Archive for May, 2013

Culture House – the Sound of Library Planning

It turns out that the noise level in the social “library as place” can be a positive factor in the learning environment. The library can be a social and active place to generate creative ideas as long as the sound level is just right. According to a study, “Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition” by the University of British Columbia and the University of Virginia ambient background noise turns out to be an important factor affecting creative cognition among learners. Noise levels at around 70 decibels, equivalent to a passenger car traveling on a highway, enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the likelihood of creative innovation.

Ravi Mehta, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, stated in “Too much, too little noise turns off consumers, creativity” that “a moderate level of noise not only enhances creative problem-solving but also leads to a greater adoption of innovative products in certain settings.” Mehta and co-authors Rui (Juliet) Zhu, of the University of British Columbia, and Amar Cheema, of the University of Virginia, explored how a moderate-level of ambient noise helps create a positive pattern of behavior.

The noise study found that there’s an inverted-U relationship between noise level and creativity. It turns out that around 70 decibels is the sweet spot. If you go beyond that, it’s too loud, and the noise starts to negatively affect creativity. It’s the Goldilocks principle – the middle is just right.

Our planning team works with sound experts to enhance the library / learning commons. We analyze how noise can create positive learning environments. We analyze the impact of sound on the learning environment. For example, our partner Charlie Morrow from Morrow3D sound studies how to integrate noise into international museum exhibitions.

We know that our clients need sound expertise and knowledge during library planning. This expertise in library, learning commons and museum environments is very important when there is not enough square footage for the community. The noise creates a negative friction that hurts the overall life the library and/or learning space, requiring a knowledgeable team to support planning efforts. Spaces that are planned with the high levels of noise (85 decibels), require a solid program and sound management plan.

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Library – Learning Commons TouchPoints

Learning TouchPoints are an important part of the library – learning commons – physical program. The service desks, collaboration bars and hubs can be developed to include visualization TouchPoints; spaces where students, tutors, mentors and faculty can write on the walls. These spaces will help the library staff visualize discovery services; share spaces that will enable the community to work collaboratively with virtual content in the cloud.

According to Businessweek, interactive designer, Obscura Digital and office furniture manufacturer, Haworth are collaborating to develop a new touch screen, called Bluescape. The set up will cover an entire conference-room wall, displaying images on 15 linked 55-inch flat-screen monitor. It will enable reading hand movements using its 32 specialized sensors. The new learning space design will allow users to add digital sticky notes by uploading documents from other devices, making brainstorming sessions more productive. The visualization space will allow students to shape their discovery activities.

According to “plugging the innovation gap in our universities?” “Students are no longer sitting idle when it comes to the online experience, they are taking the experience online themselves and going onto Facebook groups, Google groups and setting up online forums.” The students are using online tools for social and educational discovery purposes at the same time. They are engaging with technology to succeed.

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I-Library – What about the Learning Commons?

The Bexar County library will open a prototype digital public library. According to “Paperless Libraries Switch to Digital” – It will have 100 e-readers on loan, and dozens of screens where the public will be able to browse, study, and learn digital skills. However, it’s likely most users will access BiblioTech’s initial holding of 10,000 digital titles anywhere.

The Learning Commons is a library space that the community can use for multipurpose / multi-functional activities. Conceptually, it is a public space that functions as a modern learning environment. A bookless library that offers just e-readers and desktop computers will find out that the “library as place” is the key their success; a motivating seating space that allows people to work collaboratively or individually.

According to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolf in NPR’s “A New Chapter? A Launch Of The Bookless Library – The library is a chance to expand the scope of opportunities for people to learn technology. The world is changing.”

According to an NPR comment by Michael Hale – “For the past 15 years or so, the public library has become as much of a community center as a place to house a collection. It provides computers for those who cannot afford them, which allows them to construct resumes and do daily activities such as banking or renewing their driver’s license.”

Below is a picture from our studio. We are working on understanding how spaces relate to each other in the new learning commons. It is a good example of our visualization process and something that is critical to the development of new types of learning spaces.

Learning Commons Visualization Work

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Making the Learning Commons Mobile

According to MIT Technology Review “Mobile Computing Is Just Getting Started,” mobile computing is spreading faster than any other consumer technology in history. Almost half of the “late technophobes” have a smartphone, potentially transforming the way we make transactions in the library. In fact, 65% of the worlds citizens don’t have a smartphone yet. By bringing personal computing to the phone means that sharing information from the palm of your hand is really only beginning.

Mobile computing is changing the way we use information and the way we use the library. For example, Facebook’s share of the time a US smartphone users spends on their apps – 23%. According to Gartner’s “Big Data, Bigger Opportunities Investing in Information Analytics Report,” almost 27% percent of consumers ages 18 to 34 use QR codes. Indeed, the library of the future will be built on various physical + virtual apps – ones that help us find a group study room or arrange to meet at the learning commons for a tutoring session or helps us understand the physical landmarks in a library.

The killer app isn’t Angry Birds. It is access to computing, library discovery systems, online learning programs and online education. The wireless smart phones and tablets have arrived – it is time to design our learning spaces to take advantage of the mobility of information and our ability to share content to gain knowledge. The blended librarian was correct; its all going mobile.

Yes, the MOBILE COMMONS is the next interactive space we will be studying at ACA. Below are some visualizations of learning spaces; How will seating change now that we are mobile?

