Hey… What did you get?

Hey everyone,

I have taught a few classes and been the GTA for a number of others. It was interesting to reflect on the different types of implementation that assessment received with every different professor and classroom.

In architecture the studio is a quirky little fellow who bucks most of the norms in lecture-based instruction.


Because it is not lecture-based. It has lectures associated with it, but the vast amount of time is spent in the process of making, as a design laboratory. Now, the name of a design laboratory is a bit of a misnomer in that it is not like a lab where you have special coats and goggles (but you need closed toed shoes and eye protection in the shops). It finds itself somewhere in everywhere, taking from the expertise of the professor as applied to the individual rather than to a powerpoint.

Can you remember something? Did you understand what was done? Now where can you apply it? What did you do that could be analyzed and distilled for future success? What new ideas did you create? Where my iterations evaluated well in discussion and what can I learn for next time?

These are only parts of the design process that is practiced rather than mused over in other disciplines. However it is often hard to implement this method in other places? But why? Is it the space? It is the personnel? It is a history of doing? Why? Honestly there are an endless number of questions that could ground why studio works in architecture and design fields.

This dovetails very nicely into some of the other concerns that have been placed on assessment and other aspects for meaning in education and meaning in terms of a degree conferred at the end of a period of time.

I have heard the story about the introduction story in engineering from a number of places both here at VT and in other locations. I can only hope that those particular professors are are the odd ones out. Yes, engineering is a very wealthy field and the money it receives can attract many people to the discipline. I have heard of opposite story in the arts that say if you are here to make money leave since there is none here.

This is what makes autonomy, mastery, and purpose so critical to an individual’s success. Autonomy gives the individual the ability to choose a purpose and a line of inquiry, over time this leads to mastery of a topic or technique. With mastery we find certain kinds of synthesis and evaluation that is not present in simple understanding. This analysis then leads to the final part which is that thought with experience can lead to knowledge. The key as shown here is the next leap of faith that autonomy provides. The leap is experience and without authentic ones it can lead to partial or no mastery of a discipline.

So, professionally, it is interesting to see the ICI method shown in a blog post with this class. Imagination, creativity, and innovation is one way to look at the creative process, but it is also shown that we design and think with a larger continuum of thoughts and considerations. What we are thinking is based on/in our past experiences (this is a specific mindset of normative theory).

From this, we have the iterative process of making. Creativity is not as ambiguous as designers or those who employ it would lead you to believe. We have the a personal foundation of creativity in what we are interested in, hopefully intrinsically such as a hobby, or subtopics of our graduate work. Creativity can be taught and is not only innate, given by personal talent. However as you rightly explain you must show, not simply tell the story of creativity.

At any rate I feel that creativity as word, as well as critical thinking, is overused. Thought is thought, thought with experience will derive knowledge. If our experiences are not interesting, then the basis for our knowledge and abilities are undercut. From this innovation or design is more difficult. This is not because we cannot do it, but rather we have not been shown our own potential.

I could talk all day about this as it is my dissertation field of study, that could or should the design process be distilled to.for others who do not have access to true studio environments? Then very quickly it becomes an epistemological discussion about the acquisition of knowledge that is too long for a comment box.

Then from thinking we go to more of the nitty-gritty that defines the implementation of grades and thoughts on motivation.

This is the ideal situation, that a student is intrinsically motivated to learn in a safe and non-graded environment. It is interesting to see the rigid nature that scores have in China. Does this reduce the student to a number? While it can allow for a cross-comparision of students for admission, what does it say about the individual? What about that writing class stuck with you the most? The absence of pressure- the avoidance of failure. This is a psychological issue, success-seeking or failure avoidance. Often poorer performance is seen in failure avoidance. So the final question is: is social inertia or a stigma against the absence of grades acceptable excuse for why we still have them?

The question of alternatives is, I feel, a deeper question into how society demands metrics for assessment. That a linear, non-subjective, measurable scale will give the best possible comparable results. After-all, numbers don’t lie, just ask my buddy statistics. He tells as much truth as he is given.

I agree that grading needs its own disciplinary context. In architecture you never know your grade in studio until the end of the semester when it is over. You either freeze in fear of the grade or work to your best. Grades are here to stay, unless there is a societal paradigm shift away from them, but how can we make it better?

That is the real question you are asking.

