Sunday, December 13, 2009

Students and their blogs

It is really heartening reading students' blogs and I feel I am becoming more of a blogger because I am reading about their lives and reflections.

Great to have more reading materials on hand to while the time away this holidays!

And kudos to the person (you know who you are) who designed these activities for them to do :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Someone whom I think is wise shared his views about CPF to us. Let me take some time to "unpack" the term.

C - Courage and Commitment

We must have the courage to forge new frontiers and explore unknown territories. That endeavour is never easy and it takes someone with a lion-heart to do so (thank goodness my name reflects that, as to the person....well....).

And it will never work if we are not committed to doing what we have set out to do.

P - Purpose and Perseverance

We must be clear of what we want to achieve. Or else it is just a meaningless journey we are embarking on with no clear end in mind. That is tiring and such a waste of time! But even when we do have the end in mind, the journey does get tough. We must persevere and push one. It is not unrelated to having the courage to do so too. The interconnectedness is there!

F - Friends and Family

How can we move on without the support available wherever we can find them? But first and foremost, I believe that Family should come first, nevertheless, as that is the place of solace, the place you can turn to, when friends become foes.

With that, I am going to contribute to my CPF regularly and cash it in when the time is right, when I know that I have done my part :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Applied Learning Workshop @ NP

1. AL Pedagogies

What do we mean when it comes to applied learning?
- Experiential (First-Hand Experience --> Reflect --> Abstract --> Reapply to new contexts)
- Problem-based (Real-world Problems --> Resolution)
- Challenge-based (Global Issues and what we can do)
- WebQuests (Scenarios - Scaffolding; Information Literacy Development)
- Inquiry-based (Questions and Construction of Concepts)
- Service Learning (Application of Knowledge and Skills to Service; Needs of the community; Scope usually smaller; Development of Attitudes e.g. empathy - importance of assessment for completion of task and also reflection of learning and/or transformation)

Question: How do we "stack" these in a term, a semester, a year and then year by year?

Strategies used @ NP:
  • cooperative learning
  • games
  • learning objects
  • presentations (remote, virtual)
  • lecturettes
  • investigation and research
  • role plays
  • chats, discussions, debates
  • peer teaching
  • self-assessment

2. Applied Learning & Participant Roles

Students must be active and reflective participants. This could also be done if students know their roles in the learning process.

Essential Question: What are the learner roles and also the role of the teacher?

This must be made explicit to the students so that the approaches are carried out well.

If the tutor behaviour is about telling, passing on content, the student learning behaviour is possibly to passively listen, or receive content. If the tutor is to enable learning, then students are to actively connect and construct their own learning.

3. Learning Design

(refer to slides)

4. Applied Thinking

- Decision Making
- Problem Solving
- Futures Thinking
- Issues Resolution (challenge-based thinking)

5. Performance Tasks

Levels of application
  • Inside a discipline focus area --> look for examples of application --> assessment is on relevance of examples
  • Inside a discipline focus area --> life-like application --> assessment is on conceptual understanding within a discipline focus area
  • From authentic application (integration of several focus areas) --> conceptual understanding --> assessment is multi-layered [core content/skills assessment; supporting content/skills assessment; product vs process skills; individual vs group; more than 2 tutors assessing the project(s)]
  • From personal experience --> conceptual understanding --> assessment is on attributes and voice (WISP): Singlish-cised version of World Cafe - Kopi Tiam [media literacies]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Culture - What is?

It is interesting that we have to be told that dialogue is key in an organisation, be it internal or external. The conversations have to be uplifting, to keep everyone upwards rather than downwards.

Is it true that "Everyday culture eats away your strategy"? If the culture is negative, would the strategies be carried out? Would they be still effective?

Actions versus Intentions [People will always be judged by what they do and not what they are thinking about. Decoding of someone's thought processes takes a lot of trust. How do we build the Trust?

Ladder of Inference [How can we make use of ABCDE chart?] Can we find more logical or rational explanations for something we see? If not sure, let's clarify, professionally. Easier said than done?

What is our interpretation of the word "Openness"? Is [ ] "open"or is [ ] "open"? Look at the issues, take in all the perspectives and speak with one voice. A battle won?

