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Thinking about Curiosity

Today, I want to mention about the concept of curiosity in my perspective. I remember in 1999 when I was a 4th grader, waiting for my mom to come home from work, I was experimenting in our kitchen, my materials were vegetables, fruits, grains, sugar, salt, water and my equipments were pans, bowls, oven, spoons, whisks.

Again in 2000s I was reading AnaBrittanica encyclopedia (even some volumes were missing because my family was not so good at keeping all the coupons in one place), I still remember myself appreciating the picture of David statue of Michelangelo. I was in letter D section. Yaay!

I can define my previous self as curious, hungry for answers, not only answers but information. So what is being curious? Oxford English Dictionary defines curious as being eager to know or learn something*. Which something? Do I need to specify what I am eager to know or learn before I search for it? If it is the case, I may be identified as curious when I conducted experiments in the kitchen, because I wanted to learn what would happen afterwards. On the other side, I have absolutely no idea when I went through encyclopedia pages (only the first letter the term begins with), so I should not have been categorized as curious.

Then I came across with Dewey’s three categories of curiosity: physical, social and intellectual.* Physical curiosity is just like the instincts of animals, humans naturally have the urge to explore the world, without any particular goal. Social curiosity is the attempts to acquire more knowledge even it is not rationally connected, like asking why questions all the time. The last one, intellectual curiosity is realizing that there are more information or facts that are to be found, it requires accumulation of knowledge. So we can say that there is a natural hierarchy. According to Berlyne (1954), curiosity might be multidimensional*. These dimensions can be a topic of another post, but I feel a step closer to understand the different stages of curiousness. For me, the physical curiosity is mostly the more joyful one and as it shifts from physical to intellectual eventually, one can feel frustrated and not want to pursue it anymore, that may be why we question ourselves about losing the curious spirit. Let’s not get upset this easily, keep calm and keep asking questions.

 

 

*curious, adj. (2017). Oxford English Dictionary Online. New York: Oxford University Press. Retrieved online 17 September 2017.

*Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath

*Berlyne, D. E. (1954). A theory of human curiosity. British Journal of Psychology, 45, 180–191.

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Thinking about thinking

These days, I have been thinking about thinking. Last fortnight passed while editing and rendering some videos for the center I work for. I was thinking that making edits is no different than programming. But this time compiling takes longer with fewer errors. People in the offices all day working on their computers with uber user friendly interfaces unaware of the codes working behind the programs. So I tried to make a short clip for my process of thinking about computational thinking, here it is;

Nature or Father

I have always defined myself as a person who has limitless enthusiasm towards making new things. I have wood carving sets, sewing machine, soldering machines, multimeters, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, hammers, so many tools at home. By the time I decided to get married, I ordered most of the things online and I assembled on my own (might have used a little help from my husband). I changed the lock, put together the faucets, renewed the plug sockets, installed the IKEA furniture… etc.

The genuine interest of mine stemmed from my father, I believe. During my whole childhood, I watched him polishing his own shoes, fixing our flush over and over, changing lamp sockets and placing my mom’s crystal chandeliers everytime we move to another city. Sometimes I observed and helped him. For me, maker lifestyle is equal to my father’s style without any question. He never hesitated to attemp fixing broken things and discovering how they work. So in a way, my enthusiasm was not my nature but an acquired characteristic.

In search of computational thinking I have come across with Seymour Papert; father of computational thinking, Marvin Minsky ; father of artificial intelligence and Uri Wilensky, father of NetLogo. Alas, I will never have a chance to meet the former two. Hope, I will have the honour to meet and work with Professor Wilensky.

Happy father’s day, all great fathers!!!

On Engineering Education

3D printing design engineer

Engineering is a tricky term. English word for engineering has its origin from the word engine like in most european languages. The Latin language root is ingenium meaning cleverness. Moreover, in Persian the word muhandiz has been derived from handasa which means calculation.

But  this beginning is already too boring.

As one can see there are different attribuitions to this field, engineering requires not only dealing with engines or making calculations but also conducting research, design, invent, applying maths or using technology. These many facets also dominates the different fields of engineering, such as; mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical electronics engineering.

In last one or two decades we witnessed fusion of different disciplines or hyperspecialization and this led to recently popped engineering fields. Like aerospace engineering, nanotechnology engineering, biomechanical engineering, microelectronic engineering etc.

