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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Definitions

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)

Criticism

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

References

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
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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
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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

https://www.amazon.ca/Death-Expertise-Campaign-Established-Knowledge/dp/0190469412

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

https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/information-intake-vs-information-embodiment-2ee1dd111ebb?fbclid=IwAR2dWf2LJDzGR2Nway4YCpVypkVYpWa8Qz7aHdvjn4eXxoHXMiWxUFdFzkw

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.

“My Story” Project


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPVM3KuDsC0

The project entitled “My Story” is an initiative of the Anadolu University Open Education Faculty programs. Participating students were asked to share their stories leading to open and distance learning (ODL) via an online survey. A book was later edited sharing some of these stories publicly. Of the 70 stories that are included in the book, 16 of them express the voices of women and their struggle for education. Aras Bozkurt, Suzan Koseoglu, & Jeffrey M Keefer:

recognized that the voices of the participants were of such strength that they warranted a more performative explication in keeping with their power and form once they were translated to English (…) The words of the participants were poetically presented to both exemplify the thematic findings while remaining true to the power in the texts themselves


https://differentreadings.com/2019/04/08/my-story-a-found-poem-reflecting-the-voice-of-women-studying-in-open-education-programs-in-turkey/

The poem they devised describes the women’s effort to persevere in a patriarchal society and their desire to get an education and succeed in life. This is a very interesting experiment, one that develops somewhere in between science and art. In the context of a continuous poetic narrative, the words pertain their meaning and are bound together in a consistent whole. Very moving indeed.

You can also hear the poem here

6 Truths of Effective Teachers

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  • View Their Teaching As A Science And An Art: methodologies change, they are not inflexible
  • Are Students of their Students: effective educators go deeper, they know their students on a personal level
  • Challenge All Students: the brain is malleable and hungers for challenge. Evidence shows that students, even those that may be struggling, rise to the occasion when challenged
  • Believe In The Success Of All Students, No Matter What: “A school staff that believes it can collectively accomplish great things is vital for the health of a school and if they believe they can make a positive difference then they very likely will” (Hatie)
  • Continuously Seeking Out Professional Learning: they are continuously seeking out professional learning. to improve all aspects of their practice
  • Feedback Is A Part Of Their Routine: they also look inward at their own practices, thinking about where they are in their teaching and where they want to improve

I don’t know if it’s just these six , or six of the many, but I agree with all of them in principal. As far as the second principle is concerned (becoming the student of the student) for me it doesn’t necessarily mean getting to know your students in depth, but more of being open to change because of them. i think tutors are constantly challenged by their students and therefore they too can revise the way they perceive their knowledge domain or their reality.

Full article available here

Algorithmic ethics

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In 2015, Grosz designed a new course called “Intelligent Systems: Design and Ethical Challenges that combined technical content with a series of real-life ethical conundrums and the relevant philosophical theories necessary to evaluate them.

Embedding ethics across the curriculum helps computer science students see how ethical issues can arise from many contexts, issues ranging from the way social networks facilitate the spread of false information to censorship to machine-learning techniques that empower statistical inferences in employment and in the criminal justice system.

Full article in Harvard Gazette, available here

Student resistance to curriculum changes

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Sometimes, when we talk about learner independence, active learning or agency, we forget that this is not always for granted. Student consensus can not be considered a given. Trying out new things in a course (changing formats, layouts or mediums) produces changes that can be met with resistance and suspicion and it usually takes time until the cohort is convinced that what you are doing is actually working for them.

Student-Centered Learning and Student Buy-In article in Inside Higher Ed shows the results of curriculum change in a Biology course over a period of four years in relation to student satisfaction and acceptance. Pre- and post- course surveys show that student resistance decreased over the years and while grades did not change, the students’ perception of their gains has.

I remember that when we first introduced networked practices in an undergraduate design studio, students were terrified of the idea that their preliminary research and drawings would be published online for everyone to see. When talking about this, some expressed the fear that their ideas would loose their originality or that by the end of the semester everyone would converge to a single design idea/concept. Of course, none of this happened: in fact, it was quite revealing to see how diverse the research approaches and their respective representations actually were from a very early stage in the design process.

But there is also another interesting aspect in this article: the very fact that there was no single teacher but 13 of them. Now, I think this severely enhances the idea of a learning community. It’s not just about changing the format, it is about how you do it. By opening up the curriculum to more researchers and more teachers and by presenting the students with a course that is founded on a collaborative effort you ultimately denounce the idea of the expert and what comes along with that. And it is not by chance that grades have nothing to do with this. The very act of learning and being part of a learning community luckily can never fall into the hands of assessment.