Just re-learnt a valuable lesson – when it comes to course feedback, always reread it a month later.
I finally found the course feedback from students on the Fundamentals 1 paper I have been rewriting. (Yes, my filing system is still somewhat in disarray). I remember being very disappointed and thinking that it was terrible and that I needed to change the whole course. And this is the task I have set myself in CCEL, restructuring the paper for this year. However, on rereading the course feedback, it is not nearly as terrible as I remember. Most numbers are above 90%. Only one satisfaction question is under 80%, which is the ‘this course is relevant to the workplace and my industry or profession’ at is at 75%. However, my colleague just pointed out that would students who are in the first 4 months of their degree have much of an idea about relevancy to the workplace?
There are a lot of comments in the feedback about how useful some of the drawing exercises were. Therefore I need to re-look at my timetable plan to keep some of them, in a coherent way to the overall course plan. I definitely do not want to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ and chuck out a lot of useful drawing tuition for no actual reason.
So it seems my dire view of the paper is perhaps coming from how I felt facilitating the course – I hated it. I felt like I wasn’t able to communicate what the students needed to know, and suffered quite a few renditions of “who on earth am I to try to teach drawing? I’m not an artist”-type thinking.
The emotional impact of learning doesn’t just effect learners, but lecturers too…
Goalpost by Ekkebus via Flikr creative commons license
The goal posts haven’t shifted completely, but they definitely have a few holes in the net. I found out on Tuesday that due to low enrollment numbers, my HOD wanted to reconsider running Fundamentals with both Interiors and Product students. This would have scuppered all my planning to date. Luckily as I was able to whip out my planning documents I’ve been working on, she could see the sense in my argument to keep them apart. Its all up in the air until next week, but I hope that I’ll only have to do one or two topics that are relevant for both sets of students, and keep the discipline specific content.
Screenshot from the TED ED website
I heard about TED ED from one of my colleagues on the flexible learning course, and then promptly forgot about it. As I was going through my notes to prepare for activity 4 for CCEL, I came across my scribble “look up TED ED NOW!”
Perfect timing. Now that I’m finding videos on YouTube that are useful, the natural next step is to customise them.
So I created an account, and have started to ‘flip’ my first video.
According to TED ED, “The “flip this video” button allows you to turn a video into a customized lesson that can be assigned to students or shared more widely. You can add context, questions and follow-up suggestions.” They see their website as part of the emerging ‘flip teaching’ movement, where students review and complete online material before a class session, enabling the session to focus more on discussion, collaboration and extension, rather than listening to the basics.
However, I’ve struck a snag. A lot of the examples on the TED ED website, the author of the video has created the lesson. However, I just want to add questions to another authors video. I’m assuming that as the links and credits to the original authors work is all still there, this is acceptable with copyright law. But its not clear on the TED ED website. Also, I wanted to add questions at particular points on the video, but I don’t think I can do that, they look like they must come afterwards. (Maybe that would be a breech of copyright, as you are interrupting the flow of the original work)
Will keep working and see what happens.
I’ve admitted on here previously that I only really started watching YouTube last year. I’d not worked out the difference between ‘downloading’ video and ‘streaming’ video. Once I finally admitted to someone that I was afraid of using YouTube in case I picked up all sorts of computer viruses, and after they had finished laughing at me, my tentative exploration of the site began. I’m still a bit befuddled by the idea of memes, and all the videos of cats now enshrined in its digital halls, but I must also admit to chuckling while watching Maru the cat.
I’ve used quite a few YouTube videos over the last 6 months on the Moodle page for students to access, especially for drawing techniques and digital rendering. These were a natural first step – ‘how to’ videos for learners away from class, so they can review these techniques when working at home. In class we would go over how we could adapt techniques to suit the drawings they are working on.
Recently though I’ve finally clicked on the idea of expanding the range of videos to find content that discusses broader concepts. I’d like to find videos that look at architectural history, or basic structural systems. Complicated subjects that students could watch several times.
The other difficulty of posting videos on Moodle is that I know only the more dedicated learners have been watching them. For more complicated subjects, creating some sort of exercise or test to make passive watching into an active event and hopefully deeper learning.
