Dick Powell (Seymour Powell) Quote

One of the great skills of a designer is being able to articulate the reasons why this or that needs to be done, understanding the business strategy and being potent and powerful in presenting a strong business case that what you’re doing is the right thing for that business.”

Dick Powell

Printing, Telephone, Email, Social Media…what’s next?

Printing, Telephone, Email, Social Media…what’s next?

Following on from the article linked to above I offer the following reply. Social Media is indeed the next ‘ICT’ phenomenon that businesses and schools need to embrace going forward in a rapidly developing (technology-wise) world. 

The use of social media should be as an inclusive tool – part of your working ‘tool kit’. It’s a bit like ICT. Colleagues in all business have the need to use the technology in the same way they use a pen or their cell phone. The problem now is that rather than training employees to use specific aspects of social media correctly and appropriately ‘hubs’ are set up that accelerate the interested/elite whilst the rest stumble in the background.

As an analogy from a schools perspective, 15 years ago many schools (and even some now…) set aside separate rooms for ‘IT suites’ which rapidly became fallow and a wasted space. Massive and costly real estate fail. Why? Wireless, tablet and mobile technology….meant people had their ICT capability on the go. Yes, specific areas for CAD and media work were needed but on the whole everyone went ‘mobile’.  I see the same happening with social media; acres of space and large HR teams tied to it when in reality professional development should be seen as an all inclusive culture so that all employees are part of it.

Yes, you need someone to champion it but thereafter share the skills with everyone and train them up. A skilled workforce = better performance (especially with the onslaught of social media).

I wonder what the 5th Age will be? I bet it will be with us quicker than the 4th was…..

The end of creativity in schools?

Design and Manufacture on the decline?

An excellent article  written by Rachael Williams of the Guardian on Tuesday 11th February 2014 shared here in it’s entirety highlighting the plight of design and craft education in schools

Many pupils are losing the benefits that come from studying craft and design, and Britain’s strength in the creative industries may be under threat.

Oskar Paulinski is talking Education Guardian through his design for a birdhouse, conceived in the style of a chocolate box-perfect country cottage. Holes in the roof, fashioned to look like skylights, will allow the birds to fly in and out, and doors at ground level allow access to the box’s owner. The pencilled plan shows pretty paned windows. “I’m still figuring out whether to paint them on or leave it as glass,” says the 16-year-old. We discuss whether nesting birds might prefer the darker interiors afforded by the painted option.

“I like practical stuff and designing stuff,” says Oskar, who is studying for a GCSE in resistant materials at Strood academy, in Medway. Does he know what he’d like to do for a job when he’s older? “I haven’t decided yet, but it has to be something practical.”

Simon Ofield-Kerr, vice-chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts (UCA), might view Oskar’s window question as a perfect example of the importance of realising designs in real materials, for real use. Creations that exist solely on paper won’t teach their designers how to take account of the way wood, metal or textiles actually work, or push them to think about the needs of consumers – be they human or avian.

Yet schoolchildren of all ages are increasingly missing out on the opportunity to enjoy and learn from “making things”, Ofield-Kerr says. Sewing, ceramics, metalwork, woodwork and crafts are all on the wane as digital disciplines take hold and resources become scarcer. Not that there’s anything wrong with digital, he stresses, but translating it to the real world is essential.

“My sense, when I go into schools, is that it’s all become very flat,” he says. “It’s become a 2D world. Young people are becoming incredibly confident in their use of digital, and that’s wonderful. But they’re not getting the experience of how the material world around them is fabricated and developed.”

“And as policymakers focus on Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering, maths), he says, “kids are just not getting the same experience of playing with clay, with materials, of doing embroidery, of getting their hands dirty”. He believes craft education is being better sustained in the private sector.

