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Practice : Fall 2008
low tech Our Holy Grail is the “virtual desk crit” where one instructor a nd one st udent, residing any where in the country, examine the student’s latest creative work in real time. We have turned to t wo extraordi- narily simple technologies. First, the blog, the t wo-drawer-filing- cabinet of the web. To manage our blog s, we chose free blog w are from Google, a vast company as resolute a s we are concerning cross-platform c ompatibilit y, graphic flexibility and ease of use. Our second choice w a s a technology now in beta test for 150 years —the telephone. Combining these t wo technolo- gies allows several forms of virtual desk crit. For instructors who prefer unscheduled written communication—the blog suff ices. For those who prefer real-time dialog ue, a telephone consultation over the st udent’s latest design posting ser ve s equally well. Teach to real needs The through-question for the Distance M.Arch curriculum is: How can design educ ation speak to the needs of committed practi- tioners? We expected the answer to revolve around technical knowledge and the practical dimen sions of practice, but were surprised by what we heard from our students. First on their list was expanded design studio competence; second, real support in att aining leadership roles within their firms and communities. These twin goals have provided a focus for our teaching efforts. Provide a precise structure for online learning With it’s anytime/any where ethos, online learning has acquired a reput ation a s loose-fit, casual instruction. It has become clear to us, however, that the best online instruction provides more structure than traditional learning through such mecha- nisms as multiple weekly deadlines, precise reading and writing assignments, and detailed standards for participa- tion in online discussions. Throw the doors open There i s a democr atic, public qualit y to blogging culture that has a special resonance for design pedagogy. Through the medium of Google’s Blogger, eac h student’s studio desk is now out in public for the whole Internet world to see. Most students enliven their “desk ” with MySpace conventions, posting photographs, favorite links, a nd personal statements alongside latest design proposals. T he three-person Affinity Groups of st udents we have est ablished c an monitor and support each other’s work cros s- countr y with the click of the mouse, for example. A first-ever, online portfolio review of student work was made possible. Current st udents can invite, friends, colleagues and family to comment on their work. Potential st udents can see first-hand the kind of program they might join. Many forces keep the pace of pedagogical evolution in the Distance M.Arch program at a fever pitch. The first cohort of st udents is only now entering Thesis where a novel paradigm for capstone instruction is under development. The scho ol ’s Learning Technology Group continues to test new technolo- gies of potential benefit to the program. And the last time we looked, our colleague s at Google were not sitting on their hands. feaTURe ] PeDagogy anD life in The DisTanCe M.aRCh PRaCTiCe 25