Expanding your Learning Styles

Iroda Karimova said in earnest that she misses my crits! (!?!!??)

As per my prior post, Iroda Karimova said in earnest (while I was visiting the Hampton University Department of Architecture two weeks ago) that she misses my crits! (!?!!??)

Because I’m an active blogger I’m forever getting the question, “Do you ever work?”

The answer is yes; here’s a quick example.

My former student int he Department of Architecture at Hampton University, Iroda Karimova, emailed this to me from her smart phone today:

It was also nice to talk to you too. We haven’t see you for a while. I hope you are enjoying your oversea experience. I sometimes read your blogs, to see how you we doing.

Yes sometimes I wish I could hear your critiques, especially when I did good :). Your critiques were short, to the point, emphasizing important accomplishments, and sometimes not too enjoyable but helpful.
 Thank you for sending me this post.
 See you soon.
Whew! It sounds like I was doing my job correctly. Part of that  job is to help students learn to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve got to challenge them to address weaknesses I see. Effective teaching requires a careful balance of challenge and support (Sanford, 1962). I aim to provide that and to help students reach just a bit farther than they are comfortable doing (this is called a “plus-one” approach to teaching).
Good students, like Iroda, recognize that challenges are presented to help them grow and that the professor’s main role is to help guide them in their own learning. Receiving critique is never pain free, but it is necessary for growth and development.
Here’s the very quick reply I dashed off:
Thanks for your note, Iroda!  

You always do excellent work.  I wanted to make sure to help you reach for the stars, though.  You’re really terrific at technical ways of thinking.  As a second-year instructor, my job is to try to help students develop fluency in multiple ways of thinking… particularly the ways they find foreign or uncomfortable.

I’ve attached a chart to explain (it’s from a paper I was working on Tuesday). Most students come to college very good at one corner/quadrant of the chart. You were exceptionally good at Convergent thinking. I’d say you left second year with new skills in that realm, but more importantly, with new skills in the other three quadrants as well.
Below is a chart I made to describe Kolb’s (1984) theory. It is based on a similar chart published by Evens, Forney, and Guido-DiBrito (1998). You can read more in the paper I created for the National Conference on the Beginning Design Student (MADE Proceedings Chance Writing Architecture). If you reference it, please cite the source. The citation for the paper is:

CHANCE, S.M. (2010).Writing architecture: The role of process journals in architectural education. MADE: Design education and the art of making (160‐170). Charlotte, NC: College of Arts + Architecture. Presented at the 26th National Conference on the Beginning Design Student in Charlotte, NC.

Kolb chart by Shannon Chance

RoboSumo at DIT

RoboSumo video is available to view at by clicking here.

A video of a past RoboSumo competition is available to view at by clicking here. The competition is just getting underway now for this year… in fact, there’s still time to register for the DIT class!

One of the things I have been studying here in Dublin is the use of hands-on projects to teach engineering. One example is a very popular electrical engineering course at DIT called RoboSumo.

People who teach this course include Ted Burke, David Dorran, and Damon Berry. Richard Hayes tends to show up at RoboSumo events, too, as do many of the other lecturers. (Ted’s probably going to read this and he’ll likely send me and update of who’s teaching “on the module” this semester so I can tweak my list — I know mine isn’t complete. By the way, I appreciate having you in my audience, Ted!)

Suffice it to say, the whole program gets jazzed up about RoboSumo events. Even the Dean (Dr. Mike Murphy) can be seen in the video of the final competition.

There’s a bit of information about the class on line. The General Rules page explains:

Two robots compete in each bout, each trying to stay in the arena longer than the other robot. Robots are encouraged but not obliged to actively push their opponent out of the arena. … The bout ends either when a robot leaves the arena or once 1 minute has elapsed, whichever occurs first. If only one robot remains in the arena at the end of the bout, that robot is the winner.

A Visit to Bemis

Bemis lawn with Bemis Laboratories to the right, home of the Hampton University Department of Architecture.

Bemis lawn with Bemis Laboratories to the right, home of the Hampton University Department of Architecture.

I almost forgot to show you my January 2013 visit to Hampton University. The semester starts earlier there than at most universities, so I had the chance to visit before returning to Dublin, and while HU classes were in session. That way I could see my students as well as other professors.  I snapped some photos along the way of things that caught my eye….

Defining the Street in Dublin and Ballsbridge

Parnell Street

Parnell Street

In my opinion, good city buildings touch each other and define the street. They don’t have to be glamorous to make good urban fabric. When building work together, they create good spaces for people to enjoy.

I’ll give two quick examples of clearly defined streets. These two streets are near my apartment in Dublin. Unfortunately, they are both designed for cars–not people.  Nevertheless, the buildings work together to define space. On Parnell Street, the buildings support a good mix of uses and are close enough together to provide the density of population needed to support ground-floor retail. Residential density is lower a few blocks away, on North King, and ground-floor business are fledgling.

