Sunday, August 31, 2014

[Yasmin_discussions] Please allow me to introduce myself


(As an invited respondant for September, Roger has asked me to briefly introduce myself, and share my interest in STEAM.)

My name is William Joel, and I'm a Professor of Computer Science at Western Connecticut State University, USA. I'm also the Director for the school's Graphics Research Group. At WestConn, my main focus is Digital Media, teaching such courses as Computer Animation and Digital Media, and participating in research projects with our students. Please note, we do not have graduate programs in Computer Science, so the students I work with are undergraduates. I'm also a member of SIGGRAPH's Education Committee, for which I direct the Undergraduate Research Alliance.

But what about STEAM? Well, many, many years ago, shortly after I began teaching, I also became a professional storyteller. This led to my realizing that teaching and storytelling had much in common. I continued to explore this theme in several papers I presented over the years. More recently, I have begun to delve further back into how we learn, and how story, not just storytelling, is an integral component in how we obtain and utilize knowledge. Of course, being a science professor, I immediately saw how this concept could improve STEM education (yes, no A yet). So, about two years ago, I began writing down my thoughts on this new expanded theme.

This Fall, I have a greatly reduced teaching load, such that I will have the time to turn these notes into a monograph, which I hope to see subsequently published. The main thesis of my work is that we acquire, and retain, new data, by connecting it with data we have already acquired. This acquired data, when combined with the connections amongst them, can be termed information, and the ability to apply this information transforms it into knowledge.

I term this set of information our internal "story", in that it is how we view and explain, to ourselves, the world we live lin. Whenever we share what we know with others, we create a linear traversal through this internal information network, creating what I term a "story instance". Our individual, internal story, is constantly in flux, but once created, a story instance is fixed. Story instances can be shared orally, via writing, image, etc. As such, my thesis emcompases a holistic view of education.

Now for the 'A'. If we assume that story instances can be conveyed visually as well as textually, then ART becomes a valid method of acquiring and sharing knowledge. STEM fields, not uniquely, can therefore benefit from the inclusion of Art, or rather, visual/auditory forms of communication. Thus, it makes perfectly good sense to expand STEM into STEAM. Otherwise, we are limiting the modes of communication/expression available to STEM education.

Hopefully the above helps you to get a sense of my current work.

Bill Joel
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