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

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

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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Seeing Tomorrow’s School Today

The world of education will change. Are we really aware of just how fundamental this educational shift might be within a relatively short time – say within ten years

Is this more like the learning environment of the future?

We know education will change because of globalisation, demographic pressures, technological advances and emerging user expectations to which education must respond. Perhaps, though, we are not aware by just how much it might change. Continue reading

The Habitable School

Designing a learning environment is not about creating the perfect school building. It is about creating a habitable environment.

Probably not how this piece of furniture was meant to be used

It is easy to believe that it should be possible to design and construct the perfect school building that does not need changing that sits there blissfully letting people inside it get on with their lives. In truth, this is far from how it works. People sometimes use their buildings in unexpected ways. It is the interaction between people and buildings that make them work, and education buildings are good examples Continue reading