Insight for schools: Trends in university learning space design, big shift from lectures to collaborative learning

For many school-based educators, one of the justifications for maintaining a traditional teacher and content focused culture is the need to prepare students for university. But what if universities are changing.

MUSE  Macquarie University

MUSE at Macquarie University

There are many examples of tertiary institutions that understand the need for change. Information, lectures and resources can be accessed online, so why would they need to come into university. The MUSE at Macquarie University (pictured) is the transformation of the former library of the 1960s into learning commons and now more students are on campus, they have a place to go.

It has been interesting to read the chapter: The Further and Higher Education Campus in Design for the changing education landscape (2014) by Andrew Harrison and Les Hutton. There is significant insight for the school education sector from what is happening at the tertiary level.

The examples in this chapter are in a process of philosophical shifts, from tutor/lecturer focused, front facing classes toward collaborative and active learning environments. The Active Learning Center at the University of Minnesota noted the difference in the behaviour of a professor in the two different learning modes. In the traditional rooms there was more lecturing and the professor remained at the lectern. The open space approach showed more discussion, movement throughout the space and greater consultation with individuals and small groups.

From: Design for the changing education landscape (2014) Andrew Harrison and Les Hutton.

Before and After at Melbourne University From: Design for the changing education landscape (2014) Andrew Harrison and Les Hutton.

The lecture theatre has limited cut-through and is increasingly inconsistent with the modes of learning that students need in the technology rich environment. It is not uncommon for students to stream lectures to their device, rather than sit in the lecture theatre. Physics lecturer, Eric Mazur realised how ineffective the lecture was for gaining knowledge and understanding. He discovered that this was better achieved through discussion and student-to-student explanation. In the article in Harvard Magazine,  Twilight of the Lecture: The trend toward “active learning” may overthrow the style of teaching that has ruled universities for 600 years, he says,

It’s no accident that most elementary schools are organised that way. The reason is, that’s how we learn. For some reason we unlearn how to learn as we progress from elementary school through middle school and high school. And in a sense, maybe I’m bringing kindergarten back to college by having people talk to each other!”

We can better prepare our students for further learning by considering these elements in the design of school, especially in terms of the three learning landscapes – physical, virtual and cultural.

The City – the campus as a learning communityManhattan and the City at NBCS

Alongside designated places for learning, we begin to see the entire campus as a learning landscape, identifying the spaces in-between. Movement areas are designed as part of the overall landscape. The balance of formal and informal settings is changing as students are required to be more self-directed. In many schools, valuable real estate is taken up by herding cattle along corridors. We can consider how these transition spaces can be exploited. Food is also important, more than just fuel, it is a catalyst for connection. But quality of the food and design of the setting matters.

Informal and Social Learning Spaces 

Primary school in Copenhagen

Primary school in Copenhagen

Mobile technology is the enabler that make informal spaces work for learning. They are usually outside the classroom, adjacent to eating and gathering spaces. Designed for both staff and student to co-locate, supporting the notion of a pervasive learning community. Social hubs are designed to suit each institution’s unique needs and culture.

Furniture Layout 2012-10-10 12.40.08 copy

Round tables encourage collaboration and quickly create a community of
learning. The students are forced to look at each other, changing the relationship amongst the classes. Allowing for different furniture types and multiple arrangements encourage collaborative and group based learning.

Libraries

A contentious subject for many schools. When learning resources are available digitally and students can almost carry a library on their device, the libraries can serve as information commons. The place where the digital learning environment can be managed. The lines are blurring between the learning commons, technology spaces, social/food spaces and information spaces. There can be sanctuaries for concentration and reflection alongside the collaborative and group settings, providing for different needs and a variety of settings for learners

TU Delft Library

What’s your metaphor?

As I explore this subject the importance of creating a metaphor for the spaces recurs. Ownership, codes of behaviour and a simple description in the shape of a metaphor can communicate the complex in a simple way. Here are some examples I recorded as I read Harrison and Hutton. What do you think they are describing?

