It’s always been our intention to use the Stuff we like… pages to share things we’ve been reading, watching and listening to. So this is the first in what I hope will become a rather more frequent series of ‘catch up’ posts – bringing the site up to date with some of the things I’ve been reading over the past few months. These are listed in about the order I read them – but I’ve also linked them (‘Filed under’) to the sections of the website where the permanent references are.
The Second Machine Age – Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew Mcafee, published in 2015 by Norton. This provides a really good overview of the range of (largely digital) technologies that are starting to impact all areas of life. The authors discuss both the opportunities that these technological revolutions offer and also the risks to people from the scale of the changes they predict. They also provide recommendations for individuals and policy that they think will help ensure the smoothest possible transition to the technological age they predict. Interestingly they put quite a high priority on the importance of education to prepare both individuals and society for the second machine age and note the need to reform education for such a purpose. Although their brief overview of the (US) educational landscape does no more than skim the surface, I do think they are right that education needs to change in the face of the immense social challenges that digital technologies are bringing. This book won’t tell you much about how education should change – but it lays a foundation for understanding what such changes need to achieve. Filed under …about Technology
Learning Reimagined by Graham Brown-Martin, published in 2014 by Bloomsbury is a beautifully produced book – full of gorgeous photos – through which the author explores radical approaches to education from around the world that have been facilitated by digital technologies. Organised by country, the book contains interviews with leading thinkers along with case studies of schools and learning communities. These are interspersed with ‘Thought Pieces’ from the author in which he reflects on some of the wider and overarching educational issues that his visits and conversations prompt. True to its focus on new technologies the book makes good use of augmented reality, in particular linking from the written interviews to videos of those being interviewed. If The Second Machine Age outlines why education needs to change, the wealth of examples in this book will inspire thinking about how it might change. Filed under …about Education
I Think You’ll Find It’s a Bit More Complicated Than That by Ben Goldacre, published in 2014 by Fourth Estate. This is a collection of articles by Goldacre previously published elsewhere – many of them in The Guardian’s bad science column and on the Bad Science website. The merit of the collection is that the articles are grouped into themes and thus allow a line of thought to develop. Goldacre has a laser-like focus on identifying the bad use of science and, in particular, on how data is used and misused. He’s an entertaining writer and this is an accessible and well-grounded introduction to a lot of ideas in statistics and data handling. The book includes a section on education; Goldacre has made something of a name for himself in advocating for education the use of these kinds of large scale randomised control trials that have transformed medicine. Not all education researchers are convinced that these ideas will transfer to education as well as Goldacre claims, but this book is a good place to read Goldacre’s argument. Filed under Big Data
Hot to Cold: An Odyssey of Architectural Adaptation by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) published by Taschen in 2015. I’m a huge fan of Bjarke Ingels’ architecture – the fact that he’s Danish is, of course, immaterial…. This book (produced for an exhibition of the same name at the National Building Museum in Washington DC earlier this year) provides an overview of around 60 of BIG’s projects, some built, others in progress and some speculative, ordered by the temperature of the climate where the work is set. What I like about this is that it provides really clear descriptions of the design thinking that led the group to some really very radical building designs. I think these could be used as design case studies with pupils as a well as the book being a great D&T design reference. For those who prefer their information in comic book forms, an earlier work by BIG, Yes is More: An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution, covers some of the same territory. Filed under …about Design
The Language of Things by Deyan Sudjic published in 2009 by Penguin. SuDjic is the Director of the design Museum in London, and in this book provides a great popular introduction to a number of ideas in design, looking not only at the language of design (as indicated by the title) but also design archetypes and the relationship of design with luxury, fashion and art. He’s a clear and often witty writer and I think this is nice overview of some interesting idea in design that D&T teachers would find valuable. Filed under …about Design
Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller, published 2008 by Lars Muller. This book was originally published in 1968; one the one hand this shows very clearly in the style of writing – which was probably very relaxed for its time but can come across as a bit stilted in places by today’s standards. On the other hand, many of the ideas it in seem almost prophetic when read with hindsight. Buckminster Fuller is probably best known for the design of geodesic domes, but this book clearly shows him as a polymath with very wide interests and a knack for binging together seemingly unrelated ideas. His writing is motivated by a strong belief that social inequity is unacceptable and that design and technology should be a tool for equalisation, he is concerned about the consequences of rapid population growth, about the implications of automation and about our unsustainable use of ‘Spaceship Earth’s’ resources. All of which continue to be live issues. However he is an optimist; he believes that humans can work together to produce a fair and sustainable world. He argues that humanity needs to bring range of tools to bear on the planet’s problems, including systems thinking and synergistic thinking, and that by doing so we have the capacity to ensure a good future for all of Spaceship Earth’s passengers. Filed under …about Technology
Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross published in 2009 by Orbit. Stross is among my favourite SF authors and this book has his trademark dark humour. Set in a future where humans have engineered advanced robots to look after them – and then become so lazy that they slip into extinction, the story follows the adventures of one of these robots. This is a great exploration of what happens when ‘our’ machines try to sustain a human society that is bereft of humans. Filed under …about Science Fiction
The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice by John Maeda, Rosanne Somerson and Mara Hermano, published in 2013 by John Wiley. This collection of essays by and interviews with members of the staff teaching at the highly regarded Rhode Island School of Design (RSID) ranges widely across material contexts and approaches to teaching design and making. But running through the book is the idea that making should be a critical activity and that design education should encourage deep thoughtfulness and a questioning attitude to such things as the materials being used, the purposes of this use, the needs of people impacted by the designing and making and social and environmental impacts. It shouldn’t be a surprise that these are seen as important in design education, but the value of this book lies in the descriptions of the learning experiences enjoyed by students at RSID, many of which, it seems to me could be applied to school-level education as well. Also of interest is the broad emphasis on the importance of the embodied learning that arise from physical interaction with materials; computers certainly don’t seem to be banned at RSID, but neither is their use privileged.Filed under …about Design
The Scientist As Rebel by Freeman Dyson published in 2008 by New York Review Books. Dyson is one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists but applies his considerable intellect well beyond the confines of physics. This collection of essays is arranged in four groups; Contemporary Issues in Science, War and Peace, History of Science and Scientists and Personal and Philosophical Essays. It is compassionate, human and very readable. The first section contains the material most directly relevant to D&T education and includes an exploration of the implications of the mass adoption of novel technologies such as neurotechnology and synthetic biology, speculating, for example, that:
Instead of CAD-CAM we may have CAS-CAR, computer-aided selection and computer-aided reproduction.
But the essays are of interest beyond this; he provides unfashionable views on climate science, thoughtful observations of the relationship between religion and science, and insights into a range of contemporary issues such as environmental protection and genetic engineering. Filed under …about Technology
Teaching: Notes from the Front Line by Dr Debra Kidd, published in 2014 by Independent Thinking Press. A thoughtful and bang-up-to-the-minute exploration of the some of the significant contemporary issues facing teaching and teachers. Kidd writes as both a teacher and a senior leader in schools, she is passionate about high quality education and, equally, clear that much of the political and administrative activity around schools undermines quality education. This will not be a surprise to most working in schools. What marks this book out as more than just another teacher’s whine about how hard teaching is, is that this a handbook of ‘pedagogical activism’. The cover of the book claims that “We are … in need of a revolution in education” and most chapters end with a series of bulleted action points of things ‘you can do now’. Kidd does not think there is time to wait around and hope things improve, she want teachers to “take control of the direction of education and policy”. You may not agree with all her views or prescriptions, but I think most teachers will find inspiration in her proactive attitude. Filed under …about Education
Design as Art by Bruno Munari, this edition published 2008 by Penguin (original published in 1966). Munari was an influential Italian designer of the 20th century and in this series of short pieces he explores not only the relationship of Design to Art but also the place of design in society under the broad areas of Stylists, Visual Design, Graphic Design, Industrial Design and Research Design. He is a thoughtful and humourous writer and a number of his chapters (along with the copious drawings that accompany them) could form the basis for activities that will get pupils in D&T thinking more deeply about design. Filed under …about Design