Friday, 28 November 2008

Hurricane proof

Transforming learning, from the ground up, and doing it around model of entitlement to be your best is complex as anything, and is way more than just bricks and mortar, of course.

But standing today in the middle of a huge new school complex, with its scattering of intimate "academies" for small groups of children to call home, and its big statement shared buildings, like this one behind me, is just so exciting. Clifton Hunter School is rising up from the rocks and as you can see has a very strong, hurricane proof heart, but just seeing the excitement in the eyes of the warm hearted people here on Grand Cayman as they pass by is enough, for now.

It's been a very good day indeed.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Sailing through the curriculum

On Grand Cayman - where our new schools are coming on rapidly I was
lucky to find a moment to visit the International School at Camana
Bay. It's a new build full of lovely features like this sun screening
canopy of overlapping sailcloth.

The only problem is taking it down as the hurricanes pass by, which
they do quite often here. Mesh can work even better than sailcloth
because it allows wind, and a little diffused light, through so you
avoid that venturi effect of accelerating air underneath. This one
looks really lovely though, doesn't it?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

One size can't EVER fit all

Can it? ...and that is nowhere more obvious than in Thailand where so many ride these little Honda motor bikes but where seemingly everyone, like the taxis and tuk-tuks, are individually "interpreted". This is a custom shop and the bike in the foreground is the current epitomy of cool: colour-anodised suspension parts, trick panels (with lightweight cut-outs) and these very slim rims and "racing" tyres (think Chris Hoy more than Moto GP). Vast flocks of little motorbikes, all completely individual... wonderful to see.

How anyone could see all this and still think that a one-size-fits-all school or education system would ever engage anyone beggars belief - this is not a criticism of Thai schools, by the way, but of that whole factory model of learning that characterised education in most countries in the last century and has surely no place at all in this one.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Thailand again

Now, in keeping with this blog I could show you some rather
disappointing schools - not a patch on Bangkok's inspired TK Park..

...or I could share this wonderful scenery of old volcanic plugs and
crater lakes that you can just about wriggle into via tiny flooded
caves - it really is all as beautiful as this. Diving off the boat
with a gang of young backpackers to watch the monkeys... Mmmm!

Interesting by the way that all my childhood physical geography cut in
at first sight of this lot and I immediately became very boring about
erosion, etc

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Long Tail

Long tail boats (nothing to do with Internet trends) are all over S E Asia (I'm in Thailand - Cape Panwa) and rather ingeniously use a simple pivot / swivel to balance a full size car of truck engine against a l-o-n-g prop shaft that is quite literally just that. Plentiful water via a heat exchanger, open exhaust (so, loud then) and off you go.

The prop (on this one the whole unit is reversed so that the propellor is in the boat for "parking") operates just at surface level, but I'm not sure why this is faster than fully immersed. The result is a whopping "cockerel's tail" of water - fast showy and cheap. Oh and fun too - feels ten times the speed!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Room with a view

There shouldn't be any problem with this. But...

...these loos in the excellent Sofitel Hotel are 35 floors up (I was staying even higher on the 48th floor), so privacy is good, surely and the views out over the MCG in Melbourne are spectacular... but it is faintly un-nerving to, ahem, use them with this big open window alongside....

...not sure why.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Cook's delight 2

The sphere (below) familiarised Captain Cook with the constellations - and is well worn from years of his use - but it was also accompanied by this detailed star atlas with inclinations and considerable precision - all overlaided by imaginative artists representations of the constellations.

Sending this from my iPhone, as its precise GPS location guides me back to the hotel from the library, with Google Earth with its detailed star charts, accompanying Google maps, it is humbling to remember just how little information these intrepid early navigators had. Brave...

Cook's Delight

while in Melbourne for the Curriculum Conference keynote I gave a public lecture in the State Library of Victoria on Swanston Street - an astonishing and well preserved building from the 1800s. The library was just preparing a touring exhibition of Captain Cook's personal artefacts. And I had a chance for a close look which was a real honour.

This was his star-sphere - it has constellations and stars carefully mapped onto its surface. Hard to imaging him sitting with this bauble in his hand looking up at the sky to recognise familiar Northern hemisphere constellations (like Orion's Belt) that he could still see as he sailed South.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Learning about learning

I was visiting Teddington School (see also below) in the company of a film crew and Peter Cowley who for a good time was based in the pioneering Ingenium at Greycourt School (see also two girls talking about learning in that futuristic space from our annual Be Very Afraid event at BAFTA). Teddington had created this excellent Technology Pilot space - their own test Classroom of Tomorrow in advance of their planned exciting new school buildings. This really does work in many schools - a place to try teaching in a robustly 21st century way.

Teddington's space in particular has interesting furniture - with stand-and-type height surfaces which the children like a lot (as in many workplaces too these days). My only small suggestion to them was to mirror the wall so that the faces of children sitting towards it can be seen, along with their various screens. Cheap mirrors transform pedagogy in tech rich environments. Peter was on very good form, as was assistant head teacher Kevin Watling (pictured). I await the film with interest!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Book ends

Visiting the excellent Teddington School with a TV crew to film their "classroom of tomorrow" which was in turn inspired by our excellent Ingenium classrooms at Meadlands and Greycourt s chools in nearby Richmond...

...amongst a host of interesting explorations of furniture were these wonderful fibreglass stools looking like giant stacks of books. Fun, playfully Harry Potteresque, very light and affordable. I just had to order some right away - for a school in West London where I have an interest - and for home!!