Thursday, March 25, 2004

Another day, another seminar...this one was a killer.
Today it was Professor Doug Marschalek from the University of Wisconsin (Madison) Art Department on Designing Environments for Learning, and it really struck a chord with me. For about a year now I’ve been wondering what the hell is so damn effective about lining up some desks in an otherwise empty room and then having some authority figure cast knowledge out to these isolated individuals; but that is what the spatial arrangements of the traditional classroom result in.....why?
I was blown further away by the opening statistic from Prof. Marschalek: on average in the USA today $20 000 is spent on each member of the prison population (roughly around 2.2 million people) and this compares (you may want to sit down for this) $4000 (that’s four thousand) for each child in education!!!! clearly there is something wrong here.
So it comes back to ingenuity and imagination: learning objects, integrated environments, "surfaces that invite learning" such as narrative murals, historical textures, variation in materials that are iconic in signification (i.e. have some story behind them), interactive signage, cutaways in structure and tools, 3D installations, utilizing all levels of space (including the ceiling), evolving projects and presentations, bricolage in room design, and the list goes on (I have a lot more info if anyone wants more: mail me).
The idea of abandonment of linear display in education and heavy reliance on constructivist principles ran throughout Prof. Marschalek's presentation and in his words "the students see the environment changing and they are in control". This sense of control results in participation and effort on the part of the students.
One final quote that struck me concerned the debate about tested learning. How effective it actually is could be a lengthy blog entry in itself but then again "We don't test art." sums it up.....intuitive knowledge is long term knowledge and in the world today education is not just about knowing...its about surviving.

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