Archives for category: Education related Questions
While we all read and speak linearly, from the first word to the next, in a line, our thought processes work more like a cloud, with ideas branching off in many directions, often simultaneously. I think this is an important organizational problem, this disconnect in the way we think to the way we present ideas.
Traditional research in presented as papers with a set structure and logic because the research underlying it is often used to propel an argument. The logical path of a paper is then to focus a bunch of data or points of info to lead the reader to the same conclusion the writer had. However, as one of my former professors told me, to objectively read such a report,you need to  block out all the writer’s arguments, and make your own deductions from the data.
Why can’t we have a new model for aggregating and presenting information and research? Enter a useful tool called mind-mapping. Mind maps attack this disconnect between thought and presentation by letting you organize your work in the same way you think it: by starting with a central topic (for example, “education”), you can attach a number of other points around it (“classroom”, “content”, “teacher”, “test”), and branch further from each of those points (“tests” can lead to “sat” “quiz”, “open-answer”, etc), as far down as you want. Below is an example:
There are a number of benefits to presenting research this way. First, it makes it more organizationally navigable: especially if the research covers a lot of ground, it becomes easier to zero in on where in the argument this information comes from (which in my opinion, is also a lot more navigable than browsing through tags or categories or nested threads). Second, it makes research more open source: while it may be hard for a lot of people to submit and organize their own research within a collection, a map allows them to create and nest subtopics, putting their research in direct conversation with others in the specific topic. It also lets you quickly see which aspects of a topic have a lot of content, and which don’t. Last, it makes using the research easier as well: as opposed to reading one paper with one particular bias, a map allows you to access an infinitely specific question of topic and simultaneously see every other point of research in direct conversation with it.
Mind maps network and (obviously) map research to make it more accessible on every level. So then, can we create a platform for using these maps not as individuals, but as an open community? Should this be the future interface of Wikipedia, 2.0? Lets talk.
(My own example of a mindmap for a project (still incomplete) can be found here. )

I am currently reading Slavoj Zizek’s “Violence”, and having barely finished the second chapter, I am running into a massive question (which I don’t know if he will answer later on or not)…

Zizek claims that “liberal communists” (people with a liberal/sociolist ideological slant that embrace capitalism as a means to achieve goals) are the core of “systemic violence” (violence, oppression, and exploitation that are inherent in any system), which means that the good capitalists and philanthropists we all respect (like George Soros or Bill Gates) are perpetrators of the system whose ills they claim to try to eliminate. The paradox of the ‘good capitalist’ is that they are more evil than the site-specific evils (say, terrorism) in that those ‘good capitalists’ hide and further perpetrate systemic-violence. Wolves in sheep’s clothing (as opposed to the plain ole’ wolves).

Jargon aside, it seems that this sort of argument is really a criticism of inescapable power relations– so to what degree is it justifiable to ‘profit’ from the system in effort to try to combat the side effects of your profit? Consider what is achievable if you are powerless, versus what you are fighting against if you achieve power? To what extant can power-structures be justified, and can we imagine a world without them (Anarchy and Communism being considered failures)? Which of our actions are justifiable and which are not– what do we do in our lives that we mentally block out the implicit ‘violence’ of?

Going through university, even a design university we often write papers. I in particular because of my self-directed curriculum wrote a lot of papers for the various non design courses that I took.

I loved it, writing that is.

But I never saw myself as a writer. It’s absurd to be greedy with passions, isnt it?

I even dared to write a fiction story once, it was no good I’m sure, but I certainly enjoyed it. And even now, I write consistently. My thoughts are always in words, my notes are always written, my sketchbooks betray my calling.

Writing is important to designers as well. Everytime I imagine a persona, I turn to fiction, I write the story, the full story, with all the tiny little bits that make my characters live. But then that gets taken away, it becomes a storyboard, or even, storytelling, to an audience, that has little patience, that wants only the important parts.

So yes, I write, but is that writing?What is real writing?

I’ve been told recently, and before that as well, that I am a good writer, and that I should do more of it. But I’m a designer. Isn’t it greedy to want more? Wouldn’t I be diverting my own energy?

But if I did try, how would I? What does one need to do to become a writer? Is simply writing just enough?

What makes a writer a writer?

Am I allowed an alter-ego, one that writes, perhaps secretly?

I’m currently reading a book about learning nationalism at the El Paso – Juarez Border and I was struck by the holistic approach that the authors Susan J. Rippberger and Kathleen A. Staudt have in describing education on both sides of the US – Mexico Border.

Of particular amusement to me was the stress in part of the book on the differences of personal space in Mexico and in the US and the ways in which this plays out in the physical structure and layout of the classroom.

Upon showing a video recording of a classroom in Juarez (which by its description, seemed very constructivist in its approach) to students in a Graduate Seminar on Education, a student commented on the difference between the Mexican classroom dynamic and the US dynamic by highlighting the similarity between individual desks and cubicles, essentially equating the stress on individual student desks as preparation for a capitalist mindset in which you are just a cog in the machine, a single employee in his cubicle.

