A heat engine is driven by bringing a substance from a higher temperature state to a lower temperature state to do mechanical work. It is the difference in temperature, directed through an engineered system, that produces the work. Similarly, I think that differences in expertise, directed through the institution and resources of a modern research university, drive innovation, knowledge creation, and learning, simultaneously. I elaborate this view next because it is a window to my teaching philosophy.
Domain experience builds hierarchical neural structures that enable the expert to operate more effectively within their domain, relative to a novice. However, it is harder for the expert to recognize patterns they are not “tuned” to recognize. Students enter the expert’s domain without the same hierarchical and rule-based structures of the expert, but quickly develop a common vernacular that enables their fresh eyes to interact with expertise, and to facilitate the growth of their own expertise. For example, Stanford PhD student Larry Page came to Prof. Terry Winograd with ten research ideas. Winograd advised him to look at link structure on the web. New knowledge was created (in addition to Google).
Studios, laboratories, project classes, lab meetings, design reviews, group critiques, advising meetings, lectures & lecture receptions, informal interactions in hallways, and at the coffee machine, are the convection currents of the university. Class lectures and discussions help build the vernacular between experts and novices. This is what universities do that is hard for companies and governments.
My approach integrates the teaching of theory and practice, where possible, and was forged in the fires of artistic, scientific, and engineering innovation across two major research universities and over the course of a decade. It contains DNA from three integrated teaching-research paradigms that produced significant artistic, technological, and social innovation in three fields: robotic art, mobile robot design, and virtual worlds.