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Thread: Is technical education getting too...technical?

  1. #1

    Default Is technical education getting too...technical?

    This is a criticism that I had with university-level biology that eventually drove me from the field. Same with economics. Yet I also suspect there is good cause for some of these intro courses being so boring and impractical: it filters-out weak links who may want to major in something technical.

    Still, I can't help but think a more relaxed view on technical education would help all of us. If people knew about even the most basic hardware behind their cellphones, it could help them work in more technical fields and even develop new ideas we haven't thought of.

    November 4, 2011
    Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard)

    By CHRISTOPHER DREW

    LAST FALL, President Obama threw what was billed as the first White House Science Fair, a photo op in the gilt-mirrored State Dining Room. He tested a steering wheel designed by middle schoolers to detect distracted driving and peeked inside a robot that plays soccer. It was meant as an inspirational moment: children, science is fun; work harder.

    Politicians and educators have been wringing their hands for years over test scores showing American students falling behind their counterparts in Slovenia and Singapore. How will the United States stack up against global rivals in innovation? The president and industry groups have called on colleges to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year and 100,000 new teachers with majors in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. All the Sputnik-like urgency has put classrooms from kindergarten through 12th grade — the pipeline, as they call it — under a microscope. And there are encouraging signs, with surveys showing the number of college freshmen interested in majoring in a STEM field on the rise.

    But, it turns out, middle and high school students are having most of the fun, building their erector sets and dropping eggs into water to test the first law of motion. The excitement quickly fades as students brush up against the reality of what David E. Goldberg, an emeritus engineering professor, calls “the math-science death march.” Freshmen in college wade through a blizzard of calculus, physics and chemistry in lecture halls with hundreds of other students. And then many wash out.

    Studies have found that roughly 40 percent of students planning engineering and science majors end up switching to other subjects or failing to get any degree. That increases to as much as 60 percent when pre-medical students, who typically have the strongest SAT scores and high school science preparation, are included, according to new data from the University of California at Los Angeles. That is twice the combined attrition rate of all other majors.

    For educators, the big question is how to keep the momentum being built in the lower grades from dissipating once the students get to college.

    “We’re losing an alarming proportion of our nation’s science talent once the students get to college,” says Mitchell J. Chang, an education professor at U.C.L.A. who has studied the matter. “It’s not just a K-12 preparation issue.”

    Professor Chang says that rather than losing mainly students from disadvantaged backgrounds or with lackluster records, the attrition rate can be higher at the most selective schools, where he believes the competition overwhelms even well-qualified students.

    “You’d like to think that since these institutions are getting the best students, the students who go there would have the best chances to succeed,” he says. “But if you take two students who have the same high school grade-point average and SAT scores, and you put one in a highly selective school like Berkeley and the other in a school with lower average scores like Cal State, that Berkeley student is at least 13 percent less likely than the one at Cal State to finish a STEM degree.”

    The bulk of attrition comes in engineering and among pre-med majors, who typically leave STEM fields if their hopes for medical school fade. There is no doubt that the main majors are difficult and growing more complex. Some students still lack math preparation or aren’t willing to work hard enough.

    Other deterrents are the tough freshman classes, typically followed by two years of fairly abstract courses leading to a senior research or design project. “It’s dry and hard to get through, so if you can create an oasis in there, it would be a good thing,” says Dr. Goldberg, who retired last year as an engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is now an education consultant. He thinks the president’s chances of getting his 10,000 engineers is “essentially nil.”

    In September, the Association of American Universities, which represents 61 of the largest research institutions, announced a five-year initiative to encourage faculty members in the STEM fields to use more interactive teaching techniques.

    “There is a long way to go,” says Hunter R. Rawlings, the association’s president, “and there is an urgent need to accelerate the process of reform.”

    The latest research also suggests that there could be more subtle problems at work, like the proliferation of grade inflation in the humanities and social sciences, which provides another incentive for students to leave STEM majors. It is no surprise that grades are lower in math and science, where the answers are clear-cut and there are no bonus points for flair. Professors also say they are strict because science and engineering courses build on one another, and a student who fails to absorb the key lessons in one class will flounder in the next.

