Sunday, April 14, 2013

Creativity and Curiosity

I read with interest about Professor Jackie Ying's (Executive Director of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), A*STAR) comments in TST, Science - Sunday 7 April 2013 on pg46. In response to a question whether she has a life here in Singapore, as she was known to have worked 80 hours a week, she replied that her schooldays were the best days of her life as compared to what children have to go through now and that "there's so much pressure to perform in school, and little time to read or play".

Firstly, I think, the word "PRESSURE" used by Prof Ying is really quite dependent on the expectations of the parents. Parents with high expectations, in my opinion, would very likely feel the intense pressure as they strongly want their child to excel. Hence, they would most likely try all means possible to coach, mentor and educate the child with lots of academic matters and lifeskills so as to probably give the child a headstart. Whether this is good for the child or not really depends on how we can INTEREST the child. A child who is interested would not feel the pressure at all as compared to another who has no aptitude to LEARN. Thus, I think the "PRESSURE" that Prof Ying is really referring to could be on the parents NOT the child. Haha, could I be..........wrong? Readers, it is interesting to compare notes. Thanks.

Secondly, I like the word "PLAY". It brings lots of memories and FUN about how I use it with my children when they were young (doing projects like recycling paper, rearing betta fish and chicks, making customised sports car and perfume etc....), and to my students when I teach them the boring first year "Engineering Materials" module, that all engineering students have to take before they can really call themselves 'An ENGINEER'. 

When I was asked to teach "Engineering Materials" to the polytechnic students, I recalled how my second year professor taught me during my undergraduate days, 40 years ago. I thought hard and long about how I should teach my first year polytechnic students and try to arouse their interests in this subject. My goal is really to TRANSFORM all my students (as well as my children) to be LIFE-LONG LEARNERS. I think, I may have some degree of success......! --> judging from the large number of positive student feedbacks year after year.

It would be a mental torture for my students to endure the same kind of lecture that I received back in my younger days. So I resolved to change all that by incorporating and applying what I learnt about learning - To make it FUN to learn, I encouraged students to explore the world of materials using the magnet, the Internet, experiential learning journey outside their normal laboratory session as well as other things. To some 16 - 17 year old polytechnic students, learning about engineering materials during a walk outside the laboratory is probably unheard of. But, at the end of the learning journey, (from my experience) you could practically see their eyes and minds opening up to the fact that there is so many things to learn about materials from the common things that they see everyday. The journey just provided them with the "SPARK" to hopefully ignite their interests in this really boring engineering module of Pearlite, Eutectoid, Eutectic and other terms, that is so important to an ENGINEER.

I also made use of mind maps as a way of summarising and revising with my students the important points learnt in Engineering Materials. Readers may wish to view some of these real-time mind maps that I posted earlier. [ Please CLICK HERE to see ]

I did not regret teaching it in a way that I see it as both "PLAY" and having "FUN" learning as the method [To read more, please CLICK HEREof how I teach this subject not only won me quite a few development and teaching awards in Ngee Ann Polytechnic as well as the fact that it gave me the opportunities to present some papers in local and international conferences, but, more importantly, brought me lasting friendship with engineering students who might otherwise, not know the type of material for the aircon condenser unit supporting frame that is required by legislation in Singapore. Would you like to know? [ Please CLICK HERE for HDB Website and CLICK HERE for BCA Website ].

Another comment that Professor Jackie Ying made was that "....children learn by many processes. I feel the system here has become too rigid. It's killing their curiosity and creativity " .

This remark brought me memories about what I learnt about "Creativity and Creative Problem Solving (CPS)" from Professor Gerard J Puccio's lecture that I mind mapped in real-time in Jan 2001 [ CLICK HERE ] and his recent brilliant Dec 2012 TEDx presentation on "Creativity as a Life Skill [ CLICK HERE ]

Mind Map Blog by Choon Boo LIM is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License