Contact us via Twitter – libraryconsultant
@acohen17

learning commons

visualizations of the learning commons

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Shifting Libraries to Mobile to Support Online Learning

As library users shift transactions to smart phones and other mobile devises, libraries must anticipate how library users will anchor their cloud-based relationship to a real study environment. We are tracking the transition from local to mobile in our study of libraries and research environments.

Yesterday, The Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing announced that it will offer the First Professional Online Master of Science Degree in Computer Science (OMS CS). The course will allow students to earn credits completely through the “massive online” format, using Udacity Inc.

We believe this is an example of a transformation in higher education away from traditional models of learning to more dynamic approaches. We believe the library will be critical to student success at Georgia Tech both as a virtual space and a physical academic support environment. For example, the library will act as a flipped classroom; a concept that enables the learner to prep before they enter the classroom physical or virtual.

The flipped classroom learning strategy combined with a learning commons enhances learning activities. It enables students to be infused in the learning experience while they use their mobile learning device wherever they are located. It allows students to meet in the library for programs, labs and study groups – opportunities to build social networks.

On October 26, 2013, ACA will be doing a library planning workshop at Georgia Institute of Technology. In preparation for this event, we are asking for input on the question – “what is the idea of the library?”

In all of the discussions about online learning and MOOC’s, we need to remember the personal one-on-one exchanges that can happen in a library or learning commons. There can be skills building opportunities, activated by people sharing a space. It can be a visualization space with flexible technology, tables and seats on casters. It can also include media / technology carts and/or booktrucks with pre-arranged materials.

Last year, ACA did two library planning projects with Gensler. Both were opportunities to share our library programming and design services. Recently, we noted an article in Dialog – A Gensler Publication – about the transformation taking place in the banking industry. Below is a diagram from their publication.

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Education is Changing – Libraries Enhance Learning Support

Library buildings can be designed to enhance learning support and research. Librarians can support the workflow of their researchers by directly supporting, managing and aggregating the content. These days there are plenty of librarians preaching community, but what about how we can design libraries to enhance the digital world?

Libraries are places where solutions are possible through access to knowledge and higher education. Planning learning environments requires us to be aware of new opportunities in education technology, open-source software or open-access publishing.

According to “Open Online Courses – an avalanche that might just get stopped“- In the US, the growing chorus for online education through massive open online courses, or moocs, has been deafening.” For example, the California legislature created a bill for the “New University of California” – one that offered no instruction but would issue credentials to people merely for passing exams. Does this model assure that our students are learning in the online world?

The New University of California bill did not pass, but California lawmakers detailed a plan on May 8, 2013 to require the state’s 145 public colleges and universities to grant credit for low-cost online courses offered by outside groups, including classes offered by for-profit companies.

The bottom line is that there really is no replacement for face-to-face interaction between teachers, professors, librarians and students. Digital and online methods can enrich those interactions, but it is no match for the community of services at our Universities and Colleges provide; the community of professors, tutors, peer mentors, librarians, IT help, libraries, computers labs, disability services and academic support.

It seems unlikely that libraries and learning spaces can be replaced by online learning without considerable investment in electronic resources. No wonder 72% of those who have taught moocs over the past three years believe students who took their classes had not done sufficient work to deserve credit from their institution.

Libraries and Learning Commons can be created with clusters of valuable and distinctive services. Librarians can ensure that the learning environment, enhances the reputation of the community, faculty and the institution. Librarians will continue to ask – What services does the community need? How can their output be preserved, discovered and re-used?

You can think of the Learning Commons as an incubator. It is an “I-Lab” – a multifunctional and fluid space for learning. The photo below is a visualization board that is at the Mathematics Museum in New York. It is an example of a physical environment that will support online learning technologies.

http://momath.org/

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Education for $10,000 – Use the Library

Recently, the University of Texas president Bill Powers addressed the need to lower the cost for college. He argued that is it already possible for some students to get a degree for $10,000 and that the cost model for innovation requires more funding not less. We believe that the University library is an agile way to deliver discovery tools for more not less. The library can provide virtual services that enables a paradigm shift away from costly models of discovery. The library can be part of a new way to educate our students and lower the cost of education.

The diagram below outlines the way a student in Texas can get a degree for $10,000. It shows that a student who completes credits outside of a traditional campus settings i.e. before entering college has an advantage. In Texas, they have found ways to lower the cost of education by allowing students to gain college credits in high schools and two year schools such as community colleges in preparation for University.

http://www.texastribune.org/2013/01/30/guide-getting-one-texas-new-10000-degrees/

It is no secret that graduating college in debt limits our young people. Often, their debt is substantial. They have no job and they have difficulty paying off their student loan. To survive what David Brooks calls a “brutal cascade” – the colleges and universities need to embrace the collaborative environment both online and in the library. They need to find ways to integrate the library (learning commons) to enhance tutoring, mentoring, community and sharing.

Colleges need to move away from their standard and costly teaching models. They need to explore how the flipped classroom combined with a library/learning commons and/or blended learning environment creates a positive feedback loop. They need to provide connections in house. They need to use the library as a virtual connector, allowing the student access 24/7 while they go to school.

In all of the discussions about lowering the cost of education, we need to remember the personal one-on-one exchanges that can happen in a library or learning commons. There can be skills building opportunities, activated by people sharing a space. It can be a visualization space with flexible technology, tables and seats on casters. It can include media / technology carts and/or book trucks with pre-arranged materials. This blended learning environment is like no other – flexible and multifunctional.

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