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READER POLL:

Textbooks or experience? Which is the better teacher?

Both are great, but I prefer a good textbook to start learning from. You can refer back to it, and there is more time to process the information.
Patricia Comeford, engineer
(via Facebook)


While I can’t say what works for others, I know what worked for me: Rigorous learning from both texts and lectures gave me the tools to build experience. The experience of work gave me opportunities to tackle problems with the aid of those books, as well as a rich base of published literature from relevant researchers. Access to literature and research is the single most important reason for joining the OSA, SPIE and IEEE. But none of the above taught critical problem solving skills that I believe are more of [a] gift, involving a combination of both intuitive and rational thought processes.
James A. Carter III,
James Carter Optical Consulting
(via LinkedIn)


Both are required for creating a functional person for this society; however, as we grow [and pass] through the education system’s filtering system, experience is the major component of education.
Scott Crane, Castle Hill Services
(via LinkedIn
)

Apart from textbooks, one needs to keep learning from publications, including monographs and additional textbooks. With the actual work (some call it experience), this makes a great professional. No amount of personal experience can substitute for the lack of knowledge. (And what [you] learn in student years from textbooks is clearly not enough. Plus, new knowledge keeps coming.)
Nikolay (Nick) Agladze,
Institute for Terahertz Science and Technology,
UC Santa Barbara
(via LinkedIn)


I should agree with previous comments. Both are needed. It is hard to enter a certain theme without [reading] textbooks. But I have never seen a book that explained all the practical issues.
Alexander Sharapov, Artec Group
(via LinkedIn)


Textbooks help to enter a certain field. Experience will either harden the theoretical knowledge from the textbook or gain it. Textbooks are well-suited to prepare [for] an experience and [will] probably help to sort our problems if they appear. But own experience is unparalleled.
Wilfried Neumann, Spectra-Magic
(via LinkedIn)


Both are essential. The textbook can tell you why something should work and sometimes even give you the parameters necessary for an approach to be successful. But the experience of doing the work lets you know how accurate the textbook was for this particular application. And reading either a textbook or the more current press articles will broaden your interests and occasionally give insight to a new approach for solving a problem.
Leonard Bordzol, engineer
(via LinkedIn)


Both! But it is time to reverse the order: Instead of listening to a lecture and consolidating with the textbook, first learn the lesson from the textbook and debate in class with a teacher and fellow students. [You can] solve problems, conduct experiments, etc. [This is] tougher for the teacher because one cannot come and deliver prepared lectures, fill the hour (or two) and leave.
Rama Raj, Laboratoire de Photonique
et de Nanostructures, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
(via LinkedIn)


One can learn much from a textbook and much from experience. The key is with which can one apply? I have seen many a person who could recite “data” from a textbook but couldn’t turn a screwdriver. On the average, experience perhaps gets more done, but having a good balance of the two is hard to beat. At the end of the day, the guy who can apply the data obtained in the textbook will be the most productive.
Michael Scaggs,
Haas Laser Technologies
(via LinkedIn)


I have to take the easy way out: Both are necessary. Experience without some textbook background will lead to poor decisions and [a lack of] understanding what is behind one’s actions. All textbooks are like someone saying they are a great chef but have never made a dish, which is why [being an] intern or [using] problem-based learning is a superior way to learn. Remember, experience can be based on all poor or lucky habits [in the same way] that all textbooks never give one the feel for real-life situations or problem solving. So I have to go back to my original statement: Both are needed. If one starts out with only experience, a great mentor is critical. But such a mentor will make the students learn and understand the fundamentals of why things are being done and [why they] work.
Ken Barat,
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
(via LinkedIn)


