Thursday, July 31, 2008

Transforming Schools Through Production Design?

I'm not sure how to describe it so I often say "The goal is to make schools look more like children's museums." The idea is that the school buildings themselves should be more attractive and enticing spaces that contribute to the learning process rather than be just warehouses for students, teaching factories, or learn-release youth prisons.

Architects make big money designing schools and give out awards for top school designs but they are mainly interested in attractive, functional buildings with sufficient floor space, lighting and HVAC. Interior designers can do some things with the halls and rooms but they are mainly concerned with sink placement, cabinetry, window treatments and color schemes.

I have been searching for designers who can provide inspiration and advice on taking the curriculum of the school and making it visible and tangible in the schools - to make the school (like good interactive museums) part of the teaching and learning strategy. Now I think I may have found them - production designers. While they focus on designing spaces for entertainment, I think we can translate their knowledge and skills to transform environments for learning.

Production designers create immersive environments for movies, TV, theme parks, video games and anywhere else the environment is designed to be part of the experience. They have a conference coming up in October in Long Beach, CA where people from diverse groups like Dreamworks animation, Industrial Light and Magic, Imaginary Forces, and Electronic Arts video game designers are coming together to exchange ideas about creating immersive environments. The keynote speaker is Henry Jenkins (above left), one of the world's leading authorities on media and game design.

That's getting pretty close to what I have in mind - schools that are immersive learning environments. I will join them in Long Beach, CA this October for this groundbreaking two day conference that claims it will open my eyes to the impact of technology in the design of entertainment experiences (I read educational experiences) across film, television, videogames, animation and environmental design. Leading practitioners of immersive design will conduct a series of in-depth panels over the two days inspiring artists, designers, scholars, educators and students – just about anyone involved in the creation of entertainment (and education).

Stay tuned to see what we can learn from production designers about transforming schools for the 21st century. Check out their conference called 5D - The Future of Immersive Design that will take place at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at CSU, Long Beach on October 4-5, 2008. (There are big discounts for educators.)

Click on the heading above to see details about the conference.

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