Tuesday, 21 May 2013
It is easy to imagine such zones in schools for Skype conversations with other countries, editing movies, preparing presentations ...... and so much more. How many are actually innovative enough to try them?
Friday, 17 May 2013
I simply asked the question about what message it gave the young students? - it says lots about dilapidation, not caring, a lack of engagement with the pupils.... why should they care if their school looks like this.
Fortunately I was there because the very new Headteacher really does want to make a difference, especially to the outside environment... it would be great if I can post another picture in a few months time which showed something so so different!
Wednesday, 1 May 2013
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
The results surprised the school governors as to how practical they were. This always happens and I still don't really know why people get surprised. The pupils are the people who use the place and know how to make it better. Added to that is an enormous sense of practicality - very few are unachievable, such as trampolining, as the pupils were quick to point out!
Lots of schools still don't ask the pupils - but doing this they miss out on lots of good ideas and suggestions. Why wouldn't they?
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
Turning round from that and there were hundreds of Smarties to choose from... but all colour coded! Really eye catching and a focal point, but I couldn't help feel someone didn't have enough to do!
Sunday, 14 April 2013
The first venue where we were doing a presentation, was regularly used for meetings with people from all over the world. But it just appeared so gloomy and old fashioned.... photographs of random people in frames that were too large, a wonky flip chart, clunky furniture and an interactive white board that had so much sun shining on it so the audience could not read it.
The second venue was newer, but actually the age of the space was irrelevant. With modern, comfortable furniture, white walls and digital technology the room, which was the same size as the first room, had a totally different feel and atmosphere. It was business like and professional - an ideal learning space.
We all now that when you have 'lived in a space' for a long time - it is easy to not see what it really looks like. The problem is visitors do see it for how it is as soon as they enter the space. That is the first impression and often the lasting impression.
The same applies to classrooms - we should always be looking at them with fresh eyes - despite what some people may say, the quality of learning spaces for students is important and does make a difference! All too often we walk into classrooms with piles of 'stuff' piled everywhere - they look terrible but how many people actually see it?
I spend a lot of time talking to people about furniture in schools. The key words are frequently agile, ergonomic, collaborative, high quality....
I was depressed recently to see that one room I visited recently had instructions for how to use a table displayed in the room - it was quite complicated and there were several stages to the instructions.
The fact that it was felt necessary to display these says it all really. The fact that they look complicated is potentially enough to put off anyone from quickly being able to move furniture around within a classroom with the agility that so many schools expect.
Schools these days want classrooms to be able to work in many ways within individual lessons. They do not want to have to check students have read instructions as to how to move a table first.
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Primary, Secondary and Special schools entered with apparently lots of exciting ideas. That shouldn't that surprise anyone? We all know that students are creative, innovative and can be very ambitious in their aspirations.
So pedal powered energy, graffiti wall with associated skills and business opportunities and accessible outdoor learning zones are the winners. Some of these may not be truly innovative, but having groups of students thinking about improving their learning environments is a winning combination for all really.
Well done to all those who entered, but especially winners: Horniman Primary School, Salendine Nook High School and Ifield Foundation Special School.
To read the full article in The Guardian, click here.
Monday, 11 March 2013
Attending a meeting about a new Free School recently, I spotted the sign shown in the photo outside a meeting room, lit up and looking ominous. It turns out that the building used to be an old American Air-Force Base and whilst it was serving a very Third Millennium function now, the sign from decades ago was a really unusual and pretty cool reminder of it's past history. Even better they keep it lit - it makes a difference! It's so much better than just putting up a plaque. As the school is going to specialise in Modern History, it all makes even more sense really.
I wish more schools did things like this - it's unusual and became a talking point... unlike so many strategies that are supposed to celebrate the past!
Thursday, 7 March 2013
A news story on the BBC website describes the new Amplify tablet launched by the Murdoch group, which will be issued with their own learning software on it as well as tools for teachers on monitoring progress and attendance.