  • City and the streets
  • Front Porch
  • Cul-de-sac
  • Den
  • Hive
  • Club
  • Cell
  • Home

No standing still

Learning is changing as society changes. Gaining knowledge and understanding in a digital and globally connected world requires a new mindset. We can stick to tried and tested ways, claim that the pendulum always swings back again, but I haven’t seen many pendulum clocks anywhere other than a museum. The world has changed and thankfully the place where learning occurs is evolving.

@anneknock

Design for the Changing Educational Landscape

Designing spaces for learning: 10 questions to STOP asking and 10 questions to START asking for choice, flexibility & connection

Design for the Changing Educational LandscapeCurrently I am reading Design for the Changing Educational Landscape: Space, Place and the Future of Learning (Harrison & Hutton). The book was published in 2014 and cites research and white papers dating back to the early 2000s. People were having the conversations then, the same ones that we are having now. A quote in the book is from the Design Council (UK) “Learning Environments Campaign Prospectus: From the Inside Out Looking In” (2005)

The 2005 research showed low quality, standardised and institutional classroom environments and resources are not just uninspiring, they actually:

  • reduce the range of teaching and learning styles possible and affect interaction between teacher and student
  • undermine the value placed on learning
  • fail to adapt to individual needs
  • hinder creativity
  • are inefficient
  • waste time and effort
  • cost more in the long term

Too often the imperative of the urgent and the need to meet the budget stops school leaders from stepping back to ask the right questions. So instead they default to what schools have always done, perhaps based on the expectations of parents, governors or media.

10 Questions to stop asking:

  1. What buildings do we want?
  2. How many classrooms do we need?
  3. What are the external distractions that need to be minimised?
  4. What are the subjects we need to teach?
  5. How many desks and chairs do we need?
  6. Where do we put the whiteboard?
  7. Can all the students see the teacher/whiteboard/front?
  8. Where are the noticeboards to display student work?
  9. Where do we put the teachers desk?
  10. What technology do we need today?

The Design Council paper includes this annotated photo, a snapshot in time that could be the reality in many schools today, 10 years later. What does it tell us?

From:  Learning Environments Campaign Prospectus - From the inside looking out

From: Learning Environments Campaign Prospectus – From the inside looking out

Internal decor: Standardised institutional environment lacks character and fails to complement other aspects of design

Displays: Static and scrappy displays of student work rapidly become wallpaper.

Teacher’s desk: Teacher zone supports didactic approach and mindset among teachers and pupils

Technology: When technology is not embedded within design the environment will not support ongoing flexible adaptation

Desks and arrangement of furniture

  • Middle of the class: Children not wanting to answer questions sit outside this area
  • Desks at the back: Children wanting to misbehave sit here

Light: Lack of control over light

Furniture: Inflexible desks and chairs inhibit group work and movement

In 2009, the Salford Centre for Research and Innovation in the Built and Human Environment Barrett and Zhang emphasised the link between learning and space.

Barrett and Zhang do not believe it is possible to create a plan that will work forever, however…three key issues seem to link school design with considerations of individualisation, and provide a framework within which change can take place.

These three issues are choice, flexibility and connection.

Taking the time to think ahead, to understand the learning and social needs of students and provide the learning environment that students need, there are alternative questions that can be asked:

  1. What kind of learning do we want to see?
  2. What are the learning relationships we want to encourage?
  3. How much natural light and outside inspiration can we accommodate?
  4. What tools and resources are available to us to support students’ learning?
  5. What furniture facilitate the learning environment we need?
  6. What focal points are required?
  7. Where will the variety of learning modes happen in the space?
  8. How do we share the creativity and innovation of students?
  9. How do we facilitate the storage needs for the teacher?
  10. What (do we imagine) will be our technology needs in the future?

There are probably many more, but this is a start.

@anneknock

Happy teachers matter: Seven things school leaders can do to create the optimal culture

happy faceWhat are some of the things that make us happy in our work?

