DesignShare Logo

Search

Our Current Featured Education Group:
Directory Case Studies Articles Awards Program Language of School Design
Membership E-Newsletter Events About Contact Home
2007 Awards Jury Team Conversation #1
 

QUESTION 1: SHARE ONE THING ABOUT YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE IN SCHOOL SPACES AS A CHILD/STUDENT THAT MADE AN IMPACT ON YOUR CURRENT ADULT/PROFESSIONAL LIFE. IF YOU’D LIKE, YOU MAY ALSO ADD A REFERENCE THAT IMPACTED THE ADULT LIVES OF ONE OF YOUR CHILDREN, SIBLINGS, AND/OR FRIENDS.

Randy Fielding:

I spent four months in 1974 at Carnegie Mellon University in the Experiment School of Humanities called “Medieval Semester.” Students from all different departments and ages participated. (I had no special interest in medieval studies, but loved my Shakespeare teacher, and when she told me about the pedagogical model, I wanted in, and took a leave from the architecture department and talked my best friends in the art and psychology departments to come with me).

Seniors from seminary school, juniors from the music department, history, literature, philosophy and Italian majors all hung out in one room that we furnished together with couches, stringed instruments and tapestries. We all took on roles from the middle ages. I was a Minstrel and was burned at the stake for being a Pantheist (all creatures have a soul–even the non Christians and animals).

My final project integrated architecture, philosophy, global and local urban planning, economic development and scientific paradigm shifts. It came out of intense reading, debate, and constant sharing and feedback with people of various ages and disciplines. The model was by far the most success formal learning experience in 20 plus years. It was essentially a one-room interdisciplinary school house, supported by wild runs through the campus green with my friends, debating every idea with breathless passion.

Bobbie Hill:

As I reach back in time to review my experience with school spaces I mostly have bad memories except for when I was out of the classroom. My immediate environment has a big effect on my frame of mind and my ability to absorb information, retain knowledge and just my basic attitude. When I am in a chaotic/cluttered/dark environment my mood will reflect the same.

One of my children (the architect/landscape architect) is very much the same way. He and I are more calm and productive person with a simple, warm, peaceful environment.

Susan Wolff:

I went to elementary school in a three-room school house. As I have reflected on this, it was a model for rigor and relationships. There was some measure of relevancy because many of the discussions were based on the context of our rural setting. Because of its smallness (55 students in 8 grades), we did learn compassion, collaboration, tolerance, and leadership. We also had the opportunity to learn “ahead” while the older students were receiving their “lectures or lessons.” We also learned how to focus on tasks at hand in the midst of other activities – perhaps creating my ability for multi-tasking (similar to today’s younger people). We also had windows and were always connected to the outside world – aspects that continue to serve as stimulation and calming depending on my need at the moment.

Jeff Lackney:

That’s easy – school was easy for me and now I know why…as Sir Ken Robinson says, school is for university professors (who live in the upper left side of their brain).

(1) In 5th grade when my friend and I were assigned to TEACH the class about the make-up of the atom. It was a project I’ll never forget. The work became so purposeful, I enjoyed working with my friend, and we shared in the enjoyment of realizing the lesson with our fellow classmates. What might my experience of school had been if all my classes where like this one!

(2) In 8th grade when I got to go to shop – my first experience of a true workshop environment – true project-based learning. I’d never been in a shop but excelled in drawing to the point that I raced through all the exercises and went well beyond. High school changed all that until I entered an architectural design competition (outside of my school) where I again picked up where I left off four years earlier. I managed to find my way…but how many kids actually do?

(3) In undergraduate architectural school, 5th year, I finally got to take an elective! And no it wasn’t basket weaving it was the “Art and Science of Art and Science” – I did a cool biological-metal sculpture that I still have and more importantly, I finally realized knowledge was an integrated affair! It took me THAT long to realize how cool learning could be. Does it have to be this way?

Beth Hebert:

The physical environment of my elementary school was formal - an old and immaculate parochial school building in an affluent Chicago neighborhood. The polished marble floors & enormous images of Catholic icons were the focus of this school’s overly quiet hallways. You were being watched! The feeling tone was of a school that was well run and well-endowed.

Looking back, I can see that the school’s priorities were communicated clearly in the physical environment, i.e. raising money, maintaining discipline, and promoting a belief in ultimate consequences for errant behavior. Oh yes, there were children there, too. We managed to find our way.

Peter Brown:

I remember a strong connection between the daily moods of school and the light conditions outside. I remember the color of light filtering through live oak trees, the green light reflecting off of grass on a sunny day, and the dark days brought on by spring showers. I made connections between these conditions and the learning experience (for example, in 10th grade biology, it was a dark and rainy morning when we dissected formaldehyde-drenched frogs under the blue buzz of fluorescent lights).

Intuitively, I’ve carried forward ideas about light and the learning environment. At Fearn Elementary School, a continuous clerestory window lights the length of a gently curving corridor. As the day progresses, a stripe of sunlight starts high on the opposite wall, and eventually rakes down the wall and across the floor. I toured my 3-year-old daughter through this school while still under construction. When she entered that corridor, she threw off her hard hat and danced along the stripe of sunlight. Of all the important lessons to learn, she already knew what to do with her slice of the sun. Since then over 1,500 students have attended that school, I hope they have also made connections with their world—on many fronts.

