Life as a graduate student

OMG! Life as a graduate student is sometimes unbearable. We are all graduate students and you all know what I am talking about. Sometimes it is fun that there is no time obligation; you can stay up all night working and go to school the next day not earlier than noon. You can leave early from your offices and continue working at home. Do you know the common point in all of these scenarios? You always have to work!

Interdisciplinary research

Disciplines are more than just knowledge about a certain science, a few courses that teachers teach and students learn. Each field teaches students a certain method of thinking. After graduating from college an engineer does not see the world around the same way that an artist does. An engineer sees the world from the engineering window and an artist from the art window. If a group of people are asked about a familiar object, for instance a bicycle they all would say “it is a bicycle” but if they were asked to explain it in one unique sentence, each individual will define it differently. An engineer sees it as a machine that converts energy. An artist would see it as a combination of lights and colors. All of that is because we are all tough to see differently, which is the beauty of science. And it gets more interesting and more useful when all of these methods of thinking come together and solve a complicated problem. This is called the Interdisciplinary research that has caught more attention in the last decade. An interdisciplinary research is defined as integrating knowledge of various disciplines and tackle a complicated research that cannot be studied otherwise. Although the definition is complete, but I think there is more in this type of researches. It brings different methods of thinking together!

Come up with better examples!

I think that being creative in class is the most important thing for a teacher. Students are sick of the same old same old lectures that just narrate the textbook and have no real life example what so ever. When I, a trained and expert one, do not create the link between my lecture and my students’ everyday life, I cannot expect them to all be intuitive and do so.

Another point us that examples should be updated by time. They should be realistic and students should feel them. It does not mean that teachers must go crazy to find real life examples, but just update the old ones. For instance in my major, to teach earth gravity force, I can make an example about a pen falling down or can be more passionate and make an example about a football falling down and embellish the example with a pinch of excitement of a football game. Which one can dig harder in students’ memory?

After years, I still remember almost all of the examples that my professor was made in one of my classes, combustion. The feeling that I have when I think about all of that examples is that they were playing with student soul and make them feel the example. They were mostly real stories about combustion, fire and different ways that fire spreads, which was the subject of the course.

One medicine is not gonna work for all illnesses and all people

When you are sick, the first thing to do is seeing a doctor. Doctor asks you a bunch of questions, studies your symptoms, and, eventually, prescribes you some medicine that will help your body to defend itself better and faster. Everybody know that the same medicine is not gonna work for other illnesses and other people.

The point that I am trying to make is that using other techniques rather than lecture are good but are not gonna work for every subjects and every student groups. For instance, a math teacher or a physics teacher must first give a lecture about basic rules and subjects and then ask students to solve problems or teach the consequent subjects using PBL technique.

I found “Four things lecture is good for” so interesting with precious points. I believe that a teacher responsibility is not only teaching the course materials, but also give students a pinch of her/his vast information about related subjects. Sometimes just ten minutes talk about a new subject could amaze a student in a way that changes her/his life path for ever.

Really live in a forest when you have to

I have never heard of the PBL and case study as a method to teaching before, but now that I have thought more about it, it sounds so tempting.

The first time that I read about these methods, bunch of words popped up in my mind: TIME CONSUMING, unmanageable classroom, unfair, and so on. Followed by these words was a long list of questions: how to manage a crowded classroom using this method?, what is the point of using that?, will the method offer more to students?, and so on.

briefly, I just tried to stay open-minded and did not object to the method immediately. I kept reading the article of “Dan Tries Problem-Based Learning: A Case Study” and the number of questions increased. I kept thinking about the reason to go through all of these troubles. Students will learn everything that they really need for their jobs eventually in working atmosphere.  I was looking for something helping me really understand the method and then it hit me!

Assume two individuals living their lives. One of them lives a normal life in an standard urban atmosphere. Everything is ready for him and he just has to manage his schedule around to buy stuffs that he needs. There is a possibility that he might have to live in a forest all alone for a while without any technological device. He has learned about survival in the forest by reading books. The other one, though, lives in a forest by himself. He has to find his own food, warn himself up and everything that keep him alive. Do you think that the first person will survive the way that the second one does in the forest? Don’t you think that it was a better method of learning if he really has tried to live in similar situation for a while, maybe not even in the real forest, just a similar situation?

Although the example is an exaggeration that might never happen, but the essences is PBL learning and it helped me to really feel the advantages of this method.

Opportunities that we have lost so far!

OMG! I cannot get over the fact that I may have lost so many opportunities in my life so far.  I was reading the “Whistling Vivaldi” and thinking how many times this “cloud in the air” has covered the sun in my life. Let’s start over. Since my first memories from my childhood, I was told by my parents that I can do whatever I want to. Everything was so great back then before I start school. During those sweet days, my whole world around me believed in me and I believed that I can do anything.

Since the first day of my life outside of that safe place, my brain has manipulated by negative stereotypes in the society. I still vividly remember the time that a boy from a close by school angrily muttered something about girls and how they will all end up in kitchen so what is the point of studying so hard. It was after the time that I beat him in science competition between schools. The trend continued to today. Now that I am thinking about my life, I cannot get over the number of opportunities that I may lost during my life because of this stereotypes. I might not even be aware of all of them at the moment but I am confident that I can find many of them if I keep digging my memory.

The time that I did not do as well as always in my math test, because I knew that I am competing with all boys and girls. To my eight-nine-year-old self, it was so true that boys are better than girls in math or maybe at that time I didn’t see girls as competitors but boys were competitors.

A few days ago, I was in my own world thinking about lost opportunities and surfing web. I ran into this youtube video: Women, math, and stereotype threat. It is crazy interesting and so true. When an individual lose confidence in a subject, the effects will continue to the other subjects that he/she is pretty good at. Let me tell you a funny story about the subject. As an intentional student I speak English more fluently when I am around international students. The reason is that my brain knows that they are not better than me in the subject. Now that I am thinking, I am noticing that I think more actively and solve my homework more easily when I study with my international friends compared to times that I study with my American friends. Pretty amazing! It sounds like our brain functionality act as a chain.


Stereotype threat

Stereotype treat is an inseparable factor of diversity. I believe that regardless of how much we try to keep our opinions unbiased, we all can remember times that we judge others just by what they wear, how they look, what gender they have, what nationality they are, and so on.

The hidden Brain article mentioned that our brain can be set on “pilot” and “auto-pilot”. It is so true but the point is that: does “pilot” mode means full control of our thinking? I don’t think so. I believe that if stereotype poisoned our brain in any shape, it would affect our behavior somewhere and sometime. It could even show itself in reverse form.  Try to recall a time when any of us tried to compensate a common stereotype by leaning toward the other side and gave more credit to that group even in our mind.

In some aspects, our brain is likened to a computer’s memory. There is always ways to retrieve data from your PC, even though you had deleted that. It doesn’t really matter that you don’t want to recall data and try hard to forget them, they are somewhere in there!


What about a shy student!

Since the first time in class, I am wondering how blogging affects student’s interaction skills. Although in our world technology is a known method for communication, the value of   face-to-face communication is obvious to everyone. Isn’t blogging persuade shy students to hide behind their computers and communicate in a virtual space only?