tisdag 23 januari 2018

Educating the unreasonable engineer (paper)

KTH is hosting the 12th International Sustainable Campus Conference between June 11-13 this year. Me and my colleague Elina Eriksson know the people who organize it and they sent us a personal invitation. We wanted (and we felt compelled) to submit an abstract (on the day of the deadline, January 15).

It's not quite clear to us if the organizers require us to write a paper of if the abstract below is enough for us to (maybe) be invited to give an oral presentation. We for sure intend to write a paper and if not for this conference, then for another. We in fact came up with the title for this paper already back in May 2016 when we wrote the paper "Sustainable development for ICT engineering students - “What’s in it for me?”" for the Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) 2016 conference.

That paper had five authors and me and Elina wanted to push the paper a bit further than then other authors. I believe we could all agree that our students should be "change agents" in the companies they will work in, but me and Elina might have said that we wanted them to be "activists" too. Since we couldn't agree, that particular part was left out and me and Elina said we wanted to write a paper about it at a later point in time and this is (or will be) that paper!

Educating the unreasonable engineer
We having taught a course about sustainability and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to masters students in a media technology engineering programme at the KTH Royal Institue of Technology since 2012 and have, through various scholarly publications documented our experiences and thoughts (Pargman and Eriksson 2013; Eriksson and Pargman 2014; Eriksson et al. 2016, Pargman, Hedin and Eriksson 2016; Pargman and Eriksson 2016; Eriksson and Pargman 2018). 

As we look back we notice how our own attitude to our course and to the ulterior purpose of teaching it has changed significantly during that period. We have gone from taking on the role of “truth-tellers” or “rabble-rousers” (who implicitly encouraged students to become activist) to “guides by the side” who educate sustainable engineering students (Mann 2011; Mann 2017). While we ourselves have calmed down and settled in as “tempered radicals” (Meyerson and Scully 1995), we still want our students to become “unreasonable engineers”, e.g. “change agents” in their future professions in the sense that George Bernard Shaw discussed the merits of unreasonableness 100 years ago:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man” (Shaw 1903/2013).

We discuss our course and the changes in our mindsets more extensively in the accompanying paper as well as what it is we actually do in the course to attain the goals we have set ourselves.


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