    After studying nearly a decade of transcripts at one college, Kevin Rask, then a professor at Wake Forest University, concluded last year that the grades in the introductory math and science classes were among the lowest on campus. The chemistry department gave the lowest grades over all, averaging 2.78 out of 4, followed by mathematics at 2.90. Education, language and English courses had the highest averages, ranging from 3.33 to 3.36.

    Ben Ost, a doctoral student at Cornell, found in a similar study that STEM students are both “pulled away” by high grades in their courses in other fields and “pushed out” by lower grades in their majors.

    MATTHEW MONIZ bailed out of engineering at Notre Dame in the fall of his sophomore year. He had been the kind of recruit most engineering departments dream about. He had scored an 800 in math on the SAT and in the 700s in both reading and writing. He also had taken Calculus BC and five other Advanced Placement courses at a prep school in Washington, D.C., and had long planned to major in engineering.

    But as Mr. Moniz sat in his mechanics class in 2009, he realized he had already had enough. “I was trying to memorize equations, and engineering’s all about the application, which they really didn’t teach too well,” he says. “It was just like, ‘Do these practice problems, then you’re on your own.’ ” And as he looked ahead at the curriculum, he did not see much relief on the horizon.

    So Mr. Moniz, a 21-year-old who likes poetry and had enjoyed introductory psychology, switched to a double major in psychology and English, where the classes are “a lot more discussion based.” He will graduate in May and plans to be a clinical psychologist. Of his four freshman buddies at Notre Dame, one switched to business, another to music. One of the two who is still in engineering plans to work in finance after graduation.

    Mr. Moniz’s experience illustrates how some of the best-prepared students find engineering education too narrow and lacking the passion of other fields. They also see easier ways to make money.

    Notre Dame’s engineering dean, Peter Kilpatrick, will be the first to concede that sophomore and junior years, which focus mainly on theory, remain a “weak link” in technical education. He says his engineering school has gradually improved its retention rate over the past decade by creating design projects for freshmen and breaking “a deadly lecture” for 400 students into groups of 80. Only 50 to 55 percent of the school’s students stayed through graduation 10 years ago. But that figure now tops 75 percent, he says, and efforts to create more labs in the middle years could help raise it further.

    “We’re two years into that experiment and, quite honestly, it’s probably going to take 5 to 10 years before we’re really able to inflesh the whole curriculum with this project-based learning,” Dean Kilpatrick says.

    No one doubts that students need a strong theoretical foundation. But what frustrates education experts is how long it has taken for most schools to make changes.

    The National Science Board, a public advisory body, warned in the mid-1980s that students were losing sight of why they wanted to be scientists and engineers in the first place. Research confirmed in the 1990s that students learn more by grappling with open-ended problems, like creating a computer game or designing an alternative energy system, than listening to lectures. While the National Science Foundation went on to finance pilot courses that employed interactive projects, when the money dried up, so did most of the courses. Lecture classes are far cheaper to produce, and top professors are focused on bringing in research grants, not teaching undergraduates.

    In 2005, the National Academy of Engineering concluded that “scattered interventions” had not resulted in widespread change. “Treating the freshman year as a ‘sink or swim’ experience and accepting attrition as inevitable,” it said, “is both unfair to students and wasteful of resources and faculty time.”

    Since becoming Notre Dame’s dean in 2008, Dr. Kilpatrick has revamped and expanded a freshman design course that had gotten “a little bit stale.” The students now do four projects. They build Lego robots and design bridges capable of carrying heavy loads at minimal cost. They also create electronic circuit boards and dream up a project of their own.

    “They learn how to work with their hands, how to program the robot and how to work with design constraints,” he says. But he also says it’s inevitable that students will be lost. Some new students do not have a good feel for how deeply technical engineering is. Other bright students may have breezed through high school without developing disciplined habits. By contrast, students in China and India focus relentlessly on math and science from an early age.

    “We’re in a worldwide competition, and we’ve got to retain as many of our students as we can,” Dean Kilpatrick says. “But we’re not doing kids a favor if we’re not teaching them good life and study skills.”

    WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE, in Massachusetts, one of the nation’s oldest technological schools, has taken the idea of projects to heart. While it still expects students to push their way through standard engineering and science classes, it ripped up its traditional curriculum in the 1970s to make room for extensive research, design and social-service projects by juniors and seniors, including many conducted on trips with professors overseas. In 2007, it added optional first-year projects — which a quarter of its freshmen do — focused on world problems like hunger or disease.