  • A sense of a job well done
  • Confidence in our abilities
  • Great people to work with
  • Feeling valued for our efforts
  • Being heard and understood

OECD ReportIn March 2015 the OECD released a report from the International Summit on the Teaching Profession: Schools for 21st Century Learners (2015) by Andreas Schleicher. It identified some good news, and some not-so-good news:

The good news: The most successful education systems are those in countries whose society values the teaching profession.

The not-so-good news: Fewer than one in three teachers believe that teaching is a valued profession in society.

“…their belief in their ability to teach, engage students and manage the classroom – has an impact on student achievement as well as teachers’ own practices enthusiasm and job satisfaction and behaviour in the classroom.”

What can school leader do to enhance teachers’ self-efficacy and job satisfaction?

Balloons

1. Distributed leadership, provides opportunities to participate in decision making at school.

2. Positive interpersonal relationships between teachers and their colleagues and teachers and their students

Good relations between teachers and their colleagues and between teachers and their students can mitigate the negative effects of challenging classrooms…”

3. Meaningful appraisal and feedback that recognises and celebrates teachers’ strengths while simultaneously challenging teachers to address weaknesses in their pedagogical practices.

4. Provide a culture of collaboration among teachers through:

    • jointly teaching the same class
    • observing and providing feedback on other teachers
    • engaging in different classes and age groups
    • professional learning

“The strongest association with teachers’ job satisfaction appears to be participating in collaborative professional learning activities five times a year or more.”

5. Applying a variety of teaching practices, from instructional to constructivist practices.

“The latter [constructivist practices] forms of teaching and learning help to develop students’ skills to manage complex situations and to learn both independently and continuously. It has also been argued that these practices enhance students’ motivation and achievement.”

6. Quality professional development. A focus on the three components of self-efficacy – classroom management, instruction and student engagement  – strengthen their confidence.

7. Capacity to positively handle misbehaving students.

Teachers who spend more time keeping order in the classroom reported lower levels of self efficacy and job satisfaction

This report reinforces what many of us know and believe. When teachers are confident in their abilities, working positively and productively with our peers (and students) and equipped for the job, we build a place where our people want to come to work everyday… because we’re happy!

@anneknock

How do you lead innovation in schools? Step 1: Unlearn some old stuff & Step 2: Learn some new stuff

School leaders – here’s a quick quiz

  • Are you prepared for disruption, mess and opposing viewpoints?
  • Do you think you can successfully challenge the status quo?
  • Can you throw out conventional approaches to leadership?
  • Will you stick to it for the long haul?

Yes? Then read on.

FullSizeRender (1)Making It Mobile is the SCIL signature workshop for educators coming up in a few weeks, held at our school in Sydney. In the practitioner strand the focus is on “teachers as designers”. Alongside this, I am facilitating a parallel workshop for leaders, but I am troubled. What if these amazing passionate teachers are inspired and are keen to innovate in their schools, only to return to the same-old leadership, where innovation needs to fit in a pre-defined box? These teachers will become discouraged and disillusioned. A new leadership paradigm is essential.

On my drive to work this morning I listened to the TEDx talk by Linda Hill: How to manage for collective creativity (Sept 2014). Linda is the professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School. She opened her talk:

FullSizeRenderI have a confession to make. I’m a business professor whose ambition has been to help people to lead. But recently, I’ve discovered that what many of us think of as great leadership does not work when it comes to leading innovation….
If we want to build organisations [schools] that can innovate time and again, we must unlearn our conventional notions of leadership.

These “conventional notions of leadership” are spelt out in the plethora of leadership literature on our actual or virtual bookshelves published over many decades. They tell us that leadership starts with a vision, it rises and falls on the leader to execute strategy and, as many leaders can testify, it is a lonely and stressful business. The prevailing culture is that “the people” look to “the leader” to tell them what to do.

There seems to be two long held beliefs that need to be challenged:

  1. The absolute leader – knows all and tells all
  2. The lowly minion – has no ideas and does what they are told by the absolute leader

Companies like Pixar and Google understand that successful innovation is not about the solo genius, in the same way leading an innovative school or organisation requires a complementary team-based approach. The innovative school needs an innovative leader who creates the environment where:

  • collaboration is the culture
  • problems are opportunities
  • team is the prevailing structure
  • the talents and passions of ‘the many’ can be unleashed
  • diversity and conflict co-exist
  • there is a village or a community

The journey of innovation has an unknown tomorrow, but it starts today with complex and compelling problems that need an answer. To navigate this future the first thing we must do is embark on that journey of unlearning.

