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ENE Memo: August 5, 2013

From the Head: 8/5

Back to basics 

Many will have seen the viral animated talk by Sir Ken Robinson on changing education paradigms given at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). He argues that our model of education are based on the metaphor of 19th-century industrial production and that this is anything but learner-centric.
In a recent follow-up talk on changing education from the ground up, he strips education back to the true basics: a learner and a teacher. Everything else, courses, curricula, spaces, administration, timetables, etc., are artifacts that reflect the operational logistics of this industrial model. Interestingly he also makes some pointed comments about the current fascination with and focus on STEM. He makes a strong case for why we should not lose sight of the liberal arts. (See " From the Head," July 29.)
A misplaced metaphor in contemporary discussions about education is that of the student as customer. Our number one espoused value in ENE is that students come first in everything we do. This does not imply our students are our customers. It does not mean we give students whatever they demand. Rather it affirms that our core mission is to enable student learning by focusing on providing them what they need to be able to learn to engineer. If the free marketeers want to pursue a customer metaphor for education, then insist that they liken it to a fitness center membership.
We provide the facilities and training support to help a paying member get fit. However, buying a membership does not guarantee a set of superb abs. It is a partnership. The paying fitness club member has to commit to turn up and to exercise regularly and effectively. The fitness center operator undertakes to provide access to specialized equipment, staff to assist with designing exercise regimes plus training programs, for groups and/ or individuals. Not all members can get access to trainers or specialized equipment whenever they choose. If you don't sign up early for the popular times you have to accept the less convenient times. Some fitness clubs have unbelievable facilities ... and also fees to match. Others have okay facilities but only group sessions and no personalized training, and the fees are more affordable.
Education is not a system of production to be optimized for cost efficiency. Education is not a commodity for sale. It cannot be discounted or sold on the cheap. Education is centered on motivated learners and dedicated teachers collaborating in the co-construction of knowledge and the collective making of meaning. It is a complex, deeply human endeavor which cannot be reduced to a simple system to be managed in simplistic ways. Educational leadership demands vision, imagination and courage, not managerialism. Education is a public good. An educated citizenry, individuals who can think critically and reflect deeply within broad societal and historical perspectives, is our best hope in an uncertain future.
Our sacred trust is to design learning experiences that educate citizen engineers, true leaders, and not simply train utilitarian technocrats. This demands that we have clarity on the real basics of education.


Calendar: 8/5

Fall 2013

  • Aug 13: ENE Faculty Advance
  • Aug 14: BGR lunch
  • Aug 14-16: ENE PhD orientation
  • Aug 19: Classes Begin
  • Sept 28: Homecoming & Family Weekend Celebrating 60 Years of FYE at Purdue
  • Oct 20-22: ABET Site Visit
  • Oct 21-25: Green Week at Purdue (Think! No Impact)
  • Nov 8: Engineering Education Industrial Advisory Council (E2IAC) 
  • Nov 9: ENE Friends at the Football
  • Nov 14: Interdisciplinary Engineering Colloquium Celebrating 50 Years of Interdisciplinary Scholarship in Education Education at Purdue

Spring 2014

  • Feb 19: ENE Outstanding Alumni Awards Celebrating 45 Years of  Interdisciplinary Engineering Education
  • April 9: ENE Turns 10: Celebrating a Decade of ENE / Open House and Research Exhibition

Summer 2014

  • June 14: ENE Alums & Friends Reception, Indianapolis Interdisciplinary Engineering Education
  • June 15-18: ASEE Conference, Indianapolis Engineering Education Futures

Kudos: 8/5 Monica Cox on joining the editorial board of College Teaching as a consulting editor. Alice Pawley on being named the recipient of the 2013 ABIE Denice Denton Emerging Leader Award by the Anita Borg Institute. She is recognized for helping engineering and computing develop as a more socially just profession in a global context, including making it more welcoming to diverse populations. Dan Ferguson on successfully defending his dissertation. After Dan completes revising and depositing his dissertation, he will continue in a postdoctoral capacity as a Co-PI on the NSF project “Collaborative Research: Identifying and Assessing Key Factors of Engineering Innovativeness,” with Senay Purzer (Purdue PI), Kathryn Jablokow (PSU Great Valley PI), and Matt Ohland (Purdue Co-PI). Joe Lin on successfully defending his dissertation. Junqiu Wang on successfully defending his dissertation.


News and Information: 8/5

Graduate Faculty Mentoring Workshop

An added option for faculty who need to attend a workshop for mentoring grad students is Monday, October 21, 2013, 9:00 – 11:00 AM in STEW 320. Faculty who need to register for this date should e-mail Casey Hollingsworth, assistant to the dean, Purdue University Graduate School,