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akshay
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:55 am

Week 1

This idea was partly inspired by the book 'The Art of Electronics' by Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill. This book attempts to teach both the fundamentals, and the nuts and bolts of electronics. What was interesting, and unique, about this book was that it placed a certain emphasis on how to *think* of electronics concepts like current sources, voltage sources, power, current flow etc., as opposed to merely defining it scientifically.

This resonated very well with some of the things I've been thinking about science education. Specifically, this got me wondering about how intuition is imparted in the learning process.

At this stage, the idea for this project is to make 'something' that can give, or assist in giving, the observer/viewer/user an intuition behind a fundamental science concept.

One idea for this includes the relationship between Torque, Rotational Speed and Power. Particularly in bicycling, a reasonably deep intuition behind these physics concepts aids in optimizing the process of selecting gears.

It is usually helpful to think of the human as an 'engine' that produces constant power (this is usually true for seasoned cyclists who maintain a constant pedaling rhythm). In such a case, by selecting the correct gears, both on the producing side (near the feet) and the translating side (near the wheel).
At constant power, the following equation holds good.

Torque * Rotational_speed = Power (a constant)

At the risk of oversimplifying the idea for the sake of brevity, I would say that selecting gears is simply a compromise between whether you want more speed or more torque. What is interesting about this is that, once you have been primed with this intuition, your selection of gears would be more deliberate, more calculated, and simply, more efficient.

Ideas for a project, would be something that imparts the intuition behind this torque-rotational speed trade-off, something that emphasizes the physicality of the equation and how to think of constant power sources in the physical realm (as opposed to electrical).
Last edited by akshay on Sat Nov 15, 2014 7:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.

akshay
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:55 am

Week 2
The more I thought about these intuitions that I've gained in electronics, and the more I read the book 'The Art of Electronics', I've come to realize that these intuitions have been gained despite me reading the book. More so, I would never have realized some of these intuitions unless pointed out to me. At the risk of turning this into a manifesto, I will try to point out some of the directions of thought along this tangent.

For example, while computing the equivalent resistance of parallel circuits, with say a 10ohm and a 40ohm resistor. A novice would resort to a formula that is 1/R = 1/10 + 1/40 = 1/8, resulting in R = 8ohms. Alternatively, you could think of the 10ohm resistor as four 40ohm resistors in parallel. This effectively leaves you with the equivalent of five 40ohm resistors in parallel which is R = 40/5 = 8 ohms.
Even though both are equivalent, doing that computation using the formula mentally takes significantly longer than intuitively computing it.

This brought up quite a few questions. If we were to do many of this computations every day, the intuition would arise out of the struggle for mental efficiency. So, is imparting intuition in science education even a priority? Is it better to let it naturally arise by giving the learners hundreds of problems to tackle, as opposed to explicitly trying to impart it?

I went with some MAT students to the MFA Open Studios this week. While talking to some of these artists I came to learn that there lies a certain fear, to put it bluntly, in venturing out to the world of electronics and by extension, technology. To the extent where there were one or two pieces which were simply representations of what they would expect the art to look like, once they implemented it with technology. Having interacted with many designers and artists during my undergrad, I feel that this is both warranted and empathized with.

For them, as I would like to guess, technology is both a barrier and a tool. As with a tool, one would like to gain as much proficiency as required in order to create work. This is regardless of whether it is the most effective use of the tool. But yet, when even the most basic functions of the tool doesn't yield itself to the unfamiliar user, it becomes a barrier, a big blob of knowledge that is hard to penetrate.

However, in my limited experience, I've learned that you do not need to teach the nuts and bolts at the initial stages. But rather, taking a goal oriented approach helps smooth over the complex and formidable intricacies of the field.

