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Archive for February, 2007
Considering Parker Palmer’s 6 Paradoxes for School Design February 22nd, 2007

Often, the most inspired learning environments embrace the ‘tension of opposites’ in the design process. For example, creating quiet spaces for thoughtful reflection while also allowing a great deal of transparency to permeate the spaces, or allowing spaces to be traditional enough for the teacher to be in charge but also to allow for student-driven learning to take place at the same time. When done well, they are not only support ‘architectural’ tensions, but more importantly they support ‘human’ tensions and varying relationships/needs over time.

This brings us to a wonderful book that is often used in ‘teaching’ circles only. But we think it has much to tell us as a school designing community.

While we’re not sure how widely read Parker Palmer’s classic book The Courage to Teach is within the school design community, we can guarantee that it is a widely embraced book within the educator’s camp. Much of the book — to give a very quick overview — discusses the tension faced by teachers in terms of their public vs. private lives. Needless to say, given the state of education throughout the world and the challenge of keeping teachers in the profession, we may be well served to consider more often the ‘human’ experience of those who spend their day living/working in school buildings.

There is a point in Palmer’s book (pp. 73-77) when he discusses a series of 6 paradoxes that define learning spaces. We were reminded of this again recently while reading the “Higher Edison” blog in which the following was highlighted:

  • The space should be bounded and open. Without limits it is difficult to see how learning can occur. Explorations need a focus. However, spaces need to be open as well - open to the many paths down which discovery may take us. ‘If boundaries remind us that our journey has a destination, openness reminds us that there are many ways to reach that end’. More than that, openness allows us to find other destinations.
  • The space should be hospitable and “charged”. We may find the experience of space strange and fear that we may get lost. Learning spaces need to be hospitable - ‘inviting as well as open, safe and trustworthy as well as free’. When exploring we need places to rest and find nourishment. But if we feel too safe, then we may stay on the surface of things. Space needs to be charged so that we may know the risks involved in looking at the deeper things of life.
  • The space should invite the voice of the individual and the voice of the group. Learning spaces should invite people to speak truly and honestly. People need to be able to express their thoughts and feelings. This involves building environments both so that individuals can speak and where groups can gather and give voice to their concerns and passions.
  • The space should honour the “little” stories of those involved and the “big” stories of the disciplines and tradition. Learning spaces should honour people’s experiences, give room to stories about everyday life. At the same time, we need to connect these stories with the larger picture. We need to be able to explore how our personal experiences fit in with those of others; and how they may relate to more general ’stories’ and understandings about life.
  • The space should support solitude and surround it with the resources of community. Learning demands both solitude and community. People need time alone to reflect and absorb. Their experiences and struggles need to be respected. At the same time, they need to be able to call upon and be with others. We need conversations in which our ideas are tested and biases challenged.
  • The space should welcome both silence and speech. Silence gives us the chance to reflect on things. It can be a sort of speech ‘emerging from the deepest part of ourselves, of others, of the world’. At the same time we need to be able to put things into words so that we gain a greater understanding and to make concrete what we may share in silence.
  • What does such a space look like?

    What does this suggest for us as we consider our role as designers for the future of learning?

    And how do we keep on the table the ‘human’ experience throughout the design process?

    Your thoughts?

    Optimism In Spite of Challenge: What Advice Would You Give to New Orleans Leaders in Rebuilding Their Schools? February 21st, 2007

    As if the challenges weren’t great enough, recent reports nationally and internationally suggest that New Orleans continues to face extraordinary uphill battles in re-building their schools (and hiring teachers, although TeachNOLA seems to be offering an innovative program to draw passionate teachers and teachers-to-be down to the city).

    From a recent eSchool News story:

    A year and a half after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, destroying schools and displacing students, school leaders are still struggling to rebuild damaged facilities and technology infrastructures.

    In January, members of the Hurricane Education Leadership Program (HELP) Team–a coalition of ed-tech companies and organizations that is helping to rebuild Gulf Coast schools as 21st-century learning facilities–took a tour of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and were surprised by what they saw.