Technology is the way forward in learning - we all know that. There is a massive increase in how much people research, learn, discuss, collaborate as a result of smart technology - you just have to be in a group of people and watch the amount of use phones, iPads etc get! Why would anyone what to limit themselves to one limited resource rather than use the massive range already freely available on the web?
It notes that for parents they can monitor their child's progress and have online chatrooms. This capability exists already. I'm not sure what's new here.
Students mostly have better technology at home than in school currently, it's a common complaint. They want the same capacity or better. Not a more limiting machine.
It is going to be a tough market for them I suggest.
To read the full BBC article click here.
Thursday, 28 February 2013
The mosaic mirror placed in the foyer of this school was made by pupils. Yes there was a local artist to guide them, but every piece of it was actually constructed by the young people. They didn't just watch it happen as so often happens.
As I and an Associate in the-learning-crowd measured an external area, lots of pupils came up anxious to find out what we were doing and offering to help. Of course we took them up on it when we could.
There were other examples of this positive engaged approach involving pupils helping create their environment all round the school, external walls, displays and so many other places. It looked like a fab school - it was a fab school!
I recently toured a new school just days before students began using it and already furniture is being wrongly placed to stop that supervision before it's been used. It's a senior staff office at a critical junction of the school. It's a school that needs to monitor students carefully with staff that stated that they wanted to be able to see more. The Head and senior staff were consulted throughout the design process.
Thankfully the Head has said that the cabinet will be moved and a strict glass policy introduced. (i.e: nothing on or blocking vision panels.) I'm going back in a few weeks time - I really hope that it has been moved. It's always harder later on if a culture of blocking views into classrooms has started.
I'm told it will be moved - I hope it will be! (Watch this space)
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
I encourage you all to watch this short video. There is no doubt that tablets / slates and laptops are the way forward in education. May be not today or next year, but very soon! No matter what the negative press about a few schools, with a careful implementation strategy students will be able to use the technology that they use at home.
So many students use iPads or smart phones etc.... when they get to school they still use clunky old computers in so many schools. How can that be right?
I cannot believe even this week I am work ing with a school which has total wifi and is getting a significant refurbishment who are trying to design in one computer room for nearly five hundred students! Why? Technology should be fully integrated into learning so students use it as and when they need it..
I applaud Essa for being brave - it is the only way forward to fully engage students in their learning!
To watch this BBC video click here.
Monday, 7 January 2013
It's a great shame though, because many staff and members of BCSE represented the best views in the UK regarding the importance of excellent school design upon learning. It was a mouthpiece for headteachers, architects, construction partners and educationalists like myself. The media frequently approached BCSE for comment on issues or projects, including very recently.
Many will consider the high quality research undertaken by the team as well of excellent quality, as the various international trips round school buildings.
Yes, there were times when people may not have agreed with everything they said - changing a campaign from 'Great Schools' to 'wanting 'Decent Schools' was considered potty by many, with the vocabulary appearing to require lower than the highest standards. But, the vision and celebration of high quality work by the industry was always recognised and celebrated.
The important thing is to ensure we still have a strategy for the key message of great school design getting out there - I know several people are discussing it right now - whatever the final vehicle, it deserves our support.
It's sad to see BCSE go, but many thanks to the team who worked so hard to make it the success it was!
Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Interestingly, if you opened the door, it was full of ...... Welly boots. Pupils stored them there to use as part of a forest school project. It's just fun and colourful and say what it does, rather the anonymous 'storeroom' we so much of!
(Pity about the sticky tape though....)
Thursday, 8 November 2012
I love it when I go into schools and see display that really catches my eye.
Enter one primary technology classroom - massive models everywhere, hanging from walls, ceilings and from tables. They were fantastic, creative and eye catching. Having said that, there were lots of smaller projects following both simple and complex design briefs with good evaluations. Everyone I spoke to loved the work and the motivation of students engaged with them. It was not just about spectacular models but about the real design, learning and evaluation opportunities that creating them provided. Just fabulous!