My question is that as a science teacher how I can keep up with this rapid change when I develop new STEM lesson plans?

 

 

My story

Student meeting in library - Teamwork

Hello,

I felt like I should start with a ‘How I Met Your Robot’ story. So I would like to mention my undergrad years in Bogazici. It was a kind of ordinary if you are a member of the group of my kind. I am one of those extroverts who likes to socialize, says ‘yes’ to every question involving joining a group or going out to have fun. While I was enrolled in mass courses like Calculus and Physics, which I wasn’t doing so well, I saw a poster on KB (square block in Bogazici University North Campus, it is literally square and like a maze), the poster was about IEEE club organizing ‘do line follower robot yourself‘ classes. I thought ‘why not’. I applied for those classes. I met an engineering student, Emre, who seemed to know what he was doing and I paired up with him. We bought PIC microcontrollers from Karakoy, started deciphering Assembly language, programming PIC with PICbasic and so on. We also bought a toycar and inserted our microcontroller and sensors into it. The things were so cool for me. I couldn’t even keep track of time while I was doing all these stuff.

After I finished robot project, I saw another poster in ETA building, which happens to used partially by computer science department and partially by education department. This poster was CS4HS @Bogazici. At the bottom of the poster, there was a barely visible line, it was ‘the participants will be given 50$ stipend.’ I didn’t know what stipend was and didn’t even bothered to look it up in the dictionary. I thought I had to give them 50$, but it was just a little setback I thoought. Again my mind was full of thought like; I could give it away and it would worth because this was going to teach me something I didn’t know. I was crazy about learning something new and I am still. That’s the only thing, the infinite curiosity inside me that I do not want to lose ever. Anyway, I attended CS4HS, it was a two-day long, intense workshop program and it meant to teach pre-service teachers Scratch programming language. It was a priceless experience. They even took us to lunch in a fancy place in which waiters were grinding black pepper directly from the mill on your plate. I was amazed, not only by the delicious food but also the content of the workshop was mesmerizing for me. Funny enough, it turned out that ‘stipend’ meant that I wasn’t supposed to buy but receive. Nobody can imagine the happiness I felt. I was learning something and I was getting paid. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

I guess I skipped to mention the part I was a member of COMPEC, IT club of Bogazici. I happened to be one of the writers of Click magazine. I was helping the board to find ads for the magazine, getting better with my photoshop skills to make better issues, more appealing.

I have worked with a computer engineer friend on developing robotics curriculum for elementary school students. We practiced demo classes in several private schools and educational institutions. We had hundreds of meetings with people who we thought possible investors. You know, they seemed to be but never going to invest anyway. It takes hundreds of hours to start reading people. Then, the things went not so good and I started working in a private school as a science teacher. Teaching experiences of mine will be another post I guess.

Long story short, as I met people as many as possible, the more I learnt, more possibilities I saw, new connectomes in my brain has been created. Join various groups, meet with people,  learn from them and let your world grow bigger and bigger.

PERO

I have been working on a programmable educational robot project (PERO) for nearly two years. This project was about developing a robot which would have an easy interface for kids to program and manage to accomplish given tasks. By time goes by new ideas are gathering together and I hope soon enough I will be sharing the developed version of PERO visuals and first prototype.

pero_logo

On Computational Thinking

‘Computational thinking’ is a 37-year-old term which has first introduced by Seymour Papert. Today, universities have various computational science departments such as computational astrophysics, computational chemistry and so on. Computational thinking is the key element in those disciplines. Scientist and engineers gather together to solve one complex problem with the help of computers.

These computational science disciplines and their ways of conducting research give us insights about future of science. In my paper accepted in CEST15 (International Conference on Environmental Science And Technology) conference, I have made use of the data of wastewater has been taken from treatment plants and and put into membrane bioreactors to be filtered.These data have been collected by a PhD student in 6 months. By using Runge-Kutta method and reviewing the literature, I have approximated the exact values of nitrogen and phosphorus in filtered water. That is to say; programming and making use of the computers enable us to save time, energy and resources.

As World Economic Forum has published the predictions for near future most needed skills which employers look for in employees, it is obvious that complex problem solving is crucial.

picture1

My understanding is complex problem solving requires computational thinking skills.And those skills are valuable both in business and academic fields.