Kate Goodman and I have proposed a special session for the 2015 Frontiers in Education conference. Our goals are
- To foster conversation and document ideas about how the aesthetic qualities of engineering topics can be used to deliberately draw the emotional engagement of students.
- To gauge how the FIE community currently views the aesthetics of engineering, and brainstorm new visions for how aesthetics could be used to improve recruitment and retention of a diverse student population as well as lead to innovative methods for the teaching and learning of core engineering content.
- To explore the feasibility of viewing aesthetics-driven emotional engagement as a necessity and not an ancillary benefit in course design.
Really, we want to move forward on creating community around this idea. Noah Finkelstein and I did a version of this workshop at the Physics Education Research Conference 2013, and Kate and I did it in February at the CU Boulder DBER meeting. We’ve had great conversations so far, and FIE seems like the perfect next venue. Here is our proposal for the session, complete with details.
We are hoping that participants will be interested enough to check out this little background paper, or at least use it to decide whether to attend. Comments welcome!
Fantasy realized: sitting on a train, heading for a Greek port with a funky hotel waiting, working on my laptop. James beside me, searching a hotel for the next night on his phone. My fingers are still tender from starting to build calluses on the baglama we bought a few days ago in Athens. Rain showers pass by outside, wetting the green fields as we ride.
Yesterday I met with a couple of professors at the University of Athens. George Tombras is the chair of the Physics department, with a huge plate of challenge in front of him. 1500 students, 85 faculty (all “strong personalities”). 35 courses, 7 labs, and all students do a thesis. In the past four years an 80% cut in funding. Yes, 30% was not hard to absorb, but the other 50% has been painful. Couple that with the reality that only a few percent of their graduates can expect to find employment in physics. Over at the Technical University, the engineering graduates have an employment rate of maybe 15%. Think we have trouble with student motivation in the US? Yikes!
George and his assistant professor colleague Hector Nistazakis are exploring student conceptions of electricity and ways to increase the relevance of their courses. Our interests overlap in the area of how visualizations can be used. Hector also described his research on the use of wireless networks at optical wavelengths; dedicated building to building links for the ‘last mile’, the impact of atmospheric turbulence on signal attenuation, and how diffuse LEDs might be used for secure wireless transmitters in a room.
Our visit was on the Monday of their Easter break. Despite their difficulties, profs and grad students were working away, focused on what they do best.