All entries for November 2009

November 06, 2009

Curiosity: The most important quality of a good researcher

‘I wish I had a chance to learn from me when I was like you.’ This is what I said inside my heart after today’s session.

I arrived at the venue about 12:30 p.m. A session was just ended and it was time to have lunch. I sensed the weird ambience in the hall, I knew something has gone wrong. Over the lunch, T came and talked to me, depicting the situation. He proposed his ideas as a form of remedy but I felt the worry and pressure he had.

Lunch time’s over, we gathered inside the hall again. We changed agenda, incorporating more hands-on, as requested by the teachers. I shared my ideas with three mentors on how we could help the kids to work out their ideas. I wasn’t sure how much the mentors could capture in a minute or two, but I highlighted the three levels of WHY approach (thanks to Prof Peter Woods for teaching me that in MMU, Malaysia).

I particularly enjoyed sharing my research experience with the group which intended to do research in virtual learning environment (VLE). It’s really amazing to discover how mature they were when they attempted to tackle my three levels of WHY attack. I tried to play the role as a critical evaluator but at the same time trying not to demolish their aspiration in carrying out their research. So balancing both roles as a evaluator and a motivator was rather challenging to me. But when I saw ‘sparkling in the eyes’ of those kids, I knew I succeeded.

When I had my session, I managed to see the 'flame of research' among the participants—both the teachers and the students. Although it was only a 9-minute session, I tried my best to share as much as I could with them. Knowledge is really meant to be shared! Mission accomplished.

A friend suggested ‘Sophie’s World’ to me two days ago. I started to read it and got myself addicted. One thing I learn at the beginning of this book is about the most important quality of a good philosopher: curiosity. I personally think this is also the most important quality for a good researcher. Innate curiosity is the ultimate motivator for a researcher to drive at full force into research conduct. It is better than financial support, material incentives, fame, power, etc. The problem is how to gain this innate curiosity. Since it is innate, it is with us all the time, so regaining would be a more suitable approach. Young researchers have relatively ‘strong’ curiosity. It is a good attribute to possess as a teenager, as compared to adult man like me, whom constantly need to polish my sense of curiosity and magnify it seriously. That’s why I think the young researchers I met today are really lucky to have learned or at least gained early exposure in the world of research.

I wish my 9-minute students all the best in their research journey, perhaps life-long research journey.

November 04, 2009

A session on Ancient Greek Philosophy

Quite a lot of friends wonder what I learn in the philosophical studies course. Below is the Week 5 session of my study in the course, just to share with you all.

I always try to reach the classroom say half an hour before the session begins. This allows me to stay away temporarily from my physical research work, though the mental research is working all the time. This 30-minute pre-session period also gives me a space to concentrate on reading what I should have read before each session.

Today, before the lesson started, I read Plato's The Republic. His writing inspired me to adapt the conditions of doing a PhD to the conditions of being a philosopher ruler:

"They (PhD candidates) must be tested both in pleasure and pain, to ensure that their determination [original word: loyalty] remained unshaken by pain or fear or any other vicissitude (变迁; 兴败; 盛衰); those who failed the test were to be rejected, but those who emerged unscathed, like gold tried in the fire, were to be established as Doctors of Philosophy (Ph. D, meaning teacher of philosophy)[original word: rulers] and given honours and rewards both in life and after death."

Besides, I captured the following sentence because I think this could be an alert bell that I should bear in mind when reporting the findings of my studies:

"...we were afraid of stirring up the problems we are now facing, and our argument evaded the issue and tried to get by without being seen."

The 5-minute time before the session starts is always a good time to socialise with course mates. This is really a valuable experience to me as a foreigner, even if I do nothing but being in the ambience of socialising. Like one of the course mate said today, 'British do not realise how lucky they are!' The opportunity of taking a 'normal' open study programme in itself is something that British should appreciate, I think. Attending evening classes no doubt is quite tiring to most of the people, especially those who have just finished work in places outside Coventry area. However to have a philosophical studies programme like this running in Malaysia and attended by people from various walks of life would be a miracle for at least 10 to 20 years.

The session normally starts about 7:05pm, when most if not all of the students arrived, rain or shine. Mr Michael Vaughan, the tutor of the course usually starts the class by distributing reading materials for upcoming session. This evening, he began the session with Democritus and his atomic theory. Next he talked about Plato and The Republic, which was the highlight of today's session. I enjoyed being in the conditions where my course mates project their views on ancient Greek Philosophers' propositions or writings while listening to Michael's talk. I personally find their views more interesting and sometimes I voiced out my views as well. However, my multi-tasking nature always directs me to relate what I heard or learned with my research topic--manifestation of deep learner, perhaps. In today's session, I kind of semi-detached myself from others mentally, and immersed into the following thinking:


Also, I used the analogy of Plato in The Republic to generate assumptions for my research:

Plato's proposition: Not everybody needs to be a philosopher, but a ruler should also be a philosopher, hence philosopher ruler.

My proposition: Not every teacher needs to be a game player, but a game-based learning teacher should also be  game player, hence game-player teacher.

One of the interesting point of today's discussion that I captured is potentiality vs actuality. Michael used an analogy of pigeon's egg to elaborate the difference between these two concepts. I found it interesting because my supervisors and I were discussing about the nature of potential in game (which led to an important finding of my study, (see 'Simulation vs Simulation Game'). Now I think I should include the concept of 'actuality' into my meta-discussion chapter of PhD thesis.  

After a short break at 8:00pm, we started small-group discussion, and I shared what I thought about idea-thing-image continuum, and the Chinese interpretation of The Republic (理想国) with two course mates. The discussion stopped when Michael asked us what we intend to do for the assessment. I said I would like to make a presentation on the impact of the study of ancient Greek philosophers towards my doctoral research design.

The discussion with course mates continued even after the class ended. And this makes the discussion always be the best part of a session.

November 2009

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