I couldn’t help but repeatedly highlight that passage, it struck me as being one of the most hauntingly accurate critiques of American classroom layouts.

At a time when businesses everywhere are realizing the importance of workplace environment and removing cubicles as they attempt to create more collaborative work spaces, I can’t help but wonder how much of this collaboration is permeating to our schools, to our kids.

Any hope at a collaborative structure in the workplace seems like it should start by creating a collaborative work structure in the classroom.

How do we create collaborative work spaces? Is it enough to just have children sitting in small groups? Should we be sharing materials as well? How much of a role does the physical environment play in teaching and developing collaboration and creativity in our classrooms? Especially when those are the skills our businesses are seeking so passionately now.

Recently, I have had a bit of an obsession with process, it seems to me so much more important, more powerful, erotic even than the result of the process, the product.

Another way to say it is that the act of creating resonates so much more with me than the creation.

As a public performer, I may be biased because it is always about the act of creation, not the final product, creating is ephemeral, it is empathic.

In thinking even of failure, it seems the only way to truly value failure, is to understand the value of the process. Failure is critically valuable if the process was something we could learn from. And failure in and of itself is not so bad if the process was enlightening.

Theres something about process that allows it to be shared, shared in a way that really allows for creation.

Elaine Scarry talks about the third site of beauty being creation, in that, when we encounter beautiful things, we ourselves want to make beautiful things.

In this respect, I think process is even more empowering, because when we encounter a beautiful process, we are not only incited to create, we are also given the tools how.

In her talk at Parsons on Designing Big Society, Lucy Kimbell talked about how she and her husband built their home while living in it. It seemed to me that she was living the design process, inhabiting an unfinished space, making decisions on the fly, constructing from the inside, and working on a team with the neighbors and construction workers and handymen to make this happen.

I was most intrigued with the thought, that the neighbors, city officials and construction workers were exposed to a living, breathing design process, a way of living and of thinking, and I wonder, how much they empathized with it. How much of it bled over into their lives, their manner of thinking, their ways of making and doing.

Process just seems much more beautiful than its outcomes. Because it can be shared, because it can be adopted, reused and even recycled.

Earlier today I read a blog post by Frank Chimero called Designer’s Poison. In it he talked about what he felt some of the most crucial challenges for design, as we move forward. One particularly resonated with me. It was about a shift from teaching and valuing design as a noun and moving towards design as a verb.
And it seems the biggest debates in design and business right now center around this very notion.

We need to learn to love and embody process, not necessarily its outcomes.

How do we do it? Should we do it?

My problem with keeping too many tabs open in my browser has become so bad that I am actually developing a fear of links.

Because I worry I will find more interesting information, and it will be another tab, and more things getting delayed, and more information to process, when I already had so many open interesting things to read.

Sometimes I give up and solve the problem by creating bookmarks. But thats not a valid solution because those bookmarks also get unmanageable and inevitably I ignore the bookmarks because they are out of sight and open up more tabs.

Firefox in its beta version, maybe its new version, Havent used it, introduced a way to organize and group tabs by themes. This was good for a while, but it didn’t quite solve the problem.

But all of this brings up a different issue as well. Many times I keep tabs open because they are relevant to a project I am working on, or a post I am writing or something. And to close it, means that I won’t find it again. The information is not crucial enough to take up important space in my bookmark bar, so it never makes it there.

There needs to be a way to navigate and recall the information that i go through on the web.

I initially thought that I would be using twitter to keep an archive of information I found relevant, but I have increasingly discovered that it is not a valid tool for that, it has no built in search feature, no way of organizing data to other relevant data, no topics architecture, etc.

What I feel I need is the digital equivalent of a library or a bookshelf. A way to organize and archive my links and tabs, by topics, by author, by blog. With a dewey decimal system, or a dating system, and built in search. Its like my bookshelf but digital, so that I can come back to it, and glance over it.

Kindles are great and all, but the bookshelf in my apartment lets me glance at it and find many books relevant to what I am working on, and I can pull them all out. Kind of like opening a bunch of tabs.

Clearly, this would also need a section that organizes things that are most recent, that I didn’t get a chance to read yet, or perhaps that I haven’t organized yet. All of those open tabs are like a bunch of books on my coffee table that haven’t been put on their proper spot in the bookshelf.

I’m sure theres something that exists for this, somewhere, right? #milliondollaridea!!!

So the final question really is 2 questions.

1. How do we navigate through transient data (tabs that aren’t destined for bookmarking)?

2. How do we remember on the web?

Because learning and education are things that I think about a lot.

Because I am now 1 month away from being graduated.

Because of many other reasons as well, I have started to think about this question.

Being in a university, is a very safe experience. It is a lot like being spoon-fed, you have a traditional learning environment and teachers, and courses and majors and disciplines, and if you manage to get a very good advisor it is entirely possible to go through college without ever making any serious decisions about what you are learning.