As usual, a nice combination of both things should be the right answer. We could also say that the best teacher is the “critical sense” or “critical thinking” when reading a textbook or when making an experiment. Doubt means motivation, and it is the engine putting you to work and [the engine formulating] new questions to be solved. When making something in a bad way for many years, is it [a] “useful” experience? In the case of a textbook, you learn a lot of right things but, at the same time, some others [that] are not true. I could tell you some examples, but this is probably not the right place, and I am sure you also have in mind some. Nothing is 100 percent perfect.
Emilio Prieto,
Spanish Centre of Metrology
(via LinkedIn)


Experience.
Math Pantus, UTC Fire & Security
(via www.Photonics.com)


Experience.
Jay Collosi, developer,
Spectra Technology Corp.
(via www.Photonics.com)


Experience.
Unknown
(via www.Photonics.com)


While it would be easy to say “both,” I will answer [with] “experience.” There is no substitute for hands-on experience in fabrication, testing, analysis, etc. You cannot get that from book learning, but you can get some of the key elements of textbooks from colleagues who help you as you gain experience.

Having said that, I strongly agree that a background [comprising] both is essential. Learning the underlying principles and theory contributes enormously to understanding why you do what you do. You may only use 10 percent of what you learned in the classroom, but classroom work teaches you how to learn new material and how to solve analytical problems.
Ralph Jameson, engineer
(via LinkedIn)


Through the textbook we are learning from the experiences of others, which provides a basis from which to start. Nothing is better than personal experience and experimentation for providing true enlightenment.
L. Scott Hawes,
Seno Medical Instruments
(via LinkedIn)


READER POLL:

Social media connects us at the speed of light. How does it impact your optics/photonics work?

A lot. I promote photonics [through] Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs.
Math Pantus,
UTC Fire & Security
(via www.Photonics.com)


It’s a brilliant tool to bring ideas together. When showcasing new innovations, you can reach a worldwide audience instantly.
Powerlase Photonics
(@powerlase13 via Twitter)


Social media has had a tremendous positive impact on my work, especially as a consultant in optical engineering. It was through an ex-colleague’s contact on Facebook that got me one of my big consulting contracts. Moreover, now that LinkedIn lets everyone publish articles, spreading your work and knowledge has never been easier. However, I do feel that the scientific community has yet to take full advantage of social media, especially for rapid or even real-time peer review. To my knowledge, there has yet to be a site or venue (even on LinkedIn) where scientists can post their work and receive instant professional peer review, followed by subsequent rapid publication which would be recognized as on par with the quality of existing scientific journals.
Ronian Siew, consultant
(via LinkedIn)


LinkedIn has helped me team up with optic gurus.
Unknown
(via www.Photonics.com)


[It] helps us connect to audiences – readers, advertisers, editorial opportunities. [It] allows us to be dynamic in business.
Electro Optics
(@electrooptics via Twitter)


[It] identifies people with the same interests.
Jay Collosi, developer,
Spectra Technology Corp.
(via www.Photonics.com)


READER POLL:

The UN has declared 2015 the International Year of Light because light enables countless things. What will you personally be celebrating?

As a member of IYL2015 National Committee, it will be my pleasure to celebrate! Various events coming. For example, @ScifestJoensuu will again collect thousands of school kids, and [the] 2015 theme will be light: www.scifest.fi.
Pasi Vahimaa, Institute of Photonics, University of Eastern Finland
(@PVahimaa via Twitter)

Haitz’s Law, enabling optoelectronics.
Unknown (via www.Photonics.com)


We have some good ideas [for] #IYL2015 and will share them ASAP. Why don’t we keep in touch? Ciao!!
Roberto Corradini,
Roberto Corradini Lighting Design
(@RobCorradiniLD via Twitter
)

By bringing new product(s) to the marketplace.
Jay Collosi, developer,
Spectra Technology Corp.
(via www.Photonics.com)


Everything. The effect light has on our well-being.
Math Pantus, UTC Fire & Security
(via www.Photonics.com)


I’m the coordinator of the lighting-related organizations for #IYL2015 (after #lightup2015 campaign). We’re planning events too!
Chiara Carucci,
Susanna Antico Lighting Design
(@passoluce via Twitter)


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