An ISW-Collaboration Classroom-Blackboard Mash Up!

The three-day version of the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) has mixed blessings: although time efficient for busy instructors, it doesn’t allow as much time as longer versions for transmitting information and developing familiarity with the lesson-planning resources provided. Instructors get going on Day 1 delivering their mini-lesson to peers.Two affordances proved beneficial in helping develop a convivial environment without feeling rushed in the process. We used a Blackboard course to provide advance knowledge of the lesson-planning model, the feedback process and some foundational theory for the workshop. An “Introduce Yourself” discussion forum helped participants learn a bit about each other, and get to a deeper engagement level right away.This was the first ISW in the new flexible learning space, the Collaboration Room (S0620 at the New Westminster campus). The ability to reconfigure the room helped us easily set up several learning environments:

  • The eClassroom setting for conventional lecture mode (with the added feature of being able to see the presentation on a rear monitors if desired).
  • A central round table for shared discussion.
  • Two areas to demonstrate content, concepts, and tools.
  • Three interactive monitor areas for participants to present their lessons, and allow participants to shift smoothly between stations.
  • A library: a resource and book area.

The ISW is a self-contained program, with plenty of content and plenty to do. One concern was to make sure that the technology didn’t distract or interfere with the workshop objectives. There was no requirement to make either the Blackboard course (optional for participants) or the Collaboration Room technologies a significant part of the three days. I had some training in using the room, and the participants appreciated the extra features
available (some experimented with delivering their mini-lessons with the interactive
displays and break-out areas).

Some creative feedback involved participants recording a short video on a smart phone, and then playing the video through the desktop computer. With a bit more familiarity with the room technology, a recording could be directly played from a smart phone via a wireless connection to any of the interactive monitors.

Overall, the experience of using the room was enjoyable, challenging in the best sense, and stimulated ideas of how we might expand ways of using space to enhance teaching and learning. As one instructor commented:

I really appreciated the flexible learning classroom.  For me as an instructor, I try to move towards facilitating and away from being the expert. This learning space provided this and more.  It gave us as students the chance to move around in preset spaces – like the circle of chairs, and the smartboards really allow for these spaces to be built into the structure of the class. It was part of our culture to shift around and see each other’s work …instead of turning we got up and tried it out.  Great experience for me as a learner in a bigger physical space, as well as with the tech too.  David Lam is waiting patiently….

At the conclusion of the workshop, the participants asked that the Blackboard site be left open for a while, to access resources supplementing the ISW. Overall, the ISW-Blackboard-Collaboration Room “mashup” was a success and was a valuable teaching and learning experience.

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