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 Dictionary.com 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.

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