Category: Assignments

Final Reflection: What were your challenges in designing for Open Source Learning?

Learn-by-doing is often thought to be demonstrated through the things we make, but in fact, reflection is a critical aspect of learning by doing.  We have done / seen / discussed an extraordinary amount over the last 20 weeks, it seems much much longer than this.  In this last and final blog post, I am asking each of you – and I will do the same – to reflect on the last 20 weeks through the following question:

What were the primary challenges you faced in designing for Open Source Learning environments?

Challenges can be positive / negative.  Challenges can be adventures, curiosities, as well as real road blocks you faced.  Most especially, challenges can be nagging questions that are present in your mind but still not resolved.

Please look back on this 20 week experience, and use the blog as a space to share your knowledge, linking back (literally with links in the post) to key moments or things said, as well as the work of the studio (whether yours or others) that connected with you.  Please do connect these reflective thoughts with images / artifacts to help make visible what these challenges were.

And lastly, while answers are nice, it is really the questions that drive us:

Are there any “big questions” that you are leaving this studio with?

Please do not reply to this post with comments as your answers, but rather, create a new reflective summary post answering these questions.

Final Project Post

As a wrap-up to our 20 weeks together in the Open Source Learning Lab, I am asking for two more blog posts.  The first is a presentation of your final project.  Please do not simply post the PDF of your final boards, but use the blog format to present graphically and verbally the intentions of the project.  This should include moving across the entire comprehensive nature of the project from concept of OSL all the way through to the wall section.  This should state in a clear declarative way what the project is about and how it works, it does not need to go into process of how you got there – but can and should connect to process by linking back to other posts in this blog (from either winter or spring term development).  Please take some time to prepare this, including final archival photographs of physical models, as this is the final lasting record of your work in the OSL Lab.

The Interview

Now that you have each developed your own schematic design for the Open Source Learning Academy, we begin an intensive phase of design development with a “project swap” and now working in teams of two.  But how to begin take on someone else’s schematic design concept, and make it your own.  Enter: the interview.

All good interviews begin with preparation on the part of the interviewer.  Please take a minute to take stock of where we have been such as:

These should then form a great collection of important questions.  Best not to get lost in the details, but understanding what matters most.

Do please have fun with this, do please make direct quotes, as well as summarize in your own words.  And, it is a blog, so do please also link to images, process, etc that might work to illustrate comments that come from the interview.

After the interview – or better – during the interview, can you co-construct a diagram summarizing the concept?

Week 8 Focus: Spatial Expression

Can an image tell a story?  No doubt.  Photographers do it all the time.  If you recall, this is why I wanted Josef – our in house professional photographer – to present at common hour last Fall.  When David and I presented at the Royal Geographic Society in London, David set up a meeting with photographer become master-teacher Jonathan Worth.  Jonathan has developed the largest on-line photography class phonar nation.   Phonar?  Yes, that is photography + narrative.   In our conversation, he compared an image to communication, but a photograph to narrative.  An image might show, but a photograph tells a story.  If you wish, you can follow some assignments on Phonar on story telling through photography here and here.  What I love about the second link, is it suggests a way to start: make a picture that describes something you wish you could fix.  Isn’t that similar to what we are up to?

Perhaps you are thinking, “but we are not taking pictures”.  Exactly.  And photographers don’t just take pictures either.  They tell stories through their medium.  I think there is also great depth in understanding how image is to communication and photography is to narrative.  Diagrams, as an image, are about clear communication.  They simplify complexity so others can understand.  But where are renderings in this?  This is a pretty hot debate these days moving a long the positive to hyper-negative spectrum.  So let’s not get caught up in the semantics of the word, but what we want it to do: understand (architectural) design as a spatial problem.  So this is a two part problem: 1. Got Space? and 2. Got Atmosphere?

Spatial Expression

This week is time to put spatial expression as the top priority.  I very much appreciate Cole’s thoughts that his process has been to a large degree an “organizational” one.  This is part and parcel of a large and complex program.   But in the end, this is about projecting a vision of Open Source Learning.  One needs just enough organization to get all the right parts in play, but now it is time to focus on spatial integration and expression.

What are the three key spaces that project your vision of Open Source Learning?

