Saturday, 11 December 2010


Walking around other countries' markets I am always struck by how they are dull of ingredients - like these spices in Doha - bit also bits of mechanical and electronic things too. In Hong Kong they will make you a hard disc for example and of course everywhere rolls of cloths. Our markets in UK are full of finished things - meals, toys, clothes etc.

Similarly in schools our children have largely stopped programming - they consume with computers or phones but cannot create applications. They don't have ingredients either, any more.

Somewhere in all this we seem to have lost some things including the autonomy that comes from your own efforts, and it just feels wrong...


Mr Gilchrist said...


We have become a culture of consumers - consumers of food, clothes, electrical goods and now education. We serve up bite sized problems, broken down into problems that can be solved in 12 minute chunks.

As head of department we recently spent out our budget. Now we needed some particular chemical that we had no money for - after some research, the same chemical is thrown away in used "instant ice" packs. As a school we throw away literally hundreds per year. Now I have a ready supply (free) of said chemical.

My point - as teachers we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of teaching consumerism as they only way to solve problems. Just like your market pictures, we need to teach how to bi
D from raw ingredients.

Glen Gilchrist

Andy Conroy said...

Stephen's analogy of food ingredients is a good one. Some people buy pre-cooked, frozen Yorkshire puddings, mashed potato or even boiled rice because they lack time, inclination or ability to cook. I never buy such things as I love cooking from scratch and have a vast array of spices in my cupboard (I make a mean curry). But on the computer I just need to get the job done, data processed as fast as possible. Apart from compiling the odd spreadsheet I don't have time, ability or inclination to develop applications and will buy pre-made every time. My creative skills lie elsewhere - I just need results. In the kitchen my wife (ironically trained as a chef) will open a jar of curry sauce for speed and ease just to get a meal on the table. However it matters that someone somewhere retains the skills to cook otherwise we will forget how to make jars of sauce for those who can't/ won't / don't.
Like Stephen I enjoy sailing but that doesn't mean I want to build my own boat. However, if my children and grandchildren are to continue enjoying this sport somebody, somewhere needs to be training up the next generation of boat builders.
The challenge is not for everyone to learn how to to do everything but to maintain diversity in creativity so that between us we break new ground without losing the gains of the past. However the result is not autonomy but inter-dependence - we all need each other and together we achieve much more than when we all operate autonomously.

Shirley Pickford said...

I'm always a bit sad seeing octopus on sale in the UK, compared to the hilarity of a Hong Kong market where they are live and wandering.

Perhaps there aren't enough teachers who could give guidance in programming - and no incentive to teach it. The surprise is that some school age kids will develop programming skills for fun if they are interested - and do more complex stuff than I did when it was taught. Luckily, they have each other and the Internet to get the info that they need.

Fun, as defined by kids, is not seen as valuable in many schools - so the learning takes place at home.

Unknown said...

We seem to have become complacent, indeed lazy. We are inclined to let others do things for us.....make,, and then we complain about the realisations. On a positive note, there are things we can do, and we can learn from our mistakes. We have a few "artisan"s who can teach a lesson or two, but a great place to start is in reverse. In schools, look at "things". Deconstruct (something also lost to the younger generation), question, debate. How could THIS be made.
Part of the problem might be the fact that so many objects, devices, things are driven by black boxes, embedded chips and hidden "magic". So let's create new dialogue around these things. The disposable society doesn't tinker like it did. If it is broken, its only throw away ( not many options) - or someone else has to do it for us.
In the late 90s, Design Education in schools lost its way. The "lost" was a multi-faceted series of issues:

1) A lack of teacher experience.
2) A reduction in "making" facilities in schools
3) A move to a "kit" ready made experiment approach.
4) Over prescription
5) A detachment of experience of real materials for pupils (and teachers).
6) A lack of vision
7) An unwillingness to take chances.

You might have heard of some of these issues in other areas of Education also.

Bottom line:

Open, free thinking combined with hands-on-material exploration, an understanding or experience of how things go together to create systems will bring inspiration and new ideas to life in the minds of the future designers we so badly need in this country - but also provide a more informed consumer.

John Rudkin
(Design Educator at heart)

Unknown said...

I see your point, but I can't say I completely agree, personally I much prefer to build things myself, but frankly learning to build the things that interest me isn't something I would expect others to do.

For example something like the Mitel 5000, it would be unreasonable and inefficient to learn to set something like that up for your own business.