Archives for posts with tag: education

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.

The longer question is, “Can we reframe economic growth & jobs/work in a way representative of the complex realities of the 21century?” Because, old models of ‘success’ aren’t showing us what is meaningful.

For example: sure, China and India are poised for 9, 10% GDP growth yearly, which is pretty phenomenal with its consistency in the international community, but how much of that growth is self-destructive? Graduates from India aren’t going to take over America if the reason they can’t get a job in India is because they are under-qualified… (the college graduation certificates they are getting are not representative of their competitiveness in the marketplace, so the ‘success’ of  millions of graduates and full education is not real success).

The problems lie somewhat in that countries are expected to maintain growth, but in the long term, that is unreasonable to ask for– you cannot keep expanding with finite resources in a highly competitive environment and zero-sum economy without the cost of growth (as measured in costs from competition and effects on society) eventually becoming higher than growth itself, thus the self-destructive nature.

But this conception of growth stems from archaic industrial-complex ideas… where tangible products being produced or consumed or traded was a sign of prowess. However, in today’s environment, this means much less than it did before… with trillions of dollars being traded by automated machines playing at a stock market daily (I’m talking about high-volume or algorithmic trading), does the movement of money still mean the same as it did before? Money no longer denotes value in the same way that it used to. Currency values are manipulated and fought over but their actual value and the growth they denote are more and more tied to concepts that are not representative of the new and complex realities of 21st century markets.

So obviously, we’ve got to examine, what are the new and complex realities of the 21st century markets? How have (if at all) technology and time changed the way we interact and do business? What is successful growth, nowadays? My argument is (as I’ve asked about here before) that value needed to be reframed first — what is value? How do we best measure it? And I don’t mean just a simple reframing of good-feeling or long-lasting types of values. I am referring to ‘value’ as a soft power, much as the hard power and the military-industrial complex is losing against the soft power of diplomacy (even Sec. of State Robert Gates is asking for more soft-power and less military spending). But how do we measure growth in soft power? How do you quantify the value of R+D, of diplomatic/economic influence, of the ability to do thing, as opposed to the easy to measure and current status-quo of measuring growth by tangible production/consumption? Because after countries leave the industrialization stage of development, they more on to a service based economy… and right now, we are still measuring services as tangible products. But that must change, because the nature of services, and the next step– knowledge and idea production and realization, cannot be measured as products, just as ‘education’ cannot be valued in college graduation rates, as in India has shown us.      RK

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?

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

This is in essence, a counterpoint to my last point on the inherent ugliness of sustainability.

It should probably have been a comment, but I wanted a separate discussion on this point, forgive me.

I think it was around december 2010, when Elaine Scarry came to the New School to be the Keynote speaker for a design conference called “The critical gift in design.” She gave a talk, mostly on her book “On Beauty and Being Just” and a little bit on her book “The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World

It is about her comments on beauty that I dwell.

Scarry says that there are qualities of beauty that are important enough for us to see it as a goal.

The one that came to me was the aspect of beauty as being “unselfing”. When we encounter beautiful things, we step outside ourselves and perceive the world.

Indeed she says “beauty raises the bar for what counts as perception.”

It is a strong argument in that we normally can only see ourselves, and when we encounter beautiful things we step outside of ourselves and perceive the world.

Scarry went on to say “Beautiful things make us want to protect – to care for those things”

This is my counterpoint to the last post on the inherent ugliness of sustainability. If beauty allows us to perceive the world through a process of unselfing and then ignites within us the cause to protect those beautiful things. Is it not fair to say, that sustainability is not beautiful enough? We should make more and more beautiful things, to allow for people to perceive the world.

This is followed, by Scarrys third site of beauty which is creation. Beautiful things make us want to create.

So we go from encounter to unselfing to perception to creation. It is a really beautiful path.

There are 2 questions that I have here.

The first: So should we just make more beautiful things?”

The second: How can we capitalize on perception?

If we are in a race against time with the planet, can we capitalize on beauty?

Can we use beauty and its unselfing as a design goal?

Or will that subvert beauty and make it ugly?

