutional goals and values. There are simply times when only the folks who understand the technology well will be able to see the subtle ways that it will promote behavior that is at odds with our institutional values.

I’ll give you one example that I don’t think will embarrass anyone or get me in any trouble! (This is intended to illustrate the point of technology being not neutral; this is not an example of the University choosing a solution that runs counter to its values.) Ever since the invention of the Walkman it’s been acceptable in youth culture to wear headphones, earbuds, etc. It seems perfectly normal. We struggle at times with our student employees to convey to them the subtle message that it sends if they wear personal audio devices while on the job. Simply put, it makes them appear unavailable to those who may need assistance, and when a service counter employee appears unavailable oftentimes the patron will not approach the service counter.

Now there are certainly more significant examples, and if you’re interested I’d be quite happy to meet for coffee and discuss.

As educators, as IT professionals, and as thoughtful people we should maintain an awareness of the ways in which the world around us forms us. It will always be my stance that we should be wary when technology is offered to us and only utilitarian advantages are articulated. Efficiency? What outcome is assumed to be achieved more efficiently? Are there other outcomes that we should value more? Are those outcomes promoted or demoted by this new system, this new software, this new gadget?

If you appreciate the issues raised by Stager in the “Technology is Not Neutral” essay, you may also enjoy an earlier article called “What’s a Computer For? Part 1”


(Hat tip to Philip Cummings’ In Retro Cite)

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Wireless Projection in ND Classrooms

Today is the calm before the storm of the new semester. One of the things we’re excited about is a small pilot project using AppleTV’s AirPlay technology to enable wireless video in a few of our classrooms.

Since AirPlay doesn’t route properly on the campus enterprise network we’ve installed some small wireless routers in selected classrooms (with the guidance and blessing of our network engineers). We turned off the 2.4 Ghz radio, and we’re using a channel that Networking assigned in order to minimize possible interference with the enterprise WAPs in, or adjacent to, the classrooms.

The students are using iPads leased from the Bookstore, and managed by the OIT. We’re pushing out the authentication details for the AirPlay access points via Apple’s Profile Manager, thus avoiding the need to hand out usernames and passwords to students, and also making it difficult for them to share those details with their friends.

The AppleTV devices connect to the “home network” router, and pass HDMI to our Crestron control systems. Faculty merely choose the Auxiliary input on the Crestron control system, mirror their iPad or MacBook Pro to AppleTV, and they are projecting their content without being tethered to the AV system.

Faculty are free to walk around the room, and students can share their content quickly and with minimal interruption to the conversation that’s taking place at the moment. A certain etiquette or protocol is needed for orderly hand-offs, but this is ND, after all, and so hand-offs are second nature to us.

We’re working with faculty to document the learning activities that they use in conjunction with AirPlay. We’ll assemble all of the feedback we receive in an assessment, and by the end of the semester we’ll have a much better idea of the feasibility of making AirPlay a feature in all of our classrooms.

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2013 International Consumer Electronics Show

Much of the time those of us in the academic world of educational technology focus our attention on best pedagogical practices of mainstream technology. Some live close to the world of emerging technology, but I do wonder if we pay enough attention to events like the annual CES gathering, where vendors demonstrate some of their newest and coolest gadgets.


The number of companies present is staggering, and so highlighting any particular one is very arbitrary. However, there was one small company that really shined last year: HzO

HzO even got a mention in a segment this morning on NPR:


And here’s a youtube video from one of HzO’s 2012 CES demonstrations:

What other consumer product shows should educational technologists be paying attention to?

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Apps for the Twelve Days of Christmas

As I dash off for the weekend I wanted to leave you with some suggestions for apps to evaluate. We have a couple days yet until Epiphany, so I think I can still share a Christmas-themed link. 🙂


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Missouri Science & Technology Teaching and Learning Conference 2013

Registration for the Teaching and Learning Technology Conference 2013 at Missouri University of Science and Technology is now open. The conference is scheduled for March 14-15, 2013.

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Richard M. Felder — Hoechst Celanese Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University

Theme: Assessments – From Syllabus to Final

Web-based registration is now available at:


Registration is free for all participants!

Details about the conference can be found on the conference web site:


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Save the Date! National Forum on Active Learning Classrooms

Members of the Notre Dame community attended the 2011 National Forum on Active Learning Classrooms and found it to be a tremendous event.  The principles discussed and demonstrated at this forum have inspired many of the changes we’ve made recently to the B011 classroom in DeBartolo, as well as the changes that are currently in progress in the Coleman-Morse 107 computer lab.

Today an early announcment for the 2013 event was released: “The second National Forum on Active Learning Classrooms with take place on August 2-4, 2013 at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Held in the Science Teaching and Student Services Building—the largest SCALE-UP installation in the world—the Forum builds on the success of the 2011 inaugural event with an expanded set of demonstrations, posters, presentations, and panel discussions.”

Here’s a link to the 2011 website.


If any faculty are interested active learning principles, especially as they are applied in SCALE-UP or TEAL classrooms, please consider attending this conference in August of 2013.  Those of us in the Learning Spaces group here at Notre Dame would love to hear from you as well.  Call Brian Burchett at 1.6503, or email bburchet@nd.edu

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“7 Things You Should Know About” Learning Technology

The folks at Educause do a great job summarizing the essentials that faculty need to know about new tools as they come out.  They have a series of articles that cover a wide range of topics.  Each article seeks to answer these questions:

What is it?

How does it work?

Who’s doing it?

Why is it significant?

What are the downsides?  (I love the fact that they include this.)

Where is it going? (Sometimes they get it right; sometimes they get it wrong.)

What are the implications for higher education?  (See above.)

If you’re a faculty member here at Notre Dame, and you have heard about 3D printing, or flipped classrooms, or open textbooks and you want more information, take a look at the resources offered by Educause Learning Initiative:


If you want to use any of those tools in your curriculum, contact the folks at the Kaneb Center, or the OIT’s Academic Technologies group, and of course the Learning Spaces group, too.


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Saturday Scholar Series – “The Unintended Reformation”

Highly recommend that folks attend Prof. Brad Gregory’s lecture tomorrow on:

“The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society”

Saturday Scholar lectures are presented at noon on home football Saturdays in the Snite Museum’s Annenberg Auditorium.

More information on the Saturday Scholar series is available at:




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