Whether people in schools are connecting face-to-face or across the globe, the interaction that’s encouraged though environment and experience is important (and enhanced through design).

Amy Yurko:

I was about 8 years old, my (medical professional) parents commissioned Charles Moore to design our house in coastal NC. He visited our family and facilitated discussions with each of us regarding our spatial preferences (asked us kids what kind of room we wanted).

My 12 year old brother John wanted a “tree house” with a hatch/trap door. I asked for views to the ocean. My 4 year old sister Lara wanted a “Jetsons” room (popular cartoon at the time). My 6 year old brother Steven answered last and said he “just” wanted a plain room with 4 walls. Twoish years later we had a spectacular house with all our desires accommodated. John, then 14yo, never “lived” in his 3rd floor room as he was entering puberty and had out grown the tree house idea. My room was nearly circular in plan with 8 walls, 7 of which had floor-to-ceiling windows facing the ocean. Lara, then 6yo, didn’t get the futuristic room I assume she had imagined, but all the furniture was built-in including a Murphy-style bed. My 8yo brother’s room was a perfect cube.

Fast forward to now: John & I are architects (recognized the power of getting what you ask for – bad or good), Lara is an interior designer (always frustrated with the inability to rearrange her room), and Steven is an accountant. Environment matters. period.

Dan Pink:

I learned that I really, really don’t like following a schedule imposed by others.

Tim Dufault:

In 10th grade I had an English teacher who had us analyze the writing style of our favorite author. It was an independent project that forced us to understand all of the components of the English language as well as how to write effectively. It was the most interesting time I ever had in English.

I loved shop! For three years I created objects out of nothing using all of my knowledge in math and science, and even some language and history. I couldn’t wait to get there and work on my project. I worked with others in teams and by myself. I created tables that my parents proudly used in their living room (though, I must admit, they were quite ungainly), I worked on a canoe, which actually floated and I learned more, about myself and the practical application of core curriculum than in any other class. The one class I never took was architectural drafting, I thought it was boring and a waste of time. Ironic since even at that time, I knew I was going to be an architect.

Finally, a short story about my son. We used to have these great discussions in the car (I say used to, because he has now turned into a brooding teenager). The discussion would generally start out talking about something fairly mundane, like seeing a goose in a pond and talking about how small their brain is. But as the conversations progressed, the topics morphed into broad philosophical discussions about our position in the world, the universe and beyond. My son would always remark, at the end of the discussion, with something like “Isn’t funny how we started talking about a gooses brain size and ended up talking about the problems with using nuclear reactors to generate electricity?” Life, and learning, is an exploration of the connections between a gooses brain and nuclear physics.

Judy Marks:

Every school I attended—elementary, junior, and high—was the typical modern mid-century school building —one or two story brick, flat-roofed structures, lots of windows. The schools were brand new, clean, uncrowded, unassuming.

Did the buildings make a difference? I can sincerely thank a few unforgettable teachers for passing along the excitement of learning and instilling an ongoing curiosity about the world. But I have to say, growing up in Colorado, on the plains along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, it was the outdoor experiences that provided me the more memorable lessons from childhood.


Ulla Kjærvang

At architecture school, I made a project called “Home for a blind person” that made me focus on all the other senses besides our vision. Afterwards I thought that this home was not only for the blind. Everybody needs buildings which stimulate all our senses in a positive way, and especially school buildings.

Pablo Campos:

Let me answer by just mentionig a small detail I appreciated last week, while visiting in Poughkeepsie the Vassar College : one student was walking through the Campus in bare feet (!) This tiny detail meant for me how that student was experiencing and transmiting the sense of BELONGING, that is, feeling the campus as his own home…

Frank Locker:

I have very few recollections of school spaces. The bookmobile was always a special event. My high school was a series of linked blocks with multiple choices of circulation paths: great to avoid passing Miss March’s classroom and great to intercept my girlfriend.

Christian Long:

I moved to a new school (and community) regularly growing up (every 2-3 years), so I was constantly entering new spaces called ’school’. Most were traditional — hallways of classrooms opposite each other.

My nursery school and 5th/6th grade years, however, were much more inspired space-wise. As a 3/4 year old, I went to a place that still feels magical although I’m sure it wasn’t revolutionary. Spaces for naps, play areas, on the edge of a busy city street with people walking on the sidewalks, art everywhere. As a 5th/6th grader, I went to a true ‘open school’ that was also ‘in the round’. Each grade level had its own huge open space divided only by various storage units and smaller groups of kids/teachers working together, although math class was in its own ‘room’ in there somewhere. The 6 grades surrounded a sunken library open to everyone’s view. We also had our own playground space that connected to the larger fields. Not sure what it was like as a teacher, but as a kid I loved the openness and flow. I became less enthusiastic about school classrooms/spaces soon after leaving and going to ‘regular’ school.

As a new dad (9 month old now), a new question re: ‘access’ has come to mind lately. My son, Beckett, goes to a daycare center across the street from the school my wife teaches at and is a principal of. One of the reasons — besides proximity — that we selected this daycare center (and paid extra for that privilege) was the live videocam feed we have via the internet. That means that we can watch Beckett’s day unfolding anytime we want via the computer. What strikes me is that in 4 years, when he enters kindergarten, we will lose that privilege. School will become a ‘black box’ where we lose 99% of the access and awareness of what our kid experiences. Given the transformative power of new technologies, I am NOT impressed by WiFi or laptops nearly as much as I am by the potential for a parent (and the world) to be ‘in the classroom’ with the students on a 24/7 level.

