Friday, April 29, 2011

The hospital that 'Pees'

Taken from:
My colleagues and I had a meeting with some representatives from the newest hospital in Singapore, the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, and came away impressed with some of the health ideas and philosophies that they have infused, or trying to infuse, into their daily operations.

On a very macro level, what I love and find refreshing is their idea, or approach to what, and how should, a hospital be. Instead of just looking at a hospital as an institution to cure the sick and needy, the evolutionary idea that was surfaced is that the hospital should be a centre for health too, and in fact, should be a catalyst for healthy living. And this idea should be propounded beyond the 4 corners of the hospital, into the immediate community that resides close by. This idea of getting the hospital to be part of the community just sounded like the proposed idea of how mosques in Singapore were supposed to operate within this multi-racial and secular society of ours. Each mosque was supposed to be a leader, or take ownership in matters related to Islam and other family-related issues and matters, whilst of course, taking into account national and other religious agenda.

On an architectural level, the design of the 3 blocks that makes up the hospital is indeed functionally impressive. Their 3-step approach towards customer orientation, their time-limited consideration for patients/visitors to be able to be at a certain location, within the hospital complex, their integrative approach towards 'integrating' the water body next door into their overall landscaping works...all these seems to be really an excellent testimony about their seriousness towards achieving a more holistic and evolutionary idea about what healthy living is all about....and more importantly, about how health should be approached and how a hospital is supposed to operate, currently and for the future!

I also loved their idea of the 3P's...especially in the areas of geriatrics. The first P, being PRODUCT, looks at the most basic and perhaps, 'superficial' level....that some problems or situations could be resolved by designing and making A PHYSICAL PRODUCT. Beyond this, the second P being PROCESS, is somewhat pitched at a more conceptual level. Perhaps this is something similar to what I am trying to infuse into my lessons...that sometimes problems should be identified beyond just the symptomatic or superficial levels, into its root cause! So perhaps process here involves beyond just the mere physicality or tangibility of products as solutions or probable solutions; beyond that there could be process-related issues that are best resolved in order to achieve the most complete or effective solutions. On the last level of P, being PEOPLE, I thought is somewhat true as beyond just the manifestations of a product or a process, it is indeed people that would be the true changers and perhaps, solutions to most problems. Changes in attitudes, lifestyles, perceptions....all these are people-related situations that are complex in nature, but not necessarily impossible to achieve a change in, in order to realise a win-win outcome.

I walked away from the meeting still feeling floored and amazed at the ideas that they are working on, and I hope that the programme that my team and me are currently working on with them could bear even more 'fruits', to enable my students to understand better, about what is at stake for them, in their 'Elderly Challenge' journey.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Would iPad 2 revolutionize education?

It has been about 3 weeks since I had my iPad 2, and I must say it has been a value-adding experience for me. But rather than just to use it to read books, entertain myself with games and video clips, and perhaps take notes, I do believe that the second version of this tablet has truly more potential that is still untapped. And I believe nothing is further from the truth when it comes to the main reason why I bought see its potential in education.

Some online articles mentioned about the revolution that the iPad 2 would bring into the classrooms. Well after having tried it, I think more than just about the iPad 2, the true revolution would come when a teacher actually uses it to enrich the learning (and teaching) experiences. I applaud the idea that the iPad 2 can be a catalyst, but I would also like to hold my horses back and say that the evolution and revolution in the classrooms must be seen as more than just about the emergence of A product, and for that matter, any products at all. At the end of it, IT IS about how a teacher can masterfully weave the tool, into his or her teaching experiences, and get the students to really learn.

Yes, perhaps I'm just being a wet blanket, but the truth be told, teaching is all about that added human touch by a teacher, about how he or she can skilfully and effectively encourage the students to learn...and more importantly UNCOVER the intended, or sometimes even unintended knowledge. Much like how the great innovative companies have a 20% work time policy that allows employees to work on something non-work related, I truly believe that sometimes it is that 20% of what is not the intended knowledge, that sometimes could make that difference between making a lesson, good...or GREAT!

So am I still a firm believer in using the iPad 2 to revolutize my teaching. More than just about revolutionizing, I am more of a believer in 'evolutionizing'. Yes, there is still learning that needs to be achieved, but with the tablet on our side, I believe that it just added one more tool to our arsenal, and what an arsenal it is so far!

I am still having my share of fun with the apps and possibilities available in this second variant, and my first order of the day for a real evaluation would be to 'field-test' it for my learning trip to Vietnam. The media angle definitely opens up to a wider possibility with the addition of a camera/video capability, but how can I then leverage on this to deepen the learning experiences would be something that I am looking at, thinking of, and would definitely experiment on, during the trip. But alas, there's only so much that a single mind can think of, so if you think you can help me out with apps or possibilities that I can try out during an overseas trip, please do give me sound out, be it in the 'Comments' section on this blog post, or to my email.