Obviously this is a massive learning aid and I was pleased to see a real focus on energy creation, usage etc in the foyer as I entered the school. It is clearly an ongoing major curriculum project.
Despite government initiatives and resources I still visit far too many schools that do not explore the basic energy use learning opportunities available in their own schools. As energy gets increasingly expensive and as sustainability with alternative power sources becoming national agenda items it's a real shame that more schools don't focus on it.
What a wasted chance!
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
It seems a long time ago that I contributed to the design of the new Clifton Hunter High School in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands as Senior Education Advisor to the Minister. However, the new building went into operation this term and, guess what, the students love it, as do the may members of the public who have seen it. It was one of three high schools designed, two of which are being built.
The design work was undertaken under the previous very brave Minister of Education, Hon. Alden McLaughlin who took a personal interest in the Third Millennium development and based on a concept design by Prakash Nair (Fielding Nair) and designed by Cannon Design and feature in 'The Third Teacher' book. Professor Stephen Heppell also played a lead consultative role.
Aspects of the design did break boundaries in concept, but with a change of government after my departure it is now not as 'brave' ` design as was intended. People often retreat when really they should drive forward. the progress of the young people would really surprise them! It is especially possible in small countries like Cayman. However it is interesting to see the current Minister applaud the design.
Having also taught in the Cayman Islands was well as being a High School Principal there, I know just how fantastic these facilities are in comparison compared to the ones they had. However, given time and confidence, there is always the potential to revert to the original vision.
What is clear, is that the new facilities are causing a real pride amongst students with will surely reflect i the learning that takes place. I would love to go and visit them - I wonder if I will get the chance!
Sunday, 23 September 2012
Sunday, 2 September 2012
Thursday, 16 August 2012
Whilst the proportions may be a little wrong - who cares? What is clear is the concept of scale and grandeur, alongside lots of enthusiasm and fun. It's fantastic! This school is proud of its reputation for creativity - the work on show reflects the pupils enthusiasm as well!
Saturday, 11 August 2012
The ambition, demand and excitement for a Third Millennium School from all those we have met and talked to this week (and there have been a lot of meetings with all sorts of people) have all been outstandingly positive and supportive.
The plans and vision are still in development, but this could be one of the most exciting international projects in the world if all the final permissions and concepts emerge as we hope.
More details will follow - but this is a fabulous project in a wonderful location. I'm glad I've been asked to be involved.
Tuesday, 10 July 2012
The result is a long narrow gap, not much more than twelve inches wide for the full width of the glass. From outside you will see a wall. From inside - it will become a narrow little space which will attract litter or become a dumping ground. We all know it will.
Why would anyone design this? Even worse - why didn't someone challenge it before they started construction? This is what I do a lot of the time for a range of companies - it really saddens me when I see someone get it all sooo wrong! It is the worst space I have seen for ages - some one should get in real trouble for this! It's shocking.
Friday, 22 June 2012
Associates from our company: 'the-learning-crowd' are delighted to have been invited to attend the Welsh Government / HOVEP (Heads of the Valleys Education Project) conference: 'Excellent Teaching and Learning - How can technology help?' next week and help facilitate workshop groups of Headteachers and other delegates.
Led by Professor Stephen Heppell, the conference will consider many of the opportunities the future holds for education. In addition to the keynote and numbers of workshops, there will be a Teach Meet afterwards where local good practice can be shared. And good practice there is! We identified several outstanding examples of fantastic transformational practice using technology during our background research for the report.
I really like Teach Meet sessions - it's not about people from outside coming in and saying what should be done but absolutely about local schools sharing what they feel is working and what are the lessons learnt. One of the better form of development.
the-learning-crowd has been involved with HOVEP since last year when we were commissioned to write a detailed report and action plan for education transformation in the HOVEP region. (Merthyr Tydfil and Bleanau Gwent.