North King Street -- view toward the Jameson Distillery smokestack -- where density breaks down.

North King Street — view toward the Jameson Distillery smokestack — at the point where density breaks down.

Simply put, a proper mix of residential and office space is necessary to support ground floor restaurants and retail. By providing residential as well as working space, mixed-use districts are active throughout the day. Businesses can draw customers morning, noon, and night.

Having the right mix in your district ensures you’ll be able to get the services you need without getting in a car. (Oh, that we’d build this way in the States! Walkability is so rare in cities back home.)

I was reminded of all this last Thursday, when I travelled to the Fulbright office in Ballsbridge to help interview Fulbright applicants. It’s in the outskirts of Dublin. Although this is a suburban neighborhood, it is still dense by US standards. Notice that there’s more space between buildings in Ballsbridge than in Dublin city center, but that there’s still a good mix of uses/services. Nevertheless, some buildings contribute much more to the life of the street than others!

Putting a Spring in Tommy’s Step

I’m sitting at my computer in Dublin today, working on papers for two different conferences. A video just appeared on my Facebook feed to brighten my day! My nephews Christopher and David are helping their little brother Tommy shore up his walking skills. Tommy took his first steps just about an hour after we left their house one week ago. Interestingly, Christopher did the same thing two years earlier–taking his first steps while we were in transit home.

The boys are clearly delighted with Tommy’s new accomplishment! Lucy sent me a copy of the video so I could share it with you:

The boys also wanted to say ‘Hi!”

The Craic in Limerick

I’d kept to myself yesterday when I arrived at Kate Daly’s pub.

When I entered, I was cold and drenched. The hail, rain, and wind had just pelted me into a corner of the castle wall (I was looking for an entrance, but alas the castle is completely closed for renovation). Finding no way in, I had little choice but turn back.  I’d snapped some images of Kate Daly’s pub before making that fateful turn toward the bridge off King’s Island. When I saw the pub, I mused to myself that people were drinking at this time of day, and I proceeded onward.  But after the pelting I’d just taken, the pub seemed to offer warmth and hope for survival.

But the place was warm and quite.  The men — all men — clustered around the bar were wide-eyed when I burst through the door.

I’d requested hot tea but was told they had none.  My purchase of a Blumer’s (by the bottle — a fairly costly choice), secured me a seat at the pub.  The bar man suggested I’d be comfortable by the fire.  I embraced the suggestion, peeled out of my wet outer garments, and made myself at home.

I sat there for a long, long while.  The faces people at the bar changed over time, but the composition and number remained steady.

With sun rays intermittently shining through the clouds (As they normally do in Ireland), I determined it was time to leave.  After all, I needed some food to offset the effects of that cider!

On the way to the door, however, the men at the bar posed a few friendly questions.

And that set things right — it’s not usual to leave a pub here without partaking in some friendly chatter.  I’d felt okay taking the role of a tourist today, but it didn’t seem entirely right given my interest in fitting in here.

So I jumped right in and enjoyed some craic.

And, boy, did I mean a host of characters!  The folks in the photos above were key players in the banter.  We had fun.

I eventually declined the (inevitable) offer of another drink and slipped out into a (different) moment of sunshine on my way to find food.  Before I found anything edible, however, I came across some picturesque reflections and  attended a lecture at the Hunt Museum on “upcycling” discarded items into artworks and usable objects. The lecture was sponsored by Limerick’s Tidy Towns committee and delivered by a woman named Mary (another Hail Mary I discovered yesterday in Limerick!).

I left Kate Daly's pub and discovered this reflection just moments before my iPhone battery died. The blogging I did with in in Kate Daly's drained it....

I left Kate Daly’s pub and discovered this reflection just moments before my iPhone battery died. The blogging I did with in in Kate Daly’s drained it….

Hail Mary in Limerick Today

The AIARG conference wrapped up yesterday (my solo presentation went well and the audience was enthusiastic).

I stayed over to experience Limerick (again — Dave and I took a brief stop here in 2003 to see the castle).

Experience Limerick I have. The city gets lots and lots of rain. Today started with sun and intermittent but brief showers.

I admired the River Shannon, wandered the Medieval district, and stepped into Mary’s Cathedral for the end of a Sunday service. I enjoy Protestant services because they include women as primary leaders. I need that and I wish the Catholic Church would get with it. When I was six I wanted to be a priest. The Catholic Church wasn’t ready to accept my contribution. I invested my life’s energies in teach through architecture instead of through theology. I find that, like theology, making architecture requires hope, faith, and expressions of truth and beauty.

Leaving Mary’s Cathedral I headed toward Mary’s church. It seems there are redundant versions (Catholic and Protestant) of churches dedicated to many of the same saints here in Limerick. There are many, many fine church buildings here.

