Design, Build, Operate (Experience), Innovate

This is a ‘Blended Learning’ strategy appropriate for many skill levels and ages. In a collaborative atmosphere this strategy can lead to emergence.  I’ll try and just quickly outline this to get it out there.  This is also a completely immersive kind of model that allows you to engage students.  Choosing which point to introduce or utilize computers would depend on your resources. My bias is that time in a classroom should not be spent in front of a computer except for key lessons and introductions.  Let the students work on their computers at home or in their study labs. We speak about project based learning.  And we can expand that concept into a  ‘productivity centered’ model that is holistic and inclusive of the larger systems we find ourselves within.   In keeping with this pedagogy, we turn our attention on to the sustainability of the ecology of the systems around us: biological, cultural, civic, etc. 

    Design.   Beginning with design is exciting because it immediately puts the creative process into action.  Doodling, sketching, drawing, coloring–let your imagination run wild.  This is empowering.  It says your creativity matters, show us what you are imagining.  The design team can kick the ideas back and forth, sharing drawings, collaborating on the outcome desired.  One cool example might be to work with SketchUp and insert your school into Google’s virtual gallery.  From there you can start creating many companion design projects.


    Build.  Virtual building is really the best alternative for many ideas.  The environmental award of the decade should go to creators of virtual worlds, especially Secondlife.  In these applications many levels of competency and challenges exist–all the way up to AutoCAD.  Discovering textures, or going out and photographing to create textures for the project is important for creating the sense of immersion.  Learning to apply textures has many applications in your virtual build.  If you have a budget and are engaged in something like bio-remediation, or the production of algae for methane production–there are many micro builds that get your hands   has many awesome productivity centered projects to create the ‘ecological campus.’ 
    Operate and Experience.  Perhaps you designed and built a go-cart, a car. You designed a ‘composter’ or a grey water system. Better yet a micro-solar renewable energy system for a computer lab–if your build was virtual there are more challenges at this operational stage.  Unless you are in an immersive environment like Secondlife.  In a repertory dance plot where there are a number of designers involved the limitations of the actualized design quickly become apparent to the operator/designer.  This would imply changes in the ‘build’ –the location, instrument choices, color and kinesthetic application of the design.  Immersion is present in every step through engagement, challenge, collaboration and most of all–arousing the creative juices. So ‘operation’ might be another way of ‘living’ within the constructed design. If the design was culturally or civic based it may involve doing a survey, vlog or podcast, for example.  A electronic newsletter could be printed and distributed for feed back.  A public policy exercise or proposal for the community is certainly designed, written, and applied.
    Innovate.  In the process I’m trying to describe, properly documented, each step of the way are the chapters of a digital story.  I try to have screen shots of my work taken at least at the end of each session–any number of tools such as video, blogs, cameras, iPods could assist in the reflective process. In reflecting upon the process, the outcomes–and the experience of the ‘operation’ of the design, students have prepared the ground for innovation and–perhaps–emergence.  New insights will pop up, changes, suggestions–all kinds of improvements.  Is this creating the environment for innovation or emergence?  That’s what I’m working on.  Give it a go, let me know!

Education in the New Environmental Economy

This is the title of the conference i attended hosted by the VEC, or Vermont Environmental Consortium.

The list of presenters was very impressive, with the keynote presentation by Dr. Grant Trump setting the bar very high. As president and CEO of Eco-Canada he put the eco-nomy in the environmental side of the discussion. In other words he demonstrated the amount the evironmental sector contributed to the economy of Canada’s GNP. What fascinated me about the approach the Canadians have taken is how distributed it is throughout their society: from Kindergarted through secondary schooling, higher education, certification and recertification. Of a particular interest was the ‘life span’ of a competency, the attention to metrics and assessment, the on-going committment and depth of educational integration and the relevancy and application to economic activity across the spectrum. Dr. Trump shared some interesting statistics in labor trends effecting the environmental industry in Canada. What was interesting to me was how the reasons that workers gave for leaving or wanting to work in the environmental fields were not primarily financial: other factors reflecting Richard Florida’s creative economy analysis were clearly at play. People wanted to feel they were contributing to the environmental cause and that they were challenged by advancement, training and creative opportunities.

One of the feelings I had hoped to come away with from the conference which i didn’t get was the excitment of the new ‘environmental economy.’ It was here and there in some remarks and in the passion of some of the people. But it needs to be made more explicit and explored. There was a call for a culture change and a plea for young engineers and scientists, biologists, chemists, lawyers and policy makers. But how is this done?

Another presenter, Gail Hall, Science Assessment Coordinator for the Vt. Dept of Education shared the state’s initiatives in this area, especially the 21st Century Skills Initiative. What i wanted to comment on is specifically the idea of
‘productivity centered service learning’. This concept thanks to Allan Baer CEO of SolarQuest really gets me excited. These ideas of ‘project based learning’ and experiential learning as well bring me to ask: why not put it all together? Rather than look externally for projects suitable for learning or off campus internships–let us turn the pedagogy upon oursleves.

here’s the idea in a nutshell: begin to transform all schools into a 210% Sustainable Model. Remodel and replace all school facilities into a green building that not only has a zero carbon footprint, but one that is contributing to the local economy through the ecological engineering of its systems. Initiate a Design/ Build/ Operate grant program that involves all constituents in the process. The goal is to create an educational facility that is a living lab of the ecological technologies that can sustain and support the community. These systems address the basic needs of each school: electricity, climate, food and transportation.— Now here is the key, that the ecosystems that sustain the school are themselves the subject of the ecorriculum.


