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From technophobe to technophile: Taylor Institute offers a unique blend of space, technology and community to all instructors

Apply by Feb. 17 to teach in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning in spring/summer 2017
January 27, 2017
Learning spaces at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning offer technologies for all types of users. Photo by David S. Troyer for the University of Calgary

Learning spaces at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning offer technologies for all types of users. Photo by David S. Troyer for the University of Calgary

For Faye Halpern, an associate professor in the Department of English, the flexible configuration of TI learning spaces encourages student participation. Photo by Jessica Snow. University of Calgary

For Faye Halpern, an associate professor in the Department of English, the flexible configuration of TI learning spaces encourages student participation. Photo by Jessica Snow, University of Calgary 

The forum at the TI has retractable seating that allows it to convert from a flat-floor learning space (132 seats) to 340-seat public lecture space. Photo by David S. Troyer, for the University of Calgary

The forum at the TI has retractable seating that allows it to convert from a flat-floor learning space (132 seats) to 340-seat public lecture space. Photo by David S. Troyer, for the University of Calgary

The most ingenious technologies are often the simplest. The wheel, for example, was likely invented in 3500 BC in Mesopotamia at the hands of an early potter. It later spread across the globe to revolutionize human transportation, agriculture and commerce. Several millennia later, the most important technology at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning would still be recognizable by the Neolithic Sumerian who invented it, where a single learning studio boasts over 335 wheels located on tables, chairs, screens, whiteboards and teaching stations.

This was the call to action for Faye Halpern, who teaches 19th-century American literature in the Department of English. “Almost every classroom that I’ve ever been offered has seating in rows and it’s very hard to get a good discussion going if the students can’t see each other,” says Halpern. “I was excited for the Taylor Institute, even just having the low-tech possibility of being able to have students sit in a horseshoe and see each other. You’re not locked into a given structure.”

Comfortable technology

When learning to use some of the other technologies available in the Taylor Institute, Halpern followed the advice of TI staff, “try just one thing you haven’t tried before.” They helped Halpern find Padlet, an annotation software, that helps to develop close reading skills and facilitates small group work when used on collaboration carts — 50” touch-enabled screens — located throughout the learning studios.

Sean Rogers from the Department of Biological Sciences notes, “the first time I entered the TI to visit the space and the technology I was really taken by how comfortable it felt, despite the high-tech. In his molecular ecology course, students have the opportunity to participate in a semester-long “field study” where they sample fish DNA (from markets and restaurants) and use DNA barcoding to ask the question, Is the fish label consistent with the DNA barcode? "Breakout spaces and conversation pods alongside interactive screens mean that students can get to the heart of the discussion in an easier way. It’s been great,” says Rogers.

Experiment with new teaching and learning approaches

Instructors who wish to teach a university course at the Taylor Institute are asked to submit an application form detailing what features of the learning spaces they are most interested in and how these features will help achieve the course’s learning goals. They will also be asked to share — formally or informally — what they have learned by teaching in TI learning spaces. These discoveries will help shape the design of future learning spaces on campus.

Find a teaching and learning community

Beyond the flexible spaces and streamlined technology, the Taylor Institute represents the teaching and learning community at the University of Calgary. Academic staff who teach university-level courses at the TI form part of the Learning Spaces Community of Practice and are able to access the full range of support, workshops and activities that are offered by the Institute. The Taylor Institute also provides many other opportunities for knowledge sharing such as Lunch and Learns and the University of Calgary Post-Secondary Conference on Learning and Teaching, among others.

More examples of university-level courses taught at the TI 

  • iProgramming for Creative Minds taught by Christian Jacob is a practical iOS programming course intended to provide advanced students in computer science with the necessary tools to prototype, design, and implement apps for iPhones and iPads. The class operates in a collaborative flipped course model, using the flexible layout and reconfigurable display hardware in the learning studios to create hubs for students to develop software in teams.
  • Beginners Arabic taught by Asmaa Shehata utilizes workstations that support oral production tasks and productive teamwork skills. The project explores how experiential learning could be used to improve Arabic learners' performance, while students work in small teams to design, research and present on important cultural issues.
  • The Discipline and Profession of Nursing III: Furthering Inquiry and Scholarship in Nursing taught by Linda Duffett-Leger and Sandra Goldsworthy, utilizes the modular set-up with technology at each cart, which is conducive to team-based learning (TBL). Using the TBL teaching approach, nursing students engage in a variety of experiential learning activities in the classroom. For instance, pre-recorded simulations (clinical scenarios) stream into the classroom, allowing students to apply their knowledge about nursing research while developing their clinical reasoning skills.

Friday, Feb. 17 deadline for spring/summer 2017 applications

The deadline to apply to teach in the Taylor Institute in spring/summer 2017 is Friday, Feb. 17. More information about TI spaces can be found at the TI Learning Spaces website.

The online application form can be found here.