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 :)