Monday, April 11, 2011

An AutoDesk Film Preview

I thought that some of the portrayals here are really what ought to be happening in the classrooms right now, and even in the very near future. Not that I am for any specific software/hardware, but seriously this should be the direction that we should be heading towards if we really want to see change in the education landscape! Thankfully I am doing my bit too, albeit one step at a time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The humble elastic band

A picture of my water bottle,
with 2 elastic bands around it.
I usually have this habit of putting the leftover elastic bands from my lesson notes around my water bottle, as shown in the picture. The primary purpose of me doing this is to basically increase the friction of the gripping area.

But a thought just occur to me while I was having dinner with my significant other the other day. The thing that bug me sometimes is how NOT socially aware some of these waiters/waitresses are when it comes to topping up your glass of water. There are the overly-enthusiastic ones, and there are those...well let's just say, they seem to be so expendable.

Anyway, I thought the idea of using these elastic bands around your glasses of water is a neat idea to communicate to the waiters whether your glass of water need topping up...or not. Perhaps we can have a way of telling customers to adjust the level of water that they deem to be the level that they would want their glasses to be topped up! If the water is still above this level, then the waiter wouldn't have to bother about topping it.

Alternatively with 2 elastic bands, we can have a maximum and minimum water level too, that are adjustable according to what they are having throughout their dining experience. So the customer can adjust the max and min level during the opening dishes, and adjust them lower if they think that they would want to make their move. These would definitely help to reduce wastage of water, and more importantly, mitigate the intrusiveness of overly enthusiastic waiters too!

How about that?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Design Ideas: The Xpandable Hard-Disks

I just thought the idea of having to buy a new hard disk every time the old one goes into 'scarce mode' is something that could be rethought. It doesn't help too that with improvements in technology, what used to cost $200 can now be obtained at half that price a year later. This is where the inspiration for the expandable hard disk gets into the picture.

The idea here is to re-look at how and why is there a need for one to expand their hard disk capacity. Possible reasons are the regular increase in storage and backup demands, and perhaps just having a better way of organizing data. But the troublesome part about having new disk spaces is the need to firstly format them, and then copy over stuffs to the new (and usually higher capacity) disks, and then wondering what to do with the old ones.

And this is where my idea for an expandable hard disk is worth looking at. I partly got my inspiration from reading about a model of Nikon DSLR that is able to handle 2 SD cards at one go. The neat and cool thing about this is that you can actually program it to either:

  • Use the second SD card if the first one is full
  • Use the second SD card to store exactly the same picture files as the first one
  • or...Use the second SD card to store another format of the same picture, e.g. RAW format in one, and the usual JPEG in another
I thought since this 'intelligence' is something already available, we can include this functionality into my expendable hard disk designs. Here's some sketches that I did while in one of the meeting yesterday.

Picture 1: Overall ideation. I first started off with a re-ideation
of the basic hard disk design,
seen on the top left of the sketch
Picture 2: Close up of the initial re-ideation of a typical hard-disk
Picture 3: Close up view of an initial expendable design idea,
inspired by jigsaw puzzles
Picture 3: Close up of the final configuration.
Whether vertical or horizontal, it depends on the users.
Numbering or customizing the different hard disks either through
numbering or using different colour could be a good way to cosmeticize
the whole hard-disk usage experience
Note that all sketches and ideas are the copyright of Irfan Darian.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When culture limits design: iTunifying our thoughts and ideas

Graphic by Irfan Darian (2011)
This thought occur to me when I was preparing my learning materials for my upcoming trip in a few months time. And the irony that the most innovative nation in the world comes from a country that is not really cultured, in an Asian sort of way, did not surprised me too.

But what I would really like to uncover over here is the thought that perhaps, the culture that we were brought up in, is indeed a key limiting element of how we adopt design thinking. Could this be so? Alternatively, could the absence of such be a good way for a race or a country to be more adaptable to design thinking?

I've always wondered where are the scientific discoveries of my own race, when the other 2 major races over here are historically brimmed with technological achievements throughout their civilization. The Chinese have their thousands of years of inventions, artistic pieces, technological achievements as well as their architectural marvels. Similarly the Indians too have their rich history to thank for for showcasing their inventions and other worldly marvels. But I do find these technological marvels lacking, or sadly, almost non-existent, in my community's history. Except for perhaps a culture of artistic and related works, the other aspects are seemingly not mentioned, or perhaps if they do, are not showcased in the way that it should be showcased...publicly!

