On conventional Education

Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Sat, 9 Mar 1996 08:11:30 -0500 (EST)

Subject: Random Thought: The Classroom Is Not A Factory

Excuse me? What do too many of us think our job is? Maybe, part of the issue is that too many of us think of the classroom or allow others–“The System” or “The Institution”–to forces us, like submissive hirelings, to treat the classroom as that not-so-serious-I’ve-got-to-put-food-on-the-table job. If not, if we feel truly have our finger on the pulse of students’ need and are in command of our own destiny, why, then, are we surprised when we hear students say, as I recently have heard students, who have contacted me on the interent, say: “survival is to play the damn game”; “must tailor ourselves to the distant professors”; “need to give their egos a wide berth”; “groveling to them–when I see them”; “‘yes, maam’ing’ and ‘yes, sir’ing’ has become almost second nature”; “to complete my schooling has to come before my education”; and “few care and back it up.” Maybe our surprise that so many students don’t believe so many of us teachers care about them supports their indictment. But, what do students know.

Excuse me? Students are a source of “distraction” and “inefficiency?” Well, let me tell you, as I told him, about a “distraction” and “inefficiency” who I think explains that our MISSION as educators is not to move students along an assembly line in a factory-school setting; that our interest in the students should be beyond both the confines of the subject and the classroom; that teaching is not just something to be conveyed, but some emerging one to behold; and that our interest in being in the classroom should be to be with the students.

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Personal Transformation (C)

Here is a way to start:
1. On Leadership and thinking like leaders:
a. Find a way to mentor some one.
b. Make your mission ‘making a difference’.
c. Do a SWOT of yourself.
d. Bracket the confronting – and be there before the others.
e. Organize events, make a community, give to the community
f. Become unselfish, become selfish
g. Do not be judgemental, do not evaluate, do not prescribe
h. Nurture others
2. On your portfolio:
a. Make things. Sell them and think of ways to covert your skills into money.
b. Start a business: ‘lets get together and start a co’. Start a studio in Toads Hall. Make all your student projects ‘live’ and commercial.
3. Read a lot:
a. Read both sides of the coin. Find out things- find out what the buzz is.
b. Go into ‘the other’.
c. Start collecting books.
d. Start collecting articles: I can give you access to my collection. Academics collect ‘works’.
e. Start an endnote archive.
f. Read ‘stories’, collect stories
4. Write a lot:
a. Start a journal
b. Start a blog
c. Start a web site
5. Give:
a. Give your time
b. Give space in your head for others
c. Help others do things, ‘flavella’
d. Give yourself strange experiences
e. Make some one smile
6. Become a learner, become a creative person
a. Look for unconventional learning events
b. Open yourself to ‘the other’
c. Bracket out ‘your way’: step outside your comfort zone, throw away your ways, become some one else, experiment with yourself
d. Watch ‘cinema’
e. Go to lectures
f. Meet interesting people, give yourself to them
g. Privilege lateral thinking
h. Make the familiar unfamiliar, or make the unfamiliar familiar.
i. Make a portfolio of your learnings
7. Rethink uni life
a. Help others: ‘can you tell me about your project?’
b. Make collectives for working on submissions, the ‘flavella’ culture
c. Pull up those falling behind
d. Do not ostracize the low achievers
e. Hang around, be with others, make space for conversations/ Set up conversations
f. Use uni to become extreme; extremely idealistic and naïve
g. Fight against the cynical
h. (privilege studies)

Creativity: On Transformative experiences (A)

You may have seen learning as a mental activity. “I will learn these things and I will become a designer – I will be able to work in design situations”. But suppose that is not enough – suppose you want more and in fact you want to become a creative person and:
• You want to inhabit another space – a place where you are permanently lateral.
• You want to be able to see through it all. You want to be the crap detector.
• You want to be incisive.
• You want to be both short term and long term orientated.
• You want to be both crass and commercial (short term) and woolly and dreamy (long term).
• You want to be – sometimes satisfied with little money and sometimes yearn for that big pot of gold.
• You want to do something for some one.
Resources
• The Simplicity Resources Guide: http://www.gallagherpress.com/pierce/reading.htm
• Communities of Practice: http://www.co-i-l.com/coil/knowledge-garden/cop/index.shtml
• Melbourne International Film Festival: http://www.melbournefilmfestival.com.au/
• Ten Steps to Personal Transformation: http://www.byregion.net/articles-healers/tensteps.html
• Tools for Transformation: http://www.trans4mind.com/
• Developing Capacity for Inspired Results: http://www.solonline.org/res/kr/transform.html
• Heads you Win: How the Best Companies Think, by Quinn Spitzer, Ron Evans. “Management fads come and go, but there is a constant in the workplace, argue the authors (CEO and practice leader, respectively, of a Pennsylvania consulting firm): Executives need to know how to think. Specifically, they must be able to analyze situations, identify the cause of problems and quickly implement solutions, make applicable decisions and seize opportunities. The authors demonstrate here how successful companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Chrysler and British Airways carry out this process. Consistent with their belief about how to solve problems, Spitzer and Evans break down each step into small bites, using a straightforward approach that recognizes that management books need not be deadly dull. “The initial objective of problem solving is not to solve the problem, but to keep from doing something stupid,” they advise. They even provide a lengthy appendix that contains dozens of questions and forms to use in spurring critical thinking. When a new business buzzword is created every few months, a reminder of the importance of the basics is refreshing”.

Intractable Problem – Construction Waste (S)

Phase I: Workshop (1 hrs)
Questioning technique

Jumping into the project – (problem solving – methodology), Write the scenario, Stop: What is the goal, Mapping the system: Naïve strategy, Make up the small projects, What needs to be done

Phase II: Developing the book/CD rom (40 hrs)
Parts of the Book
• Existing Situation
• Mapping the Actors in the Network
• Speculation snapshots
• Goal Setting

CW dossier: flesh out what this will be
Project Proposal (partly for WG and partly to set up a movement)
Preparing a project proposal – (Setting up the project – methodology)
Costing the project
Funding Models
Working out tasks (skills sets needed)
The two-year time line
Dissemination and sustainability
Appendix: Info and knowledge from the net, handed out to the larger group thru briefing sessions.

Investigating Mentors (A)

1. Aseef Kadir, Ashok Leyland, India (http://www.ashokleyland.com/home.jsp)
2. Nishant, GM India (http://www.gm.co.in/action/home)
3. Abishek Pratap Singh, RCA-Vehicle Styling, UK (http://www.rca.ac.uk/)
4. Ajay Saran Sharma, Tata- Vehicle Styling, India (http://www.tatamotors.com/home.php)
5. Makarand Dharphale, Mothersonsumi Infotech & Designs Ltd, India ( http://www.mind-infotech.com/)
6. Yugandhara Singh, Dyson, UK (http://www.dyson.co.uk/)
7. Vinar Rao, Bang Design, India
8. Raja Thomas, Company, Netherlands (http://www.campina.com/default.asp?selected=camcom.engels.Innovation&l=en)
9. Vineet Thuvara, Sloan-MIT, USA (http://mitsloan.mit.edu/index-noflash.php)

13th July: Workshop (S)

2.30 – 2.45 Reading from Notes
2.45 – 3.45 Warm up/ Questioning Technique
3.45 – 4.00 Coffee Break/ Leave the room
4.00 – 4.30 Goal Setting 1: Planing the Semester
4.30 – 4.45 Reflexive Study
4.45 – 5.15 How to work with Mentors?
5.15 – 5.30 How to Make the Fish Bowl work?
5.30 – 5. 45 Goal Setting2: Grades
5.45 – 6.30 Introductions

