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David Ashton
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Re: "It's Showtime!"
David Ashton   1/23/2014 5:25:21 PM
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@Amy: "Instructors that I've spoken to really like that this sort of set up is quite challenging to students.  If a student doesn't know their theory, it becomes apparent pretty quickly when they're asked to apply it".

A course I was recently on comes to mind.  it was on PLCs and most of the students were electrical apprentices - I was the oldest in the class by far.  Quite a few of the guys had the idea that just attending was all that they needed to do.  With your model of pre-class study of the theory being needed, they would have been hopeless.  How you motivate guys like that with ANY teaching model, I'm not sure.  They were pretty disruptive, and of course any kind of discipline or chucking them out of the class is a no-no these days.....

The other difference I have noticed from when I did my first training is that these days training is "competency based" - as long as you demonstrate you're competent, you pass, no grading.  I think this is a bad thing - what are your views?

Amy Leask
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Re: "It's Showtime!"
Amy Leask   1/23/2014 1:06:35 PM
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Thanks very much for your comments.

This model, like any other, really does rely on dedication and preparation on the part of the instructor.  You're absolutely right that it isn't going to be a perfect fit for everyone (I'm not sure if there is such a thing in education). 

Instructors that I've spoken to really like that this sort of set up is quite challenging to students.  If a student doesn't know their theory, it becomes apparent pretty quickly when they're asked to apply it.  A wonderful side effect is that instructors are often presented with challenges and new questions themselves. It keeps everyone involved honest and on their toes. 

David Ashton
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Re: "It's Showtime!"
David Ashton   1/22/2014 11:28:21 PM
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Hi again Bert.  No soldering huh?  I don't envy you....to paraphrase a well know quote, "I love the smell of rosin cored solder in the morning...."

On the more general stuff.  I have always been a stickler for theory - I always like to know HOW something works rather than just know how to make it work, as many of my colleagues do.  The few languages I've learned, I like to know the grammar as well as the words.  Only when you know the theory can you fully know the practical side as well.  But I think this way of learning would work for me - I'm happy to learn the theory myself but it is nice to have someone more experienced mentoring you when you start putting it into practice.

But it's horses for courses - this would not work well for everyone and that is where a good teacher will always adapt the training for different students.

MeasurementBlues
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Re: "It's Showtime!"
MeasurementBlues   1/22/2014 10:16:06 PM
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@betajet, take a look at wpi.edu. About 40+ years ago, the faculty recognized the need for project-based undergraduate education and threw the whole cirriculum out the door. Many faculty focus on undergraduate education with many project done in conjuction with industry. But they went a step further. To graduate, you had to complete a project that shows technology's impact on society. My prjoect (1978) was to develop methods for elementary school teachers to teach the metric system. I can still do many metric conversions in my head because of that. Unfortunately, all the US has to show for the push to metric is the 2-liter bottle of soda.

The last time I looked, faculty at most USA universities were recruited and promoted on the basis of publishing papers and bringing in research grants.  Teaching in general?  A far third, if not a negative. 

Bert22306
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Re: "It's Showtime!"
Bert22306   1/22/2014 9:30:00 PM
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David, yes, of course, we had lab courses. And I build my stuff at home occasionally. But I can safely say that in my career, I never had to weild a soldering iron "in anger," as it were.

Not addressing David's post below, but rather the gist of the article.

I also wanted to support what Betajet said. It really distresses me when I see implied that all that theory we had to learn is not completely essential. Or for that matter, that EE is only about designing and soldering circuits. The guy who designed the communications system for the real-world Voyager spacecraft may never have touched a soldering iron.

In order to invent anything new, you have to know the theory. Any practice you might learn in college will be painfully obsolete in very few years. The theory won't be, and new discoveries have a way of building on top of what was there before. So a kid starting college today had better be exposed to a lot of good theory first and foremost. I agree that new teaching tools and techniques can perhaps be leveraged as well.

For instance, a student starting school today may very well work in quantum communication system design. If he doen't learn quantum mechanics, he'll be lost. Someone else will have to do the job. 

David Ashton
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Re: "It's Showtime!"
David Ashton   1/22/2014 9:04:56 PM
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Hi Bert.  I did say that I appreciate many engineers never need to pick up a soldering iron....and especially if you are more on the software side that would be true.

But did you ever do much hardware?  And when you were learning, did it involve soldering at all?

CTHP
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Re: "It's Showtime!"
CTHP   1/22/2014 6:21:08 PM
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I agree with Betajet on all points... and then some. The part of the article that got my attention was the statement "...facts and theories are still important, but they take up far less of the time students spend with their instructors". The facts and theories are the reason why students attend engineering institutions/universities and those facts should be delivered by highly trained instructors and professors.  I remember long days of theory and lecture backed up by labs (the practical experience) as well as final projects that were required in order to graduate – and that was 30 years ago. The classic approach has worked since that time and has produced graduates that brought us the engineering marvels we see today. This just sounds too much like the social media paradigm and the presumed impossibility of getting along in the world without all the 'networking'.

Bert22306
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Re: "It's Showtime!"
Bert22306   1/22/2014 6:01:06 PM
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Hey David, I keep wondering about this soldering adeptness you mention. One of my latest work projects has to do with applying and modifying encryption and authentication techniques. Much as I've tried, my trusty soldering gun is of no use.

Oh well, huh? All in the day's work, for a EE!

Bert22306
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The change is never as big as articles might suggest
Bert22306   1/22/2014 5:54:29 PM
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New teaching alternatives that have become available, such as online tutorials, of course should be exploited. But the truth is, none of these new ideas were lost on educators even before.

When the engineering classrooms are large, typically Freshman year, you also had smaller recitation sessions and smaller labs. That's when you got the one on one. Think about it. How can that prof, in front of a class of 100 students (Freshmen, I never had any class that size after Freshman year) ever expect to dedicate "quality time" to individual students, in a supposedly upside down classroom?

Can't be done. So in fact, perhaps we're saying that the large classes will be replaced by online tutorials, and the emphasis will instead go to smaller recitation sessions, typically taught by graduate students, and labs, also taught by graduate students.

There's only so much time the actual prof can e expected to dedicate to each student, no matter how you twist the model around.

Wnderer
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It's about time
Wnderer   1/22/2014 4:44:09 PM
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They should have done this 30 years ago with video tape. I did my best in school when they handed out a sylabus at the beginning of the course with all the chapters and homework. I could work at my own pace and fit it in my schedule with my other classes. I ended up a week ahead and the class was a review of what I had learned on my own. I did my worst with the classes where I copied most of the course material off the black board and the teacher would post the reading and homework assignments at the end of each class. Students and engineers should be able to study on their own and just get help with what they are having trouble with. It's time to ditch the overpriced live lecture model of education.

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