This following was the best way I have seen to have a grade given. I have only seen the option of self-grading in conjunction with a professor once. We were asked to write a logical argument to support the grade we gave ourselves in studio. Now the professor still had complete control over the final grade. This was the opportunity to explain what your work was and if the professor had forgotten anything. This indirect manner is probably better than a face-to-face where brown-nosing could occur. Also we hope that the professors would see this and ultimately account for this. It is also sad that this is assumed of/from the student, but one bad apple rots the bunch.

Grades, don’t like them, but can’t live without them? Is it: “If you don’t dance then you are no friend of mine?

I feel it is interesting to see the proposal for a balanced approach to internal and external motivators. The unfortunate problem is that the average person has a minimal amount of internal motivation in terms of education.

The other side of this is what kind of positive external motivators are students getting especially from home? A person can have all kinds of internal drive but without external support they may burn out and not ultimately be successful.

So what about positive reinforcement externally from parents and other mentors rather than the simple negative reinforcement of poor grades? Perhaps the solution lies in more than one place, that we should not only be looking at the student as an individuals but rather the network the student has at their disposal for support.


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Cog in the machine

So I have your attention now.

This is not going to be a negative run on education, don’t worry. Every method of teaching has its merits and appropriate uses. We just need to find when these are appropriate and how we can inspire our students to discovery.

Discovery as we saw about the slow hunch gives us an opportunity to explore not only how innovation works and the space that create these opportunities, but how do we keep our students engaged so that they are a part of the conversation?

If we consider Kenneth Robinson’s death valley problem

… we have the opportunity to have fun again in the classroom with our students.

Instead of asking our students to fit a mold we can have them interact through active co-learning and begin to bring life back to death valley with these collisions of slow hunches that Steven Johnson describes.

Steven Johnson also describes something called the adjacent possible that ties into this slow hunch method of innovation. It is not only people but materials and the surroundings that contribute to successful and productive innovation.

It sounds simple, but it is not simplistic. If we are to be engaging and intriguing educators we need distill our topics for others. If we cannot simplify complex things for our students and show how it applies to them or is similar to something they already do, then they will not be connected and may have difficulty learning together or alone. So how can we give our students the adjacent possible that they may not yet see? How and why should we guide them to more discovery?

What we need to do as teachers is ask our students and ourselves–

What is worth learning?



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Hi Mom! Hi Cat!

Hey everyone,

So I hope you all had a nice introduction to the Contemporary Pedagogy course. These sorts of things such as blogging and social media can seem and are often daunting at first. This is why we have a larger group that, over the semester, will work together to create an interesting and positive atmosphere to engage and explore blogging and other co-learning strategies.

I am not trying to summarize the readings and videos. That would take the fun out of finding out for yourselves.

I do however have my introduction to these sorts of online communities which might serve as a better starting point for those of you who are not sure, or nervous about, becoming a part of the world wide web.

The first class I started blogging for was this very class. I had not blogged consistently before. There were some posts here and there for other initiative the University was running, but without any real substance or direction.

Aside from the three points that Doug Belshaw mentions, it turns out if you do not have a personal theme to the blogs you write or a question you are trying to answer, the blog can falter or appear disorganized.

Personally, I am interested in how these co-learning strategies could apply to architecture studio without upsetting the unique learning environment that already exists. So during the semester I will always try to tie what I am seeing and reading back to that question.

If we also look at Campbell’s work: narrate, curate, and share, we find that being active in you involvement also is crucial to not necessarily the quantity or work you do, but mainly its quality. Quality or at least applicability to your audience is incredible important.

I could talk all day about my vegetated wall research, but that is not the point of this current work. Its important work, just not now. A plant twitter might seem silly at first, but might be a new way to reach others in a format they would actively engage in.

I remember being intimidated by what could be– the things that go bump in the night — and how this could harm me or my image. However, I later learned that by doing nothing at all I was missing out on the positive “could be” that blogging and active co-learning provided. Like anything else use your head and filter what you say.

Second thing I learned: just be polite. Words without facial expressions are notorious for not conveying their entire meaning. Sarcasm can be missed. Feelings are hurt by misunderstanding and nobody has a good time. Personally I am here to also have fun. As Seth Godin describes, its fine with me if only my mom and my cat only read this blog. And yes, my cat is literate.

Video for those of you who have not seen it yet.

