Students help Kurani designers learn about their neighborhood.

Students help Kurani designers learn about their neighborhood. Image source: Kurani, Danish;, 8/19/15

For Aging Schools: What ‘Community-Centric Design’ Could Look Like

Many schools in the US were built in the 1950’s and 60’s to address the growing demand for them due to the generation of baby boomers. As those aging schools become increasingly inefficient at meeting the demands of a constantly changing educational system, the need to upgrade these buildings becomes urgent. When Danish Kurani, former professor at Harvard and architect, was completing his Urban Design degree, he saw these schools as a design opportunity to change what he believes is the root to all the social ailments: education. His firm, Kurani, works with schools and adult learning centers to update their facilities. His approach, “community-centric design”, uses the insights of the project’s users and surrounding residents and observations of their daily lives to inform the base design.


Why Finland’s Schools Are Top-Notch

Visiting professor at Harvard and former director general in the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, Pasi Shalberg, offers insights into the differences between the American education system and the Finnish system. Finnish students, according to the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, rank consistently near the top after Korea and Japan, for reading, math, and science. Americans rank 21 of 34 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. One of the  major differences is in Finland, play is considered an essential part of growth and learning, while in the US testing and data commands the focus of attention. In Finland, students spend 15 minutes playing after every class and attend shorter school days. Shalberg doesn’t suggest the US become Finland, but thinks it’s worth examining what works and what doesn’t work.

A 10,000 square foot server room highlighted in blue LED lighting. Photo: Max Ortiz/Detroit News via AP

A 10,000 square foot server room highlighted in blue LED lighting. Photo: Max Ortiz/Detroit News via AP

College Admissions Using “Big Data” Including From Social Media To Make Decisions

High school grades and the SAT score are not enough any more for colleges admissions boards, many colleges are looking at other data, social media for instance, to predict whether students will succeed at their institution. The purpose of using big data is to increase graduation rates, which effects the school’s ratings. Beyond admissions, colleges and universities are using data to assist academic advisers in guiding students through the curriculum in an effort to increase the student’s probability of success.

Education Update is a weekly blog post highlighting recent developments in the world of education. The linked articles and summaries are not endorsements, rather frame points of view to begin conversations about the state of education, trends, and how we as designers can play an active role in shaping schools.

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