Sam Harrelson



Sam Harrelson

Viking Color Palette

Well now I think this blog needs a visual overhaul (we Harrelson’s do come from the Vikings after all):

Archaeologists and chemists have now studied colour use in the Viking Age based on the chemical analyses of pigments from a number of objects and a review of existing information on the topic.

These colours are now available to all in the form of a colour palette: A Viking paint chart.

— Read on sciencenordic.com/how-decorate-viking




Democratized Engineering

Worth your time to read the whole piece, especially the Cathedral / Bazaar analogies…

In fact, you could say that bad engineering, just like good engineering, has helped turn technology into the most powerful force for change in the 21st century. Engineering has been incredibly democratized and it’s been good for engineers. Today’s engineers are in greater demand than ever.

And yet design—and designers—seem perpetually threatened by democratization. I’ve been a designer for two and a half decades and I’ve seen this again and again.

Source: In Defense of Design Thinking, Which Is Terrible + Subtraction.com




Metaphor for Looking Ahead By Looking Back

By pushing NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to its limits, an international team of astronomers has shattered the cosmic distance record by measuring the farthest galaxy ever seen in the universe. This surprisingly bright infant galaxy, named GN-z11, is seen as it was 13.4 billion years in the past, just 400 million years after the Big Bang. GN-z11 is located in the direction of the constellation of Ursa Major.

Source: Hubble Team Breaks Cosmic Distance Record | NASA

Our eyes, like the (still) incredible Hubble Telescope, are time machines. We see things as they happen in the past, whether they are right in front of us or 13.4 billion light years away. We are a curious and amazing species that can process signals to make inferences about our own future.

Whether it’s looking into deep space or contemplating the future of your life or business, don’t ever stop visioning. Our brains are built for such duties.




The Value of No Interface

It’s not intuitive, but it is beautiful:

The best interface is no interface | Cooper Journal: “It’s time for us to move beyond screen-based thinking. Because when we think in screens, we design based upon a model that is inherently unnatural, inhumane, and has diminishing returns. It requires a great deal of talent, money and time to make these systems somewhat usable, and after all that effort, the software can sadly, only truly improve with a major overhaul.”

For a generation or two raised on detailed instruction manuals and websites with overwhelming options and menus, the idea of a clean and interface-less experience for users is painful… however it just might be what you need.




iPads and Classroom Essentials

This is a wonderful walkthrough by Fraser Speirs on how his school (Cedars School of Excellence in the UK)implemented an “iPad for Every Student” initiative and some of the resulting reflections the school has made.

I’m prodding my beloved Spartanburg Day School to do the same (at an annoyingly daily rate, I’m sure).

However, I was arrested for a moment when I came to this passage in the post…

An iPad for every child | Tablets | Macworld: “We are now at the stage where the iPad is embedded in the way we do business at the school. When we first started, we thought we could guard against misuse by threatening to take away the child’s iPad for a day or so. It turns out that doing so would now completely break the school day for that child. We might as well make them sit in the hallway and face the wall for the entire day. I did not expect that we would reach that point so soon.”

I hadn’t really considered how integrated a tool like an iPad could become to a classroom or a school. I have a “class” iPad that we use but we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of its possibilities and being that there’s only one to go around, it’s more difficult for students to dig deeper than note taking or quick reference searches with the device (although more and more students are getting iPads and bringing them to school).

However, I’ve purposely gone half the year now without renting the “laptop carts” which carry 18 white Macbooks for class. I have a very liberal policy when it comes to technology in my classroom (allow iPods, earbuds, iPads, mobiles… and even Androids to be used at a student’s discretion), but I don’t want the students to feel as if the laptops are a crutch to fall back on when we need to find material, make a connection or prove a point.

I guess that’s the same reason I keep a “mimimalist” look to my classroom with as few things on the wall etc as possible. It’s a science lab, but we’re just meeting in that room temporarily. I don’t want my students (or myself) to get fooled by the notion that the room itself is where science happens. Instead, I want them to look out the window at the beautiful dogwood just outside my classroom and realize that is their true classroom where all the lab supplies lie.

Everything in my classroom is very modular and utilitarian. The laptops could certainly serve as part of that utilitarian design, but I’d rather let student discretion and need drive the decision to use the web or an IM or a text message rather than saying, “Today, we will use the internet!” for a lesson.

I’m moving to a larger room next year with proper lab tables, gas lines, a chemical closet (and even an office). It will be interesting to see if my thinking changes then.

Regardless, I wonder if/when my dream of having iPads deployed across our school happens if we’ll have the same sudden realization about their essential nature to our character as a school. I also wonder about the ramifications if that does happen?