    “[We were] stunned at the lack of progress in getting recovery to these folks,” said Terry Smithson, education strategist for Intel Corp. and leader of the HELP Team. “In some places, it still looks like a bomb has gone off.”

    Note: Check out this video of Terry Smithson talking about the efforts of HELP, and then watch Part 2 and Part 3, as well. Also thought we’d highlight an eSchool News special supplement highlighting the HELP team’s efforts — also worth checking out.

    Having had the opportunity to connect with Terry in the past, and hearing him discuss his decision to commit to helping New Orleans’ schools rebuild through the HELP (Hurricane Education Leadership Project) team, I am pleased to see that they are keeping an eye on his perspective. He’s a remarkably visionary/optimistic leader in the field, so if he’s stunned…it’s not an over-exaggeration.

    Fortunately, teams like Steven Bingler/Bobbie Hill’s Concordia Architecture and Planning are also involved in helping to not only ‘rebuild’ the city, but to also ensure that the city’s learning environments remain community-based and innovative.

    DesignShare is happy to be publishing an upcoming article by Steven centered on the idea of the community “Nexus” that will certainly offer some striking ideas for all of us concerned with the city’s future. And also how community learning centers as a “nexus” of learning resources can be integrated in cities/towns far and wide.

    Jeff Lackney’s School Design Research Studio Launches a Blog February 21st, 2007

    Jeff Lackney shared with us a few weeks back that he had launched a new school design oriented blog to support the School Design Research Studio.

    Been wonderful to see it gain momentum since his first post in January. A couple of his blog posts that particularly caught our attention include:

    Definitely check out Jeff’s blogging on behalf of the School Design Research Studio. If you like, you can even subscribe to his regular blog entries.

    John Sole (PBL Master Teacher) Shares Film of 4th Graders Exploring School Design February 21st, 2007

    One can’t help but love the sight and sounds of young kids becoming ’school designers’ under the tutelage of passionate architects. The following video was recently released by John Sole at his Guerrilla Educators blog, a new venture he’s put together that is focused entirely on Project-Based Learning (PBL) programs and connecting with school designers/architects to develop truly hands-on learning environments. The following video offers a wonderful summary of a 10-week program involving 4th graders at an inner-city school in Philadelphia:


    Over the last few years, we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing John Sole — master service teacher and Project-Based Learning (PBL) expert — to discuss the connection between PBL and school design:

    In addition to being fortunate enough to team up with John in giving leading workshops with a wide array of educators and architects, we consider the work he’s beginning to share through his blog to be a great asset in supporting the passions everyone in the DesignShare community shares. Check it out when you have time! We definitely think you’re going to like what you find.

    And if you’re interested in having John connect with your educational and/or architectural team to help develop hands-on learning environments, let us know. He’s beginning to develop a series of DesignShare workshops for 2007 and beyond that look really exciting!

    What Would You Ask Daniel Pink? February 20th, 2007

    In preparation for our conversation this week with Daniel Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind, we thought we’d ask others to offer questions they’d ask him in light of how the shift from the information age to the conceptual age will impact the future of school design.

    What would you ask him if y0u had a chance to sit down with him and explore the ideas in his book?

    How would you challenge him to explain his “six high-concept, high-touch senses” of the Conceptual Age as a spark for the design of future learning environments? FYI, the 6 senses that define A Whole New Mind:

    • Not just function but also DESIGN
    • Not just argument but also STORY
    • Not just focus but also SYMPHONY
    • Not just logic but also EMPATHY
    • Not just seriousness but also PLAY
    • Not just accumulation but also MEANING

    On a side note, we were delighted to learn that Alan November, one of the leading a experts in the world on the future of education and technology, had recently connected with Daniel on a similar set of ’school design’ related questions. Talk about great timing on an otherwise niche topic.

    Apparently there will be a multi-part series of podcasts between the 2 of them, but you can listen to the first segment right away at this link here. Well worth a listen in advance of what we’ll be able to share in the coming weeks based on our conversation with Daniel.

