Category: Contemporary Pedagogy

Final Thoughts


I love the quote by Parker Palmer used in this week’s blog prompt:

“In the midst of the powerful force-field of institutional life, where so much conspires to compromise the core values of my work, I have found firm ground on which to stand—the ground of personal and professional identity and integrity—and from which I can call myself, my colleagues, and my profession back to our true mission.”

I feel like this accurately describes my main goal as a professor. Working on the Flint Water Study team over the last year and a half has been an eye opening experience for me. I was the “dark side” of the engineering profession where the people who were supposed to be working for and protecting the public were actually causing them harm and then trying to cover up their wrong doings. While I don’t believe that these people woke up one day and decided that they wanted to lead poison an entire city, the choices they made and actions (or lack of actions) they took ended up harming an innocent population.

What I have learned through this experience is that there is definitely a cultural problem within these organizations (i.e. EPA and MDEQ) where they are more focused on meeting regulations by whatever means possible (even lying and cheating) rather than actually providing people with safe drinking water. But maybe there is also a major flaw in the way were are educating our future engineers. I know that when I was in undergrad we did not spend very much time discussing ethics or how we would/should handle situations that could come up in the professional world.

Through discussions in this class as well as with people from the engineering education department it does seem like we are moving in the right direction and putting more emphasis on ethics and showing students real world situations that they may have to face as professional engineers. But there is always room for improvement. As a future professor I plan to bring up ethics and ethical dilemmas in my classes as much as possible because I think it is key to developing good engineers. You can be the smartest most creative student but if you have no ethical values and are just in it for the money then are you really going to provide value to our society?

In “A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited” Parker J. Palmer’s statement really resonated with me: “Does education humanize us? Sometimes, but not nearly often enough.” He went on to say: “If higher education is to serve humane purposes, we who educate must insist that knowing is not enough, that we are not fully human until we recognize what we know and take responsibility for it”

This summarizes very well the point that I am trying to get across, we can’t just teach students the technical skills they need and expect them to be successful engineers there is also human aspect that is often overlooked or ignored in our field but is equally as important.

I don’t think google is making us stupid

Below is my response to “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” By NICHOLAS CARR


First of all, this was an extremely long post from someone who said that people generally don’t like reading things more than 3-4 paragraphs. I was half expecting to get to the end and have him say something about how “if you actually read this whole post you have proven me wrong” or something like that. I even skipped down to see if there was anything in that last paragraph but there wasn’t, so I actually read the whole thing. And it was painful…so I guess he kind of did prove that point. Maybe it’s just because I am extremely tired and it’s been a long week already (yes I know it’s only Tuesday) and also probably because I am already late on writing my blog, but I really did not understand why the author would write such a long post about how people have a short attention span because of the internet. Truly the only thing I can think of is that he is trying to show that this is true, but honestly if it is true most people probably wouldn’t read this post, I know I wouldn’t if I didn’t have to for this class.

Now back to the title of the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” I would say no it is not. While I agree that the internet may be creating a culture where we prefer to get our news in little snippets rather than lengthy stories, I don’t think that makes us any less smart, if anything it makes us more efficient. Now that being said, I grew up having google at my fingertips so maybe that makes me bias, but I feel like google is actually just another tool that can help you learn. I will say that students now a days don’t have to rely on memorizing everything that they have ever learn in school. Most basic facts can be looked up online so if you forgot something you learned in the previous year then you don’t necessary have to go back and sort through all your old notes, you can just go online and find what you are looking for, which I don’t see as a bad thing. I can’t see myself being in an emergency situation where I need to know the solubility product of Calcium Carbonate and can’t look it up. Now maybe this isn’t the case in a field such as medicine where you have a patient right in front of you that you need to treat right away but for me I don’t see why I need to waste my time memorizing information that I can easily look up. Instead it is more important for me to spend time understanding the fundamentals of chemistry and how to use the constants that I can just look up. As with everything, there are some downsides to google, (1) you need to make sure the source you are using is accurate and reliable, (2) there is definitely opportunities for students to miss use this resources, for example looking up solutions to homework problems and not actually working through them on their own.

I agree with Larry Sanger’s response to this article, I especially liked this quote at the end “to pretend that you can blame others (programmers, no less!) for your unwillingness to think long and hard is only a sign of how the problem itself resides within you. It is ultimately a problem of will, a failure to choose to think. If that is a problem of yours, you have no one to blame for it but yourself.”

Critical Pedagogy

Chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed discusses the “The Banking Concept of Education” and the negative consequences of this system.  The concept of banking is pretty simple the teachers are the depositors of knowledge and the students are the depositories. Through this system students just receive, file and store these “knowledge deposits.”  They don’t really think about what they are being taught they are just memorizing the information that they are given . I found this to be an interesting and well thought out way to describe the lack of critical thinking in the educational system. What I took away from this was that in order for students to really gain something from there education there needs to be more of a dialog between the students and the teachers. This is something that has come up in class before, education is not a one-way street where teachers just throw knowledge out for the students to memorize; it is important that students really think critically about what they are learning and question things that are unclear or don’t make sense to them.

Paulo Freire (1921-1997) in The Critical Pedagogy Primer (2004) discusses what it means to be an educator according to Freire. Educators are “learned scholars, community researchers, moral agents, philosophers, cultural workers, and political insurgents. One thing that I found very interesting is that Freire said that “teaching is a political act” and argued that educators should embrace this fact.  He believed that teachers should “position social, cultural, economic, political and philosophical critiques of dominant power at the heart of the curriculum.” While I think it is important that educators not push their own political agenda on their students, I think that teachers should provide students with appropriate information and allow them the opportunity to think critically about their own situations and how they can work to better their own lives.

Teaching Innovation

While I have learned a lot from the readings for the previous weeks, I felt like most of them just highlighted the problems in education and didn’t come up with any solutions that I felt I could use in my classroom once I became a professor. Jean Lacoste’s “Teaching Innovation Statement” actually gave examples of how to change your classroom to benefit each student. We read earlier this semester about how not all students are the same and you need to create a classroom environment that allows everyone to be able to learn to their fullest ability but until reading this statement this task seemed nearly impossible.

Jean explained in her statement that she had both online videos of her lecture and in person lectures. We discussed a teaching method similar to this in our class last week, where a professor for the into to engineering course had the students watch the lecture before class and then used the class time to work though problems. I think this concept is a great way to have more interaction with the students. I also really like the idea of having the recorded lectures online so that students can go back and re-watch parts they didn’t fully understand. I have had a few courses in graduate school that used the Echo360 service because we had students in our class that were in Northern Virginia, and I got a lot of use out of the recorded lectures. I would go back to the recorded lectures when I I was doing my homework if I remembered going over a concept in class but didn’t fully grasp the concept at the time and I would also use them  to study for my exams. I though this was a great tool and really enhanced my learning experience. Like Jean mentioned in her statement, having the lectures recorded online also allows students to be fully engaged in the class discussions since they don’t have to worry about taking detailed notes because they can go back and watch the lecture online.

It seems like the way Jean set up her course would take a lot of effort up front (recording all the lectures and coming up with all the activities for students) but the overall benefit for the students would make it worth it in the end. Especially if this is a course that you are teaching every semester.