Ok sorry, that was more than 2 questions.

Everyday I go to my twitter feed and I read the latest developments in environmental politics. I follow the talks about sustainability and climate change, I read about the republicans denying rules of gravity and about CO2 related asthma. And I think to myself the simple question of why are we just not allowed to believe in a different future?

Earlier I made a post on this blog that asked the question posed by Cameron Tonkinwise in a lecture: “how do you want to live?”

And I think to myself, I do not care about your political schemes and i do not care to question or doubt. You can have your science, you can make your lies, but sustainability to me is an imagination. Its a belief that I can live differently. It doesnt matter to me that you will spend hours upon hours fighting over scientific formula or breaking into email accounts to attempt to find some sort of conspiracy. I simply choose to believe in it because it also lets me imagine an alternative future.

It gives me the chance to believe that people can create change, that communities are not dead, that I can knock on my neighbors door and ask for a hammer, that cities can become more walkable, that air can become more breathable. That I will never have to worry that my children will never see trees, that I can spend my summer without an airconditioner, that I can someday swim in the Gowanus, that 30 years from now Polar bears wont be the equivalent of a Dodo.

Don’t take from me my imagination, its not a fantasy, its a possibility. You had the chance to mold the world to fit your life, now give me the right to believe in mine.

Am I not allowed to imagine a world like this?

I had the pleasure of being present today at a lecture by Lucy Kimbell on Designing Services and Designing Societies.

In the lecture she talked about the ways in which design is being used at the level of Govn’t and societies and that what that means is that designers at that scale are moving away from designing artifacts to designing processes. It is less about design as problem solving but more about design as problem finding/framing/constructing.

What that means on simple scale, is that the problems that are currently being tackled by communities and governments (particularly by David Cameron and the Big Society) are very similar to the process of design thinking and the ways in which design thinkers go through their problems.

e.g. There were a a group of organizations that were involved in working with various different families. These were social workers, police, community boards, food kitchens, churches, etc.

Seating these people around one table to attempt to design some sort of policy is easy. Its not easy to get them to communicate effectively. This is where design comes in. In the example used by Lucy Kimbell, they developed a persona about a family and made it open enough that everyone of the involved parties could offer feedback on how they would approach that problem. This allowed for conversation to move to a level where everyone could understand the others approach. The rest of the workshop utilized other design tools to frame the problem. Here the designers weren’t designing artifacts but were designing the conversation amongst non designers, using design tools.

The take away here is that the persona is a very powerful tool to allow different people to look at one problem and approach it in a way that everyone can participate. Design, is clearly very useful at this level of conversation and policy making. Designers are experts at framing problems.

What becomes worrying for me however, is that the designers seem to be making themselves obsolete. Once the community has experienced the design tools and acknowledged them as being important, whats to keep them from using it themselves? Why would they call in the designers again next time? Especially, if the designers are charging for a process/service and not an artifact?

We have already seen design reappropriated for business and management via Design Thinking and Consultancy.

Designers are no longer necessary there.

Now we are seeing design being used on governmental and policy scales.

Soon they won’t be necessary there either.

Are designers designing themselves away and assimilating into other disciplines?

Or will design have to return to being linked to an artifact?

At a guest lecture today at the New School by Peder Anker who is currently curating Global Design NYU (an exhibit that is meant to rethink the view of the global from the perspective of the individual), Peder talked briefly about the history of the environmental movement and the concept of spaceship earth.

In short, the environmental movement started in part when we saw the fragility of the earth when viewed from space. We adopted the perspective of a single astronaut, looking down on the earth as a small entity floating in space. This was the major vision driving environmental politics. For the first time, the earth was so small. And although this spawned a lot of biocentric thinking, it was still from an individual perspective, we still saw the earth through the lens of a single astronaut.

At around the 90’s with the increased technological advancement of personal computers we began to look at the world and perceive it through the lens of the computer (simcity, simearth, GIS, etc).

This shift, was one of moving from the viewpoint of the astronaut, to each of us individually becoming the astronaut.

Were we ever capable of non-individual perception of the environment or the world?

What would that look like?