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Posts Tagged ‘environment

You might look at the obvious design and implementation flaw in the tweet below and wonder how this happens.

These are commonplace judging from the number of photos and websites that feature such flaws. They are easy to spot with a critical eye.

The flaws are obvious as is the physical harm users might experience as a result of such designs. However, some designs are easily overlooked.

One such less obvious design happens in “new” classrooms. These are helmed by agencies and vendors that claim they design for learning. They call these places hubs of learning or classrooms that are smart.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who had to test a new classroom. Some background: This campus had issues with pillars blocking views and platforms facing the wrong way.

Having experienced so many design flaws myself, I asked him what the problems were with the new room. Off the top of his head he mentioned that there weren’t enough writing surfaces. He also described a pillar with an odd configuration of displays. If I find this design faux pas, I will photograph it and update this page.

The people in charge were unhappy with the design flaws. This invariably led to delays in using the classrooms (time cost), modifications to correct the errors (effort cost), and budget negotiations (financial cost).

One reason why these errors persist is that these classrooms are designed without consulting progressive-minded policymakers and reflective educators. Most modern universities also have learning or pedagogy centres who can advise on these design. But these agencies are as easily overlooked as writing surfaces.

I suspect that many designs are based on photos of visits to cool-looking venues and administrators choose an item from A, another from B, and so on. All at the lowest possible price, of course. When this happens, the designers know WHAT to do and HOW to do this, but not WHY.

The WHY of the design of a classroom is not just about aesthetics or comfort. It is about pedagogy and learning. Including a person or a small team that has expertise in such design is not cheap, but it prevents bad pedagogical design of a learning environment.

It just takes sense/cents to save a dollar.

I send my heartiest congratulations to a friend and ex-colleague, Dr Shawn Lum of NIE and president of the Nature Society Singapore (NSS). Why? He received the President’s Award for the Environment 2017.

Shawn fully deserves the award and some might say that it is long overdue.

I first met Shawn a little over 25 years ago at the National University of Singapore. Not much has changed since then. While he has received the award for his tireless service for NSS, people who know him would probably nominate him for Sweetest Fella, Wise Man, Ecologist Extraordinaire, and much more.

Now will the press also go into the history and etymology of the rest of Shawn’s name, Kaihekulani Yamauchi?

A few months ago, I tweet-wondered this out loud.

I ask again: If we can now work just about anywhere, what could modern offices offer?

As an educator, I also ask: If we can study anywhere, why do the majority of classrooms still look like classrooms? Why do they not look more like a Starbucks, as this educator envisions?

Mindsets. They not only shape thoughts and behaviours, they dictate design and implementation.

Let me give you an example. I still get requests for contacts for vendors who can construct “special rooms” in schools.

NIE collaborative classroom in 2009.

NIE collaborative classroom in 2009. Photo by William Oh.

There are not many good reasons to have special rooms. Having a place to show off when visitors come a-knocking is not a good reason. Having an excess of funds is not a good reason to build a special room.

Having rooms that challenge pedagogy, perplex teachers, and enable meaningful, powerful learning is important. But do we need special rooms to do that? What messages does that send if we do?

Every room should be special. That way they become ordinary and accessible to all. Every teacher should have professional development to learn how to integrate technology effectively. Every student should be consume and create because of technology-enabled learning.

To do any less is to make lame excuses while spouting 21st century rhetoric.

Warning: Do not read beyond this sentence if you do not possess this third educator trait.

Have you ever wondered something like this out loud?

If so, we have the perfect platform for you. Introducing: Cave minus 10.0.

Secret Cave by heyyu, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  heyyu 

For confidential topics, retreat to our Cave. It is wireless (no wires or power), signalless (no smartphones), and connectionless (no Internet, no social media, no YouTube, etc.).

There is no writing on any medium (not even the walls), no storage or archiving (you already have baggage), and no surface for reflection (you already know best because you have class).

Why use our Cave? Simple. Anything online is never completely confidential. It can be video-recorded, screen-captured, or otherwise copied and shared.