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can not read or write, but those who can not unlearn, learn and relearn – Alvin Toffler

@anneknock

Making it Mobile – 2 day workshop
30 April – 1 May
Northern Beaches Christian School, Sydney Australia

Innovating school: Mapping the change journey – 5 priorities identified by the OECD

According to the OECD, these are the three ingredients for innovating schools and systems:

  • Leadership: strong leaders who establish optimal conditions in their schools
  • Teachers: Confident and capable in their practice
  • Culture: An openness to innovation

Schools for 21stC Learners

OECD Report: Schools for 21st-Century Learners: Strong Leaders, Confident Teachers, Innovative Approaches (2015) by Andreas Schleicher,

This document draws from three sources: evidence from TALIS (Teaching and Learning International Survey) and PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment); and the OECD’s ILE (Innovative Learning Environments) project.

Innovating to create 21st century learning environments (Chapter 4)

Innovative Learning Environments- How do you rate on the five key criteria-

Are the environments in which student learn sufficiently innovative?

Innovation in education is not just a matter of putting more technology into more classrooms; it is about changing approaches to teaching so that students acquire the skills they need to thrive in competitive global economies. (p.63)

Preparing young people for this rapidly changing world means that they are required to be continually learning and are adaptable to change, with the commensurate set of skills and competencies.

The OECD report outlined five key areas that strong leaders need to develop in their schools:

1. Regrouping teachers

  • Collaborative planning, orchestration and professional development
  • Collaboration as a tool for sharing best practice
  • Development of professional learning communities
  • Team teaching to target specific learners within a large group
  • Enhanced visibility, to learn from one another, not hidden behind a door

2. Regrouping learners

  • Learners of different ages, encouraging diversity and enabling peer teaching
  • Smaller groups within larger groups
  • Mixing abilities in small working groups

3. Rescheduling learning

  • Flexibility of time and timetabling, fewer and longer sessions in a day
  • Move from the standard subject-based curriculum
  • Establish new routines and rituals
  • Learning outside of regular school hours – face to face and online learning options

4. Widening pedagogical repertoires

  • Inquiry-based learning, acquire knowledge while practising skills
  • Interdisciplinary learning
  • Real life and hands-on experiences
  • Technology-rich environment provides the necessary tools
  • Integrating a menu of teaching and learning options

5. Culture and policies

  • Create communities and build capacities
  • Collaborate and communicate, wider partnerships and connections
  • Create conditions conducive for innovation, strong leadership is essential
  • Ensure coherence, less top-down, more engaging those most involved with teaching and learning

What is your most pressing priority to move toward innovation?

Innovation transition


@anneknock

From the 3Rs to fast-tracking the 3Es: Entrepreneurial Educational Experience in 4 key steps

AusYearEach year on our national day, there are several categories of award for the Australian of the Year. It is an important event, highlighting significant Australians who have made a difference to the lives of others. The Local Hero Award was presented to Juliette Wright, who founded Givit: Goods for good causes. She is described as a social entrepreneur.

Juliette created the portal to ensure quality goods get to where they are most needed by safely connecting and inspiring an online network of givers. Juliette’s vision, hard work and determination have resulted in donations of more than 126,000 items to disadvantaged members of the Australian community. (Australian of the Year: Local Hero testimonial)

As I listened to Juliette’s story on the televised the award ceremony a couple of months ago, I thought about how technology has enabled so many positive initiatives in our society. The scale of the project could only be achieved through technology facilitating this social enterprise.