This project was conceptualized with the intent of effectively imparting intuition and bridging the gap between intuition and representation in education. It was also to think of this process in a meta sense so that one may extend the process of bridging this gap between intuition and information in pedagogy and instructional design. Hence, at this point, I feel it is required to better understand the learning process. At this stage, making a concrete conception of a project would be premature because of the lack of clarity about what intuitions are required to be imparted in contrast to ones that need to be gained naturally; and in either case, how.

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Points discussed in class:
(I'm sorry, I did not write down who said what.)
* While learning a programming language, it is common to disguise a more complex problem as a simple problem that can be worked up to. This was interesting because it sets up a clear path to achieve a learning goal without realizing it.
* It helps to make ideas modular while trying to emphasize the interrelationships between many things. Upon reflection, I realize that this would do wonders to understanding the bicycle gear problem described earlier.
* What is the role of constraints in the learning process? While talking at the level of abstraction of intuition, constraints do not have a role. However, constraints help focus on a specific skill instead of the schizophrenia associated with trying to learn an entire subject at once.
* It helps to think and understand to what extent the 'tool' is needed .
* Think of your target audience/user/viewer before continuing.
* Try to start with something small and concrete instead of floating around in this space of abstraction.

Aside: While writing this post, without restraint, my mind harked back to C. P. Snow's lecture at Cambridge in 1959 titled 'The Two Cultures' where he describes the rift between the sciences, arts and humanities in education, profession and society; and further goes on with an exposition of the social and economic impact of such a divergence. Though anachronic, it is still an interesting read.
Reference: http://s-f-walker.org.uk/pubsebooks/2cu ... ltures.pdf

akshay
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:55 am

Week 3 and 4:
On thinking about this project for some time, some questions on validity came up. Since intuition is implicit and intrinsic, is it worthwhile to explicitly bring it up.

Intuition centric instructional design has existed before. For example, Educational Sloyd, was a system of handicraft-based education. This was started by Uno Cygnaeus in Finland in 1865. The modern day art or handicrafts class in primary school is a manifestation of this. In particular, a quote from the book Paper Sloyd for Primary Grades caught my eye:
Observation is quickened; eyes are trained to see right lines and distances, thus aiding in free-hand drawing and writing; while the hand and wrist muscles, being used for a definite purpose, unconsciously become obedient assistants.
It is interesting to see that the intuitions behind writing and drawing dexterity is in the forethought of such an instruction.

Another characteristic of Sloyd is that the focus is on learning the unknown via the known. It uses familiar objects as a central tool in the practice. This sets up a gradual, but definite path toward complexity, quite related to Kurt's comment during the last discussion.

Learning-by-doing methods are effective because they engage the learner in critical thinking. Thinking in this fashion pushes past the specific details in order to obtain a general mental model. This is a dichotomy that I'd like to call as the information-intuition dichotomy. Both information and intuition are important, but the way they are imparted are oftentimes intermingled, and sometime separate. In general, problem-based learning methods have been well known for bringing about critical thinking. Finland's schooling system uses this extensively (however, Finland's system is radical in many more ways [2]).

Generally, abstract ideas are transferrable. For example, while gravitational potential, spring systems, translational motion, electrostatic potential, fluid dynamics, wind pressure, neural networks, graph theory are all different ideas, they are all bound, at an abstract level, by the intuition of flow. If learned in such a way that the intuition becomes the center of the mental construct, then leaning any of the other fields will be relatively easier. However, if learned with the details of the specific field as the core mental construct, then it becomes a formidable task.

Higher order abstraction and transferrability of this abstraction is fundamental in career success. As the article Dancing with Robots [3] puts it,
...cognitive complexity arises in solving new problems—problems the “rules writers” didn’t anticipate. In these situations, the human mind’s flexibility becomes very important. Tasks involving innovation and design fit this description, but tasks in many other jobs raise new problems as well.
Ability to solve new problems is important to economic growth. The worst education systems resort to rote memorization of facts, something that computers can do. This article is a very detailed account of the ramifications of having such a system.

