Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Homebases of Learning

After the Oxford Debate formally finished this morning, the assembled took three questions -- two from the audience and one from online.

Richardson has a great observation about Jupp's inability to answer one of the questions and what it implies about his understanding of what's really going on in ed tech.

It would be enough to write the guy off. After all, buildings? As 'houses of learning'?

But, it's funny: despite the fact that I'm surrounded by all of this technology and it allows me to work beyond or even without the walls of that old school building, I'm still in favor of having a building, a homebase, some physical space where your own mind rather than your digital device can develop memory and love and pride.

That's not to say that you can't develop those things on-the-go, but I'm still a sucker for having a 'homebase'.

A 'homebase' is a safe place you can always return to. The doors are not locked. And they swing both in and out. A 'homebase' is a place where you don't always feel like a tourist.

I guess the bigger point related to so many of our schools is that they are not 'homebases'.

I see a future where we treat the school building as a community headquarters.

Students and teachers do not always have to be together in the building; and world travel, virtual learning, and global networking are encouraged. But the building still remains the place where we can gather as a local community with our neighbors and families. It's the place where members of our community who have been off on wild travels can return to tell us what they found out there. It's the place where we can gather to share something you can't share online: real smiles, real laughter, real hugs, and high-fives.

Because that's important stuff; it's stuff that teaches us how to live with one another.

If we really wanted to walk the walk and not just blame the talk, we'd sit down and rearrange how we organize our streets. Our neighborhoods. Our cities, suburbs, and farms. Because how we are spatially, geographically, and architecturally organized directly effects how we teach. And how we learn.

Buildings are important. I agree with Jupp that a school-building can be a 'house to learning'. But not if we don't take the broader implications of architecture and urban planning seriously.

I went to a high school situated on a campus. We had six main buildings. Underclass, Upperclass, Cafe, Performing Arts, Field House, and an old tower.

My sisters went to a school where everything was stuck in one fortified brutal building.

I have deep feelings and memories of places on my campus. They still inspire my memory.

What does that fortified brutal high school my sisters went to inspire?

As we talk about the integration of technology into the learning experience, we also need to talk about the re-examination of school architecture. Let's take what Jupp calls those 'houses of learning' and make them 'homebases of learning'.

1 comment:

  1. That home base idea, and the question of architecture, is also written into Christopher Alexander's Patterns of Architecture, in which he outlines 271 rules for building better buildings, in more quality-driven urban planning. While I don't have The Timeless Way of Building with me, or A Pattern Language, some of the rules are second-nature to me now (as opposed to second life... and the SL and QA people would do well to look at them...)

    • A mixture of indoor and outdoor spaces
    • Outdoor Rooms
    • steps for sitting
    • high places
    • something roughly in the middle
    • Open plazas
    • quiet backs
    • pedestrian
    • places of learning
    • children everywhere

    All of these patterns are visible in your campus, even as briefly and as spartanly as you have described it. All of them are clearly absent from your sisters' school.

    My high school was similarly a place of beauty and elegance. My current school is closer to my high school in feel than to your sisters' school, but to the degree that it does not follow Alexander's rules - it is also brutal and fortified.


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