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Thinking outside the box

 

DRDIx4zWkAA2TvGAhead of the curve

 

I love the smell of books and coffee in the library. I enjoy every single moment spent with my colleagues and students, a lot of interesting conversations and questions that make me think. I particularly enjoy this precious alone time when I can reflect on the stuff I have just discussed, read or learnt. This post is mostly about my library notes from 2017.

 

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Seize the day! You are completely responsible for what you are and will become. Take charge of your life, act now, without delay!

I’ve been pondering the reasons why people tend to be stuck in their routines.  Fear of change is the most probable reason; they simply feel more comfortable to remain where they are than to move on. After some time they become so used to their comfort zone that it is difficult to ever break from it.

While it’s certainly true that routine is helpful, and the development of habits helps us do quite complex things with greatest ease, it can also limit our progress in life. Moving on requires us to break the existing structures from time to time. Breaking the rules gives us the opportunity to explore something out of the ordinary; only if we dare and risk can we discover something new, surprising and exciting.

 

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Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner.” (Richard Feynman)

I’ve been reading lately some articles about R. Feynman – a brilliant scientist famous for his boundless curiosity and rebellious spirit! I was interested to find out more about his lectures, intrigued by an interesting conversation with a smart student about his book: Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!

I came across a great article on Open Culture about the Feynman notebook method

Feynman’s hunger to understand what he didn’t know and his learning all his life long with an exceptional depth and rigour is fascinating.

People resist learning the hard things. Learning is hard and requires significant amounts of deep learning. Dedicating a notebook to a new learning task, however, can provide concrete cues that help you stick with this hard process.

R. Feynman “was also a great teacher and a great explainer,” owing to his ability to “boil down incredibly complex concepts and put them in simple language that other people could understand.”

You understand something only if you can explain it in a simple language. I remember how difficult it was for me to simplify some air navigation concepts while teaching Aviation English to secondary school pupils.

 

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“It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.” (C. Sagan)

In a similar vein, and inspired by R. Feynman, C. Sagan, R. Dawkins, I told some students who were studying in the library the other day, that there is a common belief that an artist enjoys the beauty of a flower, a tree, a sunset, much more than a scientist. Scientists are generally thought to be unromantic and boring. I told them that I disagree with that popular belief. I feel that science knowledge and all kinds of interesting questions that come to mind based on that knowledge can only add to the excitement and the mystery of a flower/ tree/ sunset. I didn’t expect their response; I just wanted to make them think…

 

It is sometimes said that scientists are unromantic, that their passion to figure out robs the world of beauty and mystery. But is it not stirring to understand how the world actually works – that white light is made of colors, that color is the way we perceive the wavelengths of light, that transparent air reflects light, that in so doing it discriminates among the waves, and that the sky is blue for the same reason that the sunset is red? It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.”
— Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994), 159 (Carl Sagan)

I googled the last sentence of the quote and found two great sites:

Starts with a Bang: The Physics of Sunsets 

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics: Ten Physics Facts about Summer 

 

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At the beginning of each school year our 1st year pupils have a class in the library. This school year in September, instead of preparing to talk to the pupils about the library rules (‘you don’t to this, and don’t do that’), I got the students to make questions about our library in order to get a sense of what’s there and what’s it about. I promised to answer their questions on the library blog. The students a little puzzled at first (as they are obviously not used to asking questions during classes or reading blogs) realized that that was not such a difficult task and jotted down some questions on stickers.

How many books are there in the library

Are there any foreign language books/ are there any books in English

Can we study/ read/ play chess in the library

Are computers connected to the Internet

What is the oldest/ biggest/ smallest/ thickest book in the library

Which book in the library has the most words (how many & which font) >>??<< [this Q made me laugh, to be honest I was not sure if someone writing the Q was serious or wanted to be fun/ funny 🙂 ]

 

This first meeting with 1st year pupils was an exciting learning experience for both of us.

Students should have a lot more practice on thinking on their own, logical thinking, questioning some beliefs and asking questions.

Traditional approach doesn’t foster an environment where mistakes can be made and answers can be questioned.

I’ve read recently on the Net (but can’t remember the source, sorry) that “the classroom of today resembles a military training ground, where students are drilled to produce perfect answers to potential examination questions”.

Learning and knowledge is NOT to simply know the right answer for the test.

 

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I’m currently enjoying: A short history of nearly everything, by Bill Bryson

I plan apolausticism for 2018 too.

I wish you a lot of LOVE and LAUGH in 2018  🙂

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About ljiljana havran

English language teacher (General & Aviation English), passionate about learning and teaching. Curious, adventurous, a lifelong learner. Love: good books, music, lots of dance.

4 responses »

  1. Hi Ljiljana,
    Thanks for writing this.
    I love A Short History of Nearly Everything. I read it not long after it came out, and again a couple of years ago. It’s amazing how much we didn’t know then that Bryson mentioned in his book, but which we know now. Bryson is one of my favourite authors, and I was lucky enough to get my degree from him, as he was the Chancellor of my university for the four years that I was there 🙂
    Thanks too for reminding me of that Feynmann quote. It sums up what I love about learning – that there’s no one right way to do it.
    And the wifi cartoon 🙂
    And the seize the day thing.
    Happy New Year!
    Sandy

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    • Hi Sandy,

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. 🙂

      A Short History of Nearly Everything is a fantastic book. I’m enjoying this interesting journey through time and space (everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization). Bryson is an entertaining author, but what I like most is his sharp wit, for example this line from the book is great: “Oh you can trust the studies well enough, generally speaking. What you can’t trust are the sweeping conclusions that people often attach to them.” etc.

      The Wifi cartoon is from: @WorldAndScience

      Happy New Year!
      Ljiljana

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Great post, Ljiljana! I love these posts where you share all these links to interesting sources. Plus the question the student had about the book (how many words and in which font) made me laugh.
    Agree with both you and Sandy re Bill Bryson – I have all of his books and am getting started on Appliance of Science in audio tomorrow, probably. Am now so jealous of Sandy getting her degree from him! 🙂
    Hope to hear more about what goes on in your library this year!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Thanks Vedrana, I’m glad you liked the post. There are a lot of funny moments in the library (I could write a post about it). One of them was when a student (obviously not a book lover) couldn’t tell me the name of the author and didn’t know the title of the novel he wanted either. He was a little confused but said in a cheerful way: Well, I don’t know the author, but the book is about that Spanish lover, you know… Then I chuckled and asked: does that Spanish lover have an interesting name, something like Don Quixote, maybe, a great novel by Miguel de Cervantes? He smiled and said: yeah, that must be the novel our teacher got us to read for the next week lesson.

    Bryson is one of my favourite authors. I’m so jealous of Sandy getting her degree from him, too. 🙂
    I’m also planning to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams in February during the winter holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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