Thursday, February 22, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - Spreadsheet (4th Run)

15 & 22 February @ Juying Primary

Hearing from the HODs/IT
In the 1st session, got the chance to speak to 2 HOD/IT and heard from them their views:

  • Both expressed that results are at stake and therefore is still the priority. Both mentioned about 'time' as a key concern.

  • One of the HODs mentioned about looking into arranging training for pupils to equip them with the skills. However, was very concern over the fact that teachers had to tap on curriculum time to familiarise pupils with operational skills such as logging into the system, saving the files. She indicated that this familiarisation process will eat into lots of curriculum time and expressed that teachers were reluctant to do this.

  • We acknowledged that it will definitely take up some time for pupils to become familar with the basic operational skills. However, it should be deem as a form of investment - to learn anything - be it skill or knowledge, there exists a learning curve where one will take some time to get familar with the skill or 'digest' the knowledge before we can apply the skill/knowledge with ease. Yes, it takes a while to 'habitualise' a skill... but many a time, adults undermine that pupils grasp much faster than us... It's an investment, if nobody wishes to invest, it will never take place. If the P1 teachers do not want to overcome the hurdle, this is passed on to the P2 teachers... so on and so forth...

  • On the other hand, look at the positive side of things - are the pupils already demonstrating the skills? Are the teachers already teaching pupils the skills? Well, if the school has already introduced eLearning into the P1 classes, aren't the pupils already demonstrating PK1 skills, that's the fundamentals of all? Pupils already able to move the mouse, press the button on the keyboard... aren't they already navigating in the GUI (graphical user interface)? I guess, sometimes it's a matter a bridging the what's written in the standards and what's already happening.

  • Indeed, one analogy will be the teachers: When teachers first started to learn using the computer, they have to learn to login and get familiar with the windows environment... What happens after that? It is a painless process to do all these now because it has become part and parcel of their daily routines... do they still have to spend that amount of time to look for the keys to press and the buttons to click at? Indeed, they are now using the tools (the applications) to aid their work... similarly, we want pupils be able to make use of the tools to learn, too... I think, it is a matter of recognising the need and the willingness to 'sacrifice'... of course, some teachers will ask: "Why me?"... On the other hand, if it's for the good and benefit to the pupils, then "Why not?" and "Why wait?"... Let's step back a little and think: What's our role as teachers? Should we compromise or delay pupils' learning experience because of our fear or incompetence?

  • Another HOD/IT recognised the fact that Baseline is there for the pupils and agreed with its rationale: to better prepare pupils for the future... He is more concern how to implement that in the school. Currently, the teachers are still matching the resources to the SOW. Have highlighted to him the resources in the baseline website and how the curriculum integration map comes in helpful in the planning.
  • In terms of approach, he indicated preference in having school-wide approach, in the sense that all teachers will conduct identified lessons - that is easier to account for implementation. He is less in favour to have the IT champions to spearhead, fearing that it ended up the rest of the teachers will only sit and watch, resulting unevenless again. Have suggested getting the IT champions to handhold or provide stronger support to those who need. That also includes inviting others to sit in the lesson to observe and pick up useful pointers before they implement the lessons.

Some observations to the 1st session

  • The participants were enthusiastic to learn the skills, especially the macros and buttons. Most of the participants seem familar with spreadsheet, as they were able to follow the steps in the handouts, also from the way they create the picture graphs.
  • However, it seems like many are not aware that they have to press enter after keying in value into the cell... otherwise the system is not able to capture the value.
  • On the other hand, skills seem to have taken the centre-stage - as most instances seem that through the activity, they identify the skills they are going to learn. The value of the activity in enhancing the learning experience was not clearly brought out >> Something to refocus in the next session.
  • In particular, one participant seemed to be rather impatient - in 2 encounters (i) the value entered was converted to % (eg. 7 became 0.07) - due to system setting (ii) the system could not check the input value because she did not press enter after keying in the number.

Some technical problems encountered...