The resulting report, even if described as comprehensive and hard hitting, is being used to help define strategy and action for coming months.
I visited a primary school recently where part of the playground had originally been 'inside' a factory. When they cleared the site, they left the old mill stones to become part of the external environment. With the intelligent decision to put shade over them they have become a quiet seating area, a performance space for drama and music and a play areas for students to use their imagination.
Equally important is that you have old local artefacts as unique permanent teaching resources for local history lessons and so much more. It's excellent!
External spaces are becoming more and more important. It's features like this that a make them more interesting as well.
Monday, 18 June 2012
What is a clever bit of design (but not that new an idea) is that the vertical faces of the skylight are in fact mirrors not glass. Not only does that help reflect daylight - it also adds a really interesting (and endless) effect for those underneath. It should be really effective space. It's hard to see in the photographs - but it is a great and fun idea!
The photograph above shows skips and building 'stuff' covering all that is left of the playground. The space really is tiny! Developing a new Year 7 block, kitchen and dining area in this space was a challenge and really the only way was up. We included an outside social area on the roof of the dining room to maximise the efficiency of the site.
One of the highights of the afternoon was, as usual, the faces of students looking around the new spaces for the first time. They were really excited by the building and quite jealous that they would probably not be having lessons in the new classrooms that are designed for a wide range of teaching styles.
Everything about the new build has been modeled and trialled by the school in advance, from layouts, positioning of boards, types of furniture, the ICT used down to the type of carpet. Nothing has been left to chance - it is the best prepared schol I have worked with.
One of the exciting things about the school is that they have also really tried to maximise the learning potential and opportunities available from having a major construction site on the school grounds. The students have been involved with several decisions on the project. It's a unique opportunity for schools to relate learning to a real project. I just wish more schools did it.
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
Sunday, 10 June 2012
Talk about an accident waiting to happen...
Thursday, 3 May 2012
Blackpool students win top award!
I am really pleased that yet again, through Alison's enthusiasm and passion a range of UK schools took part in the UK competition.
Sponsored by CEFPI and the National Association of Realtors® in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the American Institute of Architects, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and more than 20 other associations and private companies, the annual competition strengthens public awareness of the importance of well-planned, healthy, sustainable school buildings that enhance student and teacher performance and contribute to community culture and vitality.
The competition challenges students from across the globe to think creatively as they plan and design tomorrow’s green schools to enhance learning, be healthy, conserve resources, be environmentally responsive and engage the surrounding community.
After an exciting UK semi final at the Manchester offices of BDP, one of Europe’s leading interdisciplinary design practices, students from Highfield Humanities College, Blackpool, were chosen to represent Britain with their ‘Ocean Observatory’ learning centre and headed off to America’s capital city to take compete in the final leg of The School of the Future Design Competition, centerpiece of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) School Building Week.
“For the past three years, we’ve been trying to encourage more young people to discover architecture, engineering and construction. We’re big fans of the CEFPI competition, and it’s a fantastic challenge for those students who have worked their way through our curriculum” said Alison “They already possess a great degree of knowledge, and having the chance to travel overseas and demonstrate their skills is a fantastic achievement. We’re very proud of the students at Highfield for getting so far and extremely grateful to BDP, Blackpool Council and Autodesk for their support.”
All six teams had 15 minutes to present their projects to jury members, then grilled for a further 15 minutes by jurors who pull no punches! “Facing a formidable 22-person jury would be a daunting experience for most adults, but these students took them on without a moment’s hesitation!” remarked David C. Edwards, CEFPI Chairman of the Board. “The students continue to raise the bar each year in the rigorous competition. This year’s submissions epitomised project-based learning and demonstrated a deep understanding of the planning process and creating a sustainable future.”
An Award of Excellence went to joint winners Imago Dei Middle School from Tucson, Arizona and Teeland Middle School from Wasilla, Alaska. Both teams received $2000 for their schools for their extraordinary environmentally efficient designs. A very respectable runners up place and well deserved Award of Distinction was presented to Highfield Humanities College of Blackpool, Lancashire.