How do we facilitate that cultural change and make the classroom/lab/studio/campus truly transparent and 2-way in terms of conversation and collaboration? If there is an architectural solution, I’d love to hear it. If this is a redefinition of ’school’, I’m interested in that conversation as well.

Stephen Heppell:

Where I sat in my school was determined by the order that we ranked in the county-wide non-verbal reasoning test. I was good at that, so had a “good” seat. It was like a production line - and quite dreary. In amongst all this madness an inspired teacher led us to question the biblical Flood. She guided us to many original sources, we trekked to the British Museum to explore artefacts from Babylonia, the Tigris and Euphrates - we quizzed curators, studied papyrus records and mummified witnesses. We discovered a different history to the biblical one and understood the relationship between the two. We looked, searched, researched and looked again. I remember every second of that electrifying term - I can still remember the smells, textures, images, excitement… learning. Never looked back.

I was coaching a UK international youth sailing squad: world championships, Kingston Ontario. We were NOT favourites to win. In the week before the event I encouraged my squad to be researchers, to collect, interpret, share, swap, question, discover, test. By the time the event started we all knew so much that was new, but the squad carried a shared confidence that, come what may, they could think their way out. I’ll swear their eyes were shining brighter as the first race started! In the end, one of them became world champion, seeing a change in conditions and reacting with speed and understanding on the last leg of the last race of the last day. As they all say when I see them from time to time: “what a team”.

Hopefully in DesignShare we are all quite a team too.

Prakash Nair:

The Jesuit school I attended was, in fact, a prison where corporal punishment and all kinds of deprivation was quite normal – water, for example, was always in short supply. My most memorable experience was scaling the high fenced wall (built so close to the school building that it was easy to shimmy up the wall by pushing against the building with your feet) and escaping each afternoon. These stolen afternoons were spent with friends swimming, eating forbidden mangoes, pomegranates and tamarind from houses protected by vicious dogs and reading and reading. All the reading that my school simply did not have the time for me to do. For me no school was the best kind of school.

My daughters both attended “college mills” so called “good schools” that were the worst kind of scam. When I realized this, I told them to get out of the rat race, quit worrying about grades and to enjoy their teen years. So they did things like star in rock bands, travel the world, volunteer in remote corners of the globe, attend and speak at national conferences with me, act in school plays, edit school magazines, learn photography, read lots of novels, shop and attend lots of parties (of course), and “while away” time on the Internet. When time came for college admissions, they suddenly realized that they had built good “resumes” and were in great demand while their studious friends who attended every tutorial and test prep course their parents could get them into fared not so well. Moral of the story? Have fun, enjoy life and there you have it — the formula for being a good “student”.

Chris Lehmann:

I think, for me, it was Mr. Wilson’s office in High School. He was a Media / English teacher and he ran the TV sports and video yearbook programs. His classroom had an office off of it, and it was there that we all hung out. It was a safe space for kids to hang out with adults outside of the traditional classroom, and it was that space that made classes more real, more humane. I’ve tried my entire educational career to create spaces where students and teachers could come together as people first.


John Weekes:

There are lots, but I’ll relay one when I was in college. I left school and went to Copenhagen Denmark and enrolled at the University of Copenhagen my junior year. The University was spread throughout downtown Copenhagen. The architectural studio was on the second floor of a mixed use retail/office building. The class on European Art History was on the third floor of the Royal Copenhagen Design Studio.

The city was the university campus. The corridors between classes were streets, some with cars and some dedicated to pedestrians, with far more interesting classrooms (Shops, restaurants, offices, churches, theaters, parks, rivers, etc) along them than a traditional college; With no schedule, a place living 24/7; With real world and academia intertwined.

QUESTION 2: WHY DOES ‘SCHOOL DESIGN’ MATTER TO YOU PERSONALLY? WHAT IS THE IMPACT ON LEARNING AND COMMUNITIES?

Randy Fielding:

Getting dropped off at kindergarten in 1958 was like being dropped in boiling water–I went from wandering around trees, raspberry thickets, a boat-filled harbour, hanging out with dogs and cats and ballet dancers (we shared a big old house that included a ballet studio) to a fascist regime! The same tension carried through primary and secondary school and four universities. For me, our DesignShare adventures together over the last ten years have been about overturning that fascist regime–like the resistance in France during World War 2.

Bobbie Hill:

I have been in the middle of recovery work in New Orleans since a month after Katrina. Much of this has taken me into some of the school facilities. It is just criminal to see the conditions students must endure day to day while they are supposed to be learning.

I want to grab some of the powerful community leaders and business people and take them to these hell holes. NO ONE of them would let their kids go to such a place. We MUST do something about such conditions in urban communities. We MUST respect these young minds and treat them better. We MUST do this throughout this country because what we see in New Orleans is repeated throughout urban and rural America.

Susan Wolff:

I have been involved with this wonderful work since 1999 and am feeling that as hard as we are working at making learning spaces or opportunities ones that invite learners to be the very best they can be and to pursue their known talents and discover those they have never dreamed of – economics, comfort with what has been for too long, and perhaps a lack of belief that environment has a direct impact on learning – leads to the continuation of building boxes with smaller boxes that numb the mind.

