Saturday, August 12, 2006

UK Study Trip

Some reflections...

It happened more than a month ago... To be exact, I was home exactly one month...

The trigger of the trip is "Standards"... See what has happened out there, glean learning points from others so that we can "learn from others' experiences", I guess this is one way to do things more efficiently (by not reinventing the wheels, spending time to 're-construct' the 'test' and spend time to 're-test' to test the outcomes?). Oh yes, it comes with a 'cost' - as a package.

Of course, there are lots of new discoveries gathered through this trip... it has certainly broaden my horizon... what I know about education systems... yes, the contrasts, empowerment (and the price tag that goes with it), etc... an eye-opener (at least, to me...)... that we don't see in Singapore, perhaps, it's not "we" but "I" have not seen or noticed here... yes, must admit that I have not gotten enough exposure to what we have back at home... (oh yes, it's the same when I was at Bhutan, too... hm... I've not learnt my lesson? or it's an on-going lesson that there's always too much out there to learn about, so what determines is having the 'right opportunity' and the 'timing'?)

The "UK trip Report" thingy has been hanging back in the mind even before we set off on 2 July! Yes... all study trips come with a report... so, what's new? But, I guess, it's when I compared with those we did in when in school, and the implications, etc...

It's the preparation that came before the trip was materialised, and getting ready to go out to seek 'answers'(?), information - not just any, but useful ones!!! It's not just the two who went have to prepare... the amount of inputs that Sai Choo and Hwee Peng gave (yes, the to-do list, apart from the set of questions that Shoo Soon drafted for the UK partners) , what to look out for... and sitting down to discuss the focus and what-to-find-out for the trip... OK, all these preparation had successfully 'heightened' the level of anxiety and my level of 'alertness' when out there scanning... on the other hand, also learnt that an over-dose of information is no good too... we have to filter it... as the report eventually has to be focused back to its original intent.

I guess, it's the Singaporean style, trying to "squeeze" out as much as we want from our counterparts... to some extend, I guess Keith must have started to wonder... how minute the details we were trying to find out... The preparation of the report was tough... ok, for one who does not write much, whose 'analytical' skills is still at novice stage (?) hahaha... of course, I thought, writing the Annexes will be a much manageable task to me... Certainly, I marvel the way Sai Choo tightened up the report and re-geared the way it should go... She has asked several times, "Do you agree?", checking on whether the suggested way is better than it was previously put across. Yes! It has certainly helped to pull the 'split souls' together, and has given the entire report a body with the parts at its right places - Thanks for great help! On yes, large part of the credit goes to Shoo Soon, too... who's able to put all the inputs and thoughts together... despite of the working in the wee hours of the days/nights! hahaha...

Looking back, the entire "after-trip" report preparation process has help to consolidate and enriched the entire outcome of this trip. Now, I come to realise that the learning really takes place "after", when trying to piece the information together to analyse them, make sense out of them. Of course, all these also fall back to the comprehensive background information and data collected. Both are equally important.
Some learning points... (based on some of the findings)

  • Resources: One common strategy that the various educational organisations adopted to provide support to schools is on resource development. Be it Becta, DfES, QCA or even the LEA at Birgimham... Indeed, to a large extent, I think they go for the abundance mentality... it's good to have the things there, "when you need it, you can find it"... comparing with the approach we undertake here... do we see some similiarity?
  • I believe we all share the same, fundamental intent, ie. to provide something to others to start off with, this is the most basic form of support that any implementation (of new idea, initiative) should come with...
  • On the other hand, riding on this, we also came to realise that these resources might not have serve its intent - not that they are no good or not enough, but it's the mental model, the habit or practice that most teachers have - they prefer to create their own resources, seek professional aid from nearby sources such as their peers or the likes in other schools. Why? why? why?
  • We don't really have a sense of the pattern in Singapore yet, as the stuff have not been formally rolled out yet. However, looking at the response to implementing the lesson resources in the pilot schools, can we pick up some signals, too?
  • Personally, as a teacher, I would like to tap on resources, however, don't have the time to check around... and often, creating it will probably be much faster and I can straightaway customised for the class!
  • Learning from the UK counterparts, and some of the happenings we encounter with the pilot schools now, perhaps, there's a need to look into the amount of effort to put into the resources - not in terms of just quantity (which seemingly the subject teams all currently are facing the pressure), and I think, more importantly, how to "sell" these resources, anchor it such that they are not just resources, but... to fit into a bigger picture to drive the implementation of the baseline standards of pupils - perhaps from the teachers' perspective as well, and not forgetting the middle management, especially, since the teachers take cues largely from the heads.
  • Perhaps the recent strategy of pushing it through the curriculum map is a good one, to leverage on existing structures. It also provides a more wholesome picture that all it's all about teaching and learning...
  • I guess, this is still single-loop learning

  • Curriculum integration, we see a rather different approach that our UK counterpart undertakes. I guess, that's an example of seamless integration of technology into teaching and learning... ICT is built into the national curriculum. Though specific skill sets are not spelt out, the 'type' of skills are outlined within the curriculum delivery.
  • It suggests points at which ICT can be used in mathematics. Eg. Generate functions from plots of data, for example, from science experiement, using simple curve fitting techniques on graphing calculators, or graphics software to explore the transformation of graphs (National curriculum 1999). It lists the main uses of ICT in mathematics in keystage 3.
  • Probably, based on observation in the classes visited, it seems like teachers see the teaching of skills is kind-of-a "by the way"...
  • From my experience and observation (while in school) - for the first IT Masterplan, and mp2, driving IT by a 'second' party is a challenging task. It guess, it boils down to ownership. Who owns the IT component in the subject integration process.
  • From the HOD/IT's perspective, we are here to support the instructional programmes, to bring in the technology aspect, to enhance the teaching and learning, to bring the quality of learning to greater heights, to enrich the learning experience of the pupils by opening up more avenues to learn.
  • However, from the HODs/IP perspective, very often - coverage of syllabus comes first! (I though it was only common in secondary schools... however, after working with a couple of primary schools, I realise that this mentality is common regardless of primary or secondary schools HODs/IP! Of course, to be fair, we also come across those who manage this ICT 'intrusion' differently and positively!)
  • Drawing points from the UK model, perhaps re-visiting the approach we undertake will shade some light on how this baseline can be perceived as part and parcel of teaching and learning. Probably, it is best for the teams (baseline & curriculum) to come together to see how we can leverage on each other role(?) and synergise - to see, package and sell all as one teaching-and-learning package.
  • This is probably a double loop.

  • ICT implementation in curriculum - what's observed in the Robin Hood Primary strikes most is the integrated approach. It sounds more like project work - where inter-disciplinary approach is adopted. It allows the subjects to come together in a thematic way, it blurs the line... the subjects are no longer so compartmentalised. Isn't this one way to link to bring about authencity in learning? And it is obvious that technology has a role to play, to support such approach.
  • Well, I think we also have to recognise the fact that as we move up to secondary levels, it calls for certain level of subject content specialisation. Hence, though we work togwards providing opportunities to allow fabrication (eg. IPW lessons in schools, co-curricular programmes), subjects are still very much on their own - to maintain the rigor of what needs to know. I guess it's something non-negotiable... and definitely, it's beyond us...

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