    A Teachers View of Weaving Technology Into the Design of a School February 20th, 2007

    Like many of you, we’re spending more and more time keeping an eye on the education bloggers, many of which talk about ’school design’ in some pretty passionate/unique ways. Whether for routine research or for tapping into specific design issues, ‘edu-bloggers’ from around the world are really developing some powerful conversations as of late.

    One conversation in particular can be found in a recent post called “Extreme Makeover: School Edition” on the “Ed Tech Journeys” blog, written by Peter Reilly. On a side note, Peter’s blog won the highly respected 2006 EduBlogs Award for “Best Newcomer” not too long ago.

    While we wouldn’t suggest that TV’s “Extreme Makeover” is demonstrative of innovative architecture/design, the language offers a starting point for educators like Peter to explore the relationship between learning, technology, and school design that is vital. Here’s what Peter wrote:

    At what point do we as educational leaders begin to take technology as seriously as the other components of our school infrastructure?

    Wince every time you hear of untrained custodians, or well-meaning students wiring buildings on the cheap. Would a Superintendent of schools or Board of Education ever allow students and community volunteers to install the heating system of the school? How about the electrical system? Alarms and security?

    Keep your eyes closed tight if you know of schools that have substantial numbers of six or seven year old computers running Windows 95 or Windows 98.

    Cringe when you hear of corporations dumping old and obsolete computers on schools; computers that will cost the school more in maintenance than if the school had bought a new machine. Many high schools resemble technological archeological sites…if you dig deep enough you are bound to find every model of computer since the Apple IIE.

    Shake your head when you see a school district with more than 100 infrastructure support people: custodians, drivers, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, etc.; and (4) network technicians to maintain thousands of computers in sixteen buildings.

    Pray when you hear of a school district that has no security budget, hasn’t audited its greatest vulnerabilities, has not updated the anti-spyware on its workstations, has not had time to apply the latest anti-virus signatures, or the latest Microsoft patches.

    Pray harder if they aren’t taking daily, rotating backups (even in the summer when some staff are on vacation) and keeping them off-site; and if they haven’t a plan on how or where to restore them in case of a flood, fire, catastrophic hardware failure, or Katrina-like disaster.

    It’s time to stop wincing, cringing, praying, and closing our eyes to the sorry state of much of the educational technology in this country. It’s time to put technology on the same footing as the rest of the school infrastructure. Technology should be current, ubiquitous, and well maintained.

    Of course this will take money; and leadership. Where we spend our money is merely a reflection of what we value. I know we value our children. At the very least our job as leaders is to insure that the 21st Century classroom in America is competitive with the 21st century living rooms of our students.

    At best, we could rethink our school structures and embark on an Extreme Makeover: School Edition.

    Your thoughts as to how we begin to integrate the technology/infrastructure issues earlier into the design process?

    Time for the 2007 Awards Program to Begin! February 15th, 2007


    Or, to Fax or Mail your registration, DOWNLOAD the:

    Will You Be at the “Schools for the 21st Century” Symposium In New Orleans on March 1st? February 9th, 2007

    Undoubtedly by now, you’ve seen the striking Architectural Record suplement issue entitled “Schools of the 21st Century” that has inspired a similarly entitled web site (co-presented by the American Architectural Foundation and Edutopia). Their vision?

    Share the “Latest thinking and Best Ideas on the Planning and Design of K-12 School Buildings.”

    This will give you a sense of some of what you’ll find at the site:

  • “A” is for Architecture: There are plenty of reasons to believe the next generation of schools will be the best ever designed.
  • Little Green Schoolhouses: The massive schools construction program currently underway provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create buildings that will influence the lives of students for decades to come.
  • Education, Unplugged: In some cases, the difficulties of hardwiring old schools can be eased by portable devices and digitally based curricula.
  • National School Design Institute: Teams of architects and school district representatives gathered to take on tough school design problems.
  • Case Studies: A look at six great U.S. Schools including: Montessori Children’s Center, San Francisco, Mark Horton/Architecture; Blythewood High School, Columbia, South Carolina, Perkins+Will, Boudreaux Group; Detroit School of Arts, Detroit, Hamilton Anderson Associates; Denver School of Science & Technology, Denver, klipp; Alpine School District Prototype Middle Schools, Alpine and Lehi, Utah, VCBO Architecture; and Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, Kirkland, Washington, Mahlum Architects
  • Needless to say, we love the work they’re doing and the ideas they’re undoubtedly going to inspire in the process.