I was recently in a town where I had not been for a number of years and drove past the high school on my way to a meeting. My first thought was that it was a blue prison. I suppose when it was built, it was the pride and joy of the community for being solid and built with no frills. Or in one of the towns that our college serves, all but one school building is in dire need of renovation or new construction. Driving past one of the elementary and high school buildings – I want to go buy new curtains – at least the students would not see torn, dirty curtains that droop from the rods (the same curtains that were there when a parent went to school there – over 40 years ago). Or the middle school that for decades as I drove past the town, I thought was a lumber mill. I was horrified to learn that it had been a former middle school that is being considered to reopen to house a magnet 2nd language elementary school. If I was a student in the community, I would resist entering any of the buildings and would certainly feel that I did not matter to my community.

Is there any wonder that our country continues to struggle with preparing our learners for the global economy let alone life? The other side of the coin are the new schools that are designed with learning in mind but without adequate staff development of teaching and learning in multiple ways – they often revert to “traditional” when the leadership who had the vision leave.

Jeff Lackney:

It’s the process that matters to me: The process of collaboratively designing environments and the process of living in them.

This came home to me today as I sat in my son’s elementary school gym for the traditional Spring Sing. The space is ‘nothing special’ but nevertheless good enough to afford100 kids and as many parents all of who know each other (and family issues). Parent cell phones, doctor beepers going off, younger siblings crawling around, out of tune violins, high voices singing, whiffs of fresh air once every few minutes, and clapping all combine in a real-time experience we all can remember and relate to.
Learning is social, dynamic, open-ended yet most school design projects are not as collaborative and inclusive as we all like to believe (most design for that matter).

Certainly, budget time-lines short-circuit what could be an authentic community building experience. Few client-users actually get a chance to think through the implications of environment on their workflows and students of their learning until it’s possibly too late. But, is it too late ever? Once people move in, there are daily opportunities to make the environment one’s own – what some of us call place-making – an on-going opportunity for community building.

Beth Hebert:

I was privileged to be the principal of Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois, a building now almost 70 years old and nationally recognized for its thoughtful design.

Every day, for 21 years, I witnessed the nuanced behaviors of adults and children that evidenced the positive and precious influence that a thoughtfully designed school building can have on children’s school lives. I fell in love with Crow Island (as have so many) and for a long time now I have been committed to promoting the collaborative communication between educators and architects that is so crucial to successful school design.

Peter Brown:

I’ll answer in two ways:

(From the Left Brain) Design matters because environment and experience can encourage teaching, learning, communication, and relationships.

(From the Right Brain) Design matters because environment and experience can inspire people.

Both answers require thoughtful and deliberate responses–planning for the known and allowing the unknown. Both answers require collaboration among students, educators, communities, and designers.

Amy Yurko:

Great teachers can create opportunities for powerful learning regardless of the physical environment, but how much greater could they be if not for wasting time and energy finding creative ways to use often dismal facilities?

Dan Pink:

It matters to me as a parent since I’ve got three school-age children. I want them to be in environments that allow them to flourish. It matters to me professionally because I think schools are so far behind on this front that they might actually be able to leapfrog into a new approach - and thereby teach a great deal to other organizations and institutions.

Tim Dufault:

Because it provides an opportunity for us as individuals to making a lasting impact on our communities and society as a whole, an opportunity to change that which we believe is wrong and promote ideas and environments that allow individuals and the community to grow.

Judy Marks:

I kind of live and breath school design every day in my job at the Clearinghouse. I get to see the best, the mediocre, and the unforgivably bad school designs cross my desk [in words and photos] and watch the myriad trends play out over time from conceptual ideas to realization. [Do you know that there are now 300 schools on a waiting list for LEED certification from USGBC?]

When I get the chance to visit schools across the country I can better measure this so-called impact of good design, by walking through a well-functioning building filled with happy kids and talking to teachers who really like their environments.

Ulla Kjærvang

Architecture has an influence on the life and learning in the school. Are there spaces for socialising? Is there a good climate? Are the surroundings and the playground inviting to sport and movement? Do the students feel good in the environment? Etc.

In building new schools, I see an important connection between developing teachers mentality while developing the design of the school. I am particularly interested in that process.

How do we make a process that asks and includes the users in the planning, so that they feel motivated for developing teaching and find new ways of learning? School design matters to me because I think architects and teachers can find new exciting ways of learning together.

Pablo Campos:

I should need to be more precise with “educational design” so that it includes Higher Ed as well. For me, maybe it comes down to one simple ans strong reason: Architecture and open spaces under design are able to “shape” human relations

Frank Locker:

School design matters because education is the most critical investment we can make, and school design can make that a shrewed investment.

Christian Long:

As a young high school teacher, I struggled with the 4 walls. They prevented my students (and myself) from true learning in ways I could only guess at back then. It was only when we were able to take the kids ‘outside’ that we began to scratch the surface of what was possible in ’school’. This was at the center of my quest to become a school planner, wanting to see what happens when the 4 walls were removed or transformed.

At the time, I wasn’t even thinking of architecture. It was more about experiential education, travel, studying anywhere but the actual classroom. It led me to consider starting a school of my own, which in turn led me to consider the architectural implications.

Over the last 4+ years, I’ve shifted from teaching and wanting to start a school to working with an incredible range of architects, planners, and others who truly ‘design’ schools of the future. And I’ve begun to see what is possible when true innovation brings together design and new ways of understanding the teaching/learning relationship.

