I had an interesting dialogue with a student regarding the ongoing debate in the Mechanical Engineering department about whether the curriculum should contain more “learning by doing” lab work versus more theory.  He noted that Penn tends to err more on the side of theory than practice, though I’m not sure if this is just a personal observation or something resembling a truth.

It reminded me of the arguments by the proponents of games and simulations for learning  — learning needs to be some mélange of both doing and theory.  It seems that in most dichotic argument in this world, the truth resides somewhere in the middle grounds (i.e., it is BOTH nature AND nurture!)  Maybe we tend to over use the word “VERSUS”  or “EITHER…OR” and we underuse the words “BOTH…AND”.

I like this phrase by Big Picture Learning:

“Big Picture Learning understands itself as a ‘do-think-do’ organization, mirroring the learning design implemented in our schools.  Our innovative ventures are integrated into our work with students, school communities, and businesses and we augment our work with relevant theory.  Big Picture’s practice informs our theory and our theory informs our practice – a cycle that leads to profound changes in education.”

If you want to read an interesting blog that inspires deep thought, check out Elliot Washor’s (co-founder and co-director of Big Picture Learning) blog  Tinking and Thinking.

One reason why the labs and theory are at odds, according to the student, was because there’s only so much time in a day.  I wonder how many dichotomies are caused by this same reason.  I will EITHER work out tonight OR practice piano, depending on how much time I have once I get home I might BOTH work out AND practice piano.

“And maybe [we’ll go to] Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I don’t know, I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.”  — Will Ferrell in Old School

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