    “That kind of early engagement, and letting them see they can work on something that is interesting and important, is a big deal,” says Arthur C. Heinricher, the dean of undergraduate studies. “That hooks students.”

    And so late this past summer, about 90 freshmen received e-mails asking if they typically received flu vaccines. The e-mails were not from the health services office, but from students measuring how widely flu spreads at different rates of vaccination. Two of the students had spent part of their freshmen year researching diseases and devising a survey. Now, as juniors, they were recruiting the newcomers to take part in simulations, using neon wristbands and stickers, to track how many of them became “infected” as they mingled during orientation.

    Brenna Pugliese, one of the juniors and a biology major, says the two-day exercise raised awareness on campus of the need for more students to get the vaccine. “I can honestly say that I learned more about various biology topics than I ever learned in any other class,” she says.

    Teachers say they have been surprised by the sophistication of some of the freshmen projects, like a device to harvest kinetic energy that is now being patented. But the main goals are to enable students to work closely with faculty members, build confidence and promote teamwork. Studies have shown that women, in particular, want to see their schoolwork is connected to helping people, and the projects help them feel more comfortable in STEM fields, where men far outnumber women everywhere except in biology.

    Seventy-four percent of W.P.I. undergraduates earn bachelor’s degrees within four years and 80 percent by six years.

    Most of the top state research universities have added at least a splash of design work in the freshman year. The University of Illinois began this fall to require freshmen engineering students to take a course on aspirations for the profession and encourages them to do a design project or take a leadership seminar. Most technical schools push students to seek summer internships and take semesters off to gain practical work experiences. The hope is that the lure of high-paying jobs during an economic downturn will convince more students to stick with it.

    Some private schools have also adjusted their grading policies to ease some of the pressure on STEM students. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has long given freshmen only “pass” or “no record” grades in the first half of the year while they get used to the workload. W.P.I. lets undergraduates take up to three classes for which no grade is recorded if they would have received less than a C. Any required courses would have to be repeated.

    Ilea Graedel, a 20-year-old junior in aerospace engineering, says that policy provides “a nice buffer if you want to try something new, like a class outside your comfort zone.”

    But what really helps Ms. Graedel get through the rigors of STEM, she says, is hanging onto her aspirations. She grew up in a farming area in Washington State, the only student from her high school class of 26 pursuing a technology degree. She has wanted to be an astronaut since she was 3, when her mother took her to Boeing’s Museum of Flight in Seattle and bought her a book called “I Want to Be an Astronaut.”

    The space program has been sharply cut back. Still, she says, “I’m going to hold onto that dream very dearly.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/ed...darn-hard.html

  2. #2
    I read that when it was first written and couldn't help but feel that Americans are just spoiled when it comes to doing hard subjects. I've seen it happen too often. People couldn't bother to put in the time to do well in Calculus, Chemistry, Logic, or almost any other class that required anything more than doing a few readings and writing one's opinion. I see it in my classes today: people can't be bothered to memorize the smallest amount of information (or for that matter, know how to multiple 3 numbers by 3 numbers without a calculator). Furthermore, this is a trend that starts early on, with parents being content to let their children do poorly at math and science, because those subjects are "hard". While I won't deny that the above article has a point about many technical classes being dry, I could easily say the same thing about many other subjects that people don't drop: communication, anthropology, etc. In the end, people are being told to follow their dreams, and that includes not doing more work than necessary to achieve them.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  3. #3
    From my personal experience (yes anecdote alert!) I think it would be a mistake to try to pretend that you can be a good engineer without going through the dry math. I think one of the key point was addressed in the text, problems and answers are clear-cut and there is no discussion about your grade. But well, that's the live of an engineer, if your machine wont run you wont be able to discuss it to work, you will work that extra hours on the weekend to make it run. The machine won't give you an extra point for flair either, your clients and co-worker might will, but that won't help you all the time.
    "Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen." - Helmut Schmidt

  4. #4
    Senior Member Flixy's Avatar
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    Over here, they made the first few weeks a little lighter, showing the dry side of physics/math with the applications to make it more interesting, but after that you still get immersed in hard math and physics. Dropout rates in the first year are 50-60% I think. But after the first year, pretty much everybody gets there in the end (though it may take long times).