In the most simplest terms, and following Emily from LPA, how do you demonstrate flexibility, variety, and choice? 

Consider: focal spaces, peripheral spaces.  Extraverted spaces, introverted spaces.  Spaces of movement, spaces of calm?  Boundaries (surfaces) that invite, boundaries (surfaces) that enclose.  Most of all, think in terms of volume (space), not area (plan).

Some of you have already done precedent searches to help trigger your imagination.  This can help.

You have to design with space in mind.  Use what works for you: physical models, sketching over digital wireframes, and/or working digitally.  Yes working with plan is part of this, and hopefully the plan will evolve, but let experience be the driver.  Design through the section, design through the model (digital or physical).  Don’t be shy about cutting floor away even if that interrupts some of your organization.  Its the experience that matters.

In the end, I am asking for 3 immersive views so this tends to bias the digital…but doesn’t have to.

Developing Atmosphere

In talking about renderings and atmosphere, photoshop is probably the first thing you are thinking of.  But not so fast.  What makes atmosphere: environment, artifacts, and people.  Environment is both the place (site) and the place your are making.  Artifacts are the things people interact through and with – this could include furniture as well as tools and most certainly the artifacts students are creating (just think of studio atmosphere).   Lastly, and most significantly, people don’t only exist in an atmosphere – people produce an atmosphere.  While you cannot control this anymore in a rendering than you can in a building, what you can develop are the variety of spaces that allow multiple people to co-construct / co-exist in a space.  Understanding the entanglement of people, artifacts, and environment to develop atmosphere is a spatial opportunity, its not just about photoshop.

So here it is:

Friday, 2pm studio Pin-Up

3 (minimum) immersive perspectives that tell the best story of your Open Source Learning Academy.

Please focus on the space, not simply the representation.  This is intended to aid in design development, not presentation.  You will need to hack, draw, sketch, plan, erase, modify, cut, and situate yourself into the your project.

In short, this is akin to pre-visualization in film.

Focus on Friday should be on SPACE, people are essential to these images, but do not have to be photoshop crazy.  Focus on design, not photoshop.  The point is not to spend an all nighter on photoshop.  The point is to design with space in mind developing your spatial qualities so that when you do do an all nighter on photoshop (next week or week after) it is worth your effort.

Guiding Principles


These guiding principles were developed for a design charrette at one of our San Diego firm visits.  While they are intended for a particular school – aren’t they applicable to open source learning??  What are guiding principles not above that may be specific to OSL in general?  What are guiding principles that are specific to your OSL Academy?

“Mid-Term” Process Update

Now that you have had reviews at LPA in San Diego, as well as more typical formal reviews on campus yesterday, please update the blog with a post on your project as you presented it in these reviews.  Do not simply post a PDF of your presentation, but rather, use the blog format to present your project supplementing your visual presentation with complementary – but brief – description.  How would you present your project on-line if you were not there to present it personally?  AND, in addition, add what feedback you heard from the reviews noting areas you need to focus on.

Yonné has already provided a very nice example of this.


  1. Please use the category “Process” for this post.
  2. Your images can be small to flow with the text, but note if you upload a slightly larger image size, if you click on the image then you can see the larger image.  This is important for areas with details, such as plans.
  3. However, make sure you downsize your images.  Wordpress will automatically create  three sizes of your image.  The largest size is the one you upload.  The 15″ MBP Retina display is 2880 x 1800 pixels, but even that is pretty huge, Full HD is 1920 x 1080 pixels which is a good rule of thumb for maximum size.  A little bigger is no big deal, but if everyone uploads large files it will slow down the blog and how we interact with it.

DUE by 1pm on Friday (2/20/15)

Conceptual Learning Networks

Our next brief project will develop from sensibilities developed in Project Titan while expanding the complexity of learning opportunities that will begin to shape the vision for the Open Source Learning Academy.  While concepts for Project Titan were focused on a very specific problem, I hope it opened up a wider repertoire of spatial cues to support a range  of collaborative environments.  Rather than perceive walls as our only tool to define space – a binary condition of either “in” or “out” – we can begin to imagine a range of spatial experiences that support and interact with each other.  As we expand this thinking beyond a single room to an entire school, a particularly messy problem must be addressed which Dewey expressed in Democracy and Education:

One of the weightiest problems with which the philosophy of education has to cope is the method of keeping a proper balance between the informal and the formal, the incidental and the intentional, modes of education.