Imago Dei students acknowledged that they were fortunate to receive a good education and caring teachers so they designed a school for the children of Niger in West Africa who did not have the same opportunities. They constructed their school from local, sustainable resources creating “polybricks” assembled from plastic water bottles and using bamboo walls to repel malaria-carrying mosquitoes prevalent throughout the area. Powered by solar energy, the building also makes great use of natural light and employs shade sails of woven bamboo to offer some relief from the extreme heat. The students’ research efforts were impeccable, leading them to also design a portable school made out of the same materials to bring to communities where children cannot travel to the main school.
The Teeland Middle School team chose to build their facility on a landfill – truly embracing “renew, reuse, recycle” by creating walls made of materials mined from the landfill and covering them with solar wallpaper. The cement building is constructed with carbon nanotubes, one of the strongest materials available synthesized from carbon-rich compounds such as plastic, which act as rebar. The green roofs collect storm water and provide insulation. Again exemplifying “renew, reuse, recycle”, one of the three “aerodynamic” school buildings constructed to withstand the strong Alaskan winds houses the homeless, providing them with educational opportunities, an introduction to careers, use of all the community facilities and three meals a day. Food for the facility and community was grown on campus.
Award of Distinction winner, Highfield Humanities College, UK, received $1,500 in prize money. Coming from a seaside resort community in northwest England, the students designed a building embedded into a sand dune on the sea front that would serve as a space for all learners, including the local community and visitors. Hard hit by the current economy, the team hoped that their unique school would encourage tourism and add to the local economy. The front of the building is constructed of glass that can withstand the pressure of the waves, allowing students to observe underwater sea life when high-tide covers the building. The building is powered by renewable energy including wind and wave power. Dormitory space in the rear of the building can accommodate 42 students, giving them the opportunity to discover the alternative nightlife of Blackpool.
Three other US Middle schools – Newtown (Connecticut), Seneca (Michigan) and University (Texas), were presented with the Award of Merit, each receiving $1,000 for their own remarkable designs.
“Chairing the jury affords me one of the best days of the year,” remarked David Schrader, AIA, CEFPI international board member. “As we watched the presentations, it was clear that no matter how knowledgeable and talented each of the jury members were, the children’s message, knowledge, passion and enthusiasm humbled each and every one of us. This remarkable day left us all aware that these students truly represent tomorrow’s leaders and our future is in good hands.”
The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) is the only US professional organisation whose principal purpose is improving the places where children learn. CEFPI embraces a diverse group of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, high performance and sustainable learning environments that enhance student and teacher performance and support culture and community vitality. To learn more, visit www.cefpi.org.
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
But even if it is a trick - it is a great idea and has caused many comments. It's fun enough to be great! I kind of hope that it is genuine. Does anyone have any ideas?
AND...... the answer - see comment below. It IS real but not a music school....
to see the truth follow this link
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Wednesday, 28 March 2012
Tuesday, 27 March 2012
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Tuesday, 6 March 2012
I am really pleased to have been asked to support, in a very small way, a class from St Gilgen International School in Austria, as they start a four week project on designing a 'classroom of the future'. It's is a fabulous project - students considering approaches to learning and what types of environment best support that. It is an important conversation between learners and teachers that can really contribute to the learning process.
Four weeks is long enough for some really good conversations to take place, and of course, once they've happened, the thinking and discussions remain with them.
I am very curious to see how their projects develop and how the students envision the future of learning spaces. Hopefully, we will be able to post some of their ideas on the blog for others to share.It is also heartening that these conversations seem to be going on in increasing numbers in countries all over the world. In just a few days I will also be working with a school in Kuwait considering the future of their learning environments. It's only in the UK where, in some places, people seem to be trying to block these conversations at the moment. It's a pity and a backward step.