    They do actively put the better, less boring professors in first year classes though, and there are more projects which are less dry and boring.

    But in the end you still have to know the math, how dry it may be. Any improvement in the transition from high school to university can't go at the cost of the overall curriculum, so if it's easier at the start it will be harder in the end.
    Keep on keepin' the beat alive!

  5. #5
    Not all universities or courses are so technical as to be repulsive to students, in my opinion. It varies, but I agree. I think a big part of this is the "symbology". There is a fundamental gap between those who are trying to teach with their foreign abstract symbolic languages (completely different than what you see in K-12, and even other similar courses) and those trying to learn. Not everyone is able to process and remember such obtuse symbology.

    I'm definitely unable to do so, yet I understand economics concepts fairly well. I didn't have this issue in my economics courses -- mathematical gibberish did creep in in one of the very basic finance courses, however.

    Another related issue is how, in my opinion, site like Wikipedia has become far too technical in regards to virtually any math or science page with equations -- and the font sucks, too. I blame the culture of "correctness".

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    I read that when it was first written and couldn't help but feel that Americans are just spoiled when it comes to doing hard subjects. I've seen it happen too often. People couldn't bother to put in the time to do well in Calculus, Chemistry, Logic, or almost any other class that required anything more than doing a few readings and writing one's opinion.
    Grades can be affected not just by knowledge of the subject, or even one's personal intelligence, but also by how someone feels towards the content of that knowledge, their inclination to absorb it, and also how that information is presented or taught. For instance, it might be far more tedious for someone to learn the names of the first forty-four Elements, than say the names of the Presidents of the US, even though it would require just as much effort. Going with how it is presented or taught, classes and classwork might be far more stressful than is necessary. This isn't a bad thing though. I see classes that are aimed at teaching future potential doctors and medical researchers as being more stressful than necessary to get the information across, simply because they aren't just testing for how well you've learned the subject, but how well you can handle a stressful environment, because in the future, when they are employed, it is going to be very stressful at times, and you can't simply walk away from a patient or a research project with the same effects as you can homework or a book.

    I've seen similar things happen in the classes I took to get my degrees in Computer Graphics, and Digital Imaging and Design. Students thought that they'd just be dealing with a bunch of fun art stuff, and then ended up changing majors or dropping out when they found out they had to learn a bunch of technical information, or turn in multiple projects with harsh, or impossible deadlines and goals.

  7. #7
    De Oppresso Liber CitizenCain's Avatar
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    The issue I had that still seems silly and stupid to me is memorizing volumes of shit for no particular reason, and I was far from the only one. What the hell are computers for, if not that very thing? We no longer live in a world where remembering vast quantities of whatever is a useful ability, when all that crap is but a Google search away.

    And as the SETM disciplines at my university didn't seem to get that, and rewarded memorization and rote learning over the creative application of those tools, I quickly transferred to a similar major in the Business college, which seemed to care more about how the data and formulas were applied than how many things you could cram into your head.

    Frankly that seems a lot more important than anythingt else regarding new SETM professionals. I have databases. I don't need or want a human version. Focus on getting those with high aptitudes into solving problems, not memorizing shit they'll just look up once they pass their finals.
    "I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."

    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

    -- Thomas Jefferson: American Founding Father, clairvoyant and seditious traitor.

  8. #8
    Depends on the usefulness of the volumes of data you're memorizing really, and your own personal abilities when it comes to dealing with information. As an example, there are people, myself included, who can put some problem on the back mental burner, and sometimes come up with a solution at a later time, even if they weren't actively thinking about it. This method of solving problems however is only as effective as the information you yourself remember and retain, as your brain can't google search to come up with missing data. Also you can't google search in some instances. Do we expect doctors to search the internet for how to complete a certain procedure because they were never required to memorize it?

    I guess the "no particular reason" thing is the key, but someone likely thinks there is a reason. But this is IMHO why I disliked Art History, which was several years of remembering the names of who made something, when they made it, what they made it of, and why it was made. I remember little of this information now, simply because I don't need, nor is it useful to remember all the details about Rauschenberg's Bed when making an animation of how a heart valve functions, or figuring out why a render is coming out all black. However knowing that the refractive index of water is 1.33 means I can get something done related to a water material/shader faster than someone who has to Google it (or even knowing about Laminar Flow means that I know to include it in animations of fluids if necessary, where-as someone who doesn't know about it isn't even going to think to Google it).

