Yesterday afternoon, Alistair Morey, Learning Development Coordinator for SPLASH (Student Personal Learning And Study Hub) at the University of Surrey, gave me a tour of SPLASH. This innovative space is described well on their website, however it was useful to get a tour and have a chance to try out some of the technology, especially since I only passed through on my last visit, two years ago.
SPLASH includes: space to work quietly in front of PCs or with your own laptop; an informal area with moveable furniture, plenty of space, and two ‘work pods’; three bookable meeting rooms; and a larger training room. The training room features a dry-erase white wall, which looks like an ordinary wall, and a Sympodium PC connected to the projector.
As well as the novel experience of being asked to ‘write on a wall’, Alistair commented on the way students have to interact as a group, working together, and sharing the whiteboard pens.
I was able to have a go on the Sympodium PC, now renamed SMART Podium interactive pen displays, and although it was very easy to use I could also see that practice would be required to give a seamless and professional presentation or workshop.
There were some concerns that the informal area might turn into a bit of a common room, however this has not happened. I wonder if this is partly because food and drink are prohibited in this area. There are also two Sympodium PCs, attached by a moveable armature to a coffee table, in front of a circular seating area. This enables the students to collaborate by sharing the PC amongst the whole group, literally passing it from one person to the other by use of the swinging armature.
The University of Surrey were early pioneers in the UK in this form of social learning, but it has now taken off at a number of other Universities as well.
Follow-up: some comments on the features of SMART Podium interactive pen displays