Monday, 27 April 2009

Trim Tram

I love the whole complexity of the public transport system in Hong Kong, the little red and green mini-buses, the Toyota red n white taxis, the upstairs (and cheaper downstairs) on the Star Ferries, the regular buses and the VERY cheap trams.

Best thing about the trams is simply how skinny they are as you can see here. They get through the tiniest of gaps and their narrow railtracks look almost like a model train line.

There is no one size fits all and the diversity of provision really works. On their underground network, at one point if you get out and walk around a very busy junction / station, you can swipe your fare card as you walk and it credits you (!) to say thanks for reducing the pressure at a busy time...

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Light and scents

Visiting the Canadian School of Hong Kong to find a real emphasis on natural light. And look no blinds. Actually the best bit was coming in to the building early (for breakfast) and opening the door to this space to find it filled with the scent of all this structural maple (Canadian, remember).

Wonderful impact olfactory, which raises some interesting thoughts about what smells are good for learning (I mean, if pumping fresh bread and coffee smells around supermarkets is effective, what works for learning?...)

Monday, 20 April 2009

No place like Dome

Sailing down the Thames this weekend - a gentle start in the sun to a horrific gale tossed battle across the North Sea up to Shotley marina by Harwich - we inevitably passed by the Millemmium Dome, or the O2 as it now is. And that reminded me, once again, of the excitement and the battles, of being part of the Dome's birth.

Looking back it seems curious that so much of the Dome focussed - rather as the Festival of Britain had apparently done years before in 1951 with its Skylon - on what had gone before, when in fact we were about to begin a decade of unprecedented change and surprise.

In fact, I liked the Dome so much I tried to buy it - we made the last 5 (in fact the last 3 I think), but our bid wasn't finally chosen. With hindsight, perhaps it was probably as well!

Friday, 17 April 2009


Working on the boat with some very smart and thoughtful students from King Edward VI College in Nuneaton who are busy researching learning experiences (lessons, lectures etc) to see how they might be made more effective (more compelling, etc) ... before taking their research back to universities to suggest how their teaching might be improved too.

I really like the idea of presenting universities with research about learning - and exploring their responses - don't you?

Anyway, since we were meeting on the boat when we broke for lunch we headed for the Pizza Dock (2nd floor on the Dickens Inn at the St Katherine Docks) where as you can see in this picture the researchers were really quite hungry! All the pizza went...

Friday, 3 April 2009


I have a simple little ap on my iPhone which turns it into a decibel meter (it's called Decibel, unsurprisingly...).

I like to use it to explore the ambient sound in various new classrooms - they vary amazingly. Since decibels double every ten (ie 60 is twice as loud as 50) it is perhaps a surprise that a well designed room with sound baffling and a design that reflects multiple learning styles, even when it is a "home base" type space with 100 or so students in it and three teachers, can be comfortably in the mid 60s, while a similar sized space, with some of the pedagogy less well thought through (so that for example the teachers need to use microphones and their undirectional voices make it very hard to students to pause, focus and reflect), can be in the 80s, a huge difference.

These big, agile, multifaceted spaces can be very tranquil and calm places to learn. But only through good design and thoughtful attention to detail. I was in a school just recently where a huge screen; opposite a large window, offered a way for sound to bounce and reflect in a way that made it really quite unpleasant, while nearby another big three-classrooms-into-one new learning space development was tranquil and a joy to teach in.

As schools try out 21st century spaces, often in preparation for their new builds, this kind of evidence based action research really matters.