  • The numbers have been set to "2 decimal places" - Tools > Options > Edit.
  • The shared spreadsheet refused to save. To overcome this, ask all participants to 'close' spreadsheet. Another means - to copy and rename the shared spreadsheet.
  • When coming to "If" statement, do not use "TRUE" and "FASLE" for the logic test as these are default terms used in some operations, like "0" and "1".


2nd session...

about Technical Skills...

  • Giving the "Bonus segment": I guess today's session has certainly answered to many participants' curiosity - the use of macros and buttons... they were attentive and quiet during the demonstration... but also, obvious that quite a number could not follow... (see another point to address to this). In particular, with this 'bonus segment', I think it has saved one participant from writing unsatisfying feedback... ok, I sound sarcastic?
  • Managing theDemand: The participant was insistent that technical skills have to be taught otherwise they would not be able to accomplish what's needed - being able to design the lessons - since they could not create the resources!!! How do we manage such as situation... I think, we were tested at that point of time - how to respond and cushion the demand (reasonable, yet unreasonable at the wrong time! wrong platform). How to manage the situation? First thing crossed my mind, do not be defensive, and cannot be seen being defensive otherwise, other participants will 'sing' along and it's going to make the rest of the workshop very difficult to move! I took (what I thought) the most appropriate move: to acknowledge the participants' concern and agree on what's true in the actual situation. They want their need to be heard - it's obvious... and we agree to bring the requests back for consideration....
  • Reiterating our Ground: It is also important and necessary for us to reiterate our stand and the objective of the workshop. Also, getting them to see the bigger picture - why certain things are carried out in such a way... However, we have to be cautious not to over-promise! such as giving them uncertain hope that they would expect to see a workshop where technical skills take centre-stage... Be mindful of that!
  • Aligning and Communicating Expectations: This brings us to another point... has the intended objectives of the workshop been clearly communicated? or it was communicated but has been filtered along the way as it travels through the air before ending the ears? Or along the way... was there signals that sent out to emphasize the importance of acquiring certain technical skills??? One point that I'm quite sure... there isn't enough emphasis to bring across the intend of the workshop... more could be done to play out the "skill" emphasis...
  • Anchoring and driving what's to be 'heard': Moreover, terms like "skills" or related terms are too frequently mentioned in the workshop... would that have shaped the thinking that "Hey, you are talking so much about skills, showing us these very interesting features - so many times and bringing out the advantages of these features, yet you are not showing us how to do? What's the point?" I am quite sure it has! The outburst, I believe, was triggered when participants were asked to suggest how to use ICT in assessing pupils' understanding. No! No! No! It intensifies their concern! At that point of time, what flashed across: It's going to overkill and backfire! Yes, indeed, it happened... led to that outburst.
  • What the slide intends to communicate: On the other hand, it has never crossed my mind (although having run the same workshop twice, to ask participants to think how ICT can be used to support the different forms of assessment... it'll create the 'overwhelmed' effect... yes, it's a good to have, but more importantly, be focus! This indeed brings out another very important point: Think through what we intend to say, that's not enough... but to think how the audience receive it - how they perceive and react... that's important!
  • Managing this concern: I've never disagree that it is necessary to equip participants with enough skills so that they can 'fish' - On the other hand, given the amount of time and the agenda we want to drive at, how to strike a balance? The 'spreadsheet' competency of the participants varies... when we cater to one group, we lost the other... when too much given, will that scare the novice? From the participants (in the past few runs), it's the frequent users expect more on the technical skills, while the less regular user will treat that as an exposure (as they can't possibly cope with so many new skills!).
  • To cater to the more spreadsheet-savvy, suggest that supplementary handouts made available to particpiants at the end of the 1st session so that they could explore on their own... if they are keen, they will try and ask in the subsequent session... if they have little interest, well, they won't bother to ask! This would have probably reduce the 30 min 'bonus segment' to about 5-10 min?
  • To cater to the less spreadsheet-savvy, I feel that, we have somehow missed out the fact that how the use the simple features of spreadsheet in good ways in learning activities - those does not require macros or visual basic.
  • Striking the balance: There are things that can be done without using the control toolbox, for example, creating a textbox, but one participant wanted to use the text feature in the contol toolbox to do it... well, what difference does that make apart from telling me "I want to use that because it looks better." Where is the value-add? I wonder... are we over promoting the use of macros and buttons because we are comfortable in using it? How many of them will use the skills when they go back to schools? What's exactly practical to them? On one hand, we would very much like to 'give', yes, the kind of satisfaction we get when we realised that the participants are delighted with the fact their immediate request are met. I think, we may have to think of "What's next?" for the participants, perhaps...

the baseline skills...