    In addition to this vital resource for school planners and their stakeholders, if you have a chance to be down in New Orleans the week of March 1st, they’re also throwing a free all-day symposium to bring to life the very ideas found in the magazine/web site. Here’s a bit of what you’ll find if you can make it down there for the event:

    The event, conveniently co-located at the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) conference, will include such sessions as:

  • The Head of Their Class: Case studies of innovative school buildings from across the U.S.
  • High-Performance School Buildings: An examination of environmentally friendly, inexpensive-to-operate buildings and advice on how to build one.
  • Discussions about new school construction materials and techniques that not only make schools more attractive, safer, and healthier, but also improve learning and lower operating costs.
  • A recap of the latest research conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction Analytics on school spending trends and “green” school construction.
  • Hope to see you there!

    No Longer Theory: Building Virtual College Classrooms in Second Life February 9th, 2007

    Fascinating conversations taking place in San Francisco this week about the growing trend of higher education campuses building classroom space in the virtual world of Second Life. Why the trend? Interestingly, higher education leaders are looking for innovative alternatives as they sense over-crowded classrooms and a rising trend in telecommuting students:

    If you want to know what higher education will look like in a few years, you might ask Charles Reed, chancellor of the largest four-year university system in the United States.

    As head of the California State University system–with 23 campuses, 46,000 employees and more than 400,000 students–Reed says he’s worried about classroom space in the future because of, among other reasons, expanding enrollment.

    Consequently, Reed said he envisions students becoming more like telecommuters. They might meet with faculty and peers one day a week on campus, and then use simulations, virtual worlds and downloaded information the rest of the week to complete coursework.

    “It’s not an either-or thing. We need the ‘high touch,’ but we need the high tech at the same time,” Reed said Tuesday at Sun Microsystem’s Worldwide Education and Research Conference here.

    BTW, are you familiar with how many universities/colleges have already created a virtual presence in Second Life? You might be stunned:

    Virtual worlds are already beginning to change higher education, according to several educators.

    For example, more than 70 universities have built island campuses in Second Life, according to Stuart Sim, CTO and chief architect of Moodlerooms, which builds structures in virtual worlds and offers course management software. Sim said his company is currently developing tools to help universities better manage students and courses delivered in Second Life. That way, universities can have an application to control adding or removing a student avatar to the island campus, he said. The project is dubbed

    Why are they making such an investment? Just to seem cutting-edge?

    Gerri Sinclair, executive director of the master’s degree program for digital media at the Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver, Canada, said her group is building a Second Life virtual campus alongside its physical one. “Our students are digital natives, and they don’t want to be reached in traditional ways. So we’re creating a virtual campus as we’re building our real campus,” Sinclair said.

    Seems like we’ve only begun to see the potential in this profound merger of F2F classrooms and their virtual siblings. Your thoughts?

    If you’re unfamiliar with Second Life and its potential role for education (especially higher education), you may want to consider a Second Life for Higher Education wiki-tutorial that is provided by a group of educators who are integrating the virtual and real teaching spaces. And obviously this may be a great chance to look more closely at the Harvard Law course entitled “Cyber One” that exists simultaneously as a real course with a virtual component of every detail in Second Life as well.

    What Can We Learn from “Voices from the New American Schoolhouse” Project? February 7th, 2007

    Certainly not the most traditional model of ’school’ we safely offer, but you can’t help but wonder with a fair amount of imagination at the ideas proposed in the “Voices of the New American Schoolhouse.”

    But what can be learned by a school built upon the foundation of discovery? A school built upon the premise that kids learn at the pace of their own learning? Possible more than once? Or is this school utterly unique? And is there a middle ground for the rest of the educational system to consider?

    Watch the video trailor. A great 10 minute teaser that can’t help but spark a reaction — one way or another — and ideas for re-imaging learning in the future.