What determines this “proper balance” between informal and formal? How has the open access to information via the internet shifted this balance?  While we understand the internet as a network and our physical environment may have the internet within it, but can we conceive the learning environment as a physical network itself?  To start with, how many people can a physical network support?

Dunbar Number

Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist studying the pattern of social connection, has suggested the number of about 150 as the human cognitive capacity for meaningful relationships.   While first developed as a working theory over 10 years ago, his theory has been picked up by technology companies, such as Facebook, looking at social networks.  Please take a quick read on the Dunbar number here.   As we begin to look at learning as a network, we will use 150 people as the basis of a micro-learning network.

Learning Networks

Conventional approaches to programming a school start with a clear presumption of what school is.  We will take our cue from our reading of Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society.   In the chapter “Learning Webs” (you can read on your own as well as review the summary here) he begins with a profound starting point:

The planning of new educational institutions ought not to begin with the administrative goals of a principal or president, or with the teaching goals of a professional educator, or with the learning goals of any hypothetical  class of people.  It must not start with the question, ‘What should someone learn?’ but with the question, ‘What kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn?‘”

You are to answers this question while using your understanding of the Dunbar number through a single artifact.  While Project Titan was a very specific place from which we developed very tangible proposals, what we are after here can be more free, more loose, more abstract – a conceptual diagram.   However, what we are after is also a very real answer to this profound question: “what kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn?”  So it is not so much about form, as the the forms of interaction, and specifically what learners are interacting with.  I suggest this should be a 2d hybrid graphic.  Can you develop this artifact with the same sensibility of formal and informal that Dewey suggests; such as a combination vector and digital collage?

This is not a brief sketch, but a highly considered, conceptual development of open source learning.  This graphic/collage should be printed on 12×18, as well as a blog post.  In the blog post you can describe more at length, but the graphic/collage itself should be the primary vehicle to answer Illich’s question.

This is also an opportunity to test, flex, stretch, and develop your skills.  I suggest you work together on “skill exchanges” just at Illich suggests in Learning Networks.   Rhino, Grasshopper, Illustrator, Photoshop, watercolor, as well as anything from laser-cutting to string to ??? can be used.   But please don’t jump to 3d form – without your explanation, does this conceptual diagram best answer Illich’s question.

DUE at 1:10pm on Tuesday


Is this a fancy bubble diagram? 

#@$% NO!!!  A bubble diagram first presumes you know what the spaces are, then the very technique assumes that spaces are enclosed, and finally it assumes they are “linked” by adjacency.  If these spaces truly interact, there is not need to “link” them.  Furthermore, adjacency alone does not make for social interaction, and Dewey speaks directly to this in the opening pages of Democracy and Education (specifically pgs 4-5):

Persons do not become a society by living in physical proximity…If, however, they were all cognizant of the common end and all interested in it so that they regulated their specific activity in view of it, then they would form a community…Each would have to know what the other was about and would have to have some way of keeping the other informed as to his own purpose and progress.

Rather than separation and then linking through adjacency, how can you develop an environment that is about continuity.  This includes not just boundary, but the interaction of individuals and activities within the environment.  More from Dewey:

The words “environment,” “medium” denote something more than surroundings which encompass an individual.  They denote the specific continuity of the surroundings with his own active tendencies.

Educating Deep Thinkers: Dewey and Illich

There is no shortage of literature on education.  Particularly at a school that espouses “learn by doing” we would be at a loss to not address American philosopher John Dewey.  “Learn by doing” means far more than habitual activity, but in the development of novel solutions, repositions our inherited mythologies that falsely emphasize thinking over doing.  As noted in Larry Hickman’s John Dewey’s Pragmatic Technology (1990), whereas Aristotle created a hierarchy of ways of knowing with theory at the top, practice in the middle, and production at the bottom,

“Dewey inverted this hierarchy, suggesting that the interpenetration of theory (or ideas about things to be done) with practice (or the doing of things) is made meaningful only when novel tools and solutions are produced.”

