2015Twelve essential GDA perspectives on design trends
Nanako Ishido
Director’s Message

Redesigning how we learn and inherit knowledge


Professor Seymour Papert of the MIT Media Lab once observed that although a mid-19th-century surgeon would be unable to do anything in a modern operating room, a mid-19th-century teacher would probably get by in a classroom today, because the way we teach has not changed in 150 years. The same can be said in Japan. Compulsory education was introduced in 1872, in the transition from an agrarian society to an industrial one. Private education gave way to public classrooms with groups of students at the same level. As Japan raced toward indus-trialization, this change in educational systems was inevitable. But as we transition from a society based on industry to one based on information, it is time once again to redesign education. Responses to this social need for new ways to teach and learn can be seen in many of this year’s entries. In particular, these examples of design seemed to redefine studying and recommend how and where we should study.

First, winning entries played down the importance of remembering and memorizing in traditional academic studying. Instead, the notable NHK TV series Mimicries helps culti-vate a scientific mind and a spirit of independent inquiry, while the Sony MESH smart DIY platform encourages even non-technical users to learn About digital projects. Both emphasize thinking and creativity.

When what we consider to be studying changes, we must also reconsider how we should study. Some feel that instead of the one-way transmission of knowledge from individual teachers to a group of students, we need shared learning – where everyone contributes his or her own knowledge and experiences, teaching and learning from each other to create valuable lessons together. More educators who can coordinate this kind of study are need-ed, so we can expect that more teacher training courses like Aoyama Gakuin’s workshop designer program will emerge and become mainstream.

As for where we should study, rather than families relying solely on schools or their own homes, there is a need for communities to arrange other venues for education. This has inspired projects in rural Kawanokami (where many Ishinomaki evacuees are resettling) and Akita, with the latter inviting visitors to join the village for a while by staying in a well-preserved traditional Japanese house. Significantly, study at these places also helps pass down local culture. Diversity is also respected in some new study environments. Toward this end, one tutoring service provides a warm, family-like setting for local students through diversity partly in-spired by the idea of encouraging intellectually disabled members to serve as instructors. This admirably demonstrates a different kind of inclusive learning.

The spread of information and communication technology is transforming society, altering the skills people will need, and inevitably persuading us to redefine studying, how we study, and where we study. On the other hand, ITC has also made these changes possible. Illustrating this well are an online service from Recruit that provides innovative learning materials and an iPhone app from Sakawa that uses a projector to turn ordinary black-boards into a hybrid surface for teaching. ITC will be instrumental in developing the three aspects of study discussed – study that involves thinking and creativity, that involves others in cooperative learning, and that involves schools, students’ homes, and community venues. It also enables us to provide superior educational opportunities to all children, without geographical or economic constraints. How will education evolve, for the first time in 150 years? In this, we are eager to see the power of good design.

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