UCA is the sponsor of the four-year-old Strood academy – a non-grammar school in an area with selective education – and is working to ensure that making things is a key part of its offering. There are traditional workshops for wood, metal, plastics, clay and textiles, GCSEs in textiles and resistant materials, and an A-level in product design. Pupils spend time in the art and craft workshops at UCA’s nearby Rochester campus, and UCA students come into the school as mentors for days of project-based learning.

Strood’s principal, Kim Gunn, believes the sense of achievement her students get from seeing their finished work is second to none. “They experience success in areas where maybe they wouldn’t otherwise, and it provides them with an opportunity to move on to something they can succeed in post-17,” she says.

But the Crafts Council has observed a decline in craft education over the last four to five years, says its research and policy manager, Julia Bennett, especially in disciplines that require space, teaching expertise and pricey equipment or materials. This month will see publication of a Crafts Council study of achievement and participation in crafts over five years, from key stage 4 right up to postgraduate level. Bennett expects it to find more evidence of declining takeup.

Last year, leading figures within the arts world lined up to express dismay at the absence of arts subjects in the EBacc, and research suggested the effects had been swift. An Ipsos Mori study commissioned by the education department (DfE) found that a quarter of schools had withdrawn arts courses for the 2012-13 academic year because of the EBacc. Among those, design or design technology had been withdrawn at 14% of schools, and textiles at 11%. A study by the Cultural Learning Alliance released in September found that since the EBacc was introduced in 2010, the number of arts GCSEs studied by children had fallen by 14%, and suggested the narrowing of options away from the arts affected disadvantaged children more.

Lesley Butterworth, general secretary of the National Society for Education in Art and Design, says there is also a serious lack of funding for teacher development in craft education. Some 60% of those coming on her organisation’s courses pay for themselves, she says. The effect is that teachers can’t keep abreast of fast-developing contemporary practice, including the use of digital within craft – as exemplified by self-described “iPotter” Michael Eden, who uses techniques such as 3D printing in his acclaimed pieces.

“There’s a lot of really exciting work going on the moment,” Butterworth says. But she warns that if teachers aren’t able to make pupils aware of it, the field may seem less arresting than others. “If fine-art practices are seen as having digital context and craft doesn’t, then craft may quickly appear a bit fuddy-duddy.

“The replacement of the EBacc with a new performance framework that takes in pupils’ “best eight” subjects will not end the pressure on crafts, she says, given that the eight must include English, maths and three further Ebacc subjects. It’s not just the British craft industry that loses out, but young people themselves, she says: “There’s evidence that haptic skills help young people with other aspects of learning, with wider cognitive development and behavioural issues. It can help them find something they can focus on and be proud of”.

“Bennett has little truck with the idea that crafts are something children can learn just as well outside the school week. “The government may say that these skills are the kind of things you can develop in Saturday schools and things like that,” Bennett says, “but if you make ‘making’ skills an add-on, then it requires people to have the resources, the time and support to be able to do that. Then it becomes rooted in inequality”.

“The decline sits strangely with the growing popularity of crafts, both in the luxury goods market and at grassroots level, Bennett points out. “It’s a sector that makes a contribution to the economy and has the potential to be a much greater export business as well. There’s a dissonance between the way craft is perceived by the public and amongst adults, and the way we’re investing in supporting schools to keep that happening”.

“At Strood, Gunn echoes Bennett’s concerns about GCSE choices and equality of opportunity, especially given the price tag on materials. With so many courses competing for the three slots available within the “best eight” framework outside the compulsory subjects, numbers opting for each may be small. “Schools can’t run expensive courses with only six people on them,” Gunn says. “[Education secretary Michael] Gove’s new agenda will restrict choice … To push parents to pay for those sorts of things means our children from more deprived backgrounds won’t make as much progress as others, because they won’t be able to afford it. It’s about equality”.

“You could have some middle class parents who’ll say ‘yes, here’s £50’ and you’ll have parents who will say ‘I’m really sorry, I’ve got to pay this electricity bill this month’.”

