TFDL offers TeamSpot to help students get along

Workroom file sharing technology enables better collaboration among students

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The Taylor Family Digital Library has incorporated the software TeamSpot into its workrooms in an effort to enable more efficient collaboration for students. The TFDL currently offers around 30 workrooms for students, each with a portal for TeamSpot.

Paul Pival, public services systems librarian at the TFDL, explained that TeamSpot was chosen in an effort to help students “play nicely together.”

“We wanted to avoid the laptop huddle that we saw with students in MacKimmie Library,” said Pival. “Rather than take turns driving the PC, each student can now wirelessly connect to a central computer as well as to each other.”

TeamSpot, developed by Tidebreak, allows technology-wide wireless sharing. Installation instructions are posted in each workroom. According to Pival, students first download a Java client and receive an authentication connection code from the central monitor in each workroom.

“Without the authentication code, devices can’t join in the TeamSpot session. We wanted to avoid the obvious and dubious uses that students might try to mess with each other,” he added.

Second-year chemistry major Brook Webster admitted to not having used the workrooms frequently for collaborative work, but acknowledged the benefits of TeamSpot for students.

“It’s a pain in the butt emailing group members and getting everyone’s contact information. It can be slow and tedious,” she said. “File sharing is very useful for group projects where you’d need to review other people’s work and data.”

Second-year science graduate student Adam Coderre echoed Webster’s comments. “It sounds like the program could alleviate some of the hassle of putting things on USB sticks and passing that around to everyone.”

With TeamSpot, “no one has to be editor; everyone can contribute at the same time,” said TFDL technology librarian Shawna Sadler. Each student can add files or open documents on the main screen while other students edit documents on their own laptops. Laptop screens can be projected onto the main screen with all students active on the screen at the same time.

“I worry about how the system will be used,” Webster said, citing possible issues of plagiarism if files were saved onto the main screen in the workrooms. “If someone comes in after you’ve left and all your files are stored there, or if you’re working on a research project that has privacy implications, there could be serious problems.”

The TFDL has been open for a year and a half, having survived criticisms and skepticism regarding whether it was a truly “digital” library. When developing the digital aspects of the library, Sadler said they focused on “learning, research and operations.”

“The library provides a great variety of learning spaces,” Sadler continued. “We really support students’ use of the technology they currently own as part of their learning process.”

Workrooms can be booked on touch screens outside the rooms themselves as well as online, Pival explained. He has also been working to develop a workroom booking application for smartphones.

“It’s my dream to eventually have an online map showing available chairs on each floor,” said Pival.

In addition to incorporating TeamSpot into workrooms to ease collaboration and learning for students, the TFDL has also designed an Adaptive Technology Workroom for students with auditory and visual impairments. Students must be registered with the Disability Resource Centre and can book the room at the circulation service desk.

“These spaces are designed for flexibility,” said Sadler. “Students can choose what works best for their needs.”