Saturday, 31 March 2012


I have started to get organised and packed ready to fly out from Heathrow next Friday evening.  I have decided that I might need to get some extra baggage allowance as I only have a 20kg allowance for a 5 week trip, and I can't believe I won't be going shopping!!

I am flying with Asiana Airlines, so I have just been onto their website to see if I could arrange something online.

South Korean currency is the Won, and there are 1,812 to the GBP.  I have checked the cost of an extra 5kg of luggage, and it is apparently 163SKWon, which converts to 9p....

Think I will wait until Monday morning and speak to the travel agent!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Twirly Lecture Theatre

Today is turning out to be quite exciting and satisfying!  Not only is the sun shining, but a project that we have been working on for over 2 years to create what we have fondly called "the twirly lecture theatre"is about to be completed.

As styles of teaching and delivery change, we are being required to create a wider range of spaces to accommodate the changing needs of staff and students.  We still need the traditional lecture theatres, classrooms and seminar rooms, and I can't see that changing in the foreseeable future at my own institution, so we also need to create new spaces that are adaptable and agile to users requirements.

A few years ago, we created an experimental  "Active Learning Classroom".  We took an old, 100 seat raked lecture theatre and turned it into a multi-level group working space for 40.  Although we flooded it with technology, we were careful not to install anything fixed within the room in case we had to make rapid changes.  This space is a fantastic teaching and learning venue, and we, the designers, managers and supporters of the space have also learned much to inform the development of future innovative spaces.  One of the problems with teaching is that you may want different types of spaces at different times throughout the delivery of your module, and to accommodate this in an 11 week period in the timetable, it may be necessary to book out two rooms in order to switch between both during the term.  This is wasteful, but we know that it happens.

The project we are now completing is the creation of an "interactive lecture theatre", a space where a teacher can deliver traditional teaching if appropriate, but can also have students working in defined groups all facing one another.  Chairs that turn around have been around for years I know, but we wanted to do more than provide chairs with writing tablets, we wanted to create defined group working areas.  The major problem with this has been the movable seating, seating that not only turns around so you can face the students behind, but also allows you to reach the writing/work surface.

We have now achieved this by using traditional furniture supplied through a UK manufacturer together with a seating system manufactured in the USA.  The fitters are in as I write, and this is what it currently looks like....

Curved, fixed seating
View from the lectern, 3 "i-desks" at the rear of the room

The room accommodates 12 groups of 8.  The fixed row consists of 5 seats curved in to improve group working (an idea borrowed from one of the lecture theatres at the University of Strathclyde) and the twirly seats are arranged in rows of 3 to give them both space to turn and also mesh with the group behind to avoid clashes with books etc.  The refurbishment of the room was actually completed last September, but the twirly seats had not arrived so we used operators chairs temporarily until the correct seating arrived.  you can see them at the side of the room.

Feedback from staff and students has been very good notwithstanding the fact that the room wasn't complete, so we will be undertaking more formal evaluation of the room and facilities soon.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Six days and counting

6 working days left until I leave to start my trip to Asia.

Today, I have ensured that I have a good supply of business cards to take with me. There is a formal protocol surrounding the giving and receiving of business cards in Asian cultures which must be followed in order not to cause offence.

I learnt all about this on a recent visit to Hong Kong.  Although it was a short visit lasting 5 days, I managed to run out of cards, (although I brought plenty of other cards home with me!) much to the amusement of my colleagues from the University of Hong Kong (HKU).  In order to ensure that I did not offend people I was meeting for the first time, my colleagues from HKU kept returning cards I had given to them earlier so that I could reuse them.  I can't begin to tell you how stressful and embarrassing it felt, so, no chance of a repeat this time!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Planning for an Asian Adventure

I have been fortunate enough to secure funding and support from my Institution, University of Birmingham through the Universitas 21 Fellowship Scheme and my professional association, SCHOMS, to undertake visits to a number of universities who are members of the Universitas 21 Network in Asia.  I will be looking at the support and managment of Learning Spaces and the development of new, modern Libraries at these and a number of other institutions.

Leaving on Friday 6th April I will be visiting Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore.  The final destination before coming home will be to Vietnam to have some holiday and catch up with an old friend in Ho Chi Minh City, but I am also hoping that it may be possible to arrange a visit to a university whilst I am there.

The purpose of this blog will be to record my trip as it happens and share some of the (hopefully) exciting things that are happening with spaces and technology in Asia.

I am particularly interested in Korean Universities reaction to this news:- and how this will affect classroom and library provision both now and in the future.