Classroom Design

Cornell Prof Teaches Transmedia Design in StudioLab Classroom

A professor at Cornell University is looking to break down barriers between disciplines and media formats by combining different kinds of learning from seminars, studios and labs into an approach called "studiolabs."

"In traditional liberal arts, different learning spaces are siloed into the areas of humanities and social sciences, art and design and science and engineering," said Jon McKenzie, the Arts and Sciences dean's fellow for media and design and visiting professor of English, in a prepared statement. "My studiolab approach uses media studios that convert quickly from seminar to studio to lab, enabling students to integrate critical thinking, creation and media production."

McKenzie's studiolabs require movable furniture, so students can be arranged in rows, for example, for whole-class instruction and then later moved into clusters for team-based projects. The classroom doesn't require technology beyond a projector because students bring their own devices to class with them.

"The studiolab pedagogy is designed to teach students to create 'transmedia knowledge,' in which content is shaped across different media forms," according to a Cornell news release. "McKenzie offers the example of a research paper, which uses a particular aesthetic form to convey logical clarity (including an abstract, an introduction and a description of methodology). But the same research might be presented in PowerPoint to a potential donor or Comic Life (a desktop publishing program) for community members."

Students form small design teams that aim to look past traditional media forms, particularly print, which McKenzie said is the only media in which students routinely receive much training.

"Critical design and media production, alongside critical thinking and writing, are essential elements of being a creative and productive member of contemporary culture and 21st-century civic society," said McKenzie in his syllabus. "The ability to think critically and creatively, to analyze and to make, and to communicate ideas and experiences across diverse media to different audiences will serve students in any field they enter."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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