ES 771 Educational Philosophy

Make others understand.
It is more excellent than making them remember,
for intelligence is much greater than memory.
(Gracián 1992 translation)

Teaching and Learning

The art of teaching is to organize information, theories, and knowledge on a subject into a framework, from which students may learn. Teaching is not simply spoon-feeding a mass of facts—covering the subject, which students digest for later recall on examinations. Learning is the art of understanding basic terminology, principles, and methods of a subject within an appropriate cultural context. Rote memorization of names, places, dates, and formulas is not learning. Information overload would soon result from the latter approach, given the explosive increase of scientific information.

Learning the ability to find data, sort useful information, organize thoughts, and identify critical issues is far more important than merely knowing facts, which of course are subject to change as new discoveries are made and new theoretical concepts come forth.

Science is a human invention—a human attempt to understand the universe based on observation and logical interpretation. As a human pursuit, science is subject to constant modification and evolution. On this basis, learning must be an interactive and life-long endeavor for both teachers and students. The most important product of a college education should be recognition of change as a fundamental aspect of life in the emerging Age of Information. Knowing how to learn or relearn will be critical for individuals, nations, and the global community in the new millennium.

Importance of College Education

At the student level, knowledge and skills learned in college should first and foremost enrich the student's perception of the world. These skills also have potential value for professional careers. According to ESU Earth Science alumni, three aspects are most important.

  1. Communication skills—written and verbal. This includes writing technical and non-technical reports, giving oral presentations, working with colleagues, making poster presentations, preparing abstracts, and now mastering new means of communication: e-mail, World Wide Web, social media, etc.

  2. Practical course work—methods and principles. Learning how to investigate subjects and find out new information are more important than knowing current factual data. Broad, interdisciplinary studies will be more useful in the future than specialization in particular disciplines.

  3. Project management skills—organization and scheduling. This includes: setting realistic goals, making and keeping schedules, progressing step by step, cooperating with other team members, and following through to completion. In other words, getting the work done right and done on time!

The age of global communications is underway with the World Wide Web and other Internet services. The information superhighway is open for travel. Observing polar sea ice at the Technical University of Denmark, for example, is now just as easy as a trip to the local grocery store. Business, entertainment, education, publication, art, science, leisure, and all other manifestations of culture will change fundamentally during this human generation. These changes will be pervasive and profound, at least as great as those brought about by the invention of printing with moveable type in the 15th century. Education must and will respond to these rapid developments, as our concepts of culture and environment evolve.

Student Expectations

Students should expect to play an active role in their progress for this course. Self-motivation and self-discipline are necessary. The traditional lecture/textbook mode of instruction is largely passive and one way—teacher to student. The format for this course will require much more student involvement in the learning process. Students are encouraged to explore the subject without strict limitations from the instructor. Students are expected to discover information via World Wide Web. Within the subject framework—remote sensing of the environment, all manner of physical and cultural phenomena are relevant.


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