1. Walton – Warm up exercise on ‘how to set up a project’: 1 hr (+40 man hrs)
2. Planning the semester: 30 mins
f. Matrix
g. Time plan
h. Grade
3. Reflexive study: 15 mins
i. Self- SWOT
j. Peer interviews and assessments
k. Prescription: Suggested plan for the semester
4. How to work with the Mentors: 30 mins
l. Blog/ email
m. Research about the mentor context
n. Proposing the project / obtaining a project/ arriving at the project: “Oz in context, or design for export”
o. Doing the project
p. Project portfolio
q. Follow up: going to present the project
r. Reflexive study:
i. SWOT
ii. Learnings: Ways and skills
iii. Propositions for the future
5. Fish Bowl: 15 Minutes
s. Presentation to the 1st years on WG
t. Project planning
u. Mentorship of projects ( 5-10 students)
v. Case studies
w. Conducting workshops
x. Collaborative lamp making (18th July): Starting mentorship
y. Trips and Visits
z. Provocation: get criticized

What Design Consultants look like from within the Company (L)

1. Their high point is being featured in a magazine or press.
2. They are money minded.
3. They are image conscious. They dress very carefully.
4. They work for small manufacturing companies who cannot afford to employ high calibre expensive designers.
5. Getting products designed from consultancies is a cheap way to get design done.
6. Usually they do only short term design. As this involves no research or explorations.
7. People who work in these firms are very poorly paid, or are students with very little knowledge of design for manufacture.
8. These firms do not look after their employees because they cannot afford to.
9. In the main they are shops and run like that.
10. The intellectual content in these shops is very low – and it is usual to find them talk like contractors.
11. They can be found in urban centres, and as satellites to rich people.
12. They usually design things for homes. Many do furniture, design and manufacture, as they have no access to real product development.
13. They usually know very little. And many are significantly old fashioned. Radical thinking like that found in big companies is rare.
14. They survive by being lean and efficient. Their focus is upon efficiency, turning project around in the shortest time, as they cannot handle speculation.
15. Some that are radical usually portray them as akin to artists. So they can get sponsorship.
16. Most designers who own consultancies teach to supplement their income.
17. Most consultancies are irresponsible, and try to act younger than they are, and do not believe they owe their employees anything. This in company culture is very un-ethical.
18. The design work is similar to that done by a few staff, those in the short term section, in companies.

Company Culture

When a new employee joins a company she goes thru a probation period a training period where she gets to learn the ways and procedures of the company. These ways and procedures are important- and in the present instance I have knowledge of them. I am HR, I am the Supervisor, and I am ultimately responsible for ensuring that you perform to the best of your abilities.

1. You are designers who have your own ways – but these are not very relevant as you have been taught by people who have no experience. They are theorists – and have a place. But its just that you as a functioning employee need to be trained better.
2. The company has been in business for decades (Honda, Sony). It has many successes to its name. It has a robust practice, a way of developing products. It has highly trained people. It made the CB 750. It has made legends. And you have been allowed to join the team.
3. Practices in companies sit outside people – the ‘way’ has to be shared. Its not a head trip – it’s a joint effort.
4. Your language has to be that used in the company. You may come from design school with ideas like concepts, presentations and so on. These you have to abandon – and learn the co speak.
5. You need to know the ‘terms of reference’ of your job.
6. You will need to be trained in all aspects of the ‘product’. From marketing, to production, to strategy. Both short term and long term perspectives.
7. You will initially, for the first 10 years if in Japan, work under a senior designer. You will do small tasks – stickers for the motorcycle. Detailing a curve.
8. Design in big business is primarily to maintain the product line and to continually “refurbish” it. Continuous improvement is your job.
9. You will be taught a robust and rigorous redesign methodology.
10. Everyone in the company can comment on the product; assembly workers, admin people and there are sheets designed for them to fill out. These feedbacks have to be addressed. The job requires that you keep track of all decisions – and discuss all decisions.
11. You will be required to go for frequent training sessions, many organised by Chambers like VECCI. So you will do SAP, and all the rest.
12. You are to constantly improve your knowledge and abilities.
13. You will read.
14. You will be aware of change and have your gaze firmly focussed upon the future.
15. You will be constantly focussed upon Risk Management.