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!
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.
Saturday, 3 March 2012
Thursday, 1 March 2012
Monday, 27 February 2012
- Trung Le, the fantastic education architect and thinker from Cannon Design (Chicago) also known as the driving force from the visionary The Third Teacher
- Professor Stephen Heppell, one of the worlds leading education thinkers (see Heppell.net)
- Ollie Bray, National Adviser for Emerging Technologies in Learning at Education Scotland. Formore on Ollie, click here.
- Mike Reading, Principal, The Oxford Academy
- Eddie Murphy, Technical Director, Mott MacDonald
- Aidan Ridyard, Director, Broadway Malyan Architects
- Some of the excellent inputs and videos will go on line soon - and be posted on this blog, so please do come back to check them out.
Thursday, 16 February 2012
To watch video of this amazing school, click here.
Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
HOVEP is a unique partnership between the Welsh Government, local authorities, the further and higher education sectors in the Heads of the Valleys area. Its mission is to make the Heads of the Valleys a high skilled region for the 21st century. In Blaenau Gwent, (one of the two areas in HOVEP, the other being Merthyr Tydfil) this is a particularly significant goal. The closure of the steelworks and the loss of a considerable number of jobs has led to the creation of an area facing a significant number of challenges.
HOVEP will focus on every child benefiting from school, and work to ensure that they transition smoothly from primary to secondary sectors of education, with higher percentages of 16-19 students gaining from high level qualifications including English and Maths. Another fundamental aspect is to support higher numbers of 19 years olds progressing into further or higher education, whilst improving skills in the wider adult population.
What I so impressed with is the passion and dedication I have seen to work with the widest range of partners to support, challenge and add value through strengthening and deepening the impact of their current works. In this meeting representatives from almost every phase of education were there, as well as academics, local authority representatives and local employers. It will need this absolute combined commitment and determination to make a difference, including getting over some difficult issues. However, unlike some other areas, they have started and have some very clear plans, aspirations and ideas. This was not a 'sit and receive' session, but rather like the aims of the project, a 'roll your sleeves up and get involved' session where everyone had a role to play in identifying responses to some very searching topics..
I also find it encouraging that there is a significant role for academics in this project, but one with a very real understanding of the specific issues faced in this area. High quality comments giving guidance came from Emeritus Professor David Egan, Senior Policy Advisor to HOVEP and guest Speaker Professor Sir Deian Hopkin.
I just wish them all the best of luck - and am happy to be involved. I am sure I will write more from this project in the coming week and months, so... watch this space.
It's all about the ever changing school curriculum and the news that the new curriculum guidance which was expected soon, is going to be delayed for a year.
What ever Michael Rosen writes is always engaging and captivating. The same can be said when he is working with students. As a Headteacher, he visited my school and spent the day working with my secondary students and then also with students from feeder primary schools who visited for a half day. It was just the best day with all the students fortunate enough to attend getting so much out of it. The impact was even better with the followup work undertaken by the students and guided by staff achieving the highest standards.
The 'letter' is gentle, but the points included are well made. To read it in full, please click here:
Sunday, 29 January 2012
Thursday, 26 January 2012
Year after year, Finland's K-12 education has been at the top of PISA's international survey results for students' academic skills, and unlike the similarly high ranking South Korea, has done so without a cram school in sight. Sadly, this is in contrast to the United States, whose position continues to fall and consistently lags behind countries such as Slovakia and Barbados in several subjects, despite higher government spending on education.
If Finland's educational success is not due to rigorous schedules, scoring scrutiny and intense competition, what is its secret?
The results are surprising. Finland spends almost $1000 less per year per student than the United States, and many Finnish schools do not boast a great variety of extra-curricular activities or employment of the latest technology. Instead, Finland's schools differentiate themselves through more fundamental and very basic differences.
Finnish teachers are very well regarded in society, and share equal social status to doctors. 25% of young Finns select it as their vocation, but only 10-13% are admitted to teacher training programs, due to the high volume of applicants and the caliber of those seeking to join the ranks. In the United States, the bottom third of graduates enter the teaching profession.
Money is also not the answer. Finnish graduates are drawn to teaching because it offers great job security, a respectful and comfortable environment, and a very high degree of autonomy. Teachers are encouraged to be creative and self-sufficient in their teaching, and tailor the needs to their students. Successfully following this model is easier when the country's brightest graduates are the nation's teachers.
Parents and teachers teach children from a young age the benefits of being resourceful, and those new to Finnish society are often surprised by see young children walking through the woods to school alone, and carrying their own bags. Finnish parents show a keen interest in their children's education, and collaborate with teachers regularly.
Finnish schools emphasize comfort and respect in every aspect. Schools mimic a home environment, with comfortable furniture and wholesome free lunches. Finnish schools are not ranked against each other, and students are not streamed into special programs according to ability, but struggling students do receive extra tutoring. As there is little difference in standards from one school to the next, no schools are disadvantaged or have to cope with the issues that many urban US schools struggle with daily.
Finland's 96% graduation rate, compared to 75% in the US, means that far more students are prepared for higher education. Economic disadvantage not does prohibit college attendance, as college is free and grants are readily available. After ninth grade, Finnish students choose either an academic or vocational track, meaning they are allowed to specialize to their strengths from an early age.
Any teacher will explain that it is inaccurate to compare two countries' education systems and conclude that the systems alone are the reasons for differences. Finland enjoys a far lower crime rate, and while the country may face challenges, few countries in the developed world compare in cultural, racial and religious complexity to the United States. That being said, the United States can still learn from the Finnish experience. Respect for teachers and for learning can't be bought with money alone, and often state curriculum and bureaucracy yields poor results as a substitute for a fundamental respect and enjoyment for learning.