September 2018

Fall Welcome

As we are celebrating the first day of the fall and are wondering what the winter has in store for us, I cannot think of a better science connection to the inevitable change of seasons than a very famous study by Philip SadlerA Private Universe. I use it in my undergraduate and graduate courses as it inspires us to see within us how we understand (or do misunderstand) the world and to appreciate how our students do that. It also teaches us to think about what we know and if to remember not to try to hide our ignorance by fancy words. I have watched this movie so many times, that some of it has been imprinted in my mind. For example, how the students have been taking so many advanced science and physics courses, and yet they cannot explain why we have seasons or why the phases of the moon happen. What troubles me more is that how professors or students at Harvard University instead of admitting that they don’t know, try to hide their ignorance by very vague and purposefully complex words. Is university education a way to teach students how to hide their ignorance? This brings me back to another very inspiration colleague – Dr. Eugenia Etkina. Many years ago I was invited to take her graduate course. There she taught us that we have to understand the concept first and only then to be invited to learn and use a word to describe it. I talk about it with my students today – ideas first, specialized words to describe these ideas – second…

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Happy Fall to everybody!

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