Tag Archives: field notes

MOOCs presentation Field Notes

Author Ryan Braner
Event MOOCs in-class presentation
Date of event Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Time of event 1:15pm until 3:05pm
Place School of Education 313, Stanford University
Date of record Wednesday, May 29, 2013
People present Marc Sanders (presenter)
Related artifacts None

The contrast between physical and virtual space could not be more drastic. Similar to each building we visited, each MOOC or online learning tool had its own user interface (UI), layout, and emphasis of importance. While Coursera groups its material by media, edX groups it as a learning flow, and Khan Academy (not discussed in the presentation) groups by subject.

The online spaces, however, benefit from the ability to rapidly modify their appearance, revert to any previous state with ease, and appear differently to each user according to personal preference; a feature even the most flexible of furniture arrangements will have difficulty mimicking. This dynamism is the strength of online education, and I see it contributing greatly to pedagogy. Iterative testing (a.k.a A/B testing and multivariate testing) will allow instructors and researchers to experiment with content, presentation, and pacing in these environments.

These sites are reaching incredibly large audiences. The Child Nutrition and Cooking class has nearly 30,000 studentsstudents with 20,000 of them active and 10,000 of them active within the last week. That scale simply does not translate to a physical classroom. The quiz embedded in the video had 27,000 unique submissions. To add some perspective, there are only 18,217 Stanford students, graduate and submissionsundergraduate, as of October 2012. The range of students using these libraries of knowledge is also quite wide. EPGY delivers collegiate math to advanced students still in high school. Khan Academy is aimed at helping students from middle school to college.

I am speculating that the amount of data these sites collect in a week dwarfs what was able to be collected previously for any research project. Currently, the type of data collected is limited to tracking student quizdataperformance, but plans are to expand data collection. Marc discussed expanding collection to paired data, data that not only records student performance, but also tracks what videos and resources the pupil had accessed, for example. Such measures allow a more robust analysis of what students are learning and how effectively variants of material are aiding that knowledge acquisition.

Every MOOC-type platform does not have the same philosophy. While edX is contributing to the Free and Open Source Software ideals, Coursera is developing its own, private platform. Personally, I would like to see the open platforms flourish, especially when considering how tools like Git, a version control system, can be leveraged to improve the source content, going beyond the assessment of students and applying a TPCK model to the online instructional process.

There is, however, a huge impotence with all of the remote/online knowledge sites presented, and that is human interaction. Despite claims, made by Marc and those in the industry, that the platform can simulate the presence of being physically located in the classroom, I remain unconvinced of any semblance of meaningful social interaction is taking place. The SEQ had the ‘together alone’ study spaces, the GSB focused on creating a social space in the courtyard, and the med students had access to a gym overlooking a great view of Stanford in general (once the power plant is torn down). Brick and mortar institutions excel at creating communities for their students, and not just academic communities.

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D.School Field Notes (Althea)

Notes by Althea Wallop

Educ303X Designing Learning Spaces Class Tour

D.School at Stanford University

1:30-3:30pm on 5/8/2013

Date of Record: 5/9/2013

Since Katie, Taryn, and I partitioned out the field notes, I’ll be talking about the Atrium and the Signage aspects of the tour. Upon walking into the d.school, one of the first things you’ll notice is the minimalist approach. However, unlike the (also minimalist) GSB, the d.school feels more like a mix between a warehouse, a garage, and an architecture studio — it’s a place designed for collaboration, thinking, and getting your hands dirty. The concrete floors, neutral stone walls, metal staircase, modern, steel (rather than plush) furniture, unfinished ceilings, and cheeky signage all foster this vibe.

The culture of the d.school is present implicitly and explicitly immediately in the atrium. Our guide, Scott, spent a significant amount of time discussing this culture. One phrase he used that seemed to be exceptionally suitable was “prototype, pivot, iterate,” which really seems to encompass the space’s cyclical environment. It seems like the space, the people, and the ideas in the d.school are always updating; it’s a “here is not done” mentality. This notion is even present in the fact that the d.school is on its 5th iteration as a space already — and still not finished. Scott described the space as a picnic as opposed to fine dining.

