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engineering education

Innovative Engineering Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania

I’ve just finished reading a terrific article about some very innovative engineering instructors at the School of Engineering & Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. The article is entitled “Digital Natives in Tomorrow’s Classroom” by Trey Popp, and is from the November/December 2007 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette (pp.48-53). Popp discusses in particular the ways in which Assistant Professor Mark Yim (Mechanical and Applied Mechanics – MEAM) has modified his teaching to meet the needs of the “thumb generation,” students who are characterized by their need to see an immediate use for what they are being taught in class, an impatience with rote learning from lectures and textbooks (what Yim calls the “push model”), and a desire to pull what they need from whatever information sources are at hand (what Yim calls the “pull model”). A choice quote (by Professor Daniel Koditschek) sums up the gist of the article: “we can’t afford to teach the children any specific set of facts beyond very basic math and physics and chemistry…we must teach…the process of innovation, the process of creation,” (p.50) or as lecturer Joel Weingarten puts it: “What does it mean to be a 21st-century engineer?” (p.51) Great stuff!

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About Ed Eckel

I am a engineering and applied sciences librarian at Western Michigan University.

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