University of The Future: Connected Environments

Why is the physical environment for higher education still important when arguably with the emergence of online learning and digital access, students do not need to leave their own homes?

Creating spaces that make connections

We are, as is so often pointed out, in a world where the focus is increasingly on personalisation. In healthcare gene therapy is tailored to treat specific conditions unique to a specific person; people can order cars or computers with specific features determined before production; and of course education where students expect that educators will meet their own specific needs at a time that suits them. Continue reading

Giving Hope to Communities

There is much dinner-table chatter these days about the role of schools in the community. Yet you may be forgiven for thinking that the reality on the ground is that often schools do not fulfil this role at all. Well, here is one example where they do.

These parents of children at a primary school in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico are not rich, but they are happy. Why? Because they been able to get some money to repair the school building.

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Creating Education by Design

Design is too easily dismissed as ‘nice to have if you can afford it’. Yet pretty well everything we use from tax forms to education involves design. We should be smarter and consciously apply design thinking to these things.

Benefits of design: A creative environment for learning at Northern Beaches Christian School, Sydney

Venerated German industrial designer, Dieter Rams, came up with Ten Principles of good design. He was primarily talking about product design, but they reach far beyond physical objects and could inform how we create education systems or the ‘learning experience’. Continue reading

Creating Environments for a Creative Economy

Nobel prize winners can teach us a thing or two about creating effective learning environments that support the creative economy.

Inspiring children to learn science at the Science Centre, University of Lund, Sweden: 15 000 primary to secondary school children visit every year to learn about science from university students

A Swedish researcher, Ola Thufvesson, has analysed the biographies of 486 Nobel Laureates to understand what their backgrounds can tell us about how they came to be such creative and innovative thinkers, and what the link may be with the physical environment. Continue reading

Education – Where is the Soul?

We can measure student outcomes and teaching performance. With feedback these can be improved. What about the soul of the school?

Searching for a soul. The caption at the top reads: “Creativity produces innovation through connecting things not previously connected”, Sir Ken Robinson

Image above: A collage by primary students at CEFPI 11, Marketplace for Learning under the watchful eye of Claire Gibb Global Co-ordinator of Room 13.

There are things about a learning environment that no-one can quite put their finger on, yet have a powerful influence over the success of the school or college. There is an ingredient ‘X’. The soul? Without ingredient ‘X’ a school or college in both the physical and conceptual sense must surely be a hollow shell. Continue reading

Small Schools

Must we really have all these small schools? It depends.

Small Primary School in the Scottish Highlands for 25 students

Last week the OECD’S Centre for Effective Learning Environments ran a webinar on small schools for its members. The focus was on the knotty problem of whether they should they be closed, or be seen as an opportunity for educational transformation. Here is why it is difficult to just close them… Continue reading

The Wickedness of Education

Education is a wicked problem with no solution. Educational buildings are likewise wicked.

A student common room. Isn't education wicked?

Back in 1973, two academics at University of California, Berkeley, developed the notion of the ‘wicked problem’ to describe intractable problems facing social policy makers. With wicked problems, said Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, in their seminal paper Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning, “there are no solutions in the sense of definitive and objective answers”. Continue reading

Enabling Effective Efficient Education

We need to better understand what makes a good physical learning environment. That means effective evaluation.

Does this learning environment really work?

Education buildings are a waste of money, aren’t they? They cost a fortune to both construct and operate; they sit idle for much of the time, in spite of valiant efforts to persuade ‘the community’ to use more than just the odd room occasionally; and, anyway do they really suit the needs of a modern education system? Continue reading

Environments that Care

Children need a safe and secure environment, but one that allows them to explore

One of three Zelkova trees growing through the roof

Finding the balance between safety and well being. Exploring the trees growing through the roof of the Fuji Kindergarten, Tokyo. Click image for more on this school.

That children are influenced by their physical environment should be no surprise. It can have a significant effect on the way that they perceive the world as well as their behaviour. Whether we realise it or not we all consciously or sub-consciously react to the physical environment around us. Put a small table in the middle of a large, and otherwise empty, room and people will congregate near it. Provide a very small cosy space, tucked away to the side of a room and young children will gather in it.

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