This is a session where we talk about baseline and we wanted to clarify their doubts and this is a very important group of people as they are the ones who help to 'explain' (at the front line and first cut) what's expected of the standards? Well... without going through with them the standards apart from telling them what the codes mean... are they able to do so? Thought this would be good time to 'pre-clarify' some jargons and big terms like, what do we mean by "multimedia"? I thought, more can be done here...

the Sharing Session by Participants...

On the whole - can't quite see the baseline skills (PS1 & PS2) being 'brought' out from the learning activities and these have not been brought upfront, what's expected to see from the learning activity or task they are to come up with. This could be improved when communicating the task to the participants - their "job" (a word to avoid, I think) is to come up with a learning activity or task using spreadsheet (so? anything thing about spreadsheet?). At this point, the skills PS1 & PS2 should be emphasize and possibly elaborate - with examples. That will help to guide the participants' thinking and planning better. For instance,

  • P1 Shapes - indeed, the participants misunderstood what to do: instead, a fair bit of time was spent in modifying/extending the activity in the powerpoint slides. Although one suggested using spreadsheet to teach or get pupils to create patterns - well, that was not materialise... What the participants simply did, when told that the task suppose to be in spreadsheet - they copied all the objects to the spreadsheet instead so that pupils can 'manipulate' the objects in spreadsheet (because the workshop requires them to do so) rather than using the powerpoint, which they agree it's a better tool! So, have they seen the 'value' of using spreadsheet. In my opinion, it's a definite NO!
  • P5 Area of Triangles -

Sunday, February 18, 2007

WISE - it all started with...The Deformed Frog

WISE: The Web-based Inquiry Science-based Environment

Revisiting the site... While journeying through the pages:

Some observations:

1. The portal allows customisation of projects - in other words, it offers flexibility that allows teachers to adapt the project according to what's deem suitable by the teacher. As brought up during the sharing (learning points) during the section meeting, it was pointed out (by some) that the task tends to be 'converging' - ie. there's already a known answer to the 'hypothesis' and the approach seems to be leading the pupils to go through a carefully planned journey.

Looking from another perspective, I presume the task is put up to give the most conservative structure (as much info & resource as possible) - as I would agree that it's easier to remove than to fill in with more info.

2. As the name of the website implies... it's to do with Science... no wonder, even the 'only' Maths activity (Airbags: Too Fast, Too Furious??) is linked to Science - Physics... Well, isn't it that anything authentic has something to do with Science?

3. The medium used:
In the "Deformed Frog", pictures were put up at the relevant points to 'concretise' what's described in text - to see the 'hard-to-imagine' products. In "Airbags" project, simulation/video is included to aid investigation. Indeed, instructions were there to guide pupils what to look out for... yes, very guided (that reminds me when I conduct the spreadsheet - trying to give hints to lead the participants to look out for what I would like them to see). One advantage on the use of the video clips is that it allows the learner to slower drag the 'display point' so that he is able to do close analysis with the simulation.

Because of the nature of the task - where pupils were to draw observation from a graph, a built-in web-based graphing tool is also available, as part of the investigation package. Like the "Deformed Frog" activity, it also comes with the notes feature where learner can jot down some points, based on the 'questions' displayed. Something new observed: It also comes with an MCQ where puplis were to make a 'decision' at that point of this learning.

4. It is also very obvious that there's no checking mechanism built into the project - but the learner will document his learning along the way. This brings in another concern that normally teachers are concern over classroom learning... making sure that pupils acquire the correct stuff before the problem gets 'accumulated'... it's difficult to undo the misconception. So, when to give the timely intervention/checking? The teacher has to decide...