More recently, I’ve begun to realize that if we do not begin to shift our thinking around technology as well, even the most innovative school buildings/campuses will only be a shadow of what is possible. This is much bigger than thinking about laptops. This is about the school truly becoming transparent as an educational ecosystem. And the longer we design great computer labs or use the superficial semantic of ‘multi-media centers’ where little has truly changed in terms of learning/teaching, the longer we’ll be failing to live up to the 21st century design promises our marketing materials/portfolios claim to show.

To this end, I hope we’ll soon drop the “school of the future” or “21st century school” frames — both are little more than marketing hype. Additionally, the 21st century is already dated considering we’re nearing the end of the first decade of that same century. What does this leave? For the time being, I see value in designing “School 2.0″ as a framing device. A great link to technology of course, but more importantly it reminds us that a) we’re designing a beta-version of what will work in the future and b) it’s about schools becoming 2-way learning environments. For what it’s worth, I offer this language to the team to see what comes to mind as a design solution.

Stephen Heppell:

You only get one go at being a child and if we can make learning as seductive, engaging and delightful as we all know it can be, then that once-in-a-lifetime childhood is filled with a hunger for learning which spills over into the rest of everyones’ lives. Every
minute that passes where we tolerate poor learning design we lose part of another generation of learners.

I’m old enough, and foolish enough, to think simply that if we can allow children around the world to learn with and from each other, then the world might be a better place for them as adults. The old factory schools with all their bizarre features (like ringing a bell and expecting 1,000 teenagers to be simultaneously hungry, or having too many biologists and technologists but a world shortage of bio-technologists!, or assembling 30 children in one room because they were born between two Septembers) put learners into so many boxes - in architecture, curriculum, pedagogy, age phase, gender… so much. Right now the world has way too many boxes and too much tension between them.

Prakash Nair:

To me, school design is the elephant in the room. The way we design our schools says EXACTLY what we think about children and how much we believe in educating them to be happy, self-reliant and adaptable. If we are not even brave enough to let kids out of the cages we have built for them, then we certainly don’t believe our own rhetoric that kids matter or that education is the future.

Simple question. Which adult will say that he or she is most productive when forced to sit on a hard chair for 5 hours each day with 25 others in less space per person than is normally allocated to prisoners in our worst jails? Get the point? That is why I feel that if we break down this most visible barrier to positive educational change then the others will be that much easier to dismantle.

Chris Lehmann:

I think of ‘School Design’ as much more than the way we physically build our schools. I think of it in terms of pedagogy and course structure and values. And I admit, that I used to think (and still think, to some degree) that you can bring powerful educational ideas to bear on a little red school house, but it’s a whole lot easier to do it when the spaces match the philosophy.

So what are the ideas I embrace when it comes to school design? Inquiry-driven, project-based education. Integrated learning that allows students to see beyond traditional courses and ask questions that are bigger than any one discipline. Educating the whole child and teaching kids that caring matters. Several of the folks on this list inspire me when I think about school design, but so do folks like Nel Noddings and bell hooks and Grant Wiggins and Thomas Sergiovanni and John Dewey.

Why does it matter to me? Because schools, to me, are our secular cathedrals. They are sacred places when they work well, where students and teachers can come together and create a vision of themselves that is bigger and better than it was before.


John Weekes:

The fundamental building block of our communities and often times least supported is “School”. It is an enormous footprint, socially, economically and physically in every city, town or village.

For me it is more than just “school design”.

In a changing world it is learning, the needs of our community and how they are interconnected and accommodated that interests me. Understanding each and addressing all results in a sum greater than the whole. “ School Design” is more than addressing physical needs. When we are asked to consider our neighborhoods, communities and region in which we live or practice what will be the catalyst, the driver, the place that positions us for the coming century? If it “school’ what does that look like? A dynamic economy, a changing definition of community, understanding the nature of learning, supporting the needs and abilities of the whole child, suspending what we know and consider what is emerging suggests the future holds a transformed paradigm of what “school” is.


QUESTION 3:
WHAT TREND (OR TRENDS) ARE CATCHING YOUR EYE TODAY IN TERMS OF THE CREATION OF ‘LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS’? WHAT TREND(S) DO YOU THINK WILL MATTER MOST IN THE COMING 5-10 YEARS?

Randy Fielding:

Students as story-tellers and performers. In Asia, where our clients tells us that they are stuck learning by rote, they are asking for training equivalent to what you get at a drama course and environments to support this.

Bobbie Hill:

I some places teaching and learning space is becoming more sparse, simple and flexible and that the furniture is more flexible, movable, and creative allowing for space to be used in multiple ways. Flexibility is the key. With simpler and more elegant space it may be possible to spend less on the overall cost and use more elegant and durable materials. Obviously, green design is key.

I see these big high school monstrosities being designed and built in this country in the same way that we’ve built mac mansions in suburbia. With the Academy Award going to the makers of An Inconvenient Truth the global warming and green conversation has been elevated to a much higher level. I wonder what will happen to these homes, these gigantic atriums in schools??? Why do architects and school facility people think that education space has to be so grand? Why can’t it be elegant, lovely and at a more human and intimate scale? That’s what I would like to see.

Susan Wolff:

Things like the news article I just read tonight where the trades and businesses are creating charter schools in business parks to prepare youth for technical jobs. Public schools have divested themselves in the technical trade areas that typically cost more to offer and yet this country is losing skilled trades professionals at a fast rate due to retirements.

