A Return to the Blog
Greetings ladies and gentlemen (and whatever spambots happen to be frequenting my site). Things have finally stabilized enough where I can get back to the task of blogging. I had a fantastic summer, teaching engineering at an elite summer camp over three week periods of time. When you’re with students that long, you really start to get to know them a bit, but I learned quite a bit about myself as it relates to teaching engineering.
It’s not everyday one has an opportunity to teach engineering to high school students. Occasionally, you see an opportunity to teach in a really neat technology program, but it’s rare to have the space and freedom to do whatever you please with students related to engineering. Additionally, I appreciated the challenge of teaching without the internet. It’s amazing how much your lesson plans improve when you can’t have the default of “Ask the students to search for information on Google.” [And yes, the one time I had internet access with my students, it’s quite clear the need for scaffolding lessons using the internet. It wasn’t awful, but it could have been better.]
Teaching can also change your perceptions of what you are teaching. It’s one of the finest ways to acquire mastery of something [and by no means am I suggesting that I’ve mastered the ideas]. I enjoyed encountering a shift from the global to the local while I taught. It’s very easy as a PhD student to get caught up in the bigger picture of engineering’s relationships with industries, the pseudo-consumptive* nature of our economy, the various odd shapes of engineering education and the broader story about why engineering matters to begin with. Yet, to have my hands on various systems to offer assorted comment, critique, challenge and suggestion definitely brought with it the pragmatic ideal. All of a sudden, engineering became a process in itself, interesting for its own sake. I had my moments of critical decision that called me to transition out of the theoretical towards the practical (and really, posit my best guess about what sort of material resources I would need on build days). Engineering manifested itself as ideas became material reality.
To be sure, I worked hard to weave together a unified story about the nature of engineering, even going so far as choosing incredibly non-traditional projects in the process. Yet I still wonder about the best way to tell the story while creating space for different authors of that story. My journey as an engineering educator continues.
So now that I can transition towards reflecting on my teaching experiences, I can get back to the blog. Incidentally, my job involved a ton of rather involved writing as we assess through narrative evaluations. Writing my mini-research papers on all of my students exhausted my writing creativity. But I’m currently spending some time in an undisclosed location to get work done so I thought it made sense to get the blog going again.
*pseudo-consumptive: I’ve been reflecting on whether we have an economic system based on consumption or waste. Stuff may be trashed well before we’ve honestly “consumed” it if we consider that we “consume” something like an apple.