This brought me to the decision that this project would ideally accomplish two things. First, to try to explicitly understand some of the intuitions that experts in different fields have. And second, based on this, draw a general account of how these intuitions might have been gained.

The reason for this decision is two fold. One is that after Ursula Damm's presentation last week, I realized that I cannot even begin to understand her complexity of thought. Which made me realize that this would be true while trying to generalize the intuitions of different disciplines. Hence, understanding the intuitions of various fields, or guessing at the very least would be a good step before forming a generalization. It is evident that in interdisciplinary research, for example Francesco Bullo's, it is necessary to gain at least a reasonable understanding of the fields involved in order to achieve, to quote Bullo, "organized chaos".

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References:
[1] Sloyd http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloyd
[2] What we can learn from Finland's successful school reform http://www.nea.org/home/40991.htm
[3] Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane, Dancing with Robotshttp://content.thirdway.org/publication ... Robots.pdf
Last edited by akshay on Tue Dec 02, 2014 6:17 pm, edited 5 times in total.

akshay
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:55 am

Week 5

Since this project is centered around the idea of intuition, I feel that it is worthwhile to investigate the definitions of what is intuition. Intuition has often been associated with immediate, sudden, and tacit insight or understanding.

Malcom Gladwell, in his book 'Blink' gives a very good example of what he calls 'rapid cognition' [1]:
Recognizing someone’s face is a classic example of unconscious cognition. We don’t have to think about it. Faces just pop into our minds. If you take a pen and paper and write down and write down in as much detail as you can what your person looks like, describe his/her face. What colour is his/her hair? What was he/she wearing? . . Believe it of not, you will now do a lot worse at picking that face out of a line-up. This is because the act of describing the face has the effect of impairing the otherwise effortless ability to subsequently recognize that face.

But is this sort of rapid implicit cognition sufficient to define intuition in an educational context? Giddel's 'Theory of Structuration' suggests three levels of consciousness in facilitator education [2]:
"...facilitator educators contribute to the production and reproduction of facilitators in three ways. First, facilitators can be encouraged to practice with discursive consciousness, which means they can give a coherent explanation for the things they do. Second, facilitators can operate at the level of practical consciousness, which means that they know tacitly how to teach but may have difficulty articulating or describing the reasons for their actions. Finally, in the lowest level of practice, unconsciousness, a facilitator is not able to articulate the rationale for his or her actions."

While it begins to hint at an underlying process, it's emphasis on the inability to articulate intuition is limiting. This is simply because there are several figures artists and engineers alike, who have been very lucid about their mental process, for instance, Kenny Werner when he talks about his practicing methodology [3], or Guthrie Govan, who is notorious for his clear-cut, sportsman-training-esque approach to mastering guitar technique [4]. Both of these are good examples of educational settings that contrast with the common experts that give a 'do this because I said so' approach.

Which brings about a very important fallback about the above pseudo-definition, is that the ability to articulate, or rather, a lack thereof, has nothing to do with intuitive and implicit understanding.

Richard Rorty gave a much broader definition of intuition where he states that there are four possible ways to define intuition, according to [5], intuition is:
(i) unjustified true belief not preceded by inference (i.e., a hunch), a sense Rorty claims to be philosophically uninteresting;
(ii) immediate knowledge (without inference) of the truth of a proposition, such as knowledge of self-evident or synthetic a priori truths;
(iii) immediate knowledge (without definition) of a concept; and
(iv) non-propositional knowledge of an entity, which knowledge may be a necessary condition for, but not identical with, intuitive knowledge of the truth of propositions about the entity in sense (ii).
This back and forth in the menagerie of definitions is what lead me to decide to let the definition of intuition that befits this project evolve during the course of investigation; let it be intuitively understood, so to speak.

Learning involves a processes of mental, and by extension physical, optimization. Once a certain level of optimization has been reached there is a 'heightened sense of mastery', as explained by Simon [6]. At this level of optimization, in the act of passing down the gained mastery, there is a certain bias towards the tangible and verbalized features as opposed to the intuitions involved. This tacit knowledge will never be gained unless the master has deliberated on his own learning process.

