With the rise of learning commons and collaboration laboratories (COLABs), people are using space differently in order to engage in learning. Rather than a third place as defined by Ray Oldenburg, these fourth places are becoming where people go to participate in specific learning activities. Paul Signorelli discusses the difference between third and fourth places, and how this learning fourth place is different than the library settings we’re used to creating. Maurice Coleman and Jill Hurst-Wahl outline how a library can create a fourth place using existing or recycled space (e.g., shipping containers) as well as the library services and resources that would support fourth place activities. Included is an interaction brainstorm about partnerships the libraries can pursue in order to bring this vision to reality.The fact is, this is not something futuristic; we're already doing it. Our goal then is to get people to think more creatively and to let go of some of the stereotypes of what a learning space is.
With that in mind, I want to share a story of one recent learning activity. On March 9, there was a brown bag session at Syracuse University on scholarly impact. (The term "brown bag" infers that people should bring their own lunch or snack to eat while listening to the speaker.) The group that put together the session wanted the session to have a different level of impact than a normal in-person brown bag session. A Twitter hashtag was created and used prior to the session to promote it. A video camera was used to stream the session live on Ustream. A person (me) in the room was designated to follow the chat conversation in Ustream and to tweet updates during the session, as well as monitor the Twitter hashtag for comments. A Twitter-fall was projected behind the speakers, so that people in the room could see the tweets. The result was that the packed room (30+ people) were joined by 16+ people in Ustream and an unknown number of people following in Twitter. Questions were asked via Twitter and Ustream from North Carolina and Illinois.
You may consider that example to be fairly normal. In fact, there are learning sessions happening all the time that are similar to that. At CIL, Maurice, Paul and I are going to push the envelope further - blow the wall off of normal! - especially in regards to how libraries can think about creating learning "spaces". We've even thought differently about how we're giving the presentation, since Paul will be giving his portion live from California. Our session is Wednesday at 2:45 p.m. (session A304). If you're at CIL, please stop by.