Listen, we should remove mad curriculum structures and do more interdisciplinary

16th December 2011 at 00:00
Thanks to a hearing aid, I have discovered a new mixture of physics, biology and engineering

The first time I went for a wee while wearing hearing aids, it sounded like a dumper truck was emptying broken jam jars into the Falls of Clyde. Had it felt like that as well, I might have been rather worried for my health.

I must confess that for reasons of vanity, the idea of having electronic devices sprouting from my lugs unsettled me. I saw it as a sign of old age. At the time of writing, I have been wearing the hearing aids for a week and, contrarily, I feel younger. I have been transported back to a time when I didn't have to test the patience of friends, family and colleagues by asking them to repeat themselves. But I'm repeating myself, because I went on about this a few weeks ago.

When I went to the audiology clinic, the results of my hearing test were fed into a computer. The data was then used to programme the aids to boost only the frequencies I no longer heard properly. As a result, everything is clearer but not louder. Well, that's not quite true, as the scatological example above shows. Female laughter, crisp bags being opened and plates clattering are all hard to cope with. Amusing women while serving them Doritos in a Greek restaurant is out for the time being.

Apparently, my brain needs to adjust to the new levels of high-frequency sounds. I find this mix of physics, engineering and biology quite fascinating. Indeed, when my physics development officer worked with her opposite number in biology to develop a workshop on perception, they created something that I am positive will engage teachers from both camps.

Should we still be talking about subject camps in 2011? I've thought a lot about this recently, particularly after having ranted about mad curriculum structures in a November piece. I've always seen the advantage of pupils and teachers working together to study physics in depth, in a coherent way, where skills and understanding develop in tandem. If it doesn't work out like that in some classrooms, it's not the fault of dividing a curriculum into subjects. The alternative seems to involve somehow developing generic science skills and looking up the knowledge content on Wikipedia when necessary. I wish this was a massive exaggeration.

It used to be that the only people who studied both physics and biology were wannabe sports scientists or those with gender confusion. Now, in Scotland, some of the most innovative work is taking place where these subjects interface. Look at medical science in Dundee, for example. Nothing wrong with subjects, as long as we get interdisciplinary on a regular basis, because that's the way the real world works. So I hear.

Gregor Steele, Scottish Schools Equipment Research Centre

Gregor Steele still doesn't like the way biologists do graphs.

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