Educating our students in entrepreneurship to make a difference needs to be a priority for their future, the World Economic Forum: Global Education Initiative: Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs encourages:

Embedding entrepreneurship and innovation, cross-disciplinary approaches and interactive teaching methods all require new models, frameworks and paradigms. It is time to rethink the old systems and have a fundamental “rebooting” of the educational process. Incremental change in education is not adequate, especially in today’s rapidly changing society. We need schools, colleges and universities that are entrepreneurial in their approach to preparing individuals for the future. (p.10)

This quote sums up what we have been talking about for a number of years – Incremental change in education is not adequate – we need big change. It’s more about taking a running jump across a chasm, than going step-by-step down one side of the gully and clambering up the other side. Then I looked at the date of this report – May 2009, six years ago.

What were the tech trends in 2009

  • Apps take off for iphone [v.3] and ipods
  • Twitter goes mainstream
  • Netbook sales climb
  • Mobile phones get satellite navigation

This report was released the year before the iPad and without the saturation of technology and growth in opportunities that we see as everyday in 2015. So what happened? Six years later we are not seeing sufficient widespread change in the entrepreneurial educational experience of a generation of young people. As the report states,

Innovation and entrepreneurship provide a way forward for solving the global challenges of the 21st century, building sustainable development, creating jobs, generating renewed economic growth and advancing human welfare. (p.7)

It is time to make up those six years – 4 key steps (as outlined in 2009):

1. Transform the educational system

It is not enough to add entrepreneurship on the perimeter – it needs to be core to the way education operates…This requires a fundamental rethinking of educational systems, both formal and informal, as well as the way in which teachers or educators are trained, how examination systems function and the way in which rewards, recognition and incentives are given. (p.9)

2. Build the entrepreneurial ecosystem

Entrepreneurship thrives in ecosystems in which multiple stakeholders play key roles.. the need for multi-stakeholder partnerships is critical for education and even more so for entrepreneurship education (p. 11)

3. Strive for effective outcomes and impact

The purpose and goals of entrepreneurship education need greater clarity. They should be based on a broadly defined set of outcomes… Entrepreneurship education is about developing attitudes, behaviours and capacities at the individual level. Inherently, it is about leadership. (p. 11)

4. Leverage technology as an enabler

Throughout the report, the role of technology in delivering entrepreneurship education is evident, particularly in terms of creating greater access and scalability for entrepreneurship education. (p. 11)

In 2015, school education has the capacity to provide a context where the school-age Juliette Wright may have been able to develop her idea. Yet, a commitment to entrepreneurial education is limited to the individual schools who recognise that it is essential to the future of our young people. It needs a systemic response.

“Preparing today’s students for success and eventual leadership in the new global marketplace is the most important responsibility in education today. … Entrepreneurship education is an important tool to achieving these objectives [and ]… should be universally available to provide all students with opportunities to explore and fulfil their potential.” Stephanie Bell-Rose, President, Goldman Sachs Foundation & Thomas W. Payzant, Harvard Graduate School of Education (2008)

Let’s start. There is a bit of time to make up.

@anneknock

Well-designed learning spaces can boost student academic performance: University of Salford, Manchester

The University of Salford in Manchester has gained a reputation for looking at the physical aspects of the learning space and their impact on the quality of learning. In 2013 the project on the sensory impacts on learning found (here):

“almost three quarters of the variation in pupil performance could be attributed to design and environmental factors.  All things being equal, the academic performance of a child in the best environment could be expected to be 25% better than an equivalent child in the “poorest” classroom environment.” 

IMG_1732And next? Over three years the HEAD Project (Holistic Evidence and Design) looked at 153 classrooms in 27 diverse schools in three local authorities in England – Blackpool, London Borough of Ealing and Hampshire. The team looked at sensory factors and multilevel statistical modelling to isolate the effects of classroom design.

One big idea

This year the Clever Classrooms report states:

“Well-designed classrooms can boost learning progress in primary school pupils by up to 16% in a single year.” 

Three characteristics

In the research three physical characteristics were assessed:

  • The role of naturalness – light temperature and air quality
  • The opportunity of individualisation – ownership and flexibility
  • Appropriate levels of stimulation – complexity and colour

Whole school factors, such as size, navigation, specialist facilities and play facilities did notappear to be as significant as the design of the individual learning space.

