On “Digital learning environments, the science of learning and the relationship between the teacher and the learner”

Image available here

Under what conditions do these technology tools lead to the most effective learning experiences? Dο they serve as a distraction if not deliberately integrated into learning activities? When these devices are incorporated deliberately into learning activities, how are students using them to make sense of ideas and apply them in practice? (…) It is much more complicated and difficult to develop an environment that can facilitate learning in complex conceptual domains (…) while adaptive systems have taken some forward leaps, there is still some way to go before these environments can cope with the significant diversity in how individual students make sense of complex ideas (…) Depending on how students structure related ideas in their mind, that structure will limit the way in which new information can be incorporated (…) The problem with providing personalised instruction in a digital environment is therefore not just about what the overall level of prior knowledge is but how that knowledge is structured in students’ minds (…) Technologies that are and will continue to impact on education need to be built on a foundation that includes a deep understanding of how students learn (…) teachers are constantly navigating a decision set that is practically infinite (…) The question becomes one of when and how technologies can be most effectively used, for what, and understanding what implications this has for the teacher-student relationship (…) there are two central narratives about what learning is: the first, acquisition, is vital but the second, participation, is even more powerful for learning (…)

There are several key areas helping students work with technologies:

  • Informing the development of and evaluating new technologies: research examining the effectiveness of the tools lags well behind the spread of their use (…) there is a clear need to draw on principles of quality student learning to determine how best to effectively combine the expertise of teachers and power of machines
  • Helping students to work with technologies: it is critical to determine how best to support students to do so in the absence of a teacher to help with this
  • Determining how technologies can best facilitate teaching and learning: the science of learning will assist in understanding the changing student-teacher dynamic in education is through the implications on broader policy and practice (…) The increased use of these technologies in classrooms must be driven by what is known about quality learning and not about financial or political motives.

Full article available here


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Complexity is one of four challenges expressed in the acronym VUCA — Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity (…) VUCA has largely been adopted in the business world to refer to challenges which traditional leadership models find difficult to address (…) it requires different skills, structures, modus operandi, mindsets and organisational principles from those currently taught and practised (…) current leadership approaches are counter-productive, even harmful, to working with uncertainty and complexity. In trying to gain control of complexities, in trying to get a grip, our management methods are actually making things worse (…) the cumulative effect of applying the wrong management practices to complexity has exacerbated the challenges of VUCA (…) (complexity management) can only be achieved by including and integrating the perspectives of all the people affected (…) wide-scale conversations in the form of what he (Stacey) called “reflexive inquiry” (…) VUCA skills include: interpersonal skills (e.g. active listening), perspective coordination skills (complementarity), contextual thinking skills (shifting perspectives according to context) and collaboration skills (inclusive decision-making) (…) VUCA requires the integration and fusion of different perspectives, and not alpha heroes with all the ‘right’ answers (…)  What we should learn, instead, is how to respond to complex problems from a vantage point of not knowing, probingly approaching inquiry with an empty mind and humility; likewise we need to learn how to integrate seemingly polar opposite perspectives collaboratively (…) Some of the ways suggested to learn these VUCA skills include design thinking and practicing Sociocracy. We should take note, however, that one cannot learn integration skills by oneself, these have to be practised and refined in groups. We therefore need to create more Communities of Practice where people can hone these new skills (…) Uhl-Bien defines complexity as ‘rich interconnectivity’. Interconnecting parts become complex when the parts interacting actually influence and change each other (…) what complexity calls for are deeper conversations that matter

Full article by François Knuchel available here

The ‘Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning’ program

Full report available here

The project team for ‘Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning’ ran by the Chinese Ministry of Education reviewed the international literature relating to skillful remote teaching, identifying some of the characteristic challenges that needed to be addressed. The Chinese project team advocated schools designing a blend of synchronous and asynchronous teaching and identified four essential technologically enabled pedagogical techniques that should be used in combination:
Live-streaming teaching (lecture format)
• Online real-time interactive teaching
• Online self-regulated learning with real-time interactive Q&A
• Online cooperative learning guided by teachers

For each method, associated benefits and risks were identified – such as the fact that live streamed lessons were technologically challenging and that the real-time class discussion in a synchronous ‘lesson’ could be of a poor quality (…) To recreate the learning atmosphere of a face-to-face classroom, three pedagogical priorities were promoted: Building a sense of belonging to a community/ Providing timely feedback to learners/ Encouraging learners to relax and not be preoccupied with competitive achievement.

