Re-imagining Learning Spaces Conference 2013

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By Dr Harriet Shortt


Last week I went to the second Re-imagining Learning Spaces Conference, at the University of South Wales. This was a great one-day FREE! conference organised by The Learning Spaces Pedagogic Research Group, chaired by Dr Bela Arora, and IBI Nightingale, represented by Head of Research and Development, Caroline Paradise. Despite being a rainy and grey day in South Wales (and boy did it rain!), this was an enlightening and energetic day! There was a great mix of academic staff from all over the UK, architects, facilities professionals, librarians, designers and space consultants – which made for some lively and varied group discussions.

The day started with a warm and enthusiastic welcome from Dr Bela Arora, who highlighted the important connections we should be making between facilities, space and the aesthetics of our universities, the student voice, innovative teaching, well-being and the student experience.

Next, we enjoyed a fascinating keynote from Dr Mark Moss at the University of Northumbria. Mark’s work – in the school of psychology – explores smell and the environmental application of aromas. Apart from learning a new word – ‘anosmics: people who can’t smell!’ – I thought Mark’s work was really thought provoking…and apart from Prof Sam Warren and Dr Kat Riach’s ESRC funded ‘smell’ project, Mark is one of the few people who I have heard talk about detailed research into the significance of smell in the workplace, learning space or indeed any space! He talked about scientific trials exploring the smell of rosemary and its impact on long-term memory…other work that examined the relationship between the smell of peppermint and exercise, smells when we go clubbing, smells when we go shopping, and using the scent of lavender in toilets in the workplace in Japan to enable people to ‘rest more successfully’!

Our small group discussions then raised some key issues, where we debated ‘what are the characteristics of the ideal learning environment?’…lots came out around facilitating teaching and learning relationships, ownership, togetherness, technology…and that the little things matter!

After lunch we had a great tour of the award-winning Students’ Union building at the University of South Wales – we all took lots of pictures, asked loads of questions and along the way debated how various spaces would work at our own universities, what wouldn’t work, what spaces could be used differently, how and why  acoustics are really important and although we talk about togetherness and community…what does it really mean and does it really work?

Our second keynote was from Prof. Alexi Marmot at UCL. Alexi discussed design and the management of innovative learning spaces and covered broad ground in this area, including technology, using an Action Research approach to exploring this emerging topic in more detail, and’ future proofing’ the space in our institutions.

An important part of the day was the Student Panel Discussion, where we heard from a number of students across the university and how they felt about their teaching and learning spaces. This was an insightful session where we heard about where students work most effectively, what times of the day they worked and again…how the little things mattered to them too!

Finally we heard from the Director-General of the Department of Education and Skills, Welsh Government, the Programme Director for 21st Century Schools, Welsh Assembly Government, Caroline Paradise at IBI Nightingale and the Site Librarian of the award-winning Trevithick Library at Cardiff University. For me, this last session drew together some important threads – we need to make sure that we talk to those in across the education sector and learn from them; that we should identify the ‘space champions’ in our institutions and work with them during change management process; that pre and post occupancy research is vital…and once we ‘move in’ to our spaces, that’s not the end – as Alexi Marmot said, that’s just the start and the academic community needs to continually work together to ensure that spaces and places are always working well for those that inhabit them!

Thanks to everyone involved in this conference – and I’m looking forward to Re-imagining Learning Spaces, 2014!

Harriet Shortt

P.S. Apologies for the repeat post for those that follow my personal blog: …I thought this one was worth sharing here too 🙂

Poetry in Motion…

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By Dr Harriet Shortt

Hi all!

Eda has kindly shared news of the forthcoming publication of a great poetry book, Raisins and Almonds by Prof. Howard Stein – academic, consultant and poet!

It will be published by Finishing Line Press, in Georgetown, KY, and will be released the week of 10 January 2014 in the US. It will contain about thirty poems that Prof. Stein has written in the past several years.

More information about Prof. Stein’s work and books can be found online and here:

Best wishes for a good weekend! Harriet

Centre for Understanding Social Practices

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By Dr Harriet Shortt

Hi everyone!

Thanks very much, Margaret, for sharing this! Please see attachment for the Centre for Understanding Social Practices (CUSP) seminar schedule. Seminars are run across both Frenchay and Glenside Campuses, from 16.00-17.30, and no need to register!

Some of these look great…and a good opportunity for some cross-faculty networking! 🙂

CUSP Seminars 2013 schedule

Calling all those interested in the visual…

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By Dr Harriet Shortt

The super brilliant Routledge Companion to Visual Organization is out!

This great book is edited by Prof. Emma Bell, Prof. Samantha Warren and Prof. Jonathan Schroeder and includes 24 chapters with contributions from a whole range of academics…

…and I thought I’d share this with you as I have my first book chapter in here…along with my great colleagues and friends, Jan Betts and Sam Warren! Our chapter, ‘Visual workplace identities: Objects, emotion and resistance’ brings together our empirical research and looks at how objects play an important role for individuals at work depending on the meanings associated with them and how visible they are to others.

I have asked the Library at UWE to get a copy…so that will be available soon…and this can be found as an e-book too! Enjoy!


Are you going to make a new ‘academic’ year resolution…?

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…if you are going to make a new ‘academic’ year resolution, then why not make one that involves blogging!? There are lots of great reasons why blogging about your research is a really good idea, and Mark Carrigan lists 17 of them on his blog (check out the link below) – he’s a cool Sociologist and Academic Technologist – and amongst other things he says it makes you more visible inside and outside your organisation…and helps you articulate your ideas in just a few words! So, ring in the new year with a blog post! Send me stories of your summer conferences, progress reports on your papers and tales of recent research…and I’ll post them on here for you!

Best wishes, Harriet

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