Practical Knowledge & Inventive Learning

A few years ago, when I was interviewing Ben Nelson at Minerva School, I heard him mentioning “practical knowledge”. Ben Nelson’s opinion is that Minerva’s education is the way in which people can correct many mistakes and improve the quality in education. In many colleges and universities, he argued that students do not have to pay such expensive tuition fees. Also, education should focus on cultivating “practical knowledge” rather than to convey miscellaneous knowledge as he wrote in his book.

Many institutions in Korea had been enthusiastic in analyzing Minerva School to adapt the success points from it. As a conclusion, I would like to say it is not possible to implement Minerva’s philosophy with such a superficial analysis of their tools and outer appearance. Minerva designed all the curriculums to deliver “practical knowledge”, a video conferencing system was developed to meet the needs of these curriculums, and those programs are running in more than six countries around the world based on their curricula design. They can not copy the educational system like Minerva simply by analyzing the tools they have created and the programs they are running.

I personally think that Minerva’s “practical knowledge” can be applied from an individualistic point of view. I teach electrical machinery; Generators, motors, transformers, etc. How many of our graduates will work for electrical machinery companies? Not likely to be 5%. How much of my teaching is useful in their lives? Perhaps the purpose of my students’ listening to electric machinery is to obtain electrical expert licenses that are favorable to employment, in which electrical machinery is a mandatory subject. Could electrical machinery be “practical knowledge”?

From this point of view, it has become more important to teach what parts or component of these devices have been developed and improved in an engineering perspective rather than a detailed knowledge item to memorize. That is to say how it has been improved, what have been the problems, what has been done to solve them, and what experiences have been gained by applying a common engineering approach in solving problems. This kind of educational approach can be useful in other areas of engineering. As a result, the curriculum also can have stories, and the knowledge gained is more engaging to students than the curriculum acquired by conventional education methods.

An engineering perspective is linked to creative thinking, which can be applied to everyday life. For example, a generator consists of a field part that generates a magnetic field and an armature part where an electric conductor exists. Electricity is generated by fixturing the magnetic field and moving the armature part. In some cases, electricity is generated by moving the magnetic field while fixturing the armature part. In this way, we can educate how to creatively invent reversely switching ideas with this case. This reverse concept is applicable to cooking. Suppose you can create totally new Korean sushi roll by inside out. (There is a case of success story on this) Would not it be helpful to students who will be engaged in food business later? 🙂

These creative thinking methods include SCAMPER, TRIZ, and others. In the case of TRIZ, there are over 40 ways to apply ideas. It would be interesting to reconstruct and train the curriculum by linking these contents.

I am applying this method to the course in this semester lecture. It seems not going well without the intention of learners. The videos below are videos created by me for students.

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