In order to sustain this constantly changing environment, it is vital that the d.school space be as flexible as possible. Scott mentioned finding the minimum number of “props” (things in the space like furniture, whiteboards, etc.) that allow for the maximum number of permutations for use. In other words, d.school students, researchers, professors, and visitors (the main users of the space) need to have sufficient tools to work, but not too much “stuff” that they don’t know how to use it, and they need the flexibility to use it for different purposes (which may be quite varied).

A good example of this multi-purpose mentality is the projector in the atrium. The atrium serves mainly as a preliminary meeting spot, an entry into the d.school atmosphere (both physically and culturally), and a large space with a giant projector against the concrete wall (see picture).

The deliberate signage is also multi-purpose: it reflects the d.school’s productive and creative culture, helps to make the space less formal, is easily changed/updated, and helps guide behavior in the such a flexible space. The signage is usually in the strongest contrasting pair, black and white, with bold, square font usually expressing motivational mottos or instructions (or both!). For example, Scott discussed how the d.school has used the “reset before you go” signage to encourage people using the space to clean-up after their work, enforcing a behavioral norm that may not be evident given the studio atmosphere. Scott also discussed how signs like these serve as a confrontational buffer, allowing users to feel justified in their complaints if a space is messy and have the confidence to say something directly to the perpetrator. Similarly, the d.school signage, in contrast with the Stanford Standard Signage, is cut in vinyl allowing for flexibility, customizability, and efficiency in this constantly changing space. See pictures below for more examples.

So far, I’ve mostly discussed ways in which the d.school culture was designed to facilitate learning, and how this is reflected in the space. Despite this effort, there are a few things left about the space that could potentially inhibit learning. The warehouse feel could come across as too bare, which might stifle creativity to some of the more artistic types. Furthermore, some people may find the pressure to collaborate, the constant movement, and not-so-subtle motivation to be moving and making at all times overwhelming, which may actually inhibit learning for those sensitive types prone to overstimulation. On a final note, though, in an attempt to help d.schoolers feel ownership of their space, certain areas have been given their own, though slightly hidden, personal touch (read: disco-themed women’s restroom, complete with hot pink walls and mirror-balls).

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Field Notes: Science and Engineering Quad

Author: Hsiaolin Hsieh

Event: Site visit to SEQ, Stanford University

Time and Date of event: 13:15-15:50, Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Date of Record: Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Tour guide: Luke Thivierge, Associate Director, Building Operations, Facilities Planning & Management

Related articles:

Huang Engineering Building- self guided tour

New science and engineering building quad planned for campus core

A brief intro to Y2E2


1. The physical layout of the space(s)

Connection” is the design principle of the Science and Engineering Quad. It is represented in the layout, the location, the interior design and the decoration of the buildings, as well as in the overall appearance of the Quad.

  • Layout:  the Quad is surrounded by 4 buildings, the Huang EngineeringCenter, the Hewlett and Packard Buildings, the Y2E2 Building, and the James and Anna Marie Spilker building, which are linked underground “by an 18-foot-deep basement of shared laboratory space that is sure to be in high demand because of its state-of-the-art equipment and controlled environment free of outside light, noise and vibrations” (Stanford News). The link between buildings presents a vision of interdisciplinary collaboration in science and engineering.
  • Location:  the Quad is built along an east-west axis which coincides with that of the Main Quad, and which bridges the central campus and the west side of the campus (School of Medicine). This orientation follows the original campus plan designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and the overall appearance of the arcades and the quad, and the limestone tile façades and red tile roof, present a historical connection with the school as a whole.
  • Interior design and decoration:  inside the buildings of the Quad, there are exhibitions of the stories of individual people (prominent faculty and donors) and inventions that are associated with the schools connected with the Quad. These exhibitions highlight the intellectual heritage that connects current students and faculty with those of the past and contemporaries in industry today.