Today I finally learnt a bit more about YouTube and created a profile and a channel called InteriorsOP. This means I can create different playlists, corralling all the videos in one place. The next step would be to make the move of creating videos myself on topics that I can’t find already made, or better yet, set a learning activity so the class is divided up and makes a series of videos as a class resource.
My intention is to create a series of playlists related to the learning outcomes for Fundamentals 1. I would like the learners to review the material the week before the class, so we have a level of understanding before we do the workshop.
The next few posts are about my forays into developing more flexible content for another of our courses. Fundamentals 1 is a first year paper in which learners investigate a wide variety of topics. I’m trying to refine it to make it more useful and more cohesive. The course is full year, so 24 weeks available for studio contact.
The existing learning outcomes are a varied mix. I would like to order the content to cover the learning objectives, but in a more ordered way. The categories are inspired by the textbook Fundamentals of Interior Architecture by J. Coles, which I thought is a very clear and concise book that I will be recommending to our students.
|No of weeks||Category||Current content that fits category||New content to be developed/found|
|3||Space and form||The design elements and principles
The basic states (open/closed etc)
|Other resources on the web?|
|3||Site and function||> Environmental Psychology
> Analysing the physical context using diagrams
>Diagraming the program of a building
>Accessing local council and regulatory body information
|> Basic overview of structural systems
> Uncovering the history of a building
>Further content on building function
|5||Texture and materials||>Colour
>Emotive meanings of materials
> Building a resource – basic classification of materials
> Specifiying materials
|Further material resources – more samples in class?
Arrange series of rep visits?
|2||Light and mood||Basic types of lighting||The effect of lighting
Interactive lighting exercise – altering a space with different lighting?
Conducting a client interview
Developing a project brief
|Further writing resources
|8||Major project||Client project|
Coles, J. House, N. (2007) The fundamentals of interior architecture. Switzerland: AVA Publishing
I tend to work in a very scattered way, slowly drawing closer to a end point or solution through many circles, like an airplane in a holding pattern above an airport. I’ll be doing a task, then I’ll walk over to the bookcase, a book will catch my eye, and then I’m suddenly reading about a topic is vaguely related to where I came from but a whole new dimension. Or I’ll be cooking dinner, pick up the objects cluttering the bench, then find myself 5 minutes later rearranging my sewing supplies in the spare bedroom while my dinner merrily coats the bottom of the pot a lovely golden brown. Admitting to, and working with, my easily redirected and short-spanned working style is something I’m coming to terms with this year. I used to get incredibly frustrated with myself before, until I realised recently that was pretty pointless too. There’s no sense in being scattered AND angry.
So how does this relate to flexible learning? Several ideas and incidents with students over the last few weeks have finally merged together. The paper I want to make more flexible is a second year course that aims for students to learn multiple tools for presenting their design ideas visually, and it has a large software learning component. The skills are taught through applying them to a small design project, which I want the students to take seriously as I feel that their design time is precious and needs extending. Some of my first year students have limited digital skills, but are also ‘not there yet’ with the drive and ambition to personally progress these skills. Hunting out the tutorials and tips online and among their colleagues is not something they get around to. A truly flexible course would amass all the resources in a way that they can be accessed at any time, by any student. I’ve been thinking about this in too limited a sense. What I need to organise is a resource centre of both my own and other’s tutorials that I have hand-picked for their relevance, laid out in an easy to use, understandable and inviting layout (blog/wiki/website) that ANY student can access to improve their learning, 1st, 2nd or 3rd year. Perhaps they could do part of the work over their holidays, as a common complaint from students is that they go home and forget all their digital skills because they are not using them. What if they could reduce their workload by 30% in the term if they put in some skills based learning during the break IF THEY WANTED TO? I spend a lot of time reminding students of how to execute various skills. What if I had some flexibility somehow that 3rd year students could drop in on the timetabled classes as well as the enrolled 2nd years, instead of me having to give further refresher tutorials to the 3rd years. Hmm. I feel like I’m getting somewhere.