But the answer isn’t as simple as just dropping the Ebacc or including design in it, or even more university sponsorship of academies, Ofield-Kerr says. “Rather … we need much greater recognition by government, and indeed all levels of education, of the importance of material research and making, both in terms of personal development and the maintenance of our longstanding national strength in areas of cultural production.”

Britain’s great strength in the creative industries is no accident, Ofield-Kerr adds: “It’s the product of a very strong history of British design and craft education. You lose that at your peril.

“Without it, there are countries that have absolutely recognised why the UK is so good at creative arts and they’re looking to replicate it themselves. The number of art and design colleges China has opened over the last 10 years has been phenomenal. When production has been so decimated in this country, to put design at risk is just fatal.”

Fancy a trip to the shops?

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What more can you have? Iconic Design (Isetta bubble car), classic engineering and technology (look at that engine, aerofoil….) and what a glorious mix of aesthetics (from the vibrancy of the orange colour through to the mix of exposed components at the rear).

I love this. Wouldn’t be too good for the supermarket run though…..or would it?

The 25 Best Inventions of 2013

The 25 Best Inventions of 2013

What makes an invention great?

Sometimes it solves a problem you didn’t think could be solved.

Sometimes an invention solves a problem you didn’t know you had.

Want a list of the best things that were invented in 2013? Now you have one. Just click on the link above and keep reading!

What Are The Skills Required For A Teacher Of Product Design?

Product DesignI have just answered a question on a forum I use whereby a colleague has asked what, exactly, are the skills required for a teacher of Product Design?  As someone who has taught and worked with Schools & a few Universities over 27 years delivering Product Design (and has now moved on into a consultancy capacity) I felt I could offer some thoughts based on reasonable experience.

For me, the key skills (in no particular order) are:

  • The ability to sketch with a pencil/biro on paper for me is the most important. You don’t have to be a ‘brilliant sketcher (some are, some aren’t…) but a picture really does paint a thousand words. Convey your ideas freely and spontaneously in the first instance. You can then sieve through all the ‘reality’ checks regarding manufacture, costs, health and safety etc. as you develop your concepts and ideas.
  • Modelling/prototyping and manufacture is vital.  Forget any CAM at this stage but having basic key making skills across a range of resistant (woods, metals, plastics) and compliant (paper, card, clay) materials is a requirement of the job, not incidental.
  • Don’t have a fear about the latest CAD/CAM software or latest technology. Be aware of it, have a grasp of what it can do for you then look to use part of your team to apply the bits you need. Don’t expect to be a knowledgeable user on everything.  Know what you want and drag the resources (human and other…) towards your goal. You will have skills in one or two areas but invariably as a product designer you will be, re-wording a well-known phrase slightly, ‘Jack of all trades, master of one or two possibly…
  • Take risks. Challenge the status Quo BUT be prepared to support and justify your decisions – back them up with substance.  Always ask ‘Why not?’ rather than simply ‘Why?’
  • Stay on top of communication throughout a project be it Twitter, email or phone calls. Above all else, don’t forget that ‘facemail’ i.e. talking to someone over a beer, coffee etc. is the most important part of a project and establishing a rapport with your pupils/students/clients/customers/colleagues is vital. In today’s society it is being rapidly forgotten but people skills are crucial to success.  Don’t lose them.
  • Don’t be afraid to say to a student/colleague/client simply ‘I don’t know’. On teacher training I have seen so many good practitioners trip and stumble by trying to pretend that they know an answer because they feel that they will lose face. Don’t. Be honest. You will get more respect that way. Admit you are unsure and then say ‘…however, let’s go and see what we can find out about this to try and get an accurate answer…’ Everyone learns then.
  • When using the World Wide Web to research things don’t just search in your own language. Use words from other cultures. I am still amazed when I see youngsters (and adults) gathering research by, for example, just typing in English words. Use French, Spanish (Mandarin or Japanese if you want to show off…). Chair/Chaise/silla, car/voiture/coche and so on. Not everyone writes their websites in English (or French or Spanish…). You open up a whole extra slice of the internet regarding idea generation by doing this.
  • Listen to your students/clients. Show an appreciation for what they are saying to you. Tease out the important bits of information. Never wade in directly and say to someone (especially a youngster) that their idea is stupid, silly or fantasy. You don’t have that right. Guide them, educate them, inspire them but never stamp on their ideas.
  • Above all else, enjoy what you do. As a teacher of design, irrespective of discipline, every day brings a new challenge and that is a wonderful way to work.

