How to have students enjoy your lectures? let them.

On the news recently is a story of how Finland constantly improves its education system and as a result has one of the best such systems in the world.  The country has just announced that by 2020, the plans are to phase out teaching individual subjects (Biology, Chemistry, Maths) and instead teach students by ‘topics’ or broad phenomena.

But you do not have to go to the far Scandinavia to look for improvements in learning and examples of innovative teaching. I am sure you can find some outstanding teachers who are doing their best to improve the system with their hard work. At the University of Southampton such example is, in my oppinion, Dr. Clive Trueman.

Dr. Clive is an outstanding lecturer, who constantly challanges, inspires and delivers excellent teaching without causing unnecessary stress.  How does he do it?

Dr. Clive changed the SOES3017 Fisheries module and for the first time this year it operated on new rules. We knew what exam questions to expect and were told to prepare answers in the free time, while the knowledge from lectures was not directly assessed.  That did not stop students from attending the lectures, since they were excellent and very intellectually stimulating.
Dr. Clive has got lots of positive energy, great contact with the audience and kept us all engaged and interested, albeit the topics discussed were often very complex. He made us think, not just reproduce knowledge.

Instead of having a stressful exam in a form of a memory test, the idea is to prepare and do the research in our own time. We are allowed to bring a page of notes into the exam, so there is no need to memorize the name of authors who published a given paper and the dates, something I never understood the point of. Instead you can focus on learning about the compex topics, do the extensive research and prove your understanding.

So hey, good teachers exist!

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We have got our first boat!

There are few important dates in your life: you are born, you first go to school, waste half of your life, you graduate, you get married, you buy your first boat… Wait, what? Surely you need to be rich to own a yacht? Well, that is what they say. But yachting on the cheap is possible, you just need determination, time and a lot of passion. Luckily Jake had all of those. He did his homework and a very extensive research and when the right opportunity presented itself he took it.

We were itching to go sailing since we came back from our last ocean adventure.

Today we moved her into the new mooring in Netley Abbey. So excited for this new project! It will need sanding down, fresh coat paint, antifaul. I also want to make the interior cozy. Bring on the summer!

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To marry or not to marry? This is the question – and what Darwin thinks about it.

I came across this on the introductory lecture about Evolution the other day. Found it quite hilarious and worth sharing.

What does a scientist do when he is about to make a decission? Well, he weighs the pros and cons. And that is exactly what Darwin did with the problem of getting married.

Have a look at the scan of his original notebook in which he wrote down a few thoughts about a marridge and concluded: Marry. Marry. Marry

Worth mentioning is the fact that he also noticed that having a wife is actually better than getting a dog… Good for him!

To marry or not - 2nd Note, MS Dar 210.8:2r, ©Cambridge University Library

Marry

Children—(if it Please God) — Constant companion,
(& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one,—
object to be beloved & played with.— —better than a
dog anyhow.— Home, & someone to take care of
house— Charms of music & female chit-chat.— These
things good for one’s health.—but terrible loss of
time. —

My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones
whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, &
nothing after all.— No, no won’t do.— Imagine living
all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House.—
Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with
good fire, & books & music perhaps— Compare this
vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.
Marry—Mary—Marry Q.E.D.,

Not Marry

Freedom to go where one liked— choice of Society
& little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs—
Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every
trifle.— to have the expense & anxiety of children—
perhaps quarelling— Loss of time. — cannot read in
the Evenings— fatness & idleness— Anxiety &
responsibility— less money for books &c— if many
children forced to gain one’s bread.— (But then it is
very bad for ones health to work too much)

Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence
is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool -

And just to finish this post, perhaps it will come as quite a surprise to most of you: Darwin did not embark on the HMS Beagle as a scientist. In fact, he was employed as a ‘gentelman’ or basically a person with a high enough social status  for a captain to talk to (it was not appropriate to engage in a talk with a member of crew). Darwin was therefore captain’s buddy! And on side, a crazy naturalist, obsessed with collecting specimens.