This same thinking applies to his thinking on education as expressed in Democracy and Education (1916):

“Diversity of stimulation means novelty, and novelty means challenge to thought.”

Dewey made a direct connection between embodied experience and the structure of thinking.  For example, in his book How We Think (1909), he makes this connection as an analogy:

 “A bungler can make a box, but the joints will not fit exactly, the edges will not be even. A skilled person will do the work in a way that does not waste time or material, and the result is firm and neat. So it is with thinking.”

And so it is, I hope, with your blog posts.

While Dewey was known as a “pragmatist” philosopher, Ivan Illich was a radical.  Dewey’s educational philosophy can be seen as a critique of schooling as a result of the industrial revolution, while Illich’s vision of “learning webs” in 1970 seems to anticipate the open-source information network as a result of the internet.

The intent of these readings is to challenge your thinking on the role of education in society – its cultural value.  As Dewey notes,

“The conception of education as a social process and function has no definite meaning until we define the kind of society we have in mind.”

From the groups assigned today, each group is to read the following readings, and then write a brief summary highlighting the essential points for the benefit of the rest of the studio.  The intent is to be short and concise, making connections between different passages, as I have tried to exemplify above.  Can you identify with this, or does it sit uneasy with you?  How might it effect the institution of schools including their spatial arrangement?

For Wednesday, everyone to read:

Third Teacher excerpts including: Foreword by David Orr, and Interviews with Sir Ken Robinson and James Dyson.

Readings are provided as a PDF, or can be accessed on-line through links provided below.


Group 1: John Dewey, Democracy and Education,  Ch 1: Education as a Necessity of Life (SKIM) with focus on Ch 7: The Democratic Conception in Education.

Group 2: John Dewey, Democracy and Education, Ch 1: Education as a Necessity of Life (SKIM) with focus on Ch 11: Experience and Thinking.

Group 3: John Dewey, Democracy and Education, Ch 1: Education as a Necessity of Life (SKIM) with focus on Ch 12: Thinking in Education.

Group 4: Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society, Ch1 : Why we must disestablish school (SKIM) with focus on Ch 6: Learning Webs.

Your summary Post should focus on your group reading, but you are free to incorporate other references.

Collaborative Spaces

Our behavior and modes of interaction are shaped by many factors of the built-environment, across multiple scales, and multiple disciplines.  Your architectural education has likely emphasized building form with spatial development defined by walls.  However, space can be defined implicitly as well as explicitly, and it is often this implicit sense of space where fuzzy boundaries encourage collaborative interaction.  At the same time, we know there are different personalities and different activities that shape collaborative patterns, and therefore a range of collaborative spatial arrangments.  Consequently, Herman Miller, the furniture company, does not simply design a piece of furniture, but makes great effort to study behavior though ethnographic studies and makes some of this information freely available.

  1. Each group will read one of the assigned articles (see below), and develop a concise summary – a kind of design primer – to share with each other in the studio.  Continue to search other articles and links in the article to support this concise primer.

  2. Provide images and links to particular furniture products you find in these articles, including models and drawings you can use.  Please also look at additional education furniture manufactures besides Herman Miller, such as KI or HON.   Make these clear and accessible so they become a shared studio resource.

  3. Provide additional images found on Pinterest, Archdaily etc that provide graphic examples of some of the issues outlined in your summary / design primer.

What do we want to know?

Getting beyond the product, what are the kinds of collaboration, behaviors, the atmospheres these furniture arrangements provide?

In looking to examples outside of the articles below (such as on ArchDaily, pinterest etc), what are other elements in the environment that shape these collaborative spaces?  Provide examples where custom elements (floors, ceilings, casework etc) contribute to the architectural quality of the space.

In short, outside of building form and walls, what is the range of design opportunities for you to shape collaborative spaces?

As your first blog post, this first assignment is also intended to support a quick “group think” summary.   You have two hours to complete the above – so quickly read together, discuss, and break up the work effort.  Complete your post by 4pm to present back to the studio.

Group 1:  Rethinking the Classroom

Group 2: Forming Places that Form Ideas

Group 3: Library Redefined

Group 4: Enriching the Learning Experience