Focus on the Ps - Purpose; People (students and co-workers); Professionalism; Performance; Proactive; Passion; Cache-Control: max-age=0

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- I Complement Team (Everyone has to pull their own weight to contribute to the team)

Student - A Whole New Way of Learning
Staff - A Great New Place to Work
School - A Cool, Vibrant and Innovative Institution

Monday, March 16, 2009

Third CI Meeting

It's been quite a while since I updated this blog - like I said before, it's just not in my nature to do so but I guess I really have to try - how do THIS generation do it so easily and freely?

Have gone to see Dr Towndrow for the last time - now work really has to kick in as I read up on my articles and prepare for the final assignment for my masters. The third meeting was good - I was "forced" to think about my outline and through that process, I clarified what I wanted to write about and got some more recommended journal articles to read up. The issue is WHEN I should stop reading and START typing.

Since then, I have become more aware that technology is really becoming part of us - to the extent we have gotten so used to it, we start to use phrases like "Can't live without it" or "Will die if I didn't bring my handphone" or "Will die if I couldn't check my email". I said it is becoming part of us, because we willingly let it be so and perhaps we really don't have a choice. Singapore is one of the heaviest consumers of mobile phones (many owning more than 1 - why do they need so many phones???) and despite this economic downturn, I don't see the queue at Hello! shops getting shorter (actually I joined the queue because I wanted to "downgrade" my Dopod D810 to a mere Samsung L700). Realised this whole touchscreen thing was a phase for me - then I read Digital Life and found out that it is IN. Perhaps I should get one too...

So if technology is part of our students' life, so then do we make it so even in schools for them, without us worrying about control and attention issues? Would a classroom still be a classroom or should we simply abolish this whole concept and go for something different?

I am sure educators out there would be looking at SST and how we differentiate ourselves from the mainstream. I am curious about that too (^_^)

Monday, February 16, 2009


Today I went to see Dr Towndrow to go through my first assignment. Succinctly put, my short literature review to talk about the kind of students SST is going to have was too descriptive. It should have also been critically-nuanced to bring out the gaps those authors have said in the context of my problem. This would be a good opportunity for me to then propose the solutions.

There was also no curriculum design philosophy that could be used as an anchor point for me to discuss my data. For example, if I were to adopt UbD, it would have been more helpful for the reader to see how certain writing tasks fell short because they did not adhere to or bring out the design principles.

Lastly, I should have talked abit more about the design of the tasks - it would have been good to talk about students' work with reference to those tasks to bring out the issues of designing such tasks. Besides, those authors are usually more general and do not cater to specificity.

Lots more to do! I must do better!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Using Technology - My Experiences (Writing)

Dear "Doubly Smashing Good Time"

It's been a while since I wrote to you and so many things have happened - me completing my first assignment for my last masters module, me seeing my grandma, me visiting my auntie on the other side of the island, me cycling with the kids and playing with them at the playground. It has been a tiring weekend but oh, so fulfilling! Oh, but that's beside the point - I'm digressing.

Today I want to share with you what I did when I was in NAS - those were good times and I got to know some very good friends and we still keep in touch even though we have all gone our separate ways and experienced parenthood (or would-be parenthood :) Oh, I'm digressing AGAIN ;p

Anyway, my focus today will be on teaching writing. I am sharing with you my experiences because I hope through this exercise, I would be clearer of what I have done then and would seek to do better in SST. Writing was usually "taught" in an integrated fashion - this means we would usually deconstruct the structure, teach the required language features, give students the questions or topics to attempt and then provide them with curriculum time to complete the tasks. Essentially the organisation of the lesson remained like this and it culminated into an error analysis lesson where we went through students' common errors. Did it bring about the required results? Yes, to a large extent, as students would get their distinctions eventually but did we enjoy the learning process?

I recall trying to inject some excitement in learning writing and one such way was my creation of a WebQuest for a classroom observation by my Head of Department (HOD). You could say I was quite daring then, conducting a computer lesson using a WebQuest and doing something I have not done before for an actual observation. But it went well and students enjoyed themselves. Even I enjoyed the lesson and the follow-up activities that arose out of that lesson!