  9. #9
    I think if we can raise our standards in k-12. Then the drop rates won't be nearly as high. If the basic equation you are introduced to in physics, in chemistry aren't so daunting either conceptually or mechanically (as in solving the problem with their use) then perhaps they can begin to enjoy the class itself more.

    In earnesty it isn't a lack of abilty in us humans, or the US population that holds us, the human brain is incredible for the information it can hold, and compute, especially when developed at a young age. The average person, imo, could all be geniuses by todays societies standards if given the right motivation and instruction at an early age. What we see instead is we have those who are either very naturally gifted excelling, or those who are naturally motivated excelling.

    I will say this, I think if we're going to have school for k-12 then we should make the most of our time, and I don't think our schools are. Hard workers are hard to come by, and so are good teachers.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Illusions View Post
    I've seen similar things happen in the classes I took to get my degrees in Computer Graphics, and Digital Imaging and Design. Students thought that they'd just be dealing with a bunch of fun art stuff, and then ended up changing majors or dropping out when they found out they had to learn a bunch of technical information, or turn in multiple projects with harsh, or impossible deadlines and goals.
    Ditto. I've had people who thought that political science means giving your uninformed opinion about current events, and were sorely disappointed (and unwilling to do work) when they found out otherwise.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    I read that when it was first written and couldn't help but feel that Americans are just spoiled when it comes to doing hard subjects. I've seen it happen too often. People couldn't bother to put in the time to do well in Calculus, Chemistry, Logic, or almost any other class that required anything more than doing a few readings and writing one's opinion. I see it in my classes today: people can't be bothered to memorize the smallest amount of information (or for that matter, know how to multiple 3 numbers by 3 numbers without a calculator). Furthermore, this is a trend that starts early on, with parents being content to let their children do poorly at math and science, because those subjects are "hard". While I won't deny that the above article has a point about many technical classes being dry, I could easily say the same thing about many other subjects that people don't drop: communication, anthropology, etc. In the end, people are being told to follow their dreams, and that includes not doing more work than necessary to achieve them.
    God fucking damn it Loki, I get a dirty, tingly feeling when I agree with you and you're doing it again

    Dread, given the opener you gave to the thread I'm struggling to think of a response that isn't offensive to you! These things are meant to be hard. You have to be able to do it, and the only way to learn is by sweating it out. Alternatively, be born highly gifted. The latter option is available to a smaller percentage of the population than the one holding the vast majority of US wealth atm.

    Given that no one (sane) does just a bachelor's in science here, I feel like I can venture into personal land as well: Do you know how fucking awfully frustrating it is to talk to someone who's ostensibly either your peer or something close, but they just don't have a fucking clue? I am not exceptionally gifted and yet all too often I run into people who've braided their cerebral ass-hole shut. And I'm not including the freshmen students into this calculation!

    It's too bad the US doesn't have a functioning vocational schooling system, with their own higher equivalents who could absorb some of the fuck-nuts trying to become a lab tech with a bachelor's in STEM, or whatever the fuck these kids think they're doing (from what I hear, good luck getting to be a tech without a master's). But I doubt the ideal solution is dumbing everything down for Jimmy-too-dumb-or-lazy to learn the indefinite integral!

    We do offer some fun, "look at us blow shit up" courses, but certainly you understand that these can't be the majority or even the plurality of one's mid-level higher education. And at some point you have to make the student go through all the "dry, tough" stuff.
    In the future, the Berlin wall will be a mile high, and made of steel. You too will be made to crawl, to lick children's blood from jackboots. There will be no creativity, only productivity. Instead of love there will be fear and distrust, instead of surrender there will be submission. Contact will be replaced with isolation, and joy with shame. Hope will cease to exist as a concept. The Earth will be covered with steel and concrete. There will be an electronic policeman in every head. Your children will be born in chains, live only to serve, and die in anguish and ignorance.
    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Nessus View Post
    God fucking damn it Loki, I get a dirty, tingly feeling when I agree with you and you're doing it again
    I thought all tingly feelings are dirty.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    I thought all tingly feelings are dirty.
    You have an odd moralistic bent
    In the future, the Berlin wall will be a mile high, and made of steel. You too will be made to crawl, to lick children's blood from jackboots. There will be no creativity, only productivity. Instead of love there will be fear and distrust, instead of surrender there will be submission. Contact will be replaced with isolation, and joy with shame. Hope will cease to exist as a concept. The Earth will be covered with steel and concrete. There will be an electronic policeman in every head. Your children will be born in chains, live only to serve, and die in anguish and ignorance.
    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

