The Hunger for Humanities in Today’s World

Through humanities we learn how to be human, we learn about the world we live in, and be able to think critically and creatively. Stanford University describes Humanities as:

“The study of how people process and document the human experience. Philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language are the mediums that have been used, and fall under the Humanities umbrella. “


Going back in time, the Romans started to focus on the ‘art of war’. It is the humanities that sustain and help us connect with the past of our civilizations from those who have come before us. Those memories can be shared through a piece of writing, a sculpture, a vase, or even a painting. This is why great works from the past,  like Shakespeare, will never be obsolete and will continuously show the power to endure for generations. It helps us understand the different cultures, what goes into a work of art of how history is made, while influencing our language.

Shelf Awareness

Once we develop the ability to understand them, it will provide the ideal foundation for exploring the human experience. Another main reason why Humanities is important, is that it instills tolerance in those who chose to understand it. Tolerance is the main and most important contribution how others behave and react to accept differences, which is also an essential attribute that teachers require.

Skills Learnt from Humanities

Daniel Solove, a research professor of law at George Washington University Law School, mentioned the skills gained from Humanities. Here are a few of them listed below:

  • the ability to interpret texts
  • the ability to write clearly and in an organized manner
  • the ability to listen
  • the ability to see things from different perspectives
  • the development of a richer understanding of what other people are feeling
  • a deeper understanding of human nature
  • a richer understanding of how various behaviors and choices lead to good or bad outcomes

In many careers, those skills are what separates a great person from the rest “of the flock”.

My Experience

A new report on the state of the Humanities by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences states that:

“Undergraduates will tell you that they’re under pressure — from their parents to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs. Too often, that means skipping the humanities.”

Parents need to be more informed about Humanities and the many majors it covers, even new private universities that open many parts of the world, tend to offer STEM majors first, instead of Humanities, in order to gain popularity. Being raised in the Middle-East, I remember many of my undergraduate friends mentioning that they did not have the ultimate freedom to choose their major, which could possibly be a cultural perspective. I experienced this myself. My parents were a large part of why I chose Engineering. They encouraged me to choose a Medicine or Engineering major with the argument that “those 2 majors you will get better future jobs, and once you graduate, you will immediately gain the title of a doctor or an engineer” – and here I am, in the civil engineering department thinking of ways to change my career! I found this great quote from Steve Jobs where he mentions the importance of people who are able to gain knowledge from both Humanities majors and other STEM majors by “standing at their intersection”, something I hope I can achieve one day.

To Conclude

In conclusion, Humanities is entirely important in our curriculum. It teaches us the core beliefs of places around the world and educate us on how people thought and expressed their emotions through their artwork. It is through the Humanities majors that we learn about the world and its history, and to think critically and creatively. There is not a doubt that Humanities majors is what we need in today’s world, a world hungry for Humanities.


Dan Edelstein. How Is Innovation Taught? On the Humanities and the Knowledge Economy.

Why Humanities.

Parker J. Palmer. 2007. A New Professional: The Aims of Education. Vol. 39, No. 6, pp. 6-12.

Daniel Solove. 2013. Why Learning the Humanities Is a Key to Success.

Standford University.



Technology: The Friend & Enemy

I find myself a fairly good multi-tasker, which I believe could be because of the long hours I spend on laptops and search engines, having multiple tabs open working on each one simultaneously. But at the same time, I have a short attention span, and can never finish reading a page from a magazine without looking at the pictures, flipping the pages, drinking coffee – which funny enough could be due to the same reason of using “technology” intensively.

My point is, every emerging technology has its advantages and disadvantages, and to benefit from those advantages, you will need to sacrifice something else. Personally, I taught in a college that prevented the usage of technology in class, and that was a policy. Mobile phone usage was also considered disrespectful to the instructor, so it was not allowed either. Face-to-face interactions are important as they build confidence, social skills, and spark interesting topics, but the idea of stopping students from using their laptops now might not be the best idea. Allowing them to use it continuously could also be distracting them from the teaching, or as Farman, J. (2012) says, “limits our ability to engage in meaningful dialogue and produce true knowledge”. So, what do we do?! After having experienced both scenarios, I can argue that there is a need for moderation in technology usage. Ultimately, usage can be limited to certain times of class, or in certain classes that require note-taking. Consequently, students will not be completely disconnected from class, and will be benefiting from technology when needed.