SS helmet by gwilmore, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  gwilmore 

We also offer a special brainwashing head gear, Cognitive Helmet (patent pending), that helps people forget the little they remember or learn. If they remember something, they can take it out of the Cave and share it elsewhere (like they did with the Math Olympiad question on Cheryl’s birthday).

Note: Helmet does not help remove bias that your cave people will already have. It has been proven to permit only assimilative thinking and resist cognitive dissonance and accommodative thinking.

The combination of Cave and Cognitive Helmet provide a virtual learning experience. You will think you are teaching and your people will think they are learning. Virtually speaking, of course.

For optimum experience, we encourage your people to bring their own devices. Devices like ear plugs and blinder-equipped glasses. If you think isolating yourself from the rest of the world is good, removing yourself even while in the presence of others is even better. Teach and learn in isolation or even in a vacuum; it is neat, peaceful, and clean.

If you subscribe now, we offer a free* wall of fire (Fire Wall, patent pending) to keep intruders, the curious, and the non-entitled, non-payers out.

*Fuel for fire is limited and subject to supply demand the depth of your budget.

We can be part of this world, but not of it. We ignore calls to break down classroom walls or make them transparent. Why should we let people see what really goes on in there? We refuse external inputs because we have all the experts we need. What do those charlatans know to do anyway? Parody sales pitches?

Screw so called 21st century fluff and fake modern beliefs like connectivism, climate change, evolution, or “the earth is round”. We do not just wish for the Age of Enlightenment or Renaissance men (sorry, women), we create the conditions for it. How do you put a price on that?

We do! It will cost you a lot of money for the few that will use it. But you know that it is worth it because it costs so much! How many other people can say they own a white elephant?

The World in a Bubble (September 2012) by skippyjon, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  skippyjon 

Too long, didn’t read? Create your own bubble of confidential content delivery with Confidential Cave -10.0, Cognitive Helmet (patent pending), and Fire Wall (also patent pending). It will not burst. We promise (fingers crossed).

Contact our sales staff today by smoke signal, carrier pigeon, or telegraph (we are trying this new technology but we expect it not to last).

If you prefer, you can visit us in our underground office located at Ostrich Neck Lane. If you hit Frog-in-Well Industries, you have gone too deep. We are shallower than that.

This message was paid for by Van Doores, Pte. Ltd. and supported by Al M. Esse & Associates and Dead Tree Inc.

The moderator at this week’s #asiaED slow chat posted this question:

I had to respond with:

I had to because MLEs are not confined to the classroom.

Kids and adults alike learn while they are in the loo, travelling on public transport, or waiting in a queue. They study or even have remedial tuition at McDonald’s and Starbucks.

One way to rethink the design of classrooms is to make them look more like home or cafes.

In 2009, my former workplace, the National Institute of Education, Singapore, took the initiative to convert all the tutorial rooms on the ground floor to “collaborative classrooms”. There were almost 70 of such rooms and several other special rooms on other floors.

I shared a few photos of these places with this message: MLEs can be designed to look like where the learners are already at. If learners are already comfortable in cafes and their living rooms, simulate that.

I also tried to warn that MLEs should not just be about transforming the physical space.

A redesigned classroom can be most impressive to visitors or administrators. But what good is that if teachers teach the same way and students do not learn any differently (e.g., not at all, only in isolation, sans Internet)?

The previous director of NIE provided some anecdotal evidence at a talk about two years ago. As he walked around campus, he could peek through the windows of our collaborative classrooms. He wondered out loud why tutors and professors still seemed to be standing in front. (Background: We had started a professional development programme on using such rooms effectively, but 1) it took time to reach almost 400 instructors), and 2) only the usual suspects and the already converted tended to show up.)

It is easy to paint walls, buy new furniture, and change layouts. These also cost a fair bit of money.

It is more difficult to change teacher mindsets and behaviour. But I rarely see such MLE change initiatives include rigorous professional development. The cost of not doing this is even higher, not because it is expensive but because you spend money to make changes to the outside (the classrooms) without tending to the insides (instructor beliefs and mindsets).

When there is superficial or no pedagogical change, the cost is high because it does little to benefit learners. This can happen when vendors sell only furniture and classroom layouts without considering professional development or student inputs.

Caveat emptor.


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