The grand opening of a new renovated space in the teaching and learning department happened at the beginning of last month. The area is called Thinkerspace. It was designed to allow UFV faculty to collaborate across departments, work on curriculum and teaching, experiment with new technologies, and think about other projects. Over 100 people attended the open house on the day the space was opened up across the hall from the library in G building.
Teaching and learning is a department devoted to helping improve the level of teaching quality at UFV.
Director of teaching and learning, Maureen Wideman, said, “What we’re here for is to help faculty members with their curriculum, with their teaching, with their use of technology, all those kinds of things. So we’re a support unit for faculty members, and every university has one.”
Thinkerspace, Wideman said, is a “place for faculty to come and work together and chill, and experiment with new technologies and work with us if they need to — that’s what it’s all about.”
Some of the tech equipment being looked at in Thinkerspace for potential uses include a pair of virtual reality goggles that work by using a cell-phone screen, a special new projector with electronic pens that lets users interact with the projection like a smartboard, and upgraded film equipment along with a green screen in another room.
Wideman said of the video recording studio, “We had a small video studio for faculty and students before. This is bigger and it has better equipment … It’s available for faculty and students to come and use … You can come in person to book the space, or there’s an online booking system as well that the faculty use.”
A proposal was put forth and went through the approval process at UFV, then an application was submitted for a major and minor renovations grant from the B.C. government. The renovations got started in November and went through the winter until March. Now the space is accessible and ready to use.
Wideman said, “Our last workspace didn’t meet our needs; it wasn’t configured really well. Our video studio was quite small, storage area wasn’t sufficient, the way people were working together was really cramped,” she said. “There wasn’t actually a room on campus for faculty to go and work. They can go to the cafeteria and library like everybody else — but students have lots of smaller workspaces and labs and things, and faculty actually don’t. This small space was sort of carved out of our office space. So it’s not that students aren’t allowed in it but it’s a space dedicated to faculty.”
To elaborate on some of the potential for the VR goggles and high-tech projector, Wideman explained, “There’s all kinds of apps for the goggles. The New York Times has a virtual reality app, CBC has an app where you can be in a Syrian refugee camp and get that 3D experience. You can see up and around and there are people talking, music playing, so it’s a pretty cool experience.”
She said of the projector, “We’re experimenting to see how people might want to use it. It’s being installed in a couple of classrooms. It uses these pens so you could run a PowerPoint and write on the PowerPoint and send it out. For example, you could send an amended version to students.”
The name was chosen through a contest. It was referred to simply as a “resource centre” while people submitted name suggestions. There were about 95 entries, and the winner was Maple Melder-Crozier from the child, youth, and family studies department, who chose the name Thinkerspace.