That's when I realised that students are really into technology and other than the fact that computer lessons take place in an air-conditioned laboratory, the fact they are surfing the Internet and typing away on the keyboard, somehow rings very well with them. Does it bring about noise? You bet it does but I suppose that's why we have to set clear guidelines and adhere strictly to them.

It's perhaps this realisation that brought me to set up my website then. But as I review it now, I realise I was just preparing students for the examinations - tips on writing well and models! Did I essentially teach students writing or did I provide them with the time to practise? One would argue that teaching can arise out of the work students provide but producing texts without an authentic purpose renders this entire writing experience merely into an assessment task!

Students are now into digital writing and it is something we have to explore. Digital literacy (or critical digital literacy) is now all the more important in this day and age.

I must therefore innovate students' writing experiences in SST and make use of the technology tools they are familiar with!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Organising my Thoughts

As I come to complete my first assignment for MMM800, I began to realise that designing a curriculum is not easy and there is a need to organise how I am going to do it. So here's my attempt:

It's still very sketchy but I shall review this again :)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Revelation (continued)

Actually right now, I am still reeling from my realisation that to truly be a blogger, I should be PRODUCING and CONSUMING blogs (and thanks for jeffjarvis - LINKING to them as well). Here's one: UK Study Trip (Three of my colleagues went to London recently and this is the blog one of them created :)

I have a colleague right now sharing the use of Photosynth that will stitch photos for you to show a more panoramic view. Really impressive, but apparently it does not work on Macs! What is this!!??

Monday, February 2, 2009


As I was browing through the Internet, looking for relevant quotes on learning, I came across this:

The first step in blogging is not writing them but reading them (Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine, 07-10-2006). Got this from The Quotations Page.

But this seems to be NOT what I am doing. I am just posting and posting and it dawned upon me that I am not truly a blogger unless I write AND read blogs. That's it!

Now the key is to find those that interest me and are not too wordy :)

Engaging the Net Generation

It has been quite exciting (and exhausting) to read up on what educators have been doing with technology and what are the trends in learning for this generation of youths.

Yesterday I read up on digital literacy and critical digital literacy and realised that the idea of literacy at this day and age may not simply be limited just to words and texts. It has expanded to include codes and symbols and our youths are reading, writing and breathing them daily. How can this be incorporated into the SST Language Curriculum? (noticed I have started to mention Language Curriculum - we really feel there is no need to segregate as any individual should be proficient enough to use whatever language means available to make and to convey meanings)

Don Tapscott talks about the Net Generation (people born from 1977 to 1997) and how this people grew up with technology and are now changing our world. My guts tell me he is right and I am worried how I can go about engaging them in the classroom (suddenly noticed I used the word "classroom" - why should learning take place in a "classroom"? I really must try to wire myself to think differently!!). But then the students coming into SST would be considered the last of the Net Generation and in 2011, the Generation Next would be entering SST...what sort of individuals would we be seeing then?

Anyway, back to engaging the Net Geners - We will have to use the tools they are most familiar with - text messaging, chatting, creating and co-creating content on the Read/Write Web. But my concern is really on the assessment that learning has taken place. How do we go about doing it? I know there is assessment (of/for/as) learning but how can that be implemented?

That is for another day. Really right now, I have to complete my first assignment and wish me luck for that!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The New Teacher

Here I am posting my second entry in a single day! Talk about overload. I wonder if children of this digital age (or the N-Gen) do this all the time?

Anyway, I was still looking through Tapscott's Growing Up Digital when I came to this section called "The New Teacher". It talks about Richard Ford, a very inspiring teacher who was a facilitator of learning more than a transmitter of knowledge. What he did was he refused to answer students' questions, but preferred them to ask everyone else in the class. I thought that is quite neat, and conveys the message to the class that the teacher does not have all the answers (actually we really do not have ALL the answers and more often than not, we also refer to Google :)

Moreover, instead of examinations, he got the students to create webpages and used peer assessment. His words set me thinking:
"I don't teach. If I teach, who knows what they will learn. Teaching's out. I tell kids that there are no limits. You can create whatever you want to create. If it's impossible, it will just take a bit longer. My main function is to get kids excited, to consider things they haven't done before. I'm working to create citizens in a global society" (1998, p.156).

