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« Introduction to Design Patterns

Had the pleasure of reading “Is This the School of the Future” (Scholastic Admnistrator magazine Feb. ‘06), last night, thanks to the suggestion of a superintendent I’m currently working with these days. His curiosity about the Microsoft/City of Philadelphia initiative was quite evident, both as a partnership and program. And I believe he was equally interested in it as a school ‘design’ in the purest architectural manner.

Without getting into the Microsoft debate, or even if this is or is not the ‘ideal’ progressive architectural solution, I simply pose the following question to you:

How would you describe the “school of the future” and what are the components and elements that give it meaning and form?

One Response to “Considering Philadelphia’s “School of the Future” as a Model”

  1. Kaunda Says:

    Bartenders know that it’s important to cultivate your clientele because it’s the patrons more than anyone else who will define the vibe of the place. Blog administrators have a simliar task.

    Not being an architect, not being and educator, and poor enough that my tax contributions paultry, I wonder whether I’m stinking up the place? I can’t resist unused comment threads and will place comments here. But I suggest you convince experts to leave some comments here so that the tenor remains true to the vision of the blog.

    “Schools of the future” must be diverse to meet a variety of needs.

    What comes immediately to mind is questions about the ways that the places define the social relationships.

    We all know that relationships are often the most important in learning environments. Just yesterday I was thinking about having failed 10th grade English and having to go to summer school. I credit my summer school English teacher with giving me the skills to survive the rest of my high school career. But thinking back I’m hard pressed to put my finger on what was different. What stands out are little 2 or 3 minute conversations either before or after class. What was hindering my success in school was finding the right frame of mind for learning and remembering. The conversations helped me to make a context for the lessons.

    When I think of schools of the future I’m not really looking very far. My involvement with a community group in Uganda involves among other things adult literacy groups. There is no school, just the village gathering places. As Wikipedia says of adult education http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adult_education

    “Another important difference is that adults frequently must apply their knowledge in some practical fashion in order to learn effectively; there must be a goal and a reasonable expectation that the new knowledge will help them further that goal.”

    Both adults and young people require context for learning; in other words we learn by making stories. The physical setting has an great effect on defining the types of learning relationships which are formed.

    In too many communities nearly half the students enrolled in high school never receive a diploma. We have many people in our communities who need education but no attention for the places they might pursue that end. Demographics are also moving from a roughly pyramid shape with a great lump of youngsters forming the base to a tin can shape where age groups are more smoothly distributed. The potential for older people to mentor younger people is only growing.

    When I read of adults abusing children, it’s almost hard to believe because it’s so hard to imagine. Of course I do believe the reports, and the safety of students is of the highest importance. Schools are made rather like fortresses. But those physical measures limit the experiments in establishing mentor relationships between old and young.

    Multi-million dollar schools will be built and should be. It’s most convienent for planners to ignore the needs of failing students and adult learners as not their problem; it makes sense. But from an outsider’s point of view the broader educational needs of the community make such distinctions less clear.

    In Christopher Alexander’s “Oregon Experiment” he worked on ways of envisioning a master plan for the University of Oregon. Yes, it’s significant that what they came up with wasn’t found particularly useful. However one aspect of it seems very sensible to me and that was apportioning funds to both small and large projects.

    My opinion is that patterns for “schools of the future” are as likely to emerge from small projects as they are from “blank slate” multi-million dollar projects.

    Architects who wish to advance school design to further education, it seems to me, would benefit from apportioning some of their attention to small projects and minor solutions.

    In Florida and probbly other places there are “open-plan” schools. These are awful places to learn, but little effort has been made to correct these spaces. The buildings are simply left to live out their useful lives even as dysfunctinal as they are.

    Repair could mean more than upkeep. Some of the most promising designs for “schools of the future” might come attention to reconfiguring existing places.

    Buildings learn, part of the challenge for architects and designers to learn along with them, and to invent ways of making buildings learn better. Such a process orientation would also improve designs for new buildings.

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