Library tests new tech-study space


When Eroica Stackhouse, treasurer of Webster Quidditch Club, pulled up the club’s budget report on her laptop, it appeared on the TV screen near where her club officers sat in Emerson Library. Stackhouse had her laptop plugged into a media:scape — a temporary study space in the library. The space consists of a table, chairs and one to two HD televisions with videoconferencing capabilities.
Once a student connects their computer, they hit a small disc, or puck, to start the system. The screen automatically connects and displays what is on the laptop.

“If she makes any changes to it we can all see all the new changes,” Alex Pierce, senior mentor in Webster Quidditch Club said. “(Normally) if we all wanted to look at it at the same time we’d have to crowd around a laptop.”
There are two media:scapes — one in the first floor lobby and the other in library room 215. The library has the media:scapes on a three week trial, which ends Nov. 15. The library will request money from Webster University to purchase two media:scapes. They would be installed next school year.

Instruction and Liason Services Librarian John Watts said the study area combines furniture and technology to create a collaborative, relaxed space for students.

“Learning is so much more social,” Watts said. “The library is one of the best places to facilitate that.”
Up to six students can plug laptops into the system. Attached to each connector cord is a small round puck.
Steelcase produces the media:scapes. The company sells work-related spaces and products.

School of Communications professor Terri Reilly tested the space out with students in her arts forum class. For her class library research project, students have to present their findings using the media:scape. Each student was assigned an aspect of art and has to present what library resources are available related to their subject.

They have used the collaborative space in class as a group as well. Reilly said she is impressed by the resolution and crispness of the screen. She said the technology was easier than the technology set up in classrooms on campus.
“I hooked up my computer and I was amazed at how easy it was to get started,” Riley said.

She described her class’s presentations as research show-and-tell. She encouraged her students to use the system to show library catalogs and how to navigate to them on the screen for the class. Reilly said she looks forward to seeing how the students use the technology in their class presentations.

“It would be great to have it in the classroom,” Reilly said.

When a student wants their screen to appear on the display screen or screens, they press their puck. Pucks need an adaptor for Macintosh computers.

Watts said students will come across collaborative technology in the working world and they should become familiar with that in college.

If the university grants the library funding for the collaborative spaces, they will place both in library study rooms. Library visitors would be able to reserve the space or just use it if it’s available.

Reilly said students often dread group projects. She said spaces like media:scape can improve that experience for students.
“I can really see this changing that dynamic, everyone would have to be pulling their own weight because you would be able to project it there and see the results of any collaborative effort going on,” Riley said.

The university’s fiscal year starts June 1. At that time, the library will know if they have the funding to purchase the media:scapes for next year.

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