Stephen Downe’s quick tech guide for creating online work sessions and courses

Schools and Universities keep closing because of Covid19 and a shift toward online learning practices becomes increasingly more relevant. Therefore, I am re-posting Stephen Downe’s guide for creating and coordinating online work sessions and courses. I take this opportunity to encourage academics worldwide to introduce interactive tools for inter-communication and exchange with students. Students can create blogs in weebly, wix, wordpress or tumblr (they worked great for architectural and urban design studios for us at NTUA). Messenger and Slack can be valuable for online revisions as well. I know its crazy to have to prepare all this last minute, but please don’t be discouraged: however grim the cause of this sudden need, I promise you it is worth the try.

Oslo Architecture Triennale, Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth

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The theme of the 19th Oslo Architecture Triennale, Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth plays with the explosive power of this word to open up new debates into how much the pursuit of economic growth has damaged the environment and of the need to try out new solutions in architecture (floornature). The curators (Matthew Dalziel, Phineas Harper, Cecilie Sachs Olsen and Maria Smith) argue that “architects are mistaken if they believe they can confront the climate crisis by merely rethinking the way they design buildings. Instead, it is the economy and the very armature of our civilisation that requires a rigorous redesign.” (AR)

You must be brave to peel back the skin concealing the ugly ribcage of our economic system, its guts ingesting gas, coal, trees, animals, minerals, water and clean air and flatulently defecating an endless stream of clothes, plastic bags and neat packets of processed food. (AR)

The program develops in the “Academy,” the “Theatre,” and the “Playground,” until November 24. (Official site)

Design-Build: Definitions and Criticisms

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Abdullah, 2011: separation of design and building could be the philosophical difference between thinkers (designers) and doers (builders)

Harriss & Widder, 2014: Design build projects exist between the two tectonic plates of learning in academia and practice

Vlahos, 2000: Conventional studio projects present a disconnect from the needs of people and places and the understanding of different cultures. The outcomes of the theoretical studio projects are strongly developed, controlled, formal solutions with little understanding of the architectural intervention in communities. Students engage predominantly with theoretical, fictional projects.

Nepveux, 2010: Being involved physically in building allows students to reconcile their drawings with real structures they can build, weld, wire and plumb

Delport, 2016: Design-build projects have as outcome a physical product made through a process that can vary greatly in scope, focus and intent. They bring in tacit knowledge to the curriculum. The object contributes to social change and improving the lives of others

Van der Wath, 2013: it is an oscillation between the abstract to the concrete that allows students to develop the intellectual agility to tackle the complexities of arch innovation and experimentation that they will use in prof. practice

Brown, 2014: Live Projects’ greatest opportunity is not that it is a place to reflect on one’s own learning but, that it is a place to share that learning and reflection with others (Engestrom: a collective activity system is driven by a deeply communal motive)


Erdman, 2002: hands-on built projects in attempting to close the gap between designing and building replace the reflective process of design with the active process of building (-) they resist theorizing and critical discourse (-)

Chiles & Till, 2004: balance between practice and education encourages students to position themselves politically (+) prevarication is also not possible as the luxury of long-term studio development is removed (+)

Christenson & Srivastava, 2005: Focus on completion within a specific time frame overrides the value of process

Foot, 2012: where the completion and the focus on the end product are taken out of the equation, the notion of reflection, open-endedness and non linearity allows students to discover a variety of possible solutions


Hermie Elizabeth Delport, 2016, Towards Design-Build Architectural Education and Practice: Exploring Lessons from Educational Design-Build Projects, PhD Thesis, Prof Johannes Cronjé, Faculty of Informatics and Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology

The ‘Parques Biblioteca’: the Colombian way to achieving social development and cohesion

Spain Library Park: Giancarlo Massanti Architect, Medellin, Colombia, 2005
Image available here