Technology could be a distraction, could be the reason we’re losing our attention quickly, and possibly even losing our friends; but at the same time, it will continue to advance, and no-one should be left behind.

Paulo Freire’s Advice

It is important to read more about the successful educators who influenced many generations. It was the first time I read about Paulo Freire, and I must say he seems to be one of the reasons critical pedagogy has improved. After the loss of his father, he lived a challenging life going through poverty and hunger, which pushed him to learn and dedicate his life to helping people.

After familiarizing myself with his life story, I looked at his literature and quotes. Many of his approaches were solutions to many of the problems we’re facing in the 21st century education. I picked a couple of them which I found most useful to my teaching experiences and can possibly try to implement them in my teaching journey. Those are:

  • “Be a tolerant teacher”

Being tolerant will allow you to learn new things with different people. It will give you the patience and democracy to understand the different students’ opinions and concerns, so everyone can be comfortable together.

  • “I was a curious boy, and now I’m a curious old man – my curiosity never stops”

Paulo was a curious being. I believe that being curious will give you the opportunity to continuously learn, improve yourself and better understand others.

  • “Their way of speaking is as beautiful as our way of speaking”

Encouraging students to participate to speak their voices and describe how they feel is crucial in their learning process. Nobody is perfect and everyone has better skills than others. So, mistakes are welcomed as long as they are corrected, hence encourages critical teaching environment.



Paulo Freire, “The Banking Concept of Education,” Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Ch. 2, pp. 71-86

Paulo Freire, Short Video on Curiosity

June Jordon, Report from the Bahamas, 1982


Breaking the Ice

Not everyone gets the opportunity to develop a teaching philosophy before their first teaching experience. When I first started teaching, I had no previous guidance. I started with the conventional routine of introducing myself and covering the course outline. Never did I think of ways to interact with my students, or how to develop good communication skills between us. I started facing language barriers, group formation barriers and general class management difficulties, but the most important challenge to me was to feel more comfortable and pass this feeling on to my students. In other words, breaking the ice!

Towards mid-semester, I noticed that I’m having a hard time in getting the class to interact with their friends, participate, or even joke around. It felt like they weren’t enjoying class. I figured that I need to develop strategies to promote active learning. After taking advice from some of my colleagues, I started to shape my own teaching philosophy. I wanted to promote an environment where everyone in class can feel comfortable. On the first day of a new semester, I started my first class this time by distributing blank papers for students – this time, it was for name tags. While I was modelling my instruction on forming a name tag, I was happy to see that most of the class was participating. Calling out individuals by their names on the first day made them feel recognized and appreciated. I can imagine how disturbing it can be when your class instructor spends the whole semester without knowing your name. Since then, I gave the students casual class breaks where I took the time to talk to some of them on topics outside of class materials. Developing a basic friendship with students was my aim in helping them break down that barrier that’s usually is almost always there between students and professors. As I continued to come up with simpler ways to communicate with the students, I knew that teaching will become less challenging and more enjoyable than what I initially experienced.

The importance of breaking the ice in a classroom begins with providing a student sense of recognition, and sets up a stimulating environment that encourages participation and communication between students. Students receive a sense of responsibility as part of their learning by comfortably interacting in groups and generally building an optimum performing and dynamic classroom.

The 3 Barriers in Worldwide Education

It’s interesting to know about the currently available schools that educate children differently than the traditional ways. Those students are educated in a way that gives them the opportunity to explore, and provides them with the tools they need to participate and reflect on their everyday life. They are challenged to become more innovative, re-invent, and create, which all requires a great deal of thought and creativity by us, the educators. This can be done by using technology, gaming softwares, social media, watching and uploading videos, hence allowing the students to do well in the global and diverse system. Even though those innovative ways of teaching are becoming more available in certain countries, but they remain a challenge.

