Saturday, 28 June 2008

Round the Island

Cowes this Saturday and every possible mooring-spot is filled as 1840 or so yachts - a new record entry - lined up to race round the Isle of Wight. It's like sailing in a blizzard of Kevlar and Carbon! We simply flew round until the big downwind spinnaker blew apart in a lot of wind and water going part St Catherine's lighthouse on the South side of the island. Sigh.

Mind you, we managed to keep going and (using the asymmetrical reacher instead - it was more than a bit unstable though!). But if we had trouble, so did others: there were five boats aground in big seas; there were five injuries including one person helicopted off to hospital with a bashed head; four boats were dismasted (including one dismasted by Hugo Boss with Lewis Hamilton aboard - cue headlines - poor Lewis, he was just a guest) , five were damaged badly enough to need a tow; one boat sank (and quickly); one boat capsized;and there were 11 man overboards.

Sailing really IS like standing in a cold shower tearing up all your banknotes. . .

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Blue below: into the deep

. . . and with the water this clear you just HAVE to go down into the depths tosee the coral and conch and fish - but where where it is STILL a beautiful blue.

This was a morning off after a busy week. Yesterday I visited four fascinating primary schools (with a real sense of moving learning forward) and was particularly excited to find one offering Sailing in its curriculum - in this case through the local sailing club.

The whole bottom-up teaching and learning transformation is really gathering race here and the focussed attention of a lot of policy makers worldwide is a nice if daunting result. Last night's Chamber of Commerce initiated Golden Apple awards for great teaching showed how both young and old are making a difference here. One of the youngest award winners made a quite remarkably impassioned speech,of the cuff, about why teaching matters - especially in his special school.

It's not just the water and sky that are blue here: this country really is the bluest of blueprints for 21st century learning. . .

Blue above

The water around Grand Cayman really is this blue - partly because is so deep around the island (which is allegedly wider at sea-level than it is at the base on the ocean floor!).

On the North shore it drops pretty sheer straight down 6,000 feet. Which is part of what makes it the world's best dive site. Although you probably need to get your buoyancy right before you swim over the Edge. . .

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Noise Conditioning

OK, there is a real issue with air conditioning in big learning spaces. Big spaces require a LOT of cool air to stop them being big ovens in places as warm as the Caribbean. But moving all that air down these huge pipes (see photo) requires fans that would get the building airborne if it wasn't concreted down! And the noise is prohibitive: bad for learning, bad for communicating (for assemblies a mike must be worn), bad for concentration (it IS white noise and it IS loud). The answer is perhaps to reduce scale - smaller schools need smaller halls, with smaller volumes and thus small air con plants.

It is interesting to see how often the decisions made in the past to "go large" to achieve economies of scale and to enjoy (often mythical) productivity gains somehow led us into a whole host of bad consequences: disengagement, impersonal space, dreadful acoustics, bullying and so on.

But noise this loud is a real show stopper. I was discussing with Jim Knight the UK Schools Minister how we might build a triple glazed geodetic dome around a school on the Heathrow flight path to allow the children inside to enjoy "outside-learning" without the huge interruption of a Jumbo jet passing every couple of minutes. I do hope we get to build it - but if we do the air conditioning will have to be a lot quieter than this, or there will be no gain at all...

Going up. In every sense

The footings for our new schools here on Grand Cayman are going well and you can start to see where all the small Home Bases and larger specialist areas will be, because after the devastation of Hurricane Ivan all the schools and other hurricane shelters have to be a number of feet above sea level. And with a country SO flat you can therefore see where every building will be.

The excitement is mounting here a we wait to see the first walls of these corridor-less, multifaceted, intimate, collegiate, seductive, agile new 21st century schools appearing, with the 21st century learning that they will be helping to develop too.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Turtles. . .

. . . are a key cultural symbol here in the Cayman Isles. They are even painted onto the tailfins of the national airline's planes.

Like the extraordinary and large blue iguanas they are protected, but there are plenty to be seen. If you look carefully you can see several turtles in this picture which I took on the way to breakfast.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Building Future Learning

I've been into a LOT of schools lately: new, old, refurbed. . . Some are leaping forward on a potent diet of long teaching blocks, project based work, mixed age groupings, small Home Bases for about 125 students, and an ethos of mutuality and 'us-ness' so that learning is properly escaping from its boxes.

And some of those boxes were buildings of course, so that new school designs are also embracing this new freedom with AGILE designs that have a lot less walls, almost no corridors and even, in a few brave instances, no staffrooms. Here in Folkestone Academy there is scarcely a right angled wall in site - and the resultant space, as you see here, is stunning

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Not quite blind

Sailing tonight through an absolutely Stygian darkness we are almost blind apart from the friendly little faces of all our B and G instruments. It takes a long time to be confident that you not about to hit something as we rush through the dark - you do learn to trust the numbers - but keep a look out nevertheless.

Cracker is a data-rich boat with GPS accurate to a few feet and a LOT of microprocessors - here they are calculating the difference between where we are pointing and where we are actualy going (an easy task for her). As you see there's a little bit of tide running as we pass Beachy Head.

At 3.00 a.m. it is quiet right now - no other boats to be seen apart from the usual fleets of huge and rapid ferries to avoid at Dover, Newhaven etc. At night, these glowing instrument faces are my friends...