The younger generations have a very different view of careers and their lives. Few schools address or support the “currency” of our youth and the future they will choose and have. Today’s three R’s are rigor, relevancy, and relationships — how do we design and how do educators deliver to support their reality and future?

Regarding trends in the next few years, I think that preparation of educators and leadership skills of educational administrators is critical. All the designing in the world will mean little if the learning process remains as is.


Jeff Lackney:

I’m sure others can fill in more trends. I’ll focus on one of my favorites: the design of what the sociologists call ‘third places’ in supporting social learning.

The most obvious trend is the ‘Café’ that mixes what McDonalds trademarked as “food, folks and fun”: We’ve seen it in corporate environments as non-territorial space; in B-schools conscious of the idea of having a place to ‘network’; in interdisciplinary research and development labs where collaboration is purposeful encouraged to create synergies between traditionally silo-oriented researchers; in both public and academic libraries, pressed to stay relevant in a virtual world have created cafes with books; and, in traditional neighborhood development that includes commercial space that acts as a social attractor.

But, schools have only just begun to think about the idea of third places as places where vital learning takes place in which students manage and operate.


Beth Hebert:

Educators are just now beginning to pay attention to the impact of well designed learning environments. I’’m noticing this trend in professional publications and at our conferences as well.

How we shape this conversation, still in its beginning stages; how we contribute to each other’s understanding of elements of good classroom/school design and best practices of good teaching and learning will have a significant impact on the next generation of schools and students.


Peter Brown:

What will matter most? Ideas that work, Ideas that recognize that we sit within a global network.

Trends? I’m obsessed with strategies to reach students at the extremities of the bell curve.

I’m fascinated to experience learning environments created by digital natives, for digital natives.

Amy Yurko:

I am excited about the growing body of research on the physiological effects of environments (vs the more popular focus on psychological effects). The second question is tricky, sort of 2 parts: I believe that within the next 5-10 years what will have the most impact on the design of effective learning environments (in the US) is policy, local, state and national.

Second part: Once “new designs are up and running”, a key challenge in the short-term (5-10 years) will be to maintain the intent of the design in supporting education– in other words, to avoid the gravity pulling users back toward traditional practices. Alternatively, a key opportunity is to use these “new designs” to promote best-practices and illustrate possibilities for the “non-believers”. Assuming that adapting to continuous change is a design goal/intent over the life of the facility, pushing forward will be key over the long-term.

Dan Pink:

I don’t think we’ve fully reckoned with the consequences of the democratization of self-expression. The tools necessary to create just about anything — a movie, a blog, a cartoon, even soon, a physical product — have become extremely cheap and insanely powerful. That’s going to allow much more learning that comes in the form of producing something rather than consuming it.

Tim Dufault:

Certainly, the most visible trend is the sustainable design movement. School clients are now asking for building solutions that are more sustainable. However, the focus still tends to be on the financial aspects and less on the holistic approach of creating environments that sustain and heal the community, the people who use it and the world. It is ironic that this has become such a hot topic because, in part, of the rapid rise of energy costs, what some call the new energy crisis. Yet, at the same time, our educational systems have been in crisis for years and we are unwilling to change our positions on what schools should be. The good news is that people are actively seeking solutions that move us towards a sustainable future. I think this will be the most important trend in the next 5-10 years.

The second trend is not really a trend, but something that has been a part of the design community for a very long time - Talk-itechture. Architects around the country involved in school design all say the same thing. They describe their design solutions as “Integrated learning environments that allow for the flexible implementation of multiple learning strategies allowing the school to evolve as methods of teaching and learning evolve. The design creates small learning communities within the larger building campus to break down the scale of learning.” Yet the school designs they are describing is the same double loaded corridor school most of us grew up attending.

Finally, I think the work being done at the edges of school design, the creation of truly unique learning environments that acknowledge the student as an individual, will start to change, in real ways, the design of schools in the broader context. Much like the green design movement, which started with passionate promoters working at the edges, the new school movement will come from places that the old-world school districts currently shun - charter schools, experimental schools, shared use schools and some of the European school models. The key to achieving this still lies in the ability of the design community to resolve the two basic drivers of school size in this country - funding and sports.

The schools 5 years from now will not be much different that what we have today, as in most cases, those schools are being designed right now. I think the event horizon we should be looking at is actually 15 -20 years out. What can we do today to reshape the landscape of learning tomorrow? Ask yourself the question - In 100 years, will we still have classrooms?

Judy Marks:

The totally computer literate generation is now at the gates of the colleges and universities, and it is fascinating to see how the more technologically advanced schools are accommodating students who want and expect their learning to happen less and less inside the classroom, but more spontaneously, collaboratively, and interdisciplinary—wherever and whenever at a place and time of their own choosing, globally, even virtually. These kids like their amenities upscale, on campus and in the dorms, and many want their environments eco-friendly. Will this trend trickle down to the high schools or even earlier grades?

