Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Psychology of Learning Environments

Third post today from reading back issues of Educause Review and this article "The Psychology of Learning Environments" (Ken Graetz, EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 41, no. 6 (November/December 2006): 60–75) is another good read. From his vantage point at Winona State (a Tablet PC school) he discusses the bug-a-boo of students having laptops and doing other things while lectures take place. But his point is rather than this being a major distraction, the curriculum is moving from lecture delivery to collaboration. Bill Becker and Mike Watts have long assailed the chalk and talk delivery and Graetz points out the the presence of computers in the hands of students leads one to collaboration and discussion and in turn this does or should lead to changes in classroom design. At the ASSA meetings in January 2007, Marcelo Cericli Arias (Stanford) spoke compellingly about smart classroom design and how the learning space assisted students in economics to fo "From Zero to Agent-Based Modeling in Ten Weeks," a task unheard of in a non-collaborative environment.

In my posts on 1:1 Computing in Econometrics I discovered that by using DyKnow Vision and Monitor, the projector went off the second day and was rarely used there after since the delivery was to everyone's screen. (Just like my favorite phrase in "24" when Jack or someone says just send it to my screen.) My guess, before reviewing the data is the successful problem based learning experience is in part due to the synergies created by the use of the Tablet PC and DyKnow Vision.

The classrooms need to accomodate collaboration and Gratez goes through the requirements including wall and furniture arrangement as well as class size. He discusses the use of DyKnow, clickers, Synchroneyes, virtual campuses such as Second Life and more.

I found the list of usability criteria he quotes quite interesting and aplicable to a variety of learning spaces and devices. Indeed this also applies to my Tablet PC experiment as well.
  • "Learnability refers to the speed and ease with which a novice user can achieve proficiency with the system.

  • Efficiency refers to the degree to which the system supports the performance of an experienced user in the shortest amount of time and with the fewest steps.

  • Memorability refers to the degree to which a user, particularly an intermittent or casual user, can remember how to accomplish a task using the system, the steps of which were learned previously.

  • Errors refer to the number of mistakes and missteps made by users.

  • Satisfaction refers to the users' overall emotional experience when using the system. (this list is from Jakob Neilson, Usability Engineering (San Francisco: Morgan Kaufman, 1993)."

"Careful, objective usability analyses of common digital environments should be conducted and problems should be addressed using similar decision-making processes and with the same sense of urgency that campuses apply when addressing poor conditions in brick-and-mortar classrooms."

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