This is not at all to say that decisions aren’t being made at all, but many times, we don’t questions certain things about our education. A graphic designer doesn’t ask why he has to take color theory, its already been decided. But a graphic designer also doesn’t ask why they aren’t taking calculus classes.

So essentially where I am headed is this idea that we get a spoon-fed education but in the end we don’t come out like gingerbread men out of a cookie cutter, we all have different skills and different competencies, even if we took the same classes.

Thats because we teach ourselves, somehow, somewhere. Some of us read, some of us write, some of us surf the web, etc. Theres more in depth discussion on how we learn here and here @ whataretheseideas. The second link discusses the differences between active learning and passive learning.

Now that I will no longer be a student, I will have to become way more active in my education, I won’t have the luxury of being spoon-fed anymore.

And so I have been thinking recently, that there are so many new innovative things happening related to education. MIT Open CourseWare, Khan Academy, Ted, Skillshare, Brooklyn Free School, etc.

The resources exist to teach yourself, how do we do it?

How does one remain an active learner after college?

Are there systems in place that can help one navigate new tools?

How do you learn?

What is value? Economics seems to be collapsing in on itself because it does not know what it is actually representing. The basic units of economics, ‘capital and supply and demand and profit’, have gradually evolved into additional ideas of ‘labour’ and ‘productivity/health’ and ‘knowledge/technology’, among other things. These are measurable, but not complete in describing what the ‘value’ of something is.

Because, ‘value’ is more than that– value is of course, all the objective capital elements of production, but value is also very subjective: ‘reusability’ and ‘ideals’ and ’emotional responces’ and ‘usefulness’ and ‘branding’ etc. A stainless steel water bottle will cost you $20 not because that is how much it costs to produce (factoring in distribution costs), but because there is also a profit markup, and because it is long lasting and you will not be buying 5 water bottles a day, just one that will last you for a good period of time.

Moreover, value is not measure completely in costs anymore; it is also measuring in savings: a florescent lightbulb will not only cost you $2, it will also save you $20 in energy costs over the course of a year.

So here are the questions:

1. How do we factor in other implicit costs? Should we start having labels that require companies to show what the ‘cost of damage to the environment’ was in creating the product?

2. How do you quantify the subjective? Can we be honest about the value of selling water as opposed to installing water fountains? How do you effectively communicate the ‘value’ of public goods such as light-posts on street, not just in terms of dollars, but in terms of security and beauty?

3. What is the cost versus value, of say, education? What is the price of copyright, aka, what is the cost to society of not letting ideas propagate?

4. How are our current business models of profit failing in a ‘knowledge/information economy’? — and how is the NYTimes paywall reflect this failing mentality? And then, what are the alternatives?

Are you getting “your money’s worth”? What is “money” even mean/worth nowadays?       RK

There have been many many depressing articles about post college life for students. I don’t think i need to share them, im positive everyone has read them.

They’re bleak

There doesn’t seem to be many choices. In fact GEN Y, I think, is already slated to be the most educated generation ever, because there isn’t much choice but to go back to school.

So this begs the question “what is the alternative?”

Sometime next year, The New School in partnerships with are working on a “workshop”, “event”, something that is meant to invite graduating design students to participate and imagine a lifestyle where they can achieve this.

This looks like it will be really cool, partially because it begins to address a lot of my concerns, not about life post college, but about having students do something, disrupt (my favorite word recently).

So in preparation for this, i am attempting to begin to imagine a resource tool kit for what the graduating (graduated) students could arrange in ways to begin to design a new way of life for them. I am not positive how to approach this but my idea is to first understand what are my basic needs in NYC on a daily basis and what resources exist for me to begin to meet those needs?

I can imagine that i need

– Food

– Transport

– Free time to be creative (in whatever practice I studied)

– Housing

-Communication (phone, internet, snailmail)

These are seeming really obvious, as they would in beginning to formulate a research question.

I want to begin to collect services, objects, apps, anything that begins to support a student in those categories.

Clearly i also need to make those categories more refined. Good design researchers would tell me to chronicle everything that i do, or go out and follow graduated students to base what their needs are. (im just finishing university now so an abundance of free time doesn’t exist)?

1. Does anyone have any research that might assist in this? Perhaps an artist followed people for a day? Something of that sort?

2. What do we need to go through our days?

3. Can you recount to me everything you did yesterday?

I have a lot of friends in a lot of different schools. The group is pretty diverse in what they do, but each one finds a fault somewhere in the education they are receiving.

Going to art or vocational school, the student learns techniques on how to do stuff. Going to a design oriented school, the student learns how to come up with new ideas, solutions. Going to a liberal arts school, the student learns to to think critically about issues. Going to a less-liberal arts school, a student learns to understand a field, and how it works, and to move around in it.

Each student comes out of school with a different result, but the purpose is to eventually become a well-functioning member of society. How is that best accomplished? And what does that mean, ‘a functioning member of society’?  In which way is each sort of education both valuable and limiting?     RK