2. People who typically come to the space

Students, faculty and staff are the typical users in this space. In comparison with the other buildings dedicated to specialist graduate research, the Huang Engineering Building has been designed specifically for students activities. Its main entrance is on the second floor, and functions as a dining hall for students and faculty. It’s interesting to see that both the GSB and the SEQ put their “kitchens” in the most convenient and obvious places, and use them as the incentives to recruit students to learning — a powerful example of human-centered design!

Apart from the necessary human conveniences, there are also lots of conference rooms and informal social areas (the resting areas outside the labs, around the atria, and big, wide staircases).  Almost all of the conference rooms (as well as the classrooms) are built with glass rather than concrete walls, and the informal social areas are open, public, and equipped with write-on glass walls, whiteboards, and comfortable furniture.  They not only foreground the idea of  “together alone“, but also instantiate “transparency“, a liberation from enclosed property (of knowledge), and suggest an ideology of sharing.

3. Activities that happen in the space

In addition to formal classroom teaching and learning, a number of extra-curricular activities regularly take place in and around the Quad. Eating, experiments, and out-of-class discussion were all in evidence in these spaces, though we didn’t really get to see the classrooms where formal learning actually takes place.

According to my impression of the tour, and the emphasis placed on it by Luke, our guide, learning and research in the SEQ is centered around the sophisticated laboratory devices and equipment.  A great deal of informal learning (discussion and collaboration between peers and teachers), by contrast, is supported by an open, comfy space where there is furniture with an appropriate degree of comfort, and lots of write-on whiteboards/glass, and projectors. Much of the formal learning here seems to be technical in nature, and concentrated on lab technique, while informal learning is focused on communicating and engaging with ideas. It seems to me that this contrast is fostered and reinforced, perhaps quite consciously, by the conspicuously low-tech facilities in the informal spaces (no fancy interactive whiteboards here!) which foreground human and intellectual interaction.  A more prosaic explanation might be fear of theft, which, apparently has accounted for a lot of their relatively comfortable furniture!

Communication is an important motif in the SEQ. I found the background noise from group discussion and also from classrooms/conference rooms actually warmed up a space which might otherwise be a little harsh and impersonal. Human sounds soften and invigorate coldness of steel and uncarpeted concrete floors, and bring a natural cadence to a science and engineering environment.

My last reflection on our visit concerns Luke’s comment on sleeping. He mentioned more than once the importance of having appropriate furniture that increases productivity and discourages sleeping. However, sleeping is an important factor in effective learning. I am not sure if excluding it from learning space is necessarily the best solution for productivity. I certainly think this should be up for discussion, anyway.

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Field Notes (1-2 times)

Field notes are used in a variety of professions to offer a text-based account of observations made in a setting. During this course, all students will create field notes as a part of recording relevant information about the external sites that we visit.  These notes will be posted to the course WordPress site (see here for tips on updating WordPress). The notes will then be used to inform course discussions, final projects, and presentations.

Each student will sign up to take field notes for one site visit. During many weeks, we will likely have two or more students signed up to take field notes for one site. In the event that this happens, students should coordinate to produce field notes that target different aspects of the space. The turnaround time for field notes is FAST.  Notes should be posted to the course WordPress site by 5pm on the Wednesday after the site visit (which occurs on Tuesday afternoon). This gives you approximately 24 hours to record, edit, and post the notes.

About the content of the notes

The field notes for this course should create a detailed record of observations, insights, and critiques directed at the sites that we visit during our class.  Your field notes will consist of three parts:

  • Header information: Including the name of the field note author, the event, time and date information, etc. (see below)

  • Body of the notes: The primary content of the notes should include

    • A description of the physical layout of the space(s) (sketch?)

    • Information about the people who typically come to the space (use pseudonyms or initials only)

    • Information about the activities that happen in the space

    • Reflections on the ways that the activities and material components of the space may support or inhibit learning.

Feel free to use these guidelines as headers in your notes.

  • Additional media: We encourage field notes to include, either interspersed within the notes or as appendices, photographs of the site, sketches of the site, or other illustrations that help to expand and understanding of the site’s structure and the activities that occur there.

We recommend that notes be between 500 and 750 words.

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