In most lecture halls at Penn State, the scene is the same: Professors speak in front of hundreds of students, most of whom are just sitting there and daydreaming or perusing the Internet. But luckily for us, that standard teaching method is in the process of changing completely.
The Krause Innovation Studio in the Chambers Building might be the portal into the modern classroom that dedicated students and professors dream about. A technologically advanced learning center, this studio gives students the ability to utilize state-of-the-art technology to focus on group collaboration.
Bill and Gay Krause established the Krause Center for Innovation in 2000 at Foothill College in Palo Alto, Ca. Their mission was to provide professional development and support for K-12 teachers using digital tools.
The KCI provides workshops and consultations on how to incorporate new technology in the classroom in order to make it more beneficial for learning. Bill, along with his wife Gay, a Penn State alumna who received her bachelor of science degree in K-12 elementary and special education, saw an opportunity at Penn State to move pedagogic innovation to higher education.
The Krauses recently made a sizeable $6.5 million donation to the College of Education in order to fund Penn State’s Krause Innovation Studio. As of now, the studio is one of the most technologically advanced learning areas at University Park.
Before the Krauses made their donation, a program in the College of Education dubbed EDUCATE — Exploring Directions in Ubiquitous Computing and Teacher Education — established the need for a physical space for its students. Having opened its doors on March 12, 2012, The Krause Innovation Studio serves a dual purpose. Amy Norton, an undergraduate in the College of Education associated with the Krause Innovation Studio, said, “It’s a group study area, but it’s also a research lab with a focus on different environments and technologies that students may use to assist them in their studies and group projects.” The studio prides itself on its state of the art technology, as faculty and professors from all colleges on campus utilize the tools available to stimulate group work and promote collaboration.
Technology is tirelessly setting new boundaries and is being used in every possible setting or field. In the classroom, establishing new technology is feasible, but it hasn’t always been practical. At times, teachers and sometimes even students are inept when introduced to new technology, especially complex tools geared toward education with which most people are not familiar, such as interactive boards.
With a state of the art facility, the Krause Innovation Studio is looking to help students incorporate technology into their study regimes. The studio is hoping to see students utilize technology in a way that stimulates face-to-face interaction and group work. It’s an innovative approach to education, but it revolves around the old theory that students learn more from their peers as opposed to having their heads buried in books.
Dr. Michael Rook, a postdoctoral scholar associated with the studio, said, “Everything that we do is geared towards teaching, but our main goal is to find out what innovative teaching looks like.”
Similar to a room situated on Google’s Campus, the studio is packed with many tools to help students maximize their learning objectives, such as projectors and interactive boards. One of the most capturing learning tools in the studio is situated in the middle of each table, where students find multiple computer hook-ups, similar to adaptors that can be used to display a video or movie on their TVs. With the ability to toggle between four computers at the touch of a pad, students are able to consolidate work on the video monitors easily and more efficiently as a group, as opposed to the traditional switching back and forth between different computer units.
Innovation comes in many different forms when it comes to a specific area of study. Dr. Rook later noted, “We see innovation directly tied to pedagogy. It’s the innovation of teaching, learning, and supporting teaching and learning with new technologies.”
The studio boasts four private rooms glassed off from the public domain of the studio, and each room is named for its color scheme. The Pink and Orange rooms have one video monitor and are reserved for smaller groups.
Here’s the Pink Room.
And here’s the Orange Room.
The Green and Blue rooms are reserved for larger groups, and each utilize two separate monitors.
The Green Room.
The Blue Room.
For a less intimate feel, students are able to hold their group meetings in one of the three learning pods. The East, Central, and West pods each have their own individual monitor with hook-ups that mimic those in each of the private rooms. The only thing different about these pods is that they are situated in the public domain. A group of four students can sit around each other at these pods with a video monitor as the center of attention.
At the middle of the Innovation Studio sit the Quiet Pod and the Stadium Pod. Two couches that make up the shape of a hexagon are split and connected on opposite ends, each serving a unique purpose for research observation. Capable of holding up to six students, the Quiet Pod features a semi-enclosed area to give students a more intimate and private feel as they are conducting group work. The Stadium Pod, which can hold up to 10 students, is the exact opposite. It creates a more open element, giving students the preference of studying and doing group work in privacy or in a more public setting.
Individual learning areas that are not as technologically functional as the rest of the space surround the main floor, like as the yellow area and the study bar. However, that doesn’t mean these areas aren’t as sought after as the individual rooms or pods. The studio has multiple whiteboards that can be hung throughout the yellow room or even put on a mobile cart and be used as an easel.
Here’s the Yellow Area.
And here’s the Study Bar.
The learning studio offers an idea of what future classrooms will look like. Capable of holding up to 24 students, the room is the ideal setting for group work in a large classroom. With four different projector screens angled directly towards each individual table, students can present projects simply by hooking up their computers, without even moving from their seats. The classroom utilizes state-of-the-art interactive board technology with control options from a tablet that sits in the room. Professors can make adjustments or show examples in real time with the utilization of these boards without changing a standard lesson plan, as they act as standard white boards as well.
Plans for the Future
“We don’t consider ourselves a library. We don’t expect the main activity to be individual work, we expect that people coming here are reserving a space for a group project,” Dr. Rook said.
The Krause Innovation Studio’s is the prototype for advanced classrooms in the future. As a result of the studio’s numerous success stories, certain rooms in the Chambers Building are already being remolded with similar technologies and features. And as the standard classroom setting between teacher and student shifts towards more open group discussion as the focal point of learning, more classroom changes could be on the way.
All professors are encouraged to reserve a room in the studio, and students of all majors are welcome. If group collaboration does become the future of education, future students will look upon the Krause Innovation Studio as one of the pioneers in education.