Reflecting on my own transition and blogging, I find the potential for self-publishing fascinating. While the average work may not be of Nobel prize quality, there is the vast potential of linking between works that creates the integrated and function WEB 2.0 concept. I link to you, you link to me, and suddenly a third person sees two works they might have missed otherwise.

So blog, tweet, and comment in an effort to become more comfortable in the vast and changing online world.


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I see what you did there

Hey all.

I wanted to say hello to you all and I hope that we have a great class this semester. If you have questions do not hesitate to ask. We will try to keep ahead of things and help out as much as possible.

Tweet, blog, but most importantly have fun.


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Test of the blog for GEDI

This is a test of the manual linking system.

or something.


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what is a meal?

Hey over there,

What is a meal?

A meal is next to a lake. It’s a brat with beer on a man-made island. It’s a quickly eaten doner kebap before meeting with others. It’s a vitamin orange drink with yogurt under an awning in a garden. It’s a melted cheese fondue potato. It’s a glass of wine with asparagus soup in an old kitchen. It’s a mixed salad with wienerschnitzel while drawing over a sketch in a dinner placemat. It’s a stroll in the plaza. It’s a cream sauce with chicken. It’s a chocolate bar underneath the stairs in the train station. Its a barley soup and meat skewer in the new addition. It’s consistently with chocolate granola and yogurt in the quiet morning light. It’s a banana on top of a cup of milk.

It’s a view above the city of Bellinzona at Grotto Castelgrande with four courses.

It’s an excellent conversation about architecture with Lucy Ferrari over lemoncello. It’s a grateful sit-down after a long day back at the villa.

A meal is culture. A meal is time to enjoy. A meal is time to reflect. A meal is a great many things.


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the power of reputation

Hey over there,

My father always told, tells, me that your reputation precedes you. This is a simple concept of how the good work that you do and the methods and techniques that you employ to reach your goals are known and apparent to others.

The way that you interact and the actions you take with others with a sphere of circumstances defines who you are to them. You words, your rhetoric is one area that can not only help you, but could also hurt you in support of your actions. Your demeanor, your word choice, your body language, your enthusiasm, all contribute to a perception of who you are as a person.

Often this initial impression is fraught with initial assumptions of a person, but this initial interpretation of a person may be difficult to overturn.

This ability to shape, without being deceitful, one’s persona and reputation is critical in our expanding and global world. To know your audience and react to the situation around you is a skill in communicating to others, regardless of the content, that cannot be overlooked. Over the course of this trip we have seen a number of presenters, and we should not only be taking away the content they delivered but also the style of presentation and authenticity in which it was presented to us.

If we can learn not only what, but also how to convey our thoughts to others, we might be more successful in the future as faculty when not only presenting to other colleagues, but to present more meaningful information in a more engaging manner to our students.


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knowing your past

Hey over there,

On Sunday we had the opportunity to have dinner with Lucy Ferrari, who was instrumental in making the Villa Moderni a part of Virginia Tech.

During the course of the dinner she weaved a series of stories that took us back to the United states in Alabama at the time for forced integration and the assassination of JFK, her work as a language professor and school librarian, moving through the history that is intertwined with Walter Gropius, Charles Burchard, her husband Olivio Ferrari and the Bauhaus and Ulm schools of Design. She brought us along with her to the stories about traveling Europe by boat during early stages of the Europe Travel program and what teaching cultural context meant. Some old student names were brought up, educators who are now integral to the School of Architecture and Design at Virginia Tech.

The knowledge and context of a lifetime.

There were parallels that she could draw simply by having been there and experiencing it. The opportunity to talk with her and gain a glimpse into what her life had been. The story about Charles Burchard and Olivio Ferrari talking about the direction of the school on the beach, forming the Blue Book is just one story that alludes to a much larger picture of education, teaching and personal context in the creation of a global university.

I just hope she had as much fun telling the stories as I did listening to them.


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discussion on debriefing

Hey over there,

The whole concept of debriefing is interesting to me. The round-table discussion of how we review the experience and then compare and contrast different viewpoints in very valuable. This process extends the discussion on topics that are interesting and meaningful to the group, while also influencing individual interpretations of campus visits and inter-personal relations and language.

It once again ties into the global perspective angle of the whole program and asks that we, as students, and later future educators, begin to understand viewpoints and then be able to see how we can either clam up and refuse a different mode of thinking or choose to be receptive to the values of many disciplines.