The main 3 barriers to education in my opinion are:

1. Awareness

Young students are always using social media for texting, tweeting, posting, gaming, uploading videos, and more which defines who they are through those changes. There are different ways of education that allow students to become more engaged in the teaching and learning process, such as blogging what they learn, or interacting through online discussions. There are many institutions around the world (such as my previous employer) that are not aware of those innovative teaching techniques. They have rules to prevent the usage of technology in classrooms such as mobiles, laptops or other gadgets. They fully support the traditional method of learning which includes borrowing books from the library and taking notes in class. Therefore, awareness in and of itself is an issue that needs to be addressed in institutions worldwide.

2. Acceptance

Introducing different ways of learning does not mean we abandon formal learning techniques. In fact, it only means we diversify that different methods and give students the opportunity to express their opinions on what they believe benefits them the most. Parents have a large role in this perception. They need to understand that these digital media platforms are not distractions from studying anymore, in fact they can be an instant connection to the vast resources on the internet.3. Funding

Finally, funding could be another barrier especially in the poorer locations that cannot afford the technologies and skills required. This is the world we live in and we should accept that there are places where this is easy to achieve, and others that need more support than just continuous advice. From a worldwide perspective, this might not be achieved as fast as we want it to be.


A growing number of researchers and educators are excited about the opportunities facing the new generations, but as long as there are barriers it will be hard to see any improvements. More attention needs to be given to those barriers facing education before we continue to criticize the traditional methods of teaching and learning – it is a battle worth fighting for.


New Learners of the 21st Century


Follow the Rules

“Grades tend to diminish students’ interest in whatever they’re learning” (Kohn, A. 2011)

After reading this quote I immediately remembered my previous teaching experience in Kuwait. My assessments were structured in a way that an argument is presented, and students would answer based on their background knowledge that reflect on the learning outcomes of the curriculum. I faced two problems. Firstly, was the difficulty in developing a unified marking scheme that will be fair for any answer, and because there was simply no right answer, anything they wrote was just a matter of perception. Secondly, students that did not receive satisfactory marks rushed to me, expecting a justified explanation as to why I marked them down. I felt that my students are only concerned about their grades, and forget their interest in what they were learning. If I had the option to give them all full marks I would have, but unfortunately I was trapped in a set of rules by the institution that allowed me to be selective as to where to distribute my As. In other words, the students with better answers than others received an A. At the end of each semester every instructor had to submit their class’s grade distribution that follow those rules:

  • Not having more than 20% A’s
  • Not having less than 20% A’s
  • Not having more than 20% F’s
  • Not having less than 20% F’s

If any of those rules has not been met, the instructor had to go through a justification process. They believed that it’s either the instructor is too easy with the students, or too hard, and that one of the instructors’ responsibilities is to achieve a well distributed graded class. I believe that if this system is avoided in all institutions at a global scale, there will be much less pressure on both the student and the instructor. Students will also have the freedom to learn what interests them, instructors will have the freedom to teach from their heart, and both will enjoy the teaching and learning process.

The educational systems need to lower the burden on students because the systemized grading systems are de-motivating students to learn. Vanderbilt University (2017) lists 8 strategies for motivating students, and the top 2 techniques that I would highly recommend are:

  1. Placing minor emphasis on testing and grading
  2. Giving students as much control over their own education as possible

Those recommendations will set a platform for our students to be able to express and share their ideas comfortably which will have a positive impact on their future.



Kohn, A. 2011. The Case Against Grades.

RSA Animate. Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Vanderbilt University. 2017.




No Student Left Behind

The primary role of teaching is to facilitate learning. What is currently happening in many schools around the world is that professors believe their job is to structure and deliver material, and that students should orient themselves to suit the professors’ way of teaching. I believe that one of the challenging key roles of facilitation is to ensure all students are on the same page. Ken Robinson states that “kids prosper best with a curriculum that celebrates their various talents” and Michael Welsch’s states that it is important to get more personal with students that seem to be different, especially when 10% of students are being diagnosed with attention deficient disorder (ADHD) (Robinson, K., 2013).

This brings us to the conclusion that no student should be left behind just because they require different strategies or different techniques to connect. Students place high expectations on professors to “light their spark” (Robinson, K., 2013), but the systemized learning that schools and universities implement sets up a barrier between what students are being taught, and how their talents can be exploited.