    Following Up on a Chairless School February 7th, 2007

    We had previously blogged about the remarkable ‘chair-less’ school in Rochester, Minnesota (US) that is embracing technology and health education on a remarkable level on 2 occasions: link 1 and link 2.

    This came back to mind recently, thanks to Jon Benton of OWP, who sent us an update on the school’s unique program (although the article runs back to March of 06). The following design elements that continued to grab our attention again:


    “When I was approached I realized that this has to be the face of the future not only for education but also for the health of American children,” said Jerry Williams, superintendent of Rochester Public Schools. “If the concepts are proven, Rochester will consider expanding such an experimental environment in one of our elementary schools.”

    Thirty fourth and fifth graders spent a week having all their school activity measured in their traditional classroom. This week (week of March 13th) they are moving to the “school of the future.” They will be given several days to settle in. The children’s activity will be monitored in the new school environment and educational testing will be performed. The Mayo team will collect data on their movements using specialized telemetry called Posture and Activity Detectors (PADs). Each child will wear a PAD on his or her leg. The PADs will measure the time spent standing and walking.

    Technology that inspires a new way of learning and moving:

    Dr. Levine developed the school’s concepts during two decades of international research. They will be integrated into the children’s learning experience. Some of the innovations include:

    € Video-streamed “pod-casting” as a teaching aid
    € “Learn ‘n Move” bays — a step beyond traditional learning stations
    € Wireless technology
    € Personalized laptop computers
    € A novel earpiece that measures physical activity of the student
    € Vertical magnetic work spaces that double as projection screens
    € Innovative telemetry that collects data for scientific comparison
    € Personalized white boards (instead of one large blackboard for a room)
    € “Standing” desks — where the children will stand and work, rather than sit

    What began to unfold that suggests that this goes well beyond technology per se:

    The most amazing advance, according to Dr. Levine, is giving children the chance to move at school. “Children are so amazing,” he said. “They are adaptable and actually love to learn, we just have to let them move naturally.”

    “We hope that the novel aspect of the technology will interest them so they choose to stand and move, rather than look for a place to sit,” says Dr. Lanningham-Foster. “Kids will stand at a video arcade; why not at a computerized learning center?”

    Your thoughts?

    Rural Colleges Seeking Urban Design Edge February 7th, 2007

    For generations, rural colleges have sought to be different from their city-based peers. In essence, the ‘look’ and feel of a rural college or university was seen as a unique strength and cultural norm.

    Today, however, there appears to be a trend to reverse course as rural colleges and universities - such as Hendrix College in southern Arkansas (US) - seek to add a contemporary urban edge to their campus designs. According to a recent NYTimes article:

    For decades, colleges like Hendrix in rural areas of the country embraced a pastoral ideal, presenting themselves as oases of scholarship surrounded by nothing more distracting than lush farmland and rolling hills. But many officials at such institutions have decided that students today want something completely different: urban buzz. “You can’t market yourself as bucolic,” J. Timothy Cloyd, the Hendrix president, said.

    At the same time, officials have realized that a more urbanized version of the ideal campus could attract a population well past its college years — working people and retiring baby boomers — if there is housing to suit them. And so a new concept of the college campus is taking root: a small city in the country that is not reserved for only the young.

    Clearly these evolving campus design strategies are growing out of a pretty bottom-line need: will the students come?

    “It’s part of a pattern of colleges and universities realizing that they have elements that are appealing to a population far broader than 18- to 25-year-olds,” said Ralph J. Hexter, president of Hampshire College. “It’s often said of a college education, ‘It’s a shame it’s wasted on the young.’ ”The distinctive marks of many of these campuses are shops, restaurants, offices and housing that, together, create a destination. The idea is to produce street life and to promote social interaction.

    Nearly all of these developments are being built by institutions with vast tracts of unused land; officials hope to take advantage of that asset to help build endowments. Generally, these are also institutions that are not looking to expand significantly the size of their student bodies.

    Students graduating from high school these days seem particularly attracted to urban settings, said Dr. Cloyd, the Hendrix president. Many come from the suburbs, he said.

