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Smart buildings can be pretty dumb

"Think about learning before building" was one of the key messages to the Shetland show. It came from Stephen Heppell, director of Ultralab at Anglia Polytechnic University, which specialises in the application of technologies to education.

As the Education Minister this week announced yet more cash for school buildings in Scotland (page three), Professor Heppell noted that in England a new school is opened every four days. This was "scary", he said, "since nobody has the foggiest idea what they should be like from the point of view of learning, other than assuming that they should just build them smarter."

He added: "If you ask kids about school and classroom design, they always ask for more space to do things and to work along with others."

Professor Heppell repeated the message he gave to the SETT conference in Glasgow in September that "schools are being built for productivity when they should be designed for creativity". There was a need to be "brave with our learning".

He suggested it was communities, rather than governments or countries, that would lead desirable changes in learning. Noting that Shetland is playing host next July to the annual island games, which will involve 24 islands across the world competing in 15 sports, Professor Heppell commented:

"Perhaps we should have an islands curriculum."

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