PARTICIPATORY APPROACHES FOR DESIGNING TECHNOLOGY-ENHANCED LEARNING SPACES: THE EXPERIENCE OF REDESIGNING THE 'CUBE' AND THE 'POPPY'
This abstract presents a research that aims to identify students’ and academics’ perceptions of technology-enhanced learning spaces and how they would design these spaces if given such opportunity. Findings from design ‘sandpits’ will be presented wherein twenty-five students and thirty-two academics discussed, critique and redesigned two prototypes of a large learning space (the ‘Cube’) and a small learning space (the ‘Poppy’). Both these prototypes were designed aiming to introduce technology as a paramount feature intending to provoke reflections and discussions about the role of technology and how it links with pedagogy and space.
Learning spaces have been found to have a significant impact in its denizens’ interaction with the learning process (Jessop et al. 2012), however these denizens have not been so far actively engaged in the design of learning spaces. Additionally, research has found that technology has still a long way to go in order to be effective in classroom teaching (Rossing et al. 2012). This research aims to respond to the question how would a technology-enhanced learning space be if we integrated in its design its denizens’ perceptions and creative ideas?
We follow a method of Participatory Design (PD) which is a set of practices and research methods that aim to include end-users as active participants in the design process. In a normal scenario, PD may involve observations, surveys, informal interviews and participation in focus groups. For this particular research we decided to use ‘sandpits’. ‘Sandpits’ are creative, design-driven focus-groups, wherein participants are stimulated by a narrative of a scenario of using a particular product, and are subsequently, encouraged to discuss, critique and redesign this product. Data was collected from the discussions and critique about the prototypes and from the redesign attempts which lead to he creation of new prototypes.
Findings and discussions:
The redesigns attempts from both learning spaces are very different but they all suggest innovative perspectives of how a learning space should be according to denizens’ perspectives.
Findings suggest innovative ways of enabling the use tangible technologies, better visualisation concepts and the integration of personal mobile devices aiming to promote more engaging and immersive learning experiences. Denizens were able to redesign concepts where technology is seen as having a fundamental role but in a way that has a seamless connection with the space and with pedagogy.
We aim to present an alternative path for researching learning spaces by focusing on how the perceptions of those living daily in the space can contribute to the space design. We provide evidence that allows us to argue that it is possible to design learning spaces through the active participation of academics and students. We believe that by promoting this form of grass-roots engagement, HE institutions will be able to construct more innovative and meaningful learning spaces for those who use them.
 Jessop, T., Gubby, L. & Smith, A., 2012. Space frontiers for new pedagogies: a tale of constraints and possibilities. Studies in Higher Education, 37(2), pp.189–202.
 Rossing, J.P. et al., 2012. iLearning: The Future of Higher Education? Student Perceptions on Learning with Mobile Tablets. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 12(2), pp.1–26.