    “I think students crave the kind of vitality you have in an urban space,” Dr. Cloyd said. “The images that reveal an active social life are urban-based.”

    Has the global concept reached a tipping point?

    “When you picture a global university, you picture urban,” said Amy Gutmann, the Penn president. “You picture restaurants, art galleries, you picture day and night, taking in movies, live performances.”

    What are your thoughts? Are the bucolic university settings of the past complete anachronisms? Or is this merely a trend gaining momentum based on short-term marketing efforts? And does this mean a great range of design solutions or a vanilla-standard being fostered?

    Building Libraries on the Pillars of Web 2.0 February 6th, 2007

    If you had to pick a single space in a school that is wrestling with the future of learning more than others, you’d be hard pressed to ignore the evolution of the library space. In particular, we are drawn to those who are giving voice to the concept of Library 2.0.

    To this end, we’d like point you to a recent article we discovered that looks at a re-imagination of the design of a library web site as a model for what we’re all trying to do in the design of entire schools and campuses. What caught our attention in particular were the 6 pillars that challenge the way we not only share and interact with information, but perhaps how we conceive of a learning space in the first place. They write:

    1. Radical decentralization
    2. Small pieces loosely joined
    3. Perpetual beta
    4. Remixable content
    5. User as contributor
    6. Rich user experience

    If you were to embrace one or all of these pillars, how would they impact the way you conceived of designs that truly empowered the future of learning?

    How Do You Take a Fairly “Typical” School And Move It Into the 21st Century? February 3rd, 2007

    Will Richardson, one of the guiding voices in the evolution of schools working today, offers the following post in his blog yesterday in a piece entitled: “Moving Schools Forward — A School 2.0 Project”:

    So here is one of the burning questions in my brain these days:

    How do you take a fairly “typical” school that is currently steeped in a 20th Century model of teaching and successfully move it forward in a systemic way toward a more relevant 21st Century, or, if you will, School 2.0 model that fully takes advantage of a more connected, collaborative, creative world?

    For most of the folks he works with — students, teachers, administrators, technology experts, vendors, board members — this is a technology-meets-education question.

    We offer it to you because we believe that in the process of designing a new school or renovating an existing campus, he offers the million-dollar question.

    What are your thoughts?

    If you’re keeping an eye on folks working passionately to push on the future of learning question, we’d suggest that you add Will Richardson’s blog to your reading list. We can promise you that your educational clients are certainly beginning to.

    Creating Spaces for Passionate Learners February 3rd, 2007

    Sitting in the front row in the ‘School Design’ conversation sits the ‘user’. Call it a student or a teacher or a community member — today or tomorrow — but for speed we’ll simply say ‘user’ to make the larger point. They’re paying attention. They’re raising their hands. And they’re putting enormous trust in all of us who are invited into this vital projects.

    Are they a first-person collaborator in your project? Or are they given a third-person designation as the building and budget and experts take over?

    One of the non-architecture, non-education blogs we keep an eye on is one called “Creating Passionate Users”. Without offering a poorly derived back-history on Kathy Sierra (and team), this widely respected and popular blog reminds technologists to keep the user experience in mind 24/7 as they create the tools that make the world go round. Not as an after-thought. Not as a marketing tool. Not out of guilt. But as a fundamental law of the universe.

    Kathy is not only a skilled writer and presenter, but she comes out of the inner chambers of technology where its easy to talk about the engineering and ‘cool tool’ factor alone, where its easy to defend the value of a project based on the technical expertise and scientific factors alone, where its easy to see the ‘user’ as a marketing or warranty after-the-fact. This is hardly unique to Silicon Valley or any part of the world where computing experts collect and do really cool things. It is, in our opinion, something equally shared in the world of school design where projects are launched with a table full of experts who bring immense technical skills to the conversation.

    On the other hand, the ‘user’ is often spoken about from a distance. Yes, we want ‘kids’ to be safe and empowered, teachers to want to work in these space, communities to proudly point to the schoolhouse in the distance. But too often these folks are spoken about in the third person or only brought in ’strategically’ in easy-to-manage moments along the way. Even worse, they are used as convenient marketing tools and photo ops to suggest that kids/teachers/community are a vital part of the design project. Even more ironically, when the ‘voters’ are needed to pass critical bond elections/levies (for example), they are vitally important. Once the money is in hand, however, these users lose their first-person status and begin to be referred to from a distance.