  14. #14
    What ever turns you on.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  15. #15
    So, are bro's reacting to what the article actually says here, or Dreadnaught's derptastic thread title ("Is technical education getting too...technical?" No.)... because it seems to me is that it is not saying that the students should have to learn the hard stuff but rather that colleges should be teaching it in ways that are more engaging.
    Sticks and stones take a toll on me but they aren't your strongest weaponry
    You can take your shots but you'd best prepare, I can see smoke rising in the air
    Every move has a counteract, to turn the tides with a planned attack
    You push me down and the rest will rise but first I'm singing a battle cry

  16. #16
    How do you teach Calculus in a way that's more engaging? And if you try, would you cover as much information?
    Hope is the denial of reality

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    colleges should be teaching it in ways that are more engaging.
    Which relates to what I posted. What if the purpose of it is to be highly stressful, boring, or whatever thats not engaging, because in addition to trying to teach certain material they are trying to weed out people who, if they became professionals, would not be able to cope with the high stress, boredom, etc. Is a doctor going to ask their patient to do some song and dance because its the dozenth case of flu they've seen that day to diagnose and they've grown bored?

    How should the colleges I've attended have made delivering the impossible more engaging? Then how should they have taught dealing with the stress of doing so, and proper self management techniques to ensure that you still deliver something worthwhile, while also knowing what can get thrown under the bus, or delivered at a lesser quality than the whole, in order to get all/most of your projects done? Or that sometimes an entire project or task is going to be composed of tediousness, and you're going to have to deal with it because it has to be done?

  18. #18
    We've spent the past few years trying to make freshmen courses more accessible mostly by improving the TA sessions; we spend more time showing examples and trying to encourage students to solve problems within the session over blithely prattling the correct answers to the previous set of home-work exercises. But that's simply shifting the focus of the more hands-on teaching, the kids still have to learn what the fuck it is we're trying to show them, and that explicitly involves having them do it by themselves, no matter how dry or boring it is. I can't make an integral sign blow students no matter how hard I try.
    In the future, the Berlin wall will be a mile high, and made of steel. You too will be made to crawl, to lick children's blood from jackboots. There will be no creativity, only productivity. Instead of love there will be fear and distrust, instead of surrender there will be submission. Contact will be replaced with isolation, and joy with shame. Hope will cease to exist as a concept. The Earth will be covered with steel and concrete. There will be an electronic policeman in every head. Your children will be born in chains, live only to serve, and die in anguish and ignorance.
    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

  19. #19
    Add elements of problem-based learning for example?
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    Add elements of problem-based learning for example?
    I read a fun blog article about physics teaching some time ago where the gist was, give any 19-year-old a new computer or smart phone game, and they'll instantly start fooling around with it, testing limits, seeing what can be done, what rewards you and what doesn't. If you gave a physics problem (or a math problem) to the same person, they'd be horrified and wouldn't try anything for fear of being foolish. How do we transform that joy of experimentation within a game world into the same model world of the homework exercise?
    In the future, the Berlin wall will be a mile high, and made of steel. You too will be made to crawl, to lick children's blood from jackboots. There will be no creativity, only productivity. Instead of love there will be fear and distrust, instead of surrender there will be submission. Contact will be replaced with isolation, and joy with shame. Hope will cease to exist as a concept. The Earth will be covered with steel and concrete. There will be an electronic policeman in every head. Your children will be born in chains, live only to serve, and die in anguish and ignorance.
    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    Add elements of problem-based learning for example?
    And here students we have what is called the process of rendering. Its where the computer takes all that you've done, looks at it mathematically, does a lot of calculations, and uses these calculations to output an image. In order to give the proper illusion of movement or animation, the computer will need to do these calculations for every frame of that animation, with each second of animation made up of 24 - 30 frames or more. So in a 1 minute animation you have (1 Minutes * 60 Seconds * 30 Frames) 1,800 frames that need to be rendered. So if one frame takes 15 minutes to render, that means it will take 450 hours, or 18.75 days to render. You will have to monitor the render during this time, which means making sure the program is still running, that what its outputting is correct, and that what it is going to output will be correct as well, all on a deadline. Welcome to watching paint dry and diagnosing its progress.