Which somehow just made me come to a conclusion. Could the culture of being humble, showing respect to even undeserving leaders, being deceitful, and other racial stereotypical characteristics be the limiter towards developing our very own design thinking? And could this be then THE thing that limits our own growth as a society, or is slowing us down? I'm not condoning that we turn our backs to our culture totally, but I thought some things would just have to be tune with the times. Could we really afford to be talking about how much is an appropriate 'gift' (hantaran) to a bride, when the whole point of having that has already been clarified in a religious context. I think more than just about looking at the cultural details, could we even begin to start to question some of these practices? Perhaps not in a confrontational sort of way, but rational, logical and even with an amount of big picture/deep thinking thrown in for good measure.

In a more non-communal context, could the culture then in itself be something that we can tweak further? These culture of being accepting, of showing affirmation of successful failures, and of celebrating every single pound of success even more! And to add further, building an eco-system of sorts that would allow for such thinking to sprout and flourish? Could we then iTunify the entire process and experience? So it is no longer about having a silo system of buying, storing and playing music, but the whole experience of buying, storing, playing, seeking comments, ranking, having customised playlists and downloading music and media. If we could just iTunify these whole thinking into such a singular system, where instead of music, the commodity is now thoughts and ideas, wouldn't we then be able to move the community and society ahead? Perhaps...?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Future of Travel...

This animated clip just reminded me of The Jetsons, a futuristic family-oriented cartoon shown when I was much younger. I thought this is a cool idea, and one thing that stood out in the short clip is the idea of customised experiences. Although no longer a remote possibility, I thought if such an endeavour could be further customised to schooling and learning experiences, where each child can and will learn the things that they enjoy doing, then perhaps, schooling in itself would no longer be just about the development of the child's intellect, but more on the development (and education) of the child.

Enjoy the clip nonetheless...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Design? by Design Says Hello

An interesting peek into the design industry in Singapore. And yes, comparatively we are still a relatively young industry over here. It would definitely take time to make the culture here to be more design-conscious, but at least this is a start to something more...I hope!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Design for Education...Teaching Design for Change

I just love the idea of the 6 Design Directives, and looking at how design is slanted to be WITH the people, and not FOR the people.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The irony of collaboration

Picture taken from:
With 'collaborative learning' being one of the new buzzword in education, it won't take long for this habit of including it, in one form or another, into our daily teaching routine be the norm. But is it really an effective strategy, let alone a useful tool for teaching and learning.

For me, I do find that collaborative learning does have its intended flaws, but as a concept and an idea,  it is still basically sound. But how then should one be managing collaborative learning, to ensure that the intended outcomes are met, while taking care and managing some of its deficiencies.

I, for one, have this idea that for it to work effectively, the classroom facilitator, or teacher, would need to understand the work or lessons being covered, and the main intent of having collaboration. I would think that collaboration would and could only happen if, and only if, there is truly an exchange of enriching and almost mutually exclusive content amongst the students. Or in another way, it would also work when there is an explicit intent to level up the expertise of the non-experts with the experts. I guess to draw a similarity here, one wouldn't buy an exact copy of the pair of shoes that one is having, unless of course there are some non-rational explanations for it. Maybe the same designs with a different colour, or shades of colour or with some minor enhancements...perhaps...but definitely not of the same exact design, colour, size, etc....well you know what I mean.

And to add to that argument, collaborative learning would also work, if and only if, there is this process, or perhaps criteria, that ensures that each and every one of them has almost the same level of importance towards this collaborative effort. I mean there would perhaps be no point, and in fact would be the natural human behaviour, if you suddenly find one of your students suddenly losing interest when he or she realises that his/her expertise is no longer valued, or put up to an equal footing, compared with the rest. This is perhaps why sometimes, collaborative endeavours fail. When the degree of importance is not clearly demarcated and deemed to be almost equally important, what we would have is a failure in our efforts, no matter how successful the final product is.

Which begs the question, if collaborative learning is so difficult to manage, why do we want to have it in the first place? Well, it is like asking a shoe-lover, why does he or she needs 10 pairs of shoes when he/she only has one pair of feet/legs to go with them. It is not so much of that pair of legs that is of the concern here, but the 10 pairs of shoes that are in the wardrobe (that we should worry). The leg would most probably remain quite a constant, with some variations in sizes and perhaps, colour and other minor features. More importantly is the colour of the shoes. As time goes by, and style and preferences changes, the 10 pairs might no longer suffice. One would need a lot more to cater to different situations, events and contexts. Which begs the question on the need for the development of niche areas of expertise and content knowledge!

So can we afford not to try collaborative learning? I don't think so. But more importantly, how then can we ensure that this practice is indeed successful. I for one, have no easy answer. I do have my fair share of lessons where things could, and did go either way. But that is the whole point isn't it. Knowing what doesn't work, and what works, is education for the teacher too, right? So to put the analogy of the shoes above to the question, can we then only survive, in tomorrow's day and age, with only a single pair of shoes?