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The Falmouth fieldwork, applied oceanography

The third year at the University started as an exciting 2 weeks long fieldwork in Cornwall. It gave us hands on experience of leading an oceanography research in coastal and estuarine waters of UK.  It was one of the best modules so far as I always value practical skills over theoretical knowledge. It was a great way to socialize, meet my current coursemates (I took a year off uni) and learn some applied oceanography. DSCN5279 DSCN5287 DSCN5293 DSCN5303 DSCN5308 DSCN5325 DSCN5347 2014-06-25 08.50.38 2014-06-25 08.51.44 2014-06-25 09.05.20 DSCN5243 Below is a link to the website my group created during the fieldwork. It summarizes the research and our initial findings.  http://www.soes.soton.ac.uk/teaching/courses/soes3018/2014/group9/index.html

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The mysterious and misty Scotland

Just before New Years Eve we headed off North to visit Scotland. I have never been there before, but always wanted to. I missed the North. I missed the bare landscapes, misty lakes and snow. SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

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Porth Ysgo, Llyn Peninsula

Bouldering in the hot and sunny Porth Ysgo, North Wales. Main sponsor of the event – DMM :)

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Newquay surf, Cornwall, UK

Just a few pictures from a week in Cornwall from October 2014.

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The remote island of St Helena

Somewhere in the Middle of the Atlantic Ocean there is one not particularly big, but quite a remarkable volcanic island. Remote and isolated from the rest of the world, St. Helena archipelago is an extraordinary place. Time seems to have stopped there somewhere in the last century, and that brings a sense of calmness and serenity, a rare find in the modern world. The island is inhabited by ‘Saints’. Many of them are descendants from slaves from old slave ships coming from different places; thus people there show a genetic variety unlike any other place I’ve been to. They are wonderful and very kind people. They smile and wave at every passing car.

The Saints smoke one brand of cigarettes, can buy fresh fruit and vegs only on Thursdays and are the least materialistic nation I’ve met. As one lady told me: ‘We do not have everything, but we make the most of what we have. And if someone has too much of home grown vegetables, they just share the excess with their neighbours’.

The island is entirely supported by British tax payers and therefore has got a very strange economy. All the jobs are those of firemen, teachers and social workers etc. The private sector is virtually non existent.

Currently the only way to access the island is from the water, but they are building an airport. And this is pretty unfortunate, because the island will loose its charm once the herds of rich tourist flying on chartered aircrafts will flood the peaceful island. And there will be many of them, because it is a recently discovered location for whale shark migrations and one of the best places to dive with those magnificent animals.

The history lovers will also find it invaluable to visit the house and grave of Napoleon, who was sent to the island as a prisoner and eventually died there. Although interesting fact, the grave is actually empty. The body was shipped to France, as ordered by Bonaparte himself.

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Atlantic crossing

It is happening. We’re finally ready for the Atlantic crossing – let’s begin the journey to the other side of the world!

We’re leaving in less than an hour. There will not be a way of contacting us for a while. The ETA in British Virgin Islands is in about a month. We have enough food for 40 days. That’s about it. Wish us luck!

Good bye South Africa. Good bye land.

You will be hearing from us soon, hopefully : ) And there will be stories to tell.

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Easter on the Table Mountain

Yep, we’re still in Cape Town. It is already Easter time and South Africa should be getting colder. It is not, however. That is why carrying up all the food, two bottles of wine (thanks dad), 4 glasses and lots and lots of water was not so easy. I felt like fainting due to the high temperature and lack of breakfast.  But we’ve made it and had our beautiful meal on the top. 4th time climbing this marvelous wonder of nature. And each and every time, the views are worth every effort. In fact, I was thinking of developing a simple mathematical formula to show how the enjoyment of views on the top of the mountain relates to the effort you put into climbing it.

I came up with something like that:

enjoyment from being at the summit = effort you put in the climb – #of blisters + amount of water/chocolate you have left

There are many other factors of course, but those seem to be of a critical importance. Basically, if you take the cable car up the mountain, you will love it, of course, but you will not enjoy it as much as those who climbed it. And it is because of all the endorphins released to combat pain in your calves, time spent anticipating arrival, focusing on simple pleasures like having enough water or a windproof jacket. Not to mention all those humming birds, butterflies, scorpions and mountain goats you meet on your way.

Basically, you miss a lot if you just pay for a return ticket on the cable car. This mountain is incredible and offers a lot to those who have time to appreciate it.

I am so incredibly proud of my mum, who is almost 60 years old and managed to climb some impressive stuff. It was her first time climbing with a rope and a harness, but she did spend her childhood climbing up trees and rocks.

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