    Engaging.

    Oh wait...

    Achievement Unlocked: Pixel Pushing Sisyphus - Completed Watching a Multi-day Render, That Had to be Restarted. 50 Pts.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    How do you teach Calculus in a way that's more engaging? And if you try, would you cover as much information?
    There's plenty of cool shit you can do with calculus, why not give students a taste of it? The article is basically talking about giving students a chance to apply what they've learned as they're learning it. It seems to me that this would a) remind them why they're putting themselves through this stuff b) function as a reward mechanism c) reinforce what they've learned.

    Alternatively, you could just make it into a MMORPG.

    Quote Originally Posted by Illusions View Post
    Which relates to what I posted. What if the purpose of it is to be highly stressful, boring, or whatever thats not engaging, because in addition to trying to teach certain material they are trying to weed out people who, if they became professionals, would not be able to cope with the high stress, boredom, etc. Is a doctor going to ask their patient to do some song and dance because its the dozenth case of flu they've seen that day to diagnose and they've grown bored?

    How should the colleges I've attended have made delivering the impossible more engaging? Then how should they have taught dealing with the stress of doing so, and proper self management techniques to ensure that you still deliver something worthwhile, while also knowing what can get thrown under the bus, or delivered at a lesser quality than the whole, in order to get all/most of your projects done? Or that sometimes an entire project or task is going to be composed of tediousness, and you're going to have to deal with it because it has to be done?
    I don't see it as the role of college to teach students how to be a grown up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nessus View Post
    We've spent the past few years trying to make freshmen courses more accessible mostly by improving the TA sessions; we spend more time showing examples and trying to encourage students to solve problems within the session over blithely prattling the correct answers to the previous set of home-work exercises. But that's simply shifting the focus of the more hands-on teaching, the kids still have to learn what the fuck it is we're trying to show them, and that explicitly involves having them do it by themselves, no matter how dry or boring it is. I can't make an integral sign blow students no matter how hard I try.
    If the students in question simply shouldn't be there then, I don't think there's anything you could do to turn them into students that should be there.
    Sticks and stones take a toll on me but they aren't your strongest weaponry
    You can take your shots but you'd best prepare, I can see smoke rising in the air
    Every move has a counteract, to turn the tides with a planned attack
    You push me down and the rest will rise but first I'm singing a battle cry

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Nessus View Post
    I read a fun blog article about physics teaching some time ago where the gist was, give any 19-year-old a new computer or smart phone game, and they'll instantly start fooling around with it, testing limits, seeing what can be done, what rewards you and what doesn't. If you gave a physics problem (or a math problem) to the same person, they'd be horrified and wouldn't try anything for fear of being foolish. How do we transform that joy of experimentation within a game world into the same model world of the homework exercise?
    I seriously think the reward mechanisms in video games have a lot to teach business and academia about motivating people. If you could some how cause numbers to float towards the ceiling an satisfying sound to play everytime a student solves a maths or physics problem then the problems with engaging students would be over.
    Sticks and stones take a toll on me but they aren't your strongest weaponry
    You can take your shots but you'd best prepare, I can see smoke rising in the air
    Every move has a counteract, to turn the tides with a planned attack
    You push me down and the rest will rise but first I'm singing a battle cry

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Nessus View Post
    I read a fun blog article about physics teaching some time ago where the gist was, give any 19-year-old a new computer or smart phone game, and they'll instantly start fooling around with it, testing limits, seeing what can be done, what rewards you and what doesn't. If you gave a physics problem (or a math problem) to the same person, they'd be horrified and wouldn't try anything for fear of being foolish. How do we transform that joy of experimentation within a game world into the same model world of the homework exercise?
    One important step may be to remove some of the attitudes and approaches Illusions suggests are deliberate attempts at "weeding out" (imho probably more justification of bad behaviour, conservatism, prestige and various forms of aspberger's, but that's just my biases talking).