The findings that led to 16% improvement in students learning progress was attributed to a range of factors across these characteristics. Naturalness accounted for almost 50%, with around 25% each for stimulation and individualisation.

Other considerations, size of the school, provision of shared specialist rooms and scale and quality of external spaces had less impact. The most important factor was that the actual learning space, where the students spend most of their day. This needs to be well-designed.

Seven key elements

The research concluded that learning spaces must be well-designed and narrowed the range of inputs to seven design parameters and with the degree of impact:

  1. Light (21%)
  2. Air quality (16%)
  3. Temperature (12%)
  4. Flexibility (11%)
  5. Ownership (17%)
  6. Colour (12%)
  7. Complexity (11%)

The ZoneA few other factors mentioned in the report: The physical design at the school level was less important. Also, it is easy to over-stimulate with vibrant colours and overly busy displays, however a white box is not the answer, either. In the learning spaces small and cost effective changes can make a real difference, including changing the layout, choice of wall displays and colours of the wall.

It is interesting to note that ‘sound’ was identified as a secondary factor, when it is often raised as a key issue by many. The addition of acoustic treatment, soft furnishings and carpets and rubber feet in furniture was noted in the report.

I appreciate the response from Colin Campbell at Ecophon on the matter of sound and acoustics:

“Good speech communication is vital and increasingly dynamic; no longer the teacher just lecturing (only one person speaking), there is a different acoustic dynamic now with increasing collaboration including whole class interaction and group work. In the traditional classroom and increasingly many other additional spaces are now being used for discussions and engagement in learning. These activities can create an increased burden on the teachers as they must collaborate more and manage / coach the learning in a different way. The quieter and calmer a learning space, the easier it is for teachers to remain proactive in their approach thus empowering more student engagement, positive behaviour and increased possibilities and experimentation for learning. So, the food for thought is to consider the need to prioritise good acoustics for speech communication as the need has never been greater.”

What can we do?

Light
  • Keep windows free of displays
  • Use high quality projectors and screens that are not impacted by light
  • Use plants and planters to reduce too much incoming light
Air quality
  • OPEN WINDOWS!
  • Avoid obstructions to airflow
  • Install CO2 metres
Temperature
  • Be attentive to the temperature of the room
  • Use plants and planters to diffuse windows facing the heat
Flexibility
  • Create well-designed learning zones
  • Consider age appropriate size and shape of zones
  • Provide accessible walls for display
Ownership
  • Consider student ownership of work displays
  • Create a sense of familiarity
  • Allow personalisation to aspects of the learning space
  • Good quality furniture
Complexity
  • Create displays that give a liveliness, without being chaotic
  • 20-50% of the wall space kept clear
  • Avoid displays on windows
Colour
  • Assess the colour elements that remain unchanged
  • Determine how much bright colour can be introduced in other aspects
  • Aim to increase stimulation against a muted background

While this research was focused on primary classrooms, it would be interesting to see how it made a difference to the learning spaces in secondary/high schools.

@anneknock

#FutureSchools depend on getting better with #PresentSchools. Learning from boulders, pebbles and breakfast cereals

pebbles and bouldersTwo seemingly unrelated articles caught my attention this week. A great piece by Stephen Heppell on the “School of the future”

“In preparing our children for that uncertain future, we inevitably need schools unlike the ones that prepared their parents”. (Article here)

And the demise of another “boulder”: Kellogg posts $379m loss as consumers cut back on cereal

“Simple food, clearly less refined, if you like – that’s what I think consumers are looking for…”

I think that before we get too caught up in future schools we need to think about present schools, strategically moving on from the (seemingly still evident) industrial paradigm to growing a community that meets current and future needs of this generation, considering the big shifts that have seen the disappearance of Kodak, Borders and now possibly breakfast cereals.

There is nothing special about technology or what it can do – it is a normal expectation of life. An interactive whiteboard, ‘funky’ furniture, iPads/tablets and large open spaces are not necessarily indicators of a future-focused school. It is about shining a light on everything and disrupting practice to better serve the present, as well as the future.

