Friday, September 28, 2007

Learning on Display

Learning on display is a phrase the leading educational architects use these days when designing new educational facilities with open, flexible classrooms and soft-spaces outside the traditional classroom that expand the concept of learning environments. In the past few weeks I have had the great experience of witnessing learning on display in a variety of ways here at MVCC.

The notion of learning on display is what pops in my mind each time I see so many of the civil engineering/surveying students out and about on the quad with their surveying equipment - going beyond the classroom - and putting learning in action right here on campus. Being new, I don't know if this kind of thing happens all the time, but I've recently gained a new appreciation for all the different ways learning can happen.

I watched the theatre auditorium fill with students and faculty to participate in a great constitution day event. A week later a number of students joined close to 100 community members to watch the Oneida County District Attorney debate at 5 p.m. in the evening, as our social sciences department continues to creatively expose students to the complexities of democracy at work.

That same week, I watched the auditorium fill once again for a fantastic lecture on the top 5 emerging technologies by New York Times writer David Pogue. A few days later, more than 80 students attended a special cultural series lecture on the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. I particularly enjoyed this event as I got there early and went upstairs to sit in a comfortable chair and just take in the rhythm of the campus while I waited. For about ten minutes, everyone who was hanging out in the lobby was wonderfully entertained by a spontaneous piano concert from a very talented student who breathed amazing life into a normally dormant piano that many fail to recognize in their daily travels. As I sat and listened to the impromptu concert, I watched a senior faculty member on his way to teach a class. He had a skip in his step, a glow on his face, and an energy about him as he moved among the students in the hall - a visible enthusiasm that would make one think it was his first day on the job. As I watched him go, Ipods, laptops, and cellphones were buzzing all around me and it felt good to just take in a small sliver of the daily student experience at MV.

Similarly, the very next day I walked right through the middle of a classroom on my way to a meeting. A wise faculty member decided students might be more engaged in learning if the class met outside and left the confines of their four walls. Perhaps it was the lack of a single cloud in the sky, the warm sun, the 73 degree temperature, or the gentle breeze that prompted the relocation, but it was great to see someone seize the moment and spontaneously create a more active learning environment for students. It was also nice to see the campus take advantage of another beautiful fall day in the Mohawk Valley when I walked through the tent on Student Clubs and Organizations Day. I enjoyed getting to see the more than 50 student groups on campus available for students to participate in and extend their learning beyond the traditional classroom.

The manner in which MVCC faculty support and encourage their students to participate in these learning opportunities - whether it's required, extra credit, or simply encouraged - and create spontaneous (or planned) non-traditional learning environments is part of what makes MVCC special...where learning is clearly on display.

If you've seen learning happen in surprising or creative ways, let me know at presblog@mvcc.edu.