I just read a post occupancy review of Frank Gehry’s 3-year old Stata Center at MIT. Robert Campbell asks: Does the building work? “The biggest goal for the project was to get MIT scientists—and that includes students—to meet one another. Too often, it was felt, they were holed up in isolated labs, apartments, and classrooms… The Stata, thus, was to be a mixing chamber. People would make connections. They’d begin to feel like members of a community. Barriers between disciplines would fall. Great minds would meet, copulate, and spawn brilliant ideas.” Campbell was happy to report that “After a month of wandering the Stata’s trackless and confusing floors (they are), and talking to its delighted inhabitants (they are), I’m ready to say: Yes, it does work. In the ways that count most, the Stata is a wonderful and astonishing building.”

I hope we encounter many “wonderful and astonishing” schools this summer.

Ulla Kjærvang

Today we know more about how humans learn from brain research all the way to theory about being in “flow”, as well as how we can create surroundings so that pupils feel safe and motivated for learning.

I have an interest in understanding this. In particular, I have an interest in trying out new methods and new ways of learning that catch pupils in other way. That also means new designs.

Another thing is the laptop discussion and the new technologies . I see that new technological interests of pupils and of course how schools need new technologies as tools also. I think that in the future we will see new ways of using technology in an intelligent way in schools, developing also by teachers.

Pablo Campos:

Undoubtedly those connecting the psychological perception and Architecture. I will feel successful as a professional devoted to this topic if in the next 5-10 years, this subject becomes more and more relevant to administrators in charge of decisions about the “Spaces of Knowledge”.

Frank Locker:

Aspirations of teachers to work together. Unfortunately, there are few commonly known structures in the educational community to allow this to be readily realized. We will not truly reform education until we break the old ‘isolated teacher, one group of students’ paradigm.

In addition to that, project-based learning is as real a setting as possible is what I see in the coming years.

Christian Long:

Trends now:

  • small learning communities (rarely done well, however)
  • WiFi (the key to everything if you really value technology and connecting classrooms to the world
  • ‘green’ schools (although 3-D textbook language always strikes me as well-intentioned but valueless in real-time)

Trends in the next 5-10 years:

  • the school building/campus is ‘part of’ the larger learning environment, but not the dominant location
  • schools as centers of community, communities that weave the school into larger social promises/relationships; likewise if it doesn’t serve every age group, it’s becoming harder to defend or fund
  • ‘flat’ classrooms thanks to empowered technology linking classsrooms around the world
  • everything becomes a digital interface (consider Microsoft’s recent release of “Surface” and Jeff Han’s recent TED Talk showing his “multi-touch screen” technologies

Stephen Heppell:

Well… here’s an interesting thought: I started building social learning spaces on-line in the 1980s. Obviously the Internet helped when it arrived (!) but essentially noone understood anything about technology (remember that then they all thought content was king!!) so that to a large extent we had heaps of autonomy and very little accountability (but whisper this, don’t say it in public!). It turned out, of course, that in on-line activities mixed age, project based, agile, global, rather playful, delightful, ambitious learning worked - often simply because planting learning outside of the sterile boxes of architecture, organisation, timetable, subject discipline, etc was a very fertile place for it to develop. Anyway… we “got away with it” on-line and, having proved the model, seem now to be allowed to build equally ambitious spaces physically as well. In which case a very good indicator for tomorrow’s learning is the bleeding edge of today’s technology enabled social interactions. So the jolly interesting trends right now are not in the buildings at all…yet.

Next 5-10 years? Well that is easy - global, global and global. As I said above, I rather naively believe that if we can get children learning and working together, from within their own cultures and contexts and indeed learning about those different cultures and contexts then the world may be a rather better place. A “National” curriculum already sounds pedagogically fundamentalist doesn’t it? Global, global and global.

Prakash Nair:

More than anything, it is the blurring of boundaries between the things that we have so visibly separated for so long – learn, work, play and live. That means, exciting places to learn are also exciting places to work or play. By the same token, a great place to live is also a great place to learn. Schools are (very slowly) getting the point but it brings with it a realization that they are no longer a monopoly – and the brave ones are stepping forward and saying, so what?

Given the next 5-10 years? The realization that students can actually learn more on their own and from each other than by being hammered into submission by adults who have successfully sold the lie that a paper thin slice of “knowledge” called the curriculum will magically wipe away all ignorance and lead to “success” in life.

Chris Lehmann:

Transparency — We are beginning to see the notion of the 24/7 school using ICT (internet communication technologies.) We need more tools like moodle and drupal and other web-based school management / course management / content management systems so that schools can introduce the new internet tools to students. (Or we can wait for Google to design the master tool, I guess…)

Connectivism — Dewey’s constructivist dream married to the powerful tools of research, communication, collaboration and creation that we now have at our disposal.

And the trend that will matter the most is what happens with this current “accountability” phase we’re living through, and if we can get past the idea that we can know what students have learned by their answers on multiple choice tests. I think that, despite the incredible promise of reimagining our schools, we are currently in a dark place for public education in America.

John Weekes:

From the general public more standardization of school design, more regimentation. At the forward edge increasing push back. More variety, agility, possibility, capacity and capability. We are seeing a shift. Educators often talk about teaching and learning. Planners and architects often talk about space and place. When designing a school, in the main, the focus by the vast majority of our colleagues and educators is on teaching space. We need to focus on the learning place. It’s possibilities are richer and deeper. It is not limiting by nature. It maybe the trend less talked about, not fully understood but more felt in our gut.

In the next 5-10 years it is more than a room or a building. Consider where our kids are already going. No walls, no boundaries, interdisciplinary, multitasking, less consumers and more creators.