They are urban complexes formed by buildings of modern architecture, with large surrounding spaces for public use, green, pedestrian and decorative. These public spaces give the urban complex the name of Park. The central building or axis of the complex is equipped with a library with high-tech computing equipment in broadband, justifying the name of the Library, and hence the compound expression “Library Park”. According to the municipal administration of the city of Medellín, “The Library Parks are Cultural Centers for social development that encourage citizen meetings, educational and recreational activities, the construction of groups, the approach to new challenges in digital culture. And they are also spaces for the provision of cultural services that allow the cultural creation and strengthening of existing neighborhood organizations. ” (wiki)

Spain Library Park: Giancarlo Massanti Architect, Medellin, Colombia, 2005
Image available here

Sergio Fajardo, governor of Antioquia, Colombia, and the mastermind behind the impressive edifices (…) Today (2014), he continues to push for educational opportunities across Antioquia (…) he discussed his current project to build 80 library parks in his home department (…) Building dignity and providing quality education for those in some of the department’s poorest communities has been a driving force behind Fajardo’s decision to build the library parks in underdeveloped neighborhoods like Santo Domingo and La Ladera and in towns like Anorí, which was overrun by guerillas for 50 years (…) Improving education in Medellín and Antioquia has also mobilized people living in these once-disadvantaged neighborhoods to study and dream of new opportunities.

Excerpts from Sarah McClure ‘s article: COLOMBIA: Building on Education, full article available here
The trees of inequality, violence, and illegality share a single root.
Image courtesy of Sergio Fajardo Valderrama, available here

The Problem of Expertise in Knowledge Societies


Great article on the development of the perception of expertise by Reiner Grundmann

The pool of knowledgeable citizens has increased enormously between the 1960s and today. Many more people are highly educated and earn their money as ‘knowledge workers’ (Brint 2001). At the same time, as traditional ties have been loosened, people cannot rely on received wisdom and traditional ways of life. They have to make decisions about their lives themselves. This trend towards individualisation and risk decisions has been well described by Beck (1992), Giddens (1991) and others. This means that individuals are seeking expertise, and may find it being offered by non-certified experts (…) The laboratory as the site of knowledge creation, and the scientific institute which signals competence of the researcher and thus makes her a ‘certified expert’ is not the only source of expert knowledge, and it is arguably not the most important one when it comes to political decision-making

The Problem of Expertise in Knowledge Societies, Reiner Grundmann

Full article available here

Information Intake Vs. Information Embodiment


This is one type of learning: the intake of information (…) if the intake of information ends with the intake of information, then it is incomplete. There is another form of learning that doesn’t need discovered, only recovered (…) That Intake must lead to embodiment (…) We only honor a life if we leave different than when we walked in. The only way to truly honor a life is to be changed by it (…) you take in the plethora of information being deposited everywhere you look by everything and everyone you look at (again, undisguising the world), but then you lean into it. You distill it, you parse it, you connect with the “thing” — the gift, the image, the story, the root that arches through what you are learning — and you take it in so as to shape you. You honor that gift that is now seen via knowledge, but then you allow yourself to be changed by it.

Information Intake Vs. Information Embodiment
What will you do with what you learn?

Although I’m not so sure about the tone and the narrative, I like the idea of knowledge creation as the embodiment of information. I am not as sure as to if this is life’s purpose (be changed), I just think this is the only way of deciding at each instant who we want to be and how to get there.

The Online Educator (part II)

So, I started watching Week I of The Online Educator course on FutureLearn run by the Open University with some very interesting articles by Audrey Watters and an interview with Rebecca Ferguson about second life and how it was used in education (so far so good) and then suddenly at some point the course required that we made a generic profile (?) of a student following a MOOC (personas: fictional yet realistic descriptions of a potential learner/ not intended to be a ‘typical’ student, but rather a non-typical student with particular characteristics that might exclude them from learning).

I know how analytical the English can be, but really? Who cares who the participant is (educational past, interests, competencies)? He/She can be anyone and will keep on following the course as long as there is something he/she can gain out of being in it. If we are looking in ways to understand the learners I don’t think this is going to come out of profiling them in abstract ways. Anyone can be in a course just as long as he/she desires to be. Assigning generic characteristics to participants isn’t going to resolve the chaotic character of learning and is somehow underestimating learners’ ability to come up with their own ways of being in a course.

The Online Educator

New course has been launched by Open University and Futurelearn entitled “The Online Educator”. Course is led by Leigh-Anne Perryman and Martin Weller, will last 4 weeks and will be available for free until July 2.