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Spring Gillard
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Learning Landscapes

It was learning week at UBC this past week. Presumably we’re supposed to be learning all the time, but this week was special in that there were all sorts of cool courses and workshops to attend. Many of them were through the Centre for Teaching, Learning & Technology where I have been enjoying many professional development offerings. I attended one session this week called “Spaces for Teaching, Spaces for Learning.” There was a presentation on a Collaborative Lecture Annotation System (CLAS), recently developed by Arts ISIT and the Department of Psychology that allows students to highlight and comment on key sections of a video presentation. Dr. Andrew Riseman was there talking about outdoor learning spaces, specifically the UBC Farm and the newer orchard garden. A student talked about the best study spaces on campus and what makes them the best (tables and chairs, quiet, room for group collaboration, electric outlets, good lighting, close access to food).

The learning spaces topic made me think of Shenyang Architectural University in Northern China where a progressive administration worked with a brilliant architect to transform the campus landscape. Instead of ornamental flowers and shrubs, they planted rice paddy fields, with boardwalks and cul-de-sacs where students could gather. Every spring the professors and students plant the paddy, and every fall they harvest. In this way, sustainable food production is demonstrated and an ancient part of the culture is preserved. The entire campus was turned into a productive learning landscape.

I hope to be part of cultivating the sustainability landscape on campus.

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