Space Meets Pedagogy: Shaping Active and Collaborative Learning Environments at Ulster

Yesterday I was delivering a ‘BYOD4L’ workshop as part of the Ulster University Centre for Higher Education Research & Practice Conference 2015,. The theme of the conference was ‘Space meets Pedagogy’, providing staff and students  from across the University and our partnership colleges with the opportunity to think about how learning spaces shape collaborative and active learning environments. The theme of the conference comes at an opportune and exciting time with the development of the Belfast campus and new learning spaces at Coleraine.

The keynote speaker Shirley Dugdale (@shirleydugdale) inspired us with visions of learning spaces from around the world – is it possible to have classroom envy?   Shirley has done some interesting work in  developing a rating system for learning spaces, which goes from considerations at a strategic level – how does the learning space meet the needs of the Academic plan, down to the look and feel of individual learning spaces, and how they can be designed to promote active and collaborative learning.

In preparation for my workshop later in the day, I invited delegates via Twitter to post pictures of their ideal learning space to a Padlet board, add yours here.

Creative Conversations:Planning for Learning and Teaching in New Learning Spaces at Ulster

The next stage of the conference involved a ‘hackathon’, where we were working in groups to create posters around the broad theme of Planning for Learning and Teaching in New Learning Spaces at Ulster.

Our group, although depleted in numbers, was none the less high quality with Peter Nicholl (Computing and Mathematics), Andy Jaffrey (ADDL) and Pat Deeny (Nursing). We addressed the question of how digital technology and learning spaces facilitate the learning environment. After a brain storming session we decided that flexibility was at the heart of all of our discussions. I tried to recall some of the discussions and links and capture them in this mindmap created using the Inspiration Maps tool:

Thunderstorms, Workshops and Short Papers
The conference programme was packed with short ‘thunderstorm’ sessions, longer papers and workshops. It was inspiring to see the range of high quality pedagogic research and practice that was taking place across Ulster. With thanks to everyone that was tweeting during the conference, and to Stephen McClean for curating the conversation using Storify.

Bring your own Device for Learning: Using Smart technology to transform learning spaces

My workshop was in the graveyard shift at 3:00, so I was delighted when a group of around 20-24  people arrived, and even more pleased to be able to put faces to the names of colleagues who had taken part in the  BYOD open online course the previous week. I had set up a couple of Answer Gardens earlier in the day to prompt thinking about the benefits and barriers of using mobile devices in learning and teaching.

Barriers of using mobile devices for learning and teaching

Barriers of using mobile devices for learning and teaching


Benefits of using mobile devices for learning and teaching

Participants continued to post during the course of the workshop, so it was good to see the range of perceived benefits grow in the Answer Garden.

Case Studies

I provided delegates with two examples of using mobile devices to encourage collaboration and curation in the classroom and via social media. The details are available via slideshare:

Workshop activity

I have developed some cue cards based on a number of projects exploring the development of digital literacies and using mobile devices in the classroom, including the  Exeter CASCADE project: Blooms Taxonomy of Digital Literacies and  Beckingham and Nerrantzi (2014). Participants used the cards to identify ways that they could use mobile devices to  enhance learning and teaching.  The workshop activity possibly needed more time to explore properly and may have been more effective with course teams, however they were useful in prompting discussion. A couple of the cards are illustrated below. We are currently piloting these with different course teams, so please let me know if you would like to explore their use within your own institution.


I was delighted to get the opportunity to talk to a few people who had engaged in the BYOD open course the previous week. This was a revelation to find out about  people who were viewing the Google Hangouts and reading the Tweetchats, and, whilst not contributing, they were gaining lots of ideas and information. with Sam Illingworths (@samillingworths) Google Hangout being particularly beneficial. How do we get these observers to participate more actively? or does it matter if they don’t? This issue was raised in a recent #LTHEchat  on engaging students-with lots of antithesis to the term ‘lurking’. Perhaps we need to remember that we all learn in different ways, whilst we need those that participate actively, we also need those that observe and reflact and hopefully act within their own learning spaces.


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