I’m begining to understand the activities of engaging in the virtual creation of being as creating an architectonic. I’m specifically using this to describe the elements of my web 2.0 activity as revealing a design ecology where by the aggregating elements hold together in a non-linear fashion. (Granted, I’m just begining to stumble around) What adds excitement and motivation to this journey is the imaginative and visualization possiblities in a 3D world such as Second Life. In my own practise of lighting and scene design, and specifically its pedagogy, the advent of 3D software is concurrent with this process and so part of the architecture. I was fortunate enough to have Valy Tremblay of Proluxon as our instructor in WYSIWYG.


This 3D CAD software permits precise real world scaling in a virtual environment with stunning results.

Here is a rendering one of my students (Jeremy Laclair) did for his eportfolio.

WIG Rendering

But as Valy so clearly pointed out–the whole purpose of the software is to get something out of it into the real world. This transition occurs nicely in the environment of the learning community of the performing arts center that is our immersive environment–Dibden Center for the Arts. So here is a picture of a very talented student–Matt Zimmerman–displaying his actualization of the visualization process, lighting the Sierra Leon Refugee All Stars Band. The shot clearly shows the computer, the lighting plot, the rendered view, the band on stage performing and Matt realizing his visualization and design in the Real World.

Matt Zimmerman Lighting Designer

The components of this project are begining to come into focus with the insights and contributions of others.  Specifically the interrelated connections that I am coming to understand as a media ecology. Initially I found the idea of media having an ecology as absurd.  Oddly my own yearnings to integrate seemingly diverse elements in the experience of creativity, and the struggle to understand the creative process, brought me to ecology. I’ve tried to get at this with my post on Immersion. To dwell in an ivory tower, or the black box of the stage, seemed  unnecessarily disjointed. To consume massive amounts of power for a stage production has felt consumptive to say the least.  For years I have lived the seemingly paradoxical extremes of back to nature homesteading while working in the citadel of technology–technical theater.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to engage in much collaboration with diverse disciplines.  Academic departments are full of people who have the same interests, and this has stifled creativity and led to the petrification of academia.  So I have reveled in the diversity of my students and our programming.  My collaborators have been the students more than any other group. I fully intend on continuing this collaboration as it is very rewarding but has left me somewhat disconnected from my peers, and yearning for this interaction–hence the blogging.

The next pillar of the acrhitectonic is Second Life.  Excitedly I anticipate simulating the ecology of creativity, if you will.  The aspect of community and visualization is very exciting and this blog will continue to chronicle and mine this experience.  I am a member of a Facebook group, Theater Think Tank, which I am going to experiment with translating into Second Life.  What a blast!


Taking many shapes, morphing into multiple expressions of the same being–or even morphing your being. The Transformers. Shape shifters.

During my Stagecraft class Thursday: I discussed ‘dressing an electric,’ ‘dressing the stage,’ or ‘setting the legs’ –and I asked the class if they knew what I meant by ‘anthropromorphisizing’–well after blank stares and suggesting it might have something to do with anthropology, one female student said it had to do with ‘humans.’ I liked that, more correct that saying the study of man. So we discussed, briefly, this idea of turning inanimate objects into animated, humanized ones. Trying to bring an awareness of a mythopoetic consciousness onto the stage, seemd like a tangent i couldn’t easily return from. I like correct language, but even more I like the poetic liscence to make obtuse references in attempts to shatter the students comfort zone with language and ideas. In my pedagogy the paradox of intensive hands-on learning and encountering seemingly irrelevant ‘philosophical’ ideas goes hand in hand, sometimes foot to mouth–usually mine! But it all ties back together with the intentionally challenging idea that the ‘reality’ of the Tranformed Learning Community on the Dibden stage, is actually more ‘real’ than much else they encounter at college. The reason this is important is because of creativity and courage. As I explore the dynamics of the creative process in my pedagogy I return to the idea of the wholeness of the community in which this occurs. It feels like the elements of play and risk taking have to return to the process. So I am playful, I take risks in terms of ideas–most definitely not risk in terms of physicality–that can be left for outdoor ed.
Courage comes from confidence. But the infrastructure of skill and community, diversity and imagination have to be present. And it happens when these critical aspects of community coincide. This is the environment I seek to nurture. And if I wasn’t such an eclectic synthsizer I suppose I could leave it there. But for years I have imagined what if I could bring these many elements together in an emdodiment of a facility, or place/space? What if i could bring these seemingly diverse ideas into a practise combining the severed parts of academia and the modern western weltanshungen back into the living, breathing hope of our young? Well, I’m not just so naive to realize that I also must embody this myself. Walking the walk, talking the talk.
Which is why I’m blogging, among these other forays into web 2.0.

So if you, reader, have a good link to the use of images for self reflection–turn me on to it!