    I'm not sure we're thinking about the same thing when we think "problem-based learning", however. I'm thinking of PBL as a concept wherein you, among other things, learn to identify a problem in a real situation, learn to formulate it, find out what you need to know tho solve it, etc.

    Dan Meyer gave a great TED-talk about the way schools can ruin how kids approach maths:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWUFjb8w9Ps

    If schools helped kids approach these disciplines not only as tedious un-creative labour then perhaps... I dunno.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  25. #25
    There was actually a large-scale study seeing whether having children (in 3rd grade I believe) learn math through repeated examples or through memorizing theorems worked better. If the students were given a test that asked them to do the exact same problems, the first group did better. But the second new questions were asked, the first group tanked. If you teach through examples, students end up only understanding how to do those examples.
    Last edited by Loki; 11-08-2011 at 11:13 PM.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    I don't see it as the role of college to teach students how to be a grown up.
    Stress and time management are skills, and colleges teach skills...so...?

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    I'm not sure we're thinking about the same thing when we think "problem-based learning", however. I'm thinking of PBL as a concept wherein you, among other things, learn to identify a problem in a real situation, learn to formulate it, find out what you need to know tho solve it, etc.
    Yeah, we try that with students from time to time. They suck at it. It's almost as if you need some base level of understanding and, far more importantly, a hefty tool-box of problem-solving skills, before you can tackle free-form exercises. I'm not trying to be blithe here, this is just how it looks like right now.
    In the future, the Berlin wall will be a mile high, and made of steel. You too will be made to crawl, to lick children's blood from jackboots. There will be no creativity, only productivity. Instead of love there will be fear and distrust, instead of surrender there will be submission. Contact will be replaced with isolation, and joy with shame. Hope will cease to exist as a concept. The Earth will be covered with steel and concrete. There will be an electronic policeman in every head. Your children will be born in chains, live only to serve, and die in anguish and ignorance.
    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Steely Glint View Post
    I seriously think the reward mechanisms in video games have a lot to teach business and academia about motivating people. If you could some how cause numbers to float towards the ceiling an satisfying sound to play everytime a student solves a maths or physics problem then the problems with engaging students would be over.
    That's exactly my thinking. If the software I used for analysis and freaky sensitivity had a running score, a sound track and maybe some fireworks graphics when I did really well at something or other, I'd be even more willing to spend 12 hours at work a day.
    In the future, the Berlin wall will be a mile high, and made of steel. You too will be made to crawl, to lick children's blood from jackboots. There will be no creativity, only productivity. Instead of love there will be fear and distrust, instead of surrender there will be submission. Contact will be replaced with isolation, and joy with shame. Hope will cease to exist as a concept. The Earth will be covered with steel and concrete. There will be an electronic policeman in every head. Your children will be born in chains, live only to serve, and die in anguish and ignorance.
    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    There was actually a large-scale study seeing whether having children (in 3rd grade I believe) learn math through repeated examples of through memorizing theorems worked better. If the students were given a test that asked them to do the exact same problems, the first group did better. But the second new questions were asked, the first group tanked. If you teach through examples, students end up only understanding how to do those examples.
    I remember you talking about this before, and I thought it was very interesting. Certainly there are aspects of maths learning that may need precisely that approach. However, you're contrasting the purely abstract/theoretical approach with a different method from what I'm suggesting, or what Dan Meyer's suggesting, or that is at the heart of a problem based approach. The idea isn't to teach by giving people example problems. It's to help them learn by making them manage the whole process--from identifying a problem through the development of a strategy right through to the solution. It's certainly not a substitute for theoretical learning, but rather a complement.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Nessus View Post
    That's exactly my thinking. If the software I used for analysis and freaky sensitivity had a running score, a sound track and maybe some fireworks graphics when I did really well at something or other, I'd be even more willing to spend 12 hours at work a day.
    Honestly, I'm so fundamentally lazy that doing this mentally is the only way I can get myself to do something I don't want to do.
    Sticks and stones take a toll on me but they aren't your strongest weaponry
    You can take your shots but you'd best prepare, I can see smoke rising in the air
    Every move has a counteract, to turn the tides with a planned attack
    You push me down and the rest will rise but first I'm singing a battle cry

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