5. Other form of 'learning support' - key words were hyperlinked to glossary where pictures are included to provide visual and explain what a 'limb' is - this is helpful for the visual learners.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - GSP (Primary) 2007

On 14 & 28 Feb, 7 March @ Clementi Primary

Pre-Workshop Survey
This was sent out to the participants and 13 out of 20 responded. Among the respondents, more than 90% indicated ground zero knowledge/skill level. That helps to set the pace and coverage of the first session. It was also noted that a handful used GSP, however for lesson demonstration, and a second guess is most used existing resources.

A similar survey was carried out at the end of the 1st session. It showed a move towards the middle band. Will do a last round at the end of the 2nd session that we hope more than 75% of the participants indicate they are able to carry out the basic operations with confidence.

Knowing the participants more...
Realised that many participants have a common 'mission' - to find out what GSP does and share with the department how it can be used in T&L before the dept decides to purchase the software. As a result, more than 50% do not have GSP back in school > Have put up the link where participants could register an evaluation copy.

Workshop materials
There was a revamp to the materials we used last year. Some changes made to the approach:

  • How the basic tools are introduced to the participants. An attempt was made to bridge participants' familiarity with microsoft applications to GSP - point out similarity to spreadsheet (in having multiple pages within the same file) and the difference in selecting objects and editing the objects (eg. copy, paste, delete).
  • Knowing the what, when and why. Have included some components to set the participants to think - what kinds of 'lines' available, when to use which and why. This helps when they moved on to creating the figures with the relevant tools at the later stage. Also, setting them to explore changing the look and colour of the figures.
  • Learning activities. Have modified some parts to integrate the "What-if" component. However, noticed that participants were more engrossed and interested to identify the kind of skills needed to create the sketch used in the learning activity.

Learning activities... what are we trying to drive at...

Pointed out to participants...

  • Emphasize on pupil-centred activity - draw on the various initiatives - Engaged learning, TLLM, etc. where pupils are engaged in constructing their knowledge, to explore and discover.
  • The kind of 'structure' needed to scaffold or lead pupils in the learning - when to use tables? when to loosen such structure? and the powerful 'what-if'.
  • Also need to begin with an end in mind... what's the expected learning outcome? That decides what strategy to adopt and what resource (sketch) is suitable, and then, when necessary, adopt/adapt/customise/create... sometimes will require pupils to do simple 'enhancement' such as measuring the length and angles. That will mean equipping pupils with some basic skills - how to navigate and how to measure.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - Spreadsheet (2nd Run)

On 31 Jan and 7 February 2007 @ Teck Ghee Primary

It was the 2nd run and things went smoother, as the reactions from participants (drawing from the 1st run) were more predictable.

Reviewing the 'tactics'
The "magic number" tactic once again works... indeed, this time, we used that to get participants to give responses... and an extension to that was, participants to identify the next number to answer the next question... Have used this trick before... in class where pupils either called out the name or register number of their classmate. I guess, for a moment, the participants were enjoying the fun...

This time we were more cautious when distributing the stickers in the 2nd sesion - this time, the levels are more well distributed.

something new...
While participants presented their lesson ideas, the rest participated by typing in their comments/inputs in the spreadsheet... this helped to reduce the time taken to discuss after each presentation... moreover, participants have something 'concrete' to bring back for resource/lesson idea refinement...

Our Participants

  • Range of spreadsheet skill varies from almost zero to intermediate. There were a couple who needed more support while a handful explored the used of "If" when designing the template in session 2.
  • There were 3 participants from the pilot schools... one indicated that the school is currently looking at the integration and the materials in the baseline website.
  • One teacher from a non-pilot school expressed that 'baseline' was no surprise to the school as pupils already equipped with the necessary skills.

'Guiding' participants...
Learnt in the 1st run that it was not so easy to get participants to draw out inputs from participants on their views and comment on the lesson activities, there was a conscious effort to 'throw in' some guiding questions to direct participants' attention. Thought that helps... when participants could hear and see more than what they would have observed.