    Similarly, the user’s goals, needs, passions, and vision are often rationalized as an after-thought once the technical ’school’ building or campus is defined. Sure, there may be an Ed Spec, there may be an early design charrette with kids/teachers offering their ideas in a short-hit, there may be a series of public community meetings where individuals/groups can contribute ideas, questions…and even disagree.

    But ultimately, the building and budget and experts are honored more in real-time along the way, with the end-user taking on a 3rd person role more and more through the process. Whether its done respectfully or not, consciously or not, this may suggest an opportunity to re-imagine our collective role in supporting the user’s goals…and the user’s experience from the beginning of the conceptual project through deep into the life-cycle reality itself.

    Back to “Creating Passionate Users” for a bit. Not necessarily about technology, but offered as a reminder of the folks who will one day live in, breathe in, learn in, and be significantly impacted in the schools we design and build. Good intentions or not.

    Imagine if a school were built upon the premise of creating passionate learners. Not just global workers. Not just 21st century students. But passionate learners.

    What would that school look like?

    And likewise, what would such a place look like if you were invited to help design a school that started with this core invitation: “We will design a educational facility, campus, learning environment, classroom, and everything else imaginable that supports the creation of passionate learners. Everything else will follow in this spirit.”

    In the spirit of an evolving learning process and conversation, we highly recommend that you keep an eye on the “Creating Passionate Users” blog as a mirror for asking the underlying questions that truly matter when it comes to the honor of co-creating schools that will support the learners and community users of the future.

    What are your thoughts?

    Schools Putting Roofs Over the Heads of Homeless Students February 2nd, 2007

    It is an intriguing premise to imagine that schools may one day soon consider helping their students with the ‘rest of their life needs’ as a basic offering. There are obvious connections to extra-curricular activities, offering additional meals, and so much more already, but how often is ‘housing’ part of the equation when a school tries to help their students succeed?

    And what about the opportunity to help homeless students find a roof to put over their head so that they stand a fighting chance of having a foundation to work from as they simultaneously try to succeed in school? Possible? Outside of the school’s responsibility?

    We wonder if the school district outside of St. Louis, MO is doing something that will only impact 4 students or if it will inspire school communities much further away to consider the facility needs of students beyond the campus itself. Known as “Joe’s House”, the district has provided housing for 4 homeless students. Why?

    Officially, it’s known as Joe’s Place. But one of its first residents has dubbed the cheerful yellow house “Big Bird.” It opened recently with enough space for four homeless boys who attend high school in the Maplewood Richmond Heights (MRH) district, near St. Louis.

    The result of a collaboration between school officials, local churches, and scores of volunteers, Joe’s Place appears to be a first-of-its-kind endeavor in the United States.

    “The thing that makes this unique is that the school district actually put up the money for the housing,” says Barbara Duffield, policy director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

    The small district should be applauded for taking such direct action to meet a need, Ms. Duffield says, but it’s also important for people to keep in mind that “the overall problem [nationwide] is there is not adequate attention to the needs of families and youth on the housing and shelter front.”

    As the article states, this is the first-of-its-kind project happening in the US. Will it be the last?

    And do you know of any similar efforts unfolding around the world?

    Will Yale Become the World’s Greenest Campus? February 2nd, 2007

    How green is your university? How green is your university design?

    Interesting snippet from a recent Newsweek article where the President of Yale University suggests that large organizations can no longer wait to make this move:

    Global warming is one of the most-talked-about topics in Davos this year. But for many gathered in the Swiss mountain town for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, mere talk isn’t enough. “We cannot wait for our governments to act,” Yale President Richard Levin told delegates on Thursday. “Large organizations with the power to act independently should take matters into their own hands and begin to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions now.”

    A tipping point or not?


    Thanks to Kristin and ArchNewsNow for this original link.

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