Monthly Archives: May 2009

Education = Observe + Learn + Share

In the U.S., Graduate Engineering Schools normally are full of foreigners (I am referring to people who English is not their first language). If you are doing a Master’s or a PhD in computer science or electrical engineering you may never have an American classmate in any of your program’s required classes. A Chinese lab-mate told me that during his two year masters he never took a class that was taught by an American. All his professors were Chinese except for one Lebanese and one Indian.

Last semester (Spring 09), I took a graduate level course. The course was research oriented. Such classes usually have no exams but students are required to do some sort of a small research project. The project is usually presented twice; first time during the midterm in front of the instructor and the students and the second time during the finals. All the students in this class including the instructor were foreigners. The students’ presentation sucked big time. Generally, because the instructor didn’t explain to the students what he is expecting from them and because he assumed that all students have at least some sort of experience in presentation skills an assumption that was definitely not true.

The education here is based on observe, learn, and share rather than read, learn, and reserve as in the Middle-East. In observe, learn, and share method students learn by watching and observing things. They go to the zoos, visit museums, take trips somewhere, etc. Students need then to share their experience with the other students in class in a form of an oral presentation and a written report. The teacher will evaluate the students based on their presentations and reports. While this method might look like something that is used in precollege only it is actually used in college as well. Undergrad students do lots of oral presentations and written reports. Students are not only evaluated through their success in exams. Evaluating students’ Critical Thinking is something very important in education.

In the Middle-East and some parts of the world the read, learn, and reserve method is unfortunately still being used till this time. Students in both precollege programs and colleges read and learn from books and they keep what they have learned to themselves because they never share it with the other students through presentations. They are only evaluated through exams.

During my 12 years in school and four years in college as far as I can recall I have never stood in front of the class to present a project. Actually, the only times I was asked to stand in front of the students were either to be scolded or punished by the teacher. In general, this is the case for almost all the students in the Middle-East. We have no experience in giving an oral presentation or commenting on a presentation.

As a Jordanian who is hoping to one time go back and be a college professor I believe we need to change our education methodology in both schools and universities. We need to teach students to evaluate, analyze, and share the information they learn. Better we need to prepare them to business-oriented projects or research-oriented fields. Our students learn to receive the information only not to evaluate it or criticize it! It is a shame that a 21 years old fresh college graduate doesn’t know how to write a report or give a presentation in front of people.

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Social Networking Websites and the Future

One of the many reasons USA is leading the world is the way they continuously try to close the gap between the young generation and the adult generation. Social networking websites such as MySpace, FaceBook, YouTube, and twitter all started with the young generation in mind but boomed, exponentially, when the older generation started to adapt to this new era of communication.

In 2008, the strong support of the young was one of the keys for Mr. Barack Obama to the White House.

“Fending off accusations of apathy, youth voters turned out to the presidential election in historic numbers, exceeding the turnout of their grandparents’ generation and swinging at least two states for President-elect Barack Obama.” [link]

The Americans knew the power of the young so they tried hard to reach them wherever they are. In the new era of communication, the young were hanging around the social networking websites. Intuitively, the adult moved there as well. Nowadays, many celebrities and world leaders like Barack Obama (http://twitter.com/barackobama ) tweets on twitter.

The young generation is the future. The closer the gap between the young and the adult, the smarter we become. Unfortunately, in the Arab world the only tone we hear from the adult is that the young are slackers and astray. Even if we don’t like some or many of their behaviors they are the one who will find solutions for problems we caused and they are the one who will continue building this life on earth. Instead of just preaching let us listen to them and hear what they have to say. The link between the future and the young is intelligently described by Christa McAuliffe who was a teacher and one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger (1986): “I touch the future. I teach.” Teaching is a great process that requires speaking [to the students] and listening [from them]. Without this two-way communication the process of teaching is doomed.

Web 2.0

Did you notice how Google give you a list of items when you write in the search text box? Try searching for “University of ” and Goggle will provide a list of universities. This new era of internet is called Web 2.0. Of course it is much more than that but the idea is to speed the internet and reduce reloading from the server. Here is a must have Web 2.0 directory. Think of a web service that you would like to see in the internet and most probably you will find it here.

logo http://www.go2web20.net/