QUESTION 4: WHAT IS ONE THING THAT YOU’D LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS SUMMER BY VIRTUE OF COLLABORATING WITH THIS GROUP OF PROFESSIONAL/INTERNATIONAL JURORS? WHY?

Randy Fielding:

Examples of meaningful signatures for schools. Many schools are in areas where there is not much vitality to build on. Even the schools that are successful in terms of conventional test scores tend to lack unique signatures. Schools in the tropics are designed to look like office buildings in Ohio–we can do better!


Bobbie Hill:

I look forward to seeing more creative and cutting edge education spaces that are integrated for community use. I am particularly interested in green materials, furniture and design that promotes getting students out in the community for learning. I want to see integrated teaching and learning and a breakdown of the physical institution of school. Teaching and learning must make a real shift. It must get out of the factory model box both in program and design. I want to see designs that really promote this. As we totally redesign and rebuild an urban school system in New Orleans, we can be the lab for redoing it correctly. I look forward to learning from all of the jurors.


Susan Wolff:

I want to explore how to take the pockets of excellence, stitch them together to form the fabric that become the banners of lasting recognition and support of teaching and learning in ways that allow learners to achieve their goals.

Jeff Lackney:

Presumably, we’re all looking at the same stuff, but we always seem to come with many different critical perspectives. Admittedly, I’m learning how to embrace differing yet legitimate perspectives, turn them over in my mind, and use them, ultimately, to better understand what I am looking at and why. This is probably what is most upfront on my mind as I participate this year.

Beth Hebert:

I’m excited about the learning opportunities provided by the collaboration itself. How we draw on our different professional backgrounds and experience to shape our critical lens (both individually and then as a group) is a fascinating process for me…one that is just now unfolding.

Peter Brown:

This group contains leading thinkers on society, education, school design—I look forward to the discussion as we consider ideas that are presented (and discover ideas that are missing).

Amy Yurko:

I look forward to having access to such a wide variety of perspectives and opinions, and am excited to have my own perspective widened and to see which of my opinions will be shattered during this process.

Dan Pink:

I’d like to know what’s working in school design — and whether those lessons are exportable to other kinds of settings.


Tim Dufault:

This is a very interesting group of contributors, and I commend Christian for bringing them together. We are the choir, so the real question is how do we take the discussion and move it out to the people? Designshare is a great resource that will reach some. I am more interested in how we broaden the audience even more. How do we make the issues we are discussing a part of the everyday conversation? How do we create our own Inconvenient Truth?

Judy Marks:

I’ve had the pleasure of serving on many school design juries and it is one my most favorite learning experiences. I love looking through the eyes of my fellow jurors, catching a glimpse of another’s aesthetic sensibility, noticing attention being paid to a certain unique building detail, hearing the experienced professional express what does and doesn’t work, or just stepping back and appreciating the well-articulated long view.

Ulla Kjærvang

Anything that can make me see new things, consider new topics, and develop my own knowledge about school design.

Pablo Campos:

Any point of view coming from such a group of experts will certainly enrich my approach to this matter. In particular, the views, opinions and interpretations on how physical spaces are connected to innovative models for education.

Frank Locker:

I learn so much from all of you. I just want more and more. Why? I can’t get enough.

Christian Long:

This is an amazing group spanning a wide range of professional expertise. I just want to be the ‘dullest crayon in the box’, so to speak…and learn like mad from all of you.

Hopefully we’ll also expand beyond just ‘evaluating’ the projects and giving out awards…and begin to explore what is possible if this ‘group’ expands over time, collaborates in new ways, and sets a new tone for Award juries in the field of school design.

I also hope that we’ll figure out a reasonable way to get everyone together in the next year…and I also have a plan for publishing a book showcasing the results of our efforts this summer. Stay tuned!

Stephen Heppell:

Crumbs! if I thought there was only ONE thing I’d go off and race my sailboat instead - it’s the rich tapestry of ideas and ingredients that are exciting here. I can’t imagine going to a fab restaurant and being asked which one flavour I was looking forward too - it’s the recipes, the surprises, the reaffirmations, the company…

Prakash Nair:

I’m already learning from my distinguished colleagues. Each one of them has taught me valuable lessons. If all teachers were like this group, then I’d still be in school.

Chris Lehmann:

I’d like to be exposed to more ideas about how facilities design and school design can really come together. I want to see how other people I respect and admire think about schools and learning spaces. I want to see how the other folks on the panel imagine how our schools can help students prepare for a world we cannot hope to predict.

John Weekes:

What is real vs. what is talk. Where are the push points that support change. When does change really happen. Because in the end this conversation about education/design needs to move forward with lasting and enduring results.

***

2007 Article Sections:

1. Introduction
2. Summary of 2007 Program
3. 2007 Patterns of Innovation
4. 2007 Honor Awards – Full Description
5. 2007 Merit Awards – Full Description
6. 2007 Citation Awards – List only
7. 2007 Recognized Value Awards – List only
8. Jury Team
9. 2007 Jury Conversation #1

May 24th, 2007
 

DesignShare publications are submitted by designers, university professors, architects, planning consultants, educators, technologists, futurists, and ecologists. Publications include podcasts, detailed case studies, conference proceedings, interviews, original research, editorials, thesis projects, and practical design guidelines.

WANT TO PUBLISH?

User Tools

Membership | Reprint Policies | About | Contact | Home
© DesignShare.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.