This topic is most apparent in the divide that has continued between the sciences and arts. This divide is perpetuated by both groups and ultimately places the arts as secondary to the sciences, viewed as an immeasurable topic in a sea of quantitative methodology.

As with many things there is simply a set of jargon and technical skill that goes into design and art and this should not be ridiculed for remaining much more fluid in approach, however the arts also need to be very weary of being increasingly elitist when approaching other disciplines as mysticism and the mystery attached to the arts does not help others understand our abilities or merit.

It is interesting to see the microcosm the group is when it comes to representing many issues that face higher education in the present and future.


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finding opportunity in experience: global higher education

Hey over there,

So this is something that I was thinking about and thought that I would share it.

We are currently experiencing an amazing opportunity. We have flown at least third way around the globe, supported by others in our group, to learn from an experience of a lifetime. We have consistently shown and been shown that the world is not as large as previously thought.

I feel that perspective is the progenitor of knowledge and insight. These insights blend and interact with our own held experiences and form new ideas that can begin to shape our future paths. These ideas can be used to form the core of our positions on higher education and teaching giving others access to our newfound and combined knowledge.

This perspective is global in scale, as least in western methods restricted to the United States and European sphere, and this can begin to allow us to be adequate faculty in competing in a more global, future world.

We have heard from many, often influential individuals, about their experience and the built potential of the Swiss education system. As with almost anything in life there is a feeling, a spirit of a period, time or age. This spirit of the age is and resides along a spectrum of the existence of time. This spirit is shown in the enthusiasm of everyone that we have met and expresses the potential of these thoughts for Academe.

This concept of a continuum then can be taken to what a “good” or “bad” education method or system is. I have found that this duality crumbles under scrutiny, that new perspective and objective reality make this duality difficult to hold. On our trip I have found that methods often contain positive and negative traits. If we combine a continuum approach to finding a method or definition to a global perspective and therefore a global method, we find a curious proposition.

To blend methods of instruction, in the context of the spirit of our age, we must begin to formulate an understanding of the world around us, and our place in that world, rather than solely questioning ourselves set apart. This then can allow us to understand the phenomena of the world.

This reflection on experience, and self reflection in general, is incredibly important to our systematic exploration of the world and its intricate phenomena. For example, architecture is a start to the criteria that influence the most critical component of education: the student in society. As a future faculty of architecture I cannot conceive a future global university without questioning both the architecture and the system used in education.

This student of society is also a citizen of a global context in which it is, and will continue to be, critically important to understand dynamic and relative thought. It is one thing to understand one’s own views, but our place in the world and the new perspective from others will become our defining attributes as future faculty and scholars.

That is what the opportunity is. It is to gain a global perspective of the global university.

There are not many quantitative methods or targets that a global university can or even should be measured by. Importing international students does not make a university global. Simply having partner institutions in name only does not make a university global. Having treaties among neighboring nations does not make a university global. There are a litany of thing we often point to as metrics for a global university that are possible indicators for appearing to be global or at least trending towards a global presence. It is not numbers that will define the future global university.

The future global university will and must be defined by meaningful and lasting relationships between people.

A corporate university cannot make a meaningful relationship with a single handshake, or a clandestine meeting in a cigar smoke filled room. Although this is how some of these relationships could begin, but still need to be developed over time. This means at least more than one handshake and a few cigars ever year or so.

This forming of a relationship means learning the bad humor of your future colleagues. It means talking about issues facing global education such as the student loan bubble and immigration policies. It means understanding the cultural relevance and tendencies of those involved. It means acting to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. It means flexibility in a sea of academic choices and responsibilities.

I believe that the future global university and its future faculty will be a lean, flexible entity that will not be beholden to its constituency, but rather be accountable to its endeavors for them and their combined success, for a clearer mindset on higher education. This mindset is what makes the global university and its potential so intriguing. The spirit of our age and our culture and its phenomena will drive our academe into the future.

This mindset of a flexible and adaptive university is not something I can yet pin down. It may have come from sitting on a balcony, it may have come from walking briskly to a train, it may have come from eating food in a foreign land. I do know that the mindset for my future teaching and hopeful potential for a university will come from the experience of this trip and its phenomena and their worth in the world contexts.


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