jueves, 28 de febrero de 2013

India-El Salvador: sharing experiences

Normally I do not like to attend seminars, workshops and congresses. In my opinion, it is a waste of time. Only the ones with high social skills can take advantage of that. But I was invited to give a talk. And I decided to talk about electronics.

The Salvadoran Ministry of Education organized a workshop between a high bureaucrat Indian government delegation and Salvadoran academic representatives. The idea was to put India as a country to imitate. The whole workshop lasted two days. I had to endure many boring government official presentations.

After my presentation a highschool teacher came to me. He teaches in my former high school. I met him the next day and he and his group invited me to have a lunch with them. It was a very happy moment. I ate with three highschool teachers and about a dozen highschool students.
Educational Robotic in my former High School.
Those teachers were passionate educators. They are doing a tremendous effort to motivate students. To keep their enthusiasm alive they use educational robotic. This team made of three teachers and a dozen students were the sensation of the expositions.

Is the glass half empty or half full?

There is a group of young Salvadoreans who run a website called Medio Lleno. It is a news web program for young people. In general they give priority to local politic news. But to keep youth entertained they introduce issues for young people. The name plays with the rethoric question: Is the glass half empty or half full? The expression could be interpreted as a cause for optimism (half full) or pessimism (half empty). Medio Lleno tries to put things in a positive perspective.

Sharing MOOC experiences.
Last week we visited them. We came to promote the study of online courses under MOOC framework. We share our experience with them. It was a very nice experience. The young journalist that interviewed us decided to join one Edx MOOC. She registered in Michael Sandel's course on Justice.

Medio Lleno's president sent me an email. He was so pleased with our story. He told us that he himself is an alumni of Penn State. And he felt pleased to see his former alma mater being part of this MOOC initiative.

sábado, 23 de febrero de 2013

Conversations at a Supermarket

As almost every weekend my wife and I went to the supermarket. We are very lucky. We have one very close to our house. So we can keep with our not-having-a-car life style. To keep our plastic consumption low, We take a backpack with us. So we do not need to use the supermarket's plastic bags.

The supermarket is inside of a small mall, called Centro Comercial San Luis. Today was a crazy day. It was as if half of the city decided to come here for shopping. In the mall, We decided not to cash money from the ATM. The long line scared us. We decided to use our plastic money. And there We were at the supermarket, not knowing what to take for lunch.
 Centro Comercial San Luis, San Salvador, El Salvador (Panoramio).

Electricity and Magnetism in the supermarket
As we were in the line, I watched toward my back and there I saw a colleague from a neighbor department.  As we were waiting our turn we had a small conversation about 8.02x and professor Walter Lewin's lectures.

It was a small conversation. I told him that before coming to the supermarket I had been studying 8.02x first week lectures. He told me he was also a 8.02x student. In his face I could see how much he had been enjoying this first week material. It was a natural conversation as if we had been talking about tomato's high price or meat low quality.

At home I started to reflect about how EdX--and all this MOOC dynamic---is affecting people's daily life. It is very astonishing to have a conversation on physics in a supermarket line.

miércoles, 13 de febrero de 2013

What's next ? (II)

Two weeks ago, I sent an email to my colleagues. I told them about our new challenge: Electricity and Magnetism (8.02x) by Professor Walter Lewin. 8.02x is an experimental online adaptation of MIT's second semester of introductory physics sequence.  The course is about Electricity and Magnetism.

Walter Lewin's message
Professor Walter Lewin's two-minutes video is very impressive. I was so touched by his message that I decided to translate it to spanish and share it with my colleagues:
"Si tomas este curso tu vida ya no será la misma. Haré que veas el mundo de una manera diferente, nunca antes visto. Ampliaré tus horizontes y enriqueceré tu vida. Sin la electricidad no existirían las estrellas ni los planetas. Tú mismo no existirías: tu corazón no latiría y no serías capaz de pensar. Si eres uno de esos estudiantes que odian la Física no es tu culpa, fue muy mala suerte que en tu vida te encontraras con un pobre profesor. Te guste o no, haré que ames la física."

My email has been well received. The electrical engineering department chairman will support our initiative to get students enrolled. Also, IEEE students branch has started campaigning for registration.


domingo, 3 de febrero de 2013

Waiting for superman.

Last week a student sent me an email. He wanted to share his views with me. I quote him in spanish:

"Hace unos años escuche que MIT era la universidad que producía los mejor ingenieros del planeta yo no estaba conforme con [esa] idea; pero al llevar el curso 6.002x me pude dar cuenta que todo se basa en su sistema de enseñanza y la motivación para aprender."

What the student told me was that he heard MIT graduates were the best of the world.   He said he did not like the idea of consigning MIT that honor. But after taking 6.002x he has realized what make MIT one of the best: "It is about its education system and the passion they put on learning."

Waiting for "Superman"

I think It was last year that while reading the newspaper I found a critique on the documentary Waiting for "Superman". I have to say in my favor that I do not like pirating movies, books or anything from the Internet. But I was so curious about that work  that I did not care about violating the documentary's copy right. I watched the documentary and it was a very shocking experience.

There is something universal in the film, however the documentary analyze the failures of the American public education, that touches deep in the heart. As an educator, I think, It has to do with a hidden guilt of not doing enough to help our youth. Waiting for superman touched me very deeply. And my student email has made me recall my debt with my job.