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Creating customized education

by Jonathan Baron

The Gottesman Libraries at Teachers College, Columbia University, asked us to help them think about how to repurpose the fourth floor to create a space that could support research into new methods of teaching. The underlying idea was that an immersive learning environment could lead to better learning outcomes. Rather than being a classroom space, the “Learning Theater,” is closer to a black box theater—an empty canvas for events. Using theatrical lighting, audio, video, and moveable partitions and furniture, the space can be endlessly reconfigured based on the needs of the event. For example, a biology class might use a wall-sized projection of a cell to understand cell function, while a middle-eastern bazaar could feature “vendor” stalls. Each educational experience would utilize the same space to create vastly different learning exercises using lighting and audio to establish a sense of place.

Jonathan Baron, director at Shepley Bulfinch; Gary Natriello, director of the Gottesman Libraries, and Brian Hughes, senior creative director of the EdLab at Teachers College, discuss how the new learning space at Teachers College was conceived, and how it is being used.

We shot the above video of a real-time event held within the Learning Theater, which highlighted different research projects at Teachers College. It was inspiring to see the space used in a variety of ways during a single event—to showcase VR applications, videos, plenary, and group spaces and stations for hands-on activities.

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