It sounds so easy but implementation is not so smooth-sailing. I would want to be the NEW teacher in this NEW school. Think, think!

Reading Up

It's been a while since I last updated this blog. Not surprising, considering it was the Chinese New Year weekend and basically, I have not been at home for more than 3 hours each day, other than to sleep in at nights. It's out for reunion dinners or house visits! But that's not the point ;p

Right now I am reading up on some of the books I have borrowed for my last module. Don Tapscott was one of the authors Dr Towndrow talked about a little, and so I have borrowed some of this books, just in case they come in handy. Well, so far his books titled "Paradigm Shift: The New Promise of Information Technology" and "Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything" seem to target businesses (though the latter does have useful information). I managed to get "Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation" from the library from Ngee Ann Polytechnic and am now browsing through it. Decided to go to the website on Tapscott's books and came to know that he has actually websites on his books and I found this particular webpage interesting. It is a website on his latest book titled "Grown Up Digital". Just went to NIE library and realised since the last time I visited it, that book is now available for lending. Unfortunately the library is simply too far and so I shall just contend with what I have now.

It is interesting how I missed being the Net generation by 2 years, but then, that might also explain why it is also easier for me to adapt to the technological changes. Well, back to more reading and really, it is quite revealing to read about how these authors think about the impact of technology in our lives. Argh, if only I could have more time to read more but it is kind of tough, with me now in SST, but I shall make the best out of the situation. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inspirations from a Leader from the West

This morning when I came to work, Johari shared with us that he watched Obama's Presidential Inauguration speech last night and was amazed by the turn out despite the freezing conditions. That piqued my interest, and for the first time in my life, I decided to view that speech and where else better to get one than from YouTube.

Obama is a very good speaker and I could possibly come up with a list why but that is not the point of this entry. He has said many things to inspire his people but some of the points he made are as equally relevant to us, all the way on the other side of the globe, especially to a school about to be set up in 2010.

One of Obama's main points is about remaking America. We have the same vision, to remake the learning experiences of our students. Obama talked about America leading the other nations. We also look to lead other schools in terms of use of technology in teaching and learning. Most importantly, Obama talked about keeping the legacy of what their forefathers have achieved. We are creating our legacy.

As Obama also said, we face new challenges and have new instruments to overcome them but fundamentally, the values remain the same and everything should be rooted on them. This is something I believe in too and so when I look at innovating the EL curriculum, I must bear that in mind.

Two quotes that I like (not from Obama's speech):
1. Today's skills need to become tomorrow's habits.
2. It's time to ensure that the way students learn with technology agrees with the way they live with technology.

This is a challenge and I am going all the way out to meet it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What is really freedom of choice?

Today I met up with Ching Ya to discuss the Language curriculum for SST and in our discussion, I shared with her my example of how an EL lesson could look like:

Imagine a teacher walking into a class and telling the students to open their laptops to access their emails. In that email, the teacher has attached two pictures with two prompts. The teacher would then give the students some time to think about the prompts before getting them to post their responses on their blogs, before structuring discussions in groups to provide feedback.

In my mind, I thought this would be something different. I am giving students the freedom to say what they want, of course, within a controlled technology-enabled environment. But when I shared this idea with Dr Towndrow, to my pleasant surprise, he asked me, "Do you have to give them the pictures? Could students be given the choice to decide what pictures they want, given the theme? Could they be allowed to think about the questions they want to ask and then decide the means with which they want to present their understanding, and in the process justify why they have selected to present it that way?"

So many thought-provoking questions, that really set me thinking - Am I really giving students the space to explore? Am I really giving them choices?

The discussion then led to the teaching of LANGUAGE and he asked me yet another difficult question: What is LANGUAGE? In my mind, language is the means to convey one's ideas and to make meaning. That in essence is not incorrect but the word "language" connotes the written and spoken forms, when language would be conveyed through signs, images and other forms. Would semiotics be required? Must meaning be conveyed only through one language? What if meanings are best conveyed through multiple means and a bicultural text or multicultural text best brings out the meaning. On hindsight, aren't our signs at MRT stations presented in EL, CL, ML and TL?