Often I find myself blanching in the face of sustainability. There are so many things to understand, undo, and rework. It’s not just the ‘green’ element either of resources and materials. Personal sustainability encompasses managing relationships to family, community, and workplace. I am not a sustainable worker – only recently did I start questioning and realise the magnitude of my work habits on my own personal ecosystem. The effect has been pretty slash and burn and I still have a long way to go to improve. When considering the wider sustainability issues, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you have difficulty fixing yourself, let alone the world. It’s a big topic for a person to consider. If we find others who share the same concerns or ideas, then we can generate traction.
Through the readings in this topic I’ve realised that I need to make goals for both myself and my courses. Being ‘green’ in the general sense is too hazy. I want to limit my footprint on the world. But this requires mindfulness – and questioning long comfortable habits and assumptions about the way I live my life. The stereotype of the jandal wearing, bearded, muesli-munching hippie environmentalist has thankfully faded somewhat, yet we are still far from breaking our consumerist habits and urges. As I look around the main street at the plethora of cheap fashion and things, despite all this knowledge are we getting worse? And all this is built on a huge constructed system that I don’t understand. Recently listening to John Key et al about the relentless forward march of the economy leaves me feeling uneasy. Aren’t we supposed to be thinking about conserving our resources? If we are continuously ‘growing’ the economy the how does that work sustainably? Yet my lack of knowledge in this area silences my protests. So during the readings of this topic I decided it was high time I learnt about the economy, so I could be in a better position to start questioning it. This idea came while reading Orr (1996) - learners accessing knowledge so they can question their own thinking, and the responsibility to see that the knowledge is well used in the world.
Sustainability and education
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
Robinson talks about how the education system we have today didn’t exist before the 19th century, and that essentially it was created to provide better workers to support industrialism. (Cue the economy again. Both are man-made systems that are feeling pretty clunky in parts right now.) So the education system we have operates on a hierarchy, with subjects like maths, science and languages being prized over ‘creative’ subjects like art, music and dance. I’ve heard that recent funding cuts to Adult Community Education in NZ mean that only literacy orientated courses retained their funding, despite the other arts courses being extremely popular. So educators have had to submit complicated paperwork to prove the literacy component in cake decorating or the maths component in woodworking. Yet isn’t art and design a core element of our country’s brand image that is being touted overseas?
Working in a creative discipline, sometimes it feels like we have to defend our position as a valid path of study. This could be partly due to interior design having a ‘paint and curtains’ image - the window dressing of the more serious side of architecture. The course we teach here is much more aligned to spatial design, but generally it feels like interior design is still carving out its niche in relation to design and to architecture. But it could be the most sustainable of subjects, especially when repurposing existing buildings for new uses, instead of tearing them down and starting again.
The economics of design come into play here too. I’ll never forget stepping in to show a student and her mother around the school, expounding the curriculum we teach, and the only question asked was how much money her daughter could expect to make in her first year out of school. Design does not operate in absolutes like some other more rigidly established career paths. Yet we value and attempt to harness creativity, which Robinson has identified as important as literacy and that we should treat it with the same status.(1)
The course I am developing for flexible learning is a course to teach communication tools – creating drawings and documents to enable you to communicate your design ideas. In this course we are not focusing on the physical make up of space, we are focusing on tools and strategies on how to represent space. Students have to design a kiosk that also functions as a staircase, to have something to communicate. So while there is the opportunity to analyse the design of their built object in terms of material use, energy use, etc, I don’t think this course is the right place to get into building sustainability in-depth. (Although I do want to strengthen this component in my papers generally) The course is has a high digital component, so there is an energy use/materials component in terms of the workload it takes to produce communication documents, energy of production, and consumer end use. (E.g. needless printing of very large multi page documents by lots of people.)
Other ideas for students to consider the bricks and mortar sustainability side of things I’ve found are:
www.homestar.org.nz – to understand how to retrofit or design new homes to be more energy efficient.
http://www.branz.co.nz/REBRI the NZ version of information on managing waste for the construction and demolition industry, including calculators, checklists and management plans.
http://www.ecobob.co.nz/ resource centre for building eco-friendly homes in NZ
(1) Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? [Video file] Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY (Time signature 3.18 mins)
Orr, D. (1991) What Is Education For? Six myths about the foundations of modern education, and six new principles to replace them. Retrieved from http://www.context.org/iclib/ic27/orr/