New Website for V2Education (Vee2.com) is Live

V2Education Consultancy

At long last my new website is up and running.

Designed by an ex student of mine from some ten years ago (check out his excellent work at http://www.willpaige.co.uk) I am really pleased with the design and simple yet sophisticated interface of the site. A classic case of ‘Less is More’.

Great Job Will…Great Job…[Thumbs Up Icon]

Education and Creativity – Who needs it?

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The simple answer is that we all do.

But I am not talking about an ability to reel off all fifty (or sixty seven depending on what you read) European Capitals or spell the word ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ in 10 seconds or less.

I am simply talking about the ability to apply knowledge effectively to solve problems creatively and innovate. Oh, and work with your hands – be practical. That’s important too.

ImageFor me a little knowledge applied well is of far greater use than a mountain of knowledge that resides in someone’s cranium never to see the light of day.  Many schools simply work on the ideal that ‘cramming’ is the way forward; Learning the ‘way of the exam board’ by constantly doing past papers so that technique is assumed. The aim being to avoid ‘red ink’ on your papers so you know that you have been coached through the process with apparent effectiveness? What happens if that exam paper changes the format of its questions and no one knew? A ‘two point’ marker was now obsolete and all the questions were ‘four point’ markers? Oh the shock horror of it all. It happens. The secret though is how you respond to the change – think on your feet and apply the knowledge you have gathered irrespective of how the question is phrased/set. Sadly many are unable to do that.

I often think that it would be great for everyone studying GCSE’s (a UK qualification for 15/16 year olds) to sit one exam paper in a subject. Let’s take Mathematics for example. The syllabus is set by a central agency (government possibly – like in France) and the teachers deliver that body of content as they see fit, in their own way. All the students in the country then sit the same paper at the end of two years study – a level playing field for everyone.

ImageI realise that there are countless issues with the idea (not least the financial ones relating to the various syllabus providers that make their money from ‘bums on seats’ as teachers and schools choose a syllabus for a myriad of different reasons…) but wouldn’t it sort out the wheat from the chaff regarding ability? Everyone had to answer the same maths questions – no coaching of exam paper techniques, just applying the ‘language’ of maths that they had accumulated over two years of study.

In my subject, Design (and Technology), you can’t really ‘train’ students to answer questions because invariably the outcomes are often different; unique. None are really wrong, or right – they just need justification as to why you have chosen your final idea over another; A bit like Art in many ways.

Of course there are areas of material science and engineering skills that have to be applied and learnt for the theoretical and practical parts of the course (written exam and coursework components). Not only do we have to apply that knowledge but we need to learn how to grow that talent – that is  the key to an innovative and creative outcome.

ImageThe fact that for so many the process of idea evolution as a consequence of sketching, modelling, making mistakes, communicating, evaluating and modifying to improve your idea… is alien to many… to me is very sad.

This is especially so as it is these core skills that so many youngsters are lacking; and it is these core skills that are required in the real world of work irrespective of academic (or other) discipline. 

Radical? Design Thinking? Not really; Just education.

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Design Education Resources

Design Education Resources

Social media communication conceptLooking for some creative inspiration with your teaching? Maybe my Pinterest Board can help you out.  Click on the link above…

The Layout and Design of a Modern Classroom

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I have been intrigued by some of the articles that have circulated recently about the ‘design’ of the ‘modern classroom’ as a consequence of ‘on-line’ learning. Well, I hate to shatter anyone’s illusions but the so called ‘on-line learning’ layout of a modern classroom goes back over twenty years to when the first lap-top equipped environments came to the fore in schools (in Australia I believe).

