This morning a spontaneous meeting with Brenda Farmer, Senior Learning Environment Designer, whisked me out of the library. Educational Technology Services (ETS) offers various services on campus such as bSpace, an e-learning platform, and portable technology for classrooms. I'm already familiar with similar services at German universities, where they are also often managed by the libraries, particularly when it comes to e-Learning. Of the various services that ETS offers, I am especially interested in the active classrooms . Since the launch of the Teaching Library at the Badische Landesbibliothek (Baden State Library), we have been experimenting with flexible furniture and adaptable technology to make learning situations at the library as supportive as possible. We currently have flexible laptop carts as well as interactive whiteboards in two different, equipped and furnished classrooms. I was thus curious to find out what was meant by an "active classroom" at Berkeley. The classroom that Brenda Farmer introduced me to as the "test kitchen" has over 30 seats – the chairs and tables can be rolled and stacked, the tables can even be folded. As a result, it is always possible to create new learning situations – and as Brenda Farmer says, she never finds the tables arranged the same way they were before. This is certainly a sign that the classroom inspires instructors to experiment. Movable, classic whiteboards as well as four large monitors are mounted on the walls. These monitors as well as various laptops connected to the system can be centrally controlled with an iPad. This means that the instructor can freely move around the room and that control of the monitors can be easily handed over to someone else. I like this idea. In our training programs we are experimenting with a wireless keyboard, which participants can pass around the room to hand over "control of the monitor" – of course an iPad is even more appealing. At the "test kitchen" in Berkeley it seems important to me that it is really easy to move the furniture and that the technology is intuitive. This is also the reason why no interactive whiteboards are installed – they would take too long for the changing groups of users to learn how to use. The room reminds me of the Teaching Grid at the University of Warwick, which I visited a few years ago. At the time I had also been impressed by the low-threshold drop-in principle and the pedagogical support I observed there.
I speak with Brenda Farmer for a while longer about efforts to raise awareness on campus about learning environments such as the active classroom and to work together with other institutions such as the library. In my opinion, providing consulting and technological support for learning processes is one of the most important future tasks that a central institution at a university can take over. For libraries that see themselves as learning sites, it thus makes sense to collaborate with similar initiatives at their universities and intensely participate in pedagogical discussions – if not even partially take over such tasks. It's clear to me at the end of our discussion that if we as libraries want to be more than "just" places where people study and that provide informational resources, but instead places that also actively consult and truly accompany educational processes, then we have to grapple even more with technology-supported pedagogy and concepts such as the active classroom.