On August 1, over 40 Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) staff moved from the Rider Building to newly refurbished office space on the ground floor of Shields Building on Curtin Road, University Park. Jennifer Sparrow, senior director of TLT, and an administrative assistant have also moved to the new space from the Computer Building.
TLT staff who have been stationed in other University Park locations, including the Computer Building, 300 Building, and several Media Commons studios, will remain in the same offices. Three TLT staff members will also continue to be stationed at Penn State Schuylkill, York, and Fayette.
Once additional renovation work is completed in the fall, a new central “innovation showcase” space in 24 Shields, flanked by staff offices in rooms 1 and 3, will feature experimental classroom space, technologies such as virtual reality and a Lightboard for visitors to try out, and a One Button Studio.
“The innovation showcase space will really allow us an opportunity to showcase the emerging technologies that are coming down the pike and faculty projects around teaching and learning,” Sparrow said. “It will also provide a space for faculty, students, and TLT staff to come together to dream big on what needs to be next for transforming education at Penn State.”
While many TLT staff in the new Shields offices have traditional cubicles, several have given up that setup and will work in an open collaborative space within the innovation showcase, affectionately nicknamed “the alley” due to its shape. Sparrow said, “I envision that the folks that have done that will have rich dialogues throughout the day. People will come and go based on what their project needs are, and if they need more space, they need to collaborate, or they need input from the folks that are in that space, there will be real opportunities for those intersections.”
Those increased opportunities for interactions and sharing will also make the projects that TLT staff are working on much more transparent, according to Sparrow. “We’ve done an excellent job of creating new technologies and bringing new technologies to campus, but if that happens in different spaces and you’re not truly cognizant of who’s working on what, I think it’s often a difficult conversation to spring up,” she said. “By having that showcase space, it’s going to be a lot more visible—to us, to the faculty, to students, to hopefully the administration, who will come by and see what’s happening in those spaces.”
The completed innovation showcase space will be designed to be open and inviting, with glass doors that Sparrow said she hopes can be left open during work hours “so that people feel that ‘I want to come into this space and be a part of what’s happening there.'”
TLT’s greater proximity to central campus, East Halls, and the Intramural Building will also permit increased interactions with students, which Sparrow said is exciting. “I envision us having more student traffic than we’ve had, allowing us to get a much closer relationship with the students,” she said.
“My vision for this space from the very beginning was that we would be the very first stop on the Penn State admissions tour and showcase what we’re doing around teaching and learning with technology at Penn State,” Sparrow said. “I envision students saying, ‘I want to come to Penn State because of what they’re doing in these spaces.’ And once students get here, I want them to have a reason to come down to that space and engage with us.”
Engaged learning and getting students deeply involved in learning that is meaningful to them is an important University initiative, noted Sparrow, and the new TLT space is designed to directly address President Eric Barron’s imperatives of Technology and Student Engagement, and Provost Nicholas Jones’s strategic priority of Transforming Education.
Regarding TLT’s move, Sparrow observed, “In a time when much of IT is being moved off-campus, this is a really crucial statement that the work that TLT is doing is so closely tied with teaching and learning that a location that supports those collaborations and partnerships is critical for all of Penn State.”
Sparrow explained that though TLT is based at University Park, its work benefits the entire University. “There are lots of things that we are putting into place that may be a pilot and then we can see how the projects can be leveraged at the campuses,” she said. “People who have ideas or want to engage with us who aren’t here locally should contact us, and let’s explore. If they’re on campus and are going to be here for a meeting and want to just drop in and see the space, we would encourage that, or call us and we can bring you in virtually on our Beam robot.”
TLT anticipates hosting a grand opening of the new Shields offices sometime in October. Until that time, however, Sparrow emphasized, “Please feel free to stop in and see our new work space and learn more about the work that we’re doing in TLT and how you can become engaged.” Visitors are welcome to view the progress of the innovation showcase space as it takes shape.
To contact TLT, call 814-865-2030 or email email@example.com.