Sadly, the Mary Church was not open though it glowed merrily in the sun’s rays. For a minute. Then all Hail broke out.

I continued wandering on King’s Island in the hail until the the wind and pellets conquered me.

Soaked, I turned back to a corner pub. I sit here warming myself and attempting to dry, Bulmer’s and iPhone blog app in hand. They had no hot drinks but hot whiskey! The radio is blasting weather reports. The resounding “I’m a Believer” brightened the sprits of all the men huddled at the bar, and me!

“I Feel Good” is jazzing us up now….

My Sis Celebrating the Innaguration

Although I spent Monday in bed, I lived vicariously through my sister. Heather drove from New York to DC to witness another historic inauguration and hear Mr. Obama’s address. Thanks for representing our little branch of the family, Sis!



Gavin and I successfully presented our work today in Limerick at the 2nd annual conference of the All Ireland Architectural Research Group (AIARG). Got up at five to catch the train so we could finalize the presentation.

David Leatherborrow delivered the keynote address on Louis Kahn. It’s a lecture that I missed when he gave it at the National Conference on the Beginning Design Student in 2010. (I had to catch my flight). Some opportunities do come again and get better over time. That was part of his message: beginning again, over and over, approaching the issues slowly and being open to emerging opportunities made Kahn’s design work great.



Why Winter is Comfy in Dublin

The red dots on this map show the locations of Portsmouth (left) and Dublin (right). (Base map was downloaded from a Regnum Christi blog post.)http://live.regnumchristi.org/2011/07/where-are-you-from/

The red dots on this map show the locations of Portsmouth (left) and Dublin (right). (Base map was downloaded from a Regnum Christi blog post.)

Winter weather in Dublin is often much like that in the costal region of Virginia where my house is.  The nearby water helps mitigate temperature extremes in each location.  (That’s partly because water heats up during the day and releases that energy slowly at night — keeping costal areas warmer than inland areas during winter.)

Like Portsmouth, Dublin rarely sees snow.  When a dusting comes, it quickly dissolves.

Both places near the brink of calamity with the slightest hint of ice or snow. The cities and drivers simply aren’t prepared to deal with it.

What’s interesting about all this is that Dublin is so very far north. It’s much farther north than, say, Fargo, North Dakota, where my friends have reported recent wind chills of minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit!?!! Yet it never gets that cold here!

In summer, however, Dublin doesn’t get nearly as warm as Portsmouth.

In 2003 Dave and I were in Ireland for the extended “heat wave” where temperatures reached 75 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two weeks.

This chart shows the blend of temperature and humidity that most people in the States find comfortable. (Image from Shiller, M. (2004). Mechanical and electrical systems. Chicago: Dearborn Financial Publishing.)

This chart shows the blend of temperature and humidity that most people in the States find comfortable. (Image from Shiller, M. (2004). Mechanical and electrical systems. Chicago: Dearborn Financial Publishing.)

These factors affect human thermal comfort. (Image from the book Shiller, M. (2004). Mechanical and electrical systems. Chicago: Dearborn Financial Publishing.)

These factors affect human thermal comfort. (Image from the book Shiller, M. (2004). Mechanical and electrical systems. Chicago: Dearborn Financial Publishing.)

The humidity is terrible at home in the summer.  But here, the level of humidity is always quite comfortable.  The air doesn’t tend to hold a lot of water.  When it reaches the point of saturation that would be uncomfortable to most people, it drops the water in the form of rain.  So, Dublin gets some rain most days, but the shower doesn’t usually last long.  I don’t carry an umbrella because a lightweight coat and hat do a fine job keeping me dry.

Based on the chart above (that I use in the Architectural Ecology classes I teach at Hampton University), the humidity level in Dublin must stay between 20-75%.  Mother Nature must naturally remove the water as rain when humidity reaches a point over 75% here.  How generous of her!

Overall, Dublin enjoys a pretty good balance of the factors show in the drawing to the right (humidity, temperature, sun, and wind).

The weather was chilly this morning as I boarded the bus at O'Connell Street to go interview potential Fulbrighters -- but it was much warmer than in much of the USA!

Incidentally, the humidity in this picture is from the warm, wet breath of people riding the bus this chilly morning. The wet air tends to get trapped inside the bus.  And, it seems to be a bit more humid up top on the double deckers, perhaps because heat rises.

A great benefit of all this is that my laundry almost always dries within the day when I hang it inside the apartment — I have a clothes dryer here, but thankfully no need for it!  The air is dry enough here to absorb the water in the clothes as soon as I hang them.  It takes much longer for laundry to dry in my house in Portsmouth, even when the air conditioner is running overtime to such the water form the air.

Here, there’s no need for AC (except, of course, in buildings that were designed without regard for climate… who would overlook that!?!).