In 2010 Charles Leadbeater a leading voice on innovation and creativity wrote We Think.

Imagine surveying the media, information and cultural industries in the mid-1980s, industries that provide most of our entertainment and so filter access to the world around us and shape how we make sense of it. The scene would have resembled a large sandy beach, with crowds organised around a few very large boulders. These boulders were the big media companies.

These boulders came into being because media had high fixed costs… They were closely regulated and resources… were scarce… Anyone wanting to set up a significant new media business could be seen coming from a long way off. Rolling a new boulder onto the beach took lots of people, money and machinery.

Do you see where we are going, here? (I don’t buy processed breakfast cereal anymore, I make my own.)
Looking again at this text five years later and Leadbeater words ring true:

Now imagine the scene on this beach in five years time. A few very big boulders are still showing, but many have been drowned by the rising tide of pebbles. As you stand surveying the beach every minute hundreds and thousands of people come to drop off their pebbles. Some of the pebbles they drop are very small: a blog post or a comment on YouTube. Others are larger… A bewildering array of pebbles in different sizes, shapes and colours are being laid down the whole time, in no particular order, as people feel like it.

Pebbles are the new business. The new kinds of organisations being bred by the web are all in the pebble business. Google and other intelligent search engines offer the locate the pebble we are looking for:

Wikipedia is a vast collection of factual pebbles

YouTube is a collection of video pebbles

Social media…allow us to connect with similar pebbles…with shared interests

There is still a lot of business in serving the boulders that remain, providing them with content, finance, advice and ideas… The information and media businesses are right at the forefront of the transition from boulders to pebbles because the web so directly affects them.

And education? Leadbeater continues,

Schools and universities are boulders, that are increasingly dealing with students who want to be in the pebble business, drawing information from a variety of sources, sharing with their peers, learning from one another.

Why are schools and universities boulders? Perhaps because as “institutions” they seem to be fixed immovable objects made up of large cumbersome buildings, rigid standardised testing, fixed regulatory and curriculum requirements and research evidence that looks back without considering rapidly changing future context.

If we could smash-up this institutional boulder and enable school to be more like a collection of learning pebbles, what should it look like? A place of broad opportunity and quality relationships that enables the future.

Ultimately, future schools, or even present schools, provide an education that is not only content-rich, but is meaningful and engaging, focussed on providing the best opportunity for this generation of young people.  It fully utilises the tools and resources available, in a way that ignites a passion and sets them on a path of lifelong learning.

@anneknock

What happens when there is an intersection of design and education? From disaffected to engaged #IfYouBuildIt

Slide1Design + Education
Design for education – the physical construction of improved spaces,

Redesigning education – creating the conditions to make change possible, or perhaps,

Design as education – learning design thinking for a community purpose

I have long held the idealistic view that when something is sparked in young people, when talents and skills are given expression, there is an opportunity to thrive. We often hear the term “disaffected youth”. The term disaffection speaks of alienation or estrangement. As a result, I am drawn to stories where young (and old) people are engaged, connected and have a sense of belonging.

This is why I found the documentary film If you build it so compelling. The Field of Dreams quote missed the mark, in my mind “if you build it they will come”. There is always so much to do for success, merely building something does not guarantee it. So the absence of the second half of the quote gives us the starting point, “If you build it”… maybe it gives the opportunity, should they choose.

This feature-length film is set in Bertie County in North Carolina. Two designers, Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller embark on a project in this sad and destitute area in America’s south.They see this more than a “project”, Emily and Matthew throw themselves into the life of the town, they live there and want to contribute. The set up Studio H – humanity, habitats, health and happiness – a design studio with a social conscience.

The film follows the lows and highs of the journey. This includes the over-bureaucratic local school board withdrawing support for the project, but Emily and Matthew persevere. They are pretty tenacious.

I loved how this pair engaged with the students, built their trust and presented achievable, yet still challenging design projects for the students. Across the 85 minutes we see the transformation from disaffected to connection, belonging and a sense of hope in their future. It left me with a lump in my throat.