However, I speculate that mastery in any case, involves both the tangible and the tacit elements. Hence, in order to gain such mastery one must either learn from a master who has deliberated on his learning process, or the learner himself has deliberated or experimented enough to develop the intuitions independently. This is where I would like to introduce the information-intuition dichotomy (or dualism, depending on the case). I posit that information and intuition take different paths to reach the learner, with information being easier to divulge and hence induce, as opposed to intuition. But yet, a union of both information and intuition is important for developing proficiency and skill.

I will now make several posts on investigating this dualism in different fields and comment on the different teaching methodologies with which this is passed onto the learners.

References:
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[2] Glyn Thomas, Preparing facilitators for experiential education: The role of intentionality and intuition. http://www.latrobe.edu.au/education/dow ... s_2008.pdf
[5] Waks, Intuition in Education: Teaching and Learning without Thinking http://www.philosophy-of-education.org/ ... y/Waks.pdf
[6] R. Franz, “Herbert Simon. artificial intelligence as a framework for understanding intuition,” Journal of Economic Psychology. 2003.

Aside:
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I feel like most of the ideas for this project stemmed from when I wrote this post http://learning.instructure.com/2014/06 ... f-inquiry/.

akshay
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:55 am

Final Project Proposal:

I'm going to explore the intuition-information dualism and try to explicitly understand how this plays out in different fields. Once I've made a series of posts that draw from each of the many disciplines, I'm going to draw from all of these to try to formulate a general understanding of how intuition and information exhibits itself in the learning process.

The deliverable will be a presentation and possibly written word.

akshay
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:55 am

Final Project:

A note on the methodology:
* The reason I chose to investigate the Science, Engineering, Art and Design fields was partly because it came up in one of the class discussions. On reading further into it, Rich Gold's classification of these as 'the four creative hats' seemed to work well for two reasons:
- It classified the fields into very distinct trains of thought.
- Each sub field had established modes of instruction.

* The process of investigation for me was tied to my comfort zones. Being an engineer, naturally, I felt more comfortable investigating engineering, the sciences. Having interacted with designers, I've come to understand enough about that field. However, Art is completely new to me. This gradation of comfort to discomfort can be seen in the ordering of topics: Engineering, Science, Design and Art.

* Engineering: I approached this from my own experience. Having designed workshops on Python and 'Electronics for artists', I decided to investigate further into the tools that I used, why I used them, and how that helped in inculcating the intuitions.

* Sciences: Approaching this form mathematics, I tried to first understand how math is processed in the mind. This was from a a previous idea of mine, of whether electrical current, gravitational potential, translational and rotational mechanics, and fluid flow had the same mental construct of 'flow'. This was partly inspired by the book "The Art of Electronics".

* Design: This was approached from the angle that was triggered by the visit to Miguel Eckstein's lab. The question of whether studies in perceptual psychology can inform design pedagogy was investigated. It was found that intuition in this case develops out of a different process than pure factual knowledge, as in science and engineering.

* Art: Being an engineer, the subjectivity of art proficiency was a very daunting barrier. However, on learning that art can be viewed from both an objective (technique, composition) and a subjective (personal preference) made it easier to penetrate this field. From there, I tried to investigate how the objective skills and subjective outputs are obtained separately. To investigate subjectivity, I explored conceptual art since, to me, it seemed completely exclusive of objective metrics.

* The final project's deliverable was in the form of writing. However, I decided to submit it as a html page. This is because my process of writing these essays was inquiry based: each point in the essay tries to answer a specific question. In order to illustrate this journey of inquiry, I used mouse-over text to show the question or idea that each paragraph stemmed from.

The Project:
The final project in the form of written word can be found here.
http://www.mat.ucsb.edu/akshay/intuition