I don't know - but I shared these thoughts with Ching Ya and we both agreed it might be something worth looking at.

Of course, Dr Towndrow and I had a discussion on what PEDAGOGY is. My very simplistic definition is a set of strategies teachers could use to teach. I checked with and found that it is also "the art or science of teaching"! If it is an art or a science, could be ever "perfect" it? Most probably not, as it will encompass interactions between teachers and students and the current innovations in the educational landscape. If we were to give students choices in what they could learn, what pedagogy are we talking about?

Yet again, I have no answer but I endeavour to find the best way to engage SST students and I am realising that this is bigger than I used to think it is. Will I have the freedom to explore and innovate? Time will tell.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Rude" Awakening

While I was searching the web for information on 21st century skills, I chanced upon this document that provided links to Youtube videos on 21st century learning.

Here is the first video I saw and it resonates in my head that MY pedagogy (and way of thinking about teaching) has to change if I were to engage my students!

I also like this video which reminds me of the importance of creating a curriculum that will REALLY provides the space for students to LEARN. I MUST bear this in mind when I design the curriculum!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Revising the Proposal

Updating this blog is really not natural to me. Searching for information, visiting Facebook to find out what's happening to my friends and ex-students and checking emails however is.

That was why it suddenly struck me as I was revising my CI proposal that I should update my blog, to note down in this journey the challenges and successes I experience.

1st challenge: Finding the motivation to revise the proposal. This weekend has been so tiring for me, having to attend a wedding dinner and celebrating Asher's birthday (twice!) that sitting down to do my PDCM work is least on my priority. Thank goodness I tied myself to it by telling Dr Towndrow I would send a revised version over tomorrow. I know if I set for myself a dateline like that, I better keep it.

Looking at the notes that I wrote during my discussion with Dr Towndrow revealed a very clear systematic approach to doing this action research. I have decided to use myself as the "test subject" and find out in this last module how writing is taught with the use of ICT and how assessment is done. All this to be made more consistent with 21st century skills and dispositions.

First thing first, completing the revision and sending it out and then off to Google and ERIC to look for related articles.

Wish me lots of luck (and focus)!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A "Challenge"

Yesterday I went to visit my Critical Inquiry (CI) advisor, Dr Towndrow (CRPP/NIE), to go through my research proposal for my last module in Masters in Education (English Language). During the discussion, he asked if I kept a blog and my immediate answer at that point in time was, no. He then gave me a challenge - Keep one and use it. And that's why the renewed efforts to blog but of course seeing why I should do so too.

In some sense, it was true I do not keep a blog. Yet, while I was serving my three-year stint in Educational Technology Division (MOEHQ), I did dabble with blogs (Blogger, Multiply and even LiveJournal), mostly to try them out to know what they could do (so as to facilitate my work in ETD) and also more for conduct of workshops on the use of blogs, but as to whether I KEPT one, in the strictest sense, no.

Technically speaking, I know what blogs could do, but personally, it never took off as a platform for me to share about my life. I suppose I am just not comfortable to do so but mostly I am not the introspective and reflective kind of person. In Gardner's terms, I am more likely not very intrapersonal-intelligent. Then again, putting things on a blog (like a personal diary) is not my kind of thing too. This is really not surprising, considering the fact that Prensky would call me a Digital Immigrant (I acquired the digital language, perhaps fairly quickly, and am not adverse to it but might not speak it like our younger generation now) with an accent of not putting things on line. I mean, I have accounts with many cyber platforms (e.g. Wetpaint, Google, Facebook) but I would still much prefer to read things in hardcopies and printing them out so that the print would not be harsh on my eyes ;p

Anyway, I shall continue to pen down my thoughts as I do my many readings for the module, and as I journey as the Subject Head for English Language in my new posting, School of Science and Technology, Singapore. It is perhaps discordant if I do not start using Web 2.0 tools more pervasively in my own life, because essentially the kind of students coming to my school would be very comfortable doing so.

The question then is, what can my school do differently from other schools when it comes to providing the kind of education geared to the interests and abilities of the prospective students?

This blog shall attempt to uncover my discoveries :)