Emily's TED talk

Prior to the events of the film, Emily presented a TED Talk  “Teaching Design for Change”, where she said

“Apply design within education… then figure out how to make education a great vehicle for community development.”

Event Flyer. Link to registration information

Event Flyer. Link to registration information

There is an opportunity to see this film…

If you are in Sydney, see this film and discussion about the place of design as education.  It is presented by the NSW Chapter of CEFPI – another intersection of design and education.

Wednesday 4 March 2015 – 5.30pm to 8.15pm

Level 7, 35 Bridge Street , Sydney

Following the film, light refreshments will be provided, and an expert panel will discuss the themes of the film.

Panel

Facilitator: Anne Knock, Chair CEFPI NSW Chapter

Paul Pholeros a Director of Healthabitat, a company that for over 30 years has worked to improve the living environments of Indigenous people in many suburban, rural and remote areas of Australia and internationally.

Matt Esterman  History and e-learning coordinator at St Scholasticas College, Glebe. His current research looks at user voice in the design process for new learning spaces and school buildings. Matt is an actively engaged professional at TeachMeets, He regularly blogs and tweets @mesterman.

Genevieve Blanchett a designer who operates across architecture, urban design and the performing arts with a focus on community-driven creative place making and arts-based development projects.

Watch the trailer.

Interview with designer, Matthew Miller and Another article.

I would love to see you there.
@anneknock

The new normal: Helping parents to rethink success at school (and life) #abundancementality

As much as forward thinking educators are working for change we are still often exasperated by parent expectations of education. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks in 2006 and 2010 were significant catalysts for change in the hearts and minds of many educators but we are yet to really help many parents embrace the need for change. As Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education and skills put it (quoted in The Conversation):

Parents are a very conservative force… Everybody wants the education system to improve, but not with my child

GOOD WEEKENDThe cover story in the Good Weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald’s magazine: Testing Times: Meet the tiger parents grooming their young offspring for academic success by Anna Broinowski. This article was particularly focused on families of Asian background and the ‘tiger mom’ tendencies.

In NSW, my state, there are 21 academically selective schools and 26 partially selective schools. Many parents spend a lot of money and much of their child’s ‘childhood’ in cramming for selective school tests. One coaching college boasted that 1033 students earned places in 35 selective schools, no data on those who failed to gain a place. In two states, NSW and Victoria, there are 3000 tutoring business, with an annual turnover of $200-$400 million and only 8% are registered with the Australian Tutoring Association.

We empathise with parents, especially those of us who have had to make these choices, wanting to do the best for our kids. Our own sons, now 31 and 28, both went to government high schools – the elder to the local comprehensive and the younger to a performing arts high school.

Our elder son undertook an MBA after his initial degree and is successful in business. The younger, is working hard to pursue his music and songwriting career, while working as a barista. His HSC mark was not sufficient to earn a place at university after Year 12, nor was it his goal. However, last year, he decided to go to uni, study a BA in literature and is getting High Distinctions and Distinctions for much of his work – maturity and purpose mattered.

We are proud of our kids. They are kind, considerate and wonderful humans. They really think of themselves as lifelong learners, work hard and enjoy life. As parents, we didn’t push hard, they were pretty well-rounded in their social, sport and cultural activities. Today, we like them as people and enjoy their company, and it seems that they quite like us as well.

I want to tell the parents of school-aged children:

that there is more to life than the score/mark to study a course at university, one that they may not want to pursue in the first place.

that the cramming, coaching and memorisation may get their child to university, but won’t necessarily be enough to keep them there.

that raising a contributing human is far more important than being able to tell your social group how well your child did at school.

that things change – even school. Your experience of school should not be the same for your own children.

that passion matters. Take time to discover what does your child loves to do.

that, above everything else, relationships matter. Careers, opportunities will come and go. Our children will face difficult and challenging situations. They will make both wise and unwise choices along the way. But through it all, we want to stay in relationship with them.

We can choose to see life as a broad spectrum of opportunities that match the breadth of passions and interests of humanity, or, as a pie. If I take a piece you won’t have it, or if you take it, I miss out.

Embrace the abundance mentality.

@anne knock