Teaching is an artistic profession. It’s not only a way to pass information to students, but rather a way to mentor their education and get more personal with them, allowing them to shine in their own way.


Mike Wesch, What Baby George Taught Me About Learning

Ken Robinson – How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

Teaching in the 21st Century

The Evolution of Engineering and Science

Over the past two decades, the evolution of technology has been progressing at an exponential rate. Stronger networks and powerful computers have embraced the utilization of data in the way it’s been generated, stored and shared globally. The way the world is connected today revolutionized the transfer of information between two sources. The way people live today has changed as technology continues to advance. I remember towards the end of my school years, owning a phone that rarely did anything but call was a big deal. Now most kids as young as 5 years old have their own smart phones. Whether they are a form of communication or a form of entertainment, the huge gap between two generations are strong indicators that technology has a large influence on social lives. Technological advancements both can have positive or negative impacts on an individual’s life, but can sometimes be redeemed to contradict each other. For example, some people argue that they get too attached to technology that they become separated from their own reality whereas others believe that the internet and social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are worldwide platforms that can help connect people together.

My Teaching Experience 

When I first started my teaching journey around 4 years ago, I was planning to deliver my classes the traditional way: PowerPoint, handouts, and white boards. The minute I entered class, students had no pens, no notebooks, and were only holding their phones and iPads. I immediately thought to myself that these students are not prepared to use books, knowing that I’m going to have a hard time teaching.

Smart Boards

I was later provided with a smart board pen which I had no idea how to use it. I was offered a condensed course along with my colleagues to understand how it works, but it was not enough. When I started using it with my undergraduate students they got very excited, and payed more attention than I expected (given the fact that I was still a beginner using it). I felt that students it only takes a small show to give them some form of motivation.

I still faced difficulties in using it, until eventually I stopped and went back to the good old traditional teaching methods. So I thought to myself how can I get my students more involved in learning particularly when the subject being taught like civil engineering requires more hands on. As a young teacher (relative to my colleagues), I had a sense of responsibility to make some changes, knowing that only a few years ago I was in their shoes, listening to my instructors giving us long and sometime meaningless lectures about Fluid and Structure. The initiative I took started off by taking my students out on field trips to companies and construction projects, giving them a sense of what real-life problems look like. In Kuh’s teaching framework he mentions other ways of experiential learning such as: “study abroad, internships, service learning, undergraduate research, and community engagement” (W. Campbell, 2016). So there are many ways of engaging students through different ways of teaching. It is important for them to enjoy the learning process particularly for the younger generations who are easily influenced.


I always thought that blogging required a high level of expertise and is mainly used for marketing purposes. Only until I joined the Contemporary Pedagogies course is when I realized that blogging is a powerful tool of delivering a message across. Starting up a blog was incredibly easy, and here it is, my first ever blog post! After reading several blogs and watching TED videos, blogging seems to be one of the most successful and modern ways of teaching and learning. Starting up a blog allows your voices to be heard, your opinions to be considered, hence broadening your community and allowing you to learn from others, and improve your writing skills (Hitchcock. T), xxxx. It is important to ensure that universities are equipped to support the new generation of students that possess high technology skills and preferred learning practices (Bennet, Maton and Kervin, 2008).


Technology is enabling new ways of learning by removing the barriers inherent in traditional engineering education and enabling real-world problem solving in the engineering classroom. From the normal ‘black board & chalk’, to classrooms with smart boards, microphones, speakers, large projector screens, video conferencing gadgets and more. New technology has opened new ways of learning. Since students are spending most of their non-study time online, it becomes essential that engineering education should incorporate technology to transform the learning itself for the better. To sum up, teaching methods should be in sync with the demands of the engineering industry to meet the new generations’, hence accelerating research and development in engineering. I am excited to try out this blogging experience and eventually passing it on to my students.


Doug Belshaw “Working Openly On the Web” (2014)

Gardner Campbell, “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning” (2016)

Hitchcock, T. (2014)

Seth Godin and Tom Peters on Blogging (2009)

CHEER Chapter 31. Use of Information Technology in Engineering Education

TEDxKC – Michael Wesch – From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able (2010)

Tim Hitchcock “Twitter and Blogs are Not Just Add-ons To Academic Research” (2014)