Tools for Learning: An Introduction

A funny thing happened on my way from getting my architectural license and where I am today–I got a graduate degree in educational technology. Yeah, I know. What was that about?

I am proud of my story of how I came to study the process of learning and how, in turn, it changed me as an architect. As I began to write this post for #ArchiTalks, I realized that the topic of ‘Tools for Learning’ should really be a series of posts where I go into the different avenues that this process has lead me to. But first, here’s a quick timeline of how I got here:

  • I found that while teaching architecture at the Boston Architectural College (BAC). I had the right preparation to talk about being an architect, but had to rely on my instincts, not training, on how to teach architecture. This began a discovery of my tools on how to talk about architecture.
  • Through pure luck I met Tina Blythe, then Director of Faculty Development at the BAC. Tina taught a sequence of courses to prepare architects to become better instructors.Her first course Teaching for Understanding, based on the work of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, blew my mind. This began a discovery of tools on how to teach architecture.
  • I wanted to know more but the timing didn’t work with my schedule, so I enrolled in courses at the Harvard Extension School. One course turned into two, then three. After awhile I applied to the Master of Liberal Arts program in Educational Technologies. In March 2012 I graduated after submitting my thesis, “New Professional Development Model for Young Architects.” My original research and thesis explored mandatory continuing education in the professional realm. This began a discovery of how professional architects learn and identifying tools to support this learning.
  • In 2011 I traveled with the AIA Committee on Education to London as an AIA Knowledge Scholar. Over four days we toured leading educational spaces unpacking how and why they were successful, how design impacts the process of learning, and finding inspiration in creating great spaces. This began a discovery of how exceptional spaces work with pedagogy and technology tools to capture and facilitate learning.

Over the next two months, I would like to explore each of these avenues in greater depth looking into research I found compelling, personal antidotes, and a-ha moments along the way. I found this journey has changed the way I also approach architecture.

I believe architecture is a form of education and communication. Architecture educates its users through the formation and configuration of spaces. Its design allows users to interact with it often taking cues from its environmental context. Architecture speaks to our values as a culture. Its reflects our priorities and visual gaze. It interacts with its neighbors, sometimes well, sometimes oddly. While some architecture is temporal, most last at least one generation or beyond so becomes a record of time. Architecture elicits reaction and emotion speaking to an individual or a group. Architecture can make us feel something.

Architecture itself is a tool for learning and it fascinates me.

This post is part of Bob Borson’s #ArchiTalks series—a monthly challenge encouraging architects to write about a single topic. This month’s topic is “Tool.” Please see links below to check out the views of others:


Written by

Emily is an Architect, Mother of 2, and Somerville, MA resident.

2 thoughts on “Tools for Learning: An Introduction

  1. Emily, Architecture is absolutely a tool for learning! I found it really compelling that you are pursuing several upcoming posts on this topic as a way to explore your interest in it more.

    Great read!

  2. I really like your take on this topic. Architecture is (or at least can be) a tool. I look forward to your follow up posts to expound on each of the four learning tools.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *