Thursday, 13 December 2012

Interactive Technology and International Students

I had an interesting conversation with a lecturer and  some students today in a teaching space I had designed.
They all liked the layout which is 4 plectrum tables that seat 6 and divide and fold for greater reconfiguration.
One question that I found interesting was from a student who asked why there was no interactive technology installed.
This was a bit disappointing on one level as the room has a Smart Podium installed but the lecturer was not aware of it, a job for our e-learning team to get to grips with.

On another level I enquired of the student where she came fro, it was Hong Kong and she told me that interactive technology is everywhere.

It then occurred to me that my university, as are many others,are trying to increase recruitment of international students. If we are to do this we need to provide the types of environments and technology they have come to expect. Of course this is not true for all international students but the trend is growing especially for students from the far east.

Oh and one other thing. Another student made the exact same remark about the shape of the table as a student at MLC in Melbourne which I visited 2 years ago with Peter Jamison who had designed some classrooms there. It was that she liked not having someone sitting directly behind her looking at the back of her head. I think this is a hard wired instinctive defensive thing, but that is just my take on it.



  1. I hear the words "interactive" and "technology" often.

    My own view, which has been shaped by my recent experiences as a postgraduate student, is that the interactivity we most need to promote in teaching and learning spaces is person-to-person interactivity, rather than interactions with or mediated by computers. We need to catalyse interaction between students, and between students and academics. In my experience, the low-tech design elements such as vertical and horizontal writing surfaces, tables, sightlines and rotating and / or mobile seating are the most important enablers / barriers for this.

    This emphasis on interpersonal, low-tech interactivity may very well clash with new students' expectations and requires explanation before and during courses. There may be differences between what new students expect and what they need in order to develop into creative, highly engaged graduates.

    1. Sam
      I could not agree more but I believ that the technical interactivity can enhance the gface to face interaction. When students leave for the big wide world of work and careers they will benefit from having experience of both. I often now attend meetings where there is technical and face to face interactivity. The students should have exposure to the things that they will be using in the future, of course there is an element of crystal ball gazing there.

  2. PS. It seems to me you have installed four fantastic pieces of interactive technology in the room in the form of those tables. The shape subtly draws people together and catalyses interaction.

    It is also worth considering that many of our students are veterans of secondary school systems where peer-to-peer interaction is not as big a part of the classroom experience as it is in the UK. I taught English in two Chinese schools where class sizes of 40-60 were standard and conversation-based exercises were rare. We need to encourage (and sometimes require) students to engage in discourse and some of this encouragement can best be given in our formal teaching and learning spaces, where the time is structured and facilitated by an expert, and the environment can be made very conducive with the right "technology".

  3. Strangely I have had both praise and criticism over the design of these rooms. Praise from those who use the room in imaginative ways and criticism from those who, to be frank, should be in a standard chalk and talk layout room. That is not to say their teaching style is wrong it just does not suit this particular design.
    It demonstarted to me the need for different types of teaching spaces but then then impacts on timetabling which I have posted about earlier.


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