I was lucky enough to be involved in the design and build of a school back in 1998 which at the time was the first fully lap-topped school in the Northern Hemisphere with every child from age 4 to 18 had a lap top.  How we designed and laid out the classrooms was not simply ‘technology dependent’, but looked carefully at how a teacher and pupil actually interface – work with each other. It also looked carefully at the ergonomics of the desks, chairs and tables in relation to keyboard and screen use.

The first thing you notice with many teachers and their classrooms is that there is still exists the perceived need to have the teacher’s desk at the front with waves of pupil desks facing forwards. Then, you notice that many teachers plaster the walls at the back of the classroom with all sorts of vibrant and informative subject related material – wonderful. Except that none of the pupils can see these fantastic resources because it is behind them (and if they turn around to look they will invariably be in trouble with teacher).

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During my teacher training and subsequently over the past 25 years of teaching, I have seldom simply stood at the front of a class and ‘Chalked and talked’. I like to move around and to be honest the place I liked to be was at the back of the classroom. Why? Pupils behave more (they don’t know where you are but can still hear you) and when you do need to emphasize something or write on the board you move to the front and address the class ‘old school’ style.

Move forward to 1998 and with a laptop equipped classroom the layout was even more appropriate. The only addition to this was that my desk was now at the back or side of the classroom because the technology meant that my notes/presentations are projected onto a screen at the front (wherever that may be). I have control of my presentations via a small handheld presentation remote (with laser point to pick out key points as needed) and all the pupils desks face forward or inward depending on the situation BUT they have adjustable swivel chairs that allow them to adjust to the correct height for them and also move to face different areas of the classroom or indeed me. I can see all their laptop screens so it is easy to see if anyone is ‘surfing’ or somewhere that they shouldn’t be (although I also had software that allowed me to see all their screen images on my own master screen if I needed to) and the pupils are on task simply because they don’t know exactly where you are so can’t take the risk of misbehaving.

Fifteen years on my classroom is still very similar except that in addition to my electronic white board/screen I have a flip chart and a wipe clean white board to doodle on.  Also, laptops are ‘old hat’ being replaced with tablets and other devices. But I adapt accordingly. I don’t tell a pupil off for using their mobile/cell phone in my lesson if it is being used to support what I am doing with them – be that taking a photo of a design or prototype, surfing for information or talking to an industrial contact in another country.  But I am rapidly discovering that I am the exception rather than the norm.

It’s quite scary – normal learning spaces have remained the same for centuries: a rectangular box filled with rows of desks facing the teacher and writing board. As a result, today’s students and teachers suffer because these outmoded spaces inadequately support the integration of the three key elements of a successful learning environment: pedagogy, technology and space.

Change begins with pedagogy. Teachers and teaching methods are diverse and evolving.  From one class to the next, sometimes during the same class period, classrooms need change. Thus, they should fluidly adapt to different teaching and learning preferences.

Technology needs careful integration. Students today are digital natives, comfortable using technology to display, share and present information.

Space impacts on learning. According to Tony Bates of Online and Distance learning Resources:

more than three-quarters of classes include class discussions and nearly 60 percent of all classes include small group learning, and those percentages are continuing to grow”.

So where are we heading in 2013? What is the ideal classroom layout for a school? Flexibility is key.

I strongly believe in the statement that ‘we shape our environments, and our environments shape us’. Providing teachers with a flexible, well-designed learning environment is likely to encourage major changes in their delivery and method; stuffing them into rectangular boxes with rows of desks will do the opposite.

What is clear is that schools and teachers need to do some hard thinking about online learning, its likely impact on classroom teaching, and above all what kind of school experience we want pupils to have when they can do much of their studying online.

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