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Building an experience

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Steve Erwin AIA, LEED APWe are at an interesting point in time when considering teaching and learning environments. On the one hand there is a fundamentalist movement in how we shape teaching and learning environments. There is a drive to get back to the basics. Bright cheerful and energized spaces that can adapt to a full spectrum of teaching (guiding) and learning (experiential discovery) are the new fundamentals for a successful space. Embedded technology and lecture based teaching walls are out the window. While this is happening, the biggest transformation in education since the invention of chalk has arrived, distance learning. (I refrain to use the word MOOC. It reminds me of the term “sunken garden,” a name that does not advocate well for it.) The potential for providing both financial and geographical educational and training access to many more individuals globally resonates with almost every educational mission. So just when we have gotten back to the fundamentals around the effectiveness of team collaboration and experiential discovery, are we are encouraging inquiry and discovery in isolation with distance learning?

As we try to envision how these worlds come together and imagine an environment where there are class participants both physically and remotely together in the same “space,” we need to remain focused on to the key experiential aspects for both the in situ and remote participants.

In setting out to “build the experience,” the first order of business is to remind ourselves that technology is a means to an end. So do not start with the means, start with the end. Define the experiential outcome desired and work solutions that support those objectives.

And that gives you the start of the conversation.

- Steve Erwin

Steve Erwin, AIA, LEED AP, is a principal at Shepley Bulfinch and a leader of the firm’s education practice. His work on experiential learning includes the Harvard Innovation Lab and the Brody Learning Commons at Johns Hopkins.

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