Also got participants' to share some 'skills' and their suggested methods - (i) How to 'unfilter' quickly (ii) Using "If" instead of Macro.

Request from Participants after the 1st session

  • One requested to be able to create a bar chart/picture graph with 'itemised' legend.

Some strengths pointed out by participants...

  • Lesson ideas are great
  • It was an `eye-opener’ on what spreadsheet can do
  • Very interactive, lots of hands-on
  • Lots of ideas and examples to reinforce understanding
  • Gives useful tips
  • Usable ideas, enhanced knowledge of spreadsheets
  • Able to download files
  • Able to use spreadsheet to enhance pupils learning
  • Many resources to collect and for use in my classroom
  • What the participants said...

    • Participants should be taught more skills on how to create those innovative spreadsheets eg. how to use `macro’ etc
    • More such session for teachers
    • Learnt how to create resources instead of planning for lessons
    • Content and materials needs to be vetted again. Science lesson on transparency of objects. Materials are mentioned but some objects are mentioned.

    Other areas of training that participants indicated they need...

    • Word document
    • How to create the spreadsheet with the use of Macros
    • Non-core subjects eg. National Education
    • Maths – Graph
    • Dreamweaver

    One technical problem encountered...

    • The shared spreadsheet was 'unshared' after some time and participants could not save their entries. The file became 'read-only' when re-opened.

    Learning Journey @ ABC Waters Exhibition

    It's the first 'Learning Journey' of the year.

    The exhibition overs the past, the present and future of the 'Water development' in Singapore - I think it's more of the present and coming near future... what we envision to become.

    Not only it talks about the achievement to-date, it shares its masterplan of development - with work already underway and what we will see in the very near future.

    'Water Education', I thought - the effort to educate the nation on how previous water is to all of us. One of the proudest achievement I think Singapore has is its NEWater - still do not know how to 'read' this - "New Water" or "NE Water"... there it goes again... Heard over the radio news that even the Australian is keen to work with Singapore on this... So, recycled water can be an innovation, too! Yes, each of us got a bottle of the NEWater at the exhibition... hm... the crystal clear 'Singapore Water'. That reminds me when in Hokkaido, the locals were proud to have the purest water from the Snow Mountain to make the soup and wine... here in Singapore, we have something too... but not available in the market.

    The exhibits did not really emphasize on what we should do to save water - guess that's something expected to be communicated via other channels (through school programmes??). Its focus is on the environment - That reminds me of those advertisements of condos that splash across the newspapers! The scenic environment that comes with some 'water source', without fail. Everything presented is so good to believe and see them happening... Wah! Wah! Wah!

    Then it brings us to another point - while there's effort from the various organisations and ministries to materialise the dream, how about the 'moving entities' who live and use the place. Are Singaporeans ready to exhibit the desireable level of social responsibility? nation pride? It takes many parties - directly or not directly involved in the project - to actualise the dream.

    Some reports about the 'Active, Beautiful & Clean' Waters Exhibition @ the Asian Civilisation Museum:




    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    Reflection: Workshop - Intuitive Exptal Approach (1st run)

    On 23 Jan & 6 Feb 2007 @ Ngee Ann Secondary

    The workshop started off with familiarising participants with GSP skills. Although the pre-requisite is participants should possess basic skills of GSP... it was obvious that teachers often ignore the pre-conditions specified. What we ended up with... 'experts' and 'aliens' to GSP skills. That comes the challenging part... to cater to such a group... on the other hand, because the tasks were crafted such that it indirectly led the participants' through some thinking processes, it was rather difficult to let-go some of them along the way... there're junctures where all were 'brought' together for discussions. There it goes... triggered some not-so-desirable behaviours among the participants (also see: Who needs to attend workshop?). On the other hand, it eventally boils down to one's professional ettiquette.

    As suggested during the post-session discussion, it will be good to front the session, right from the beginning for the participants to see what this is what pupils are expected to go through, rather than to anchor it as a 'refresher' session - this helps them to see the purpose behind the session, and also to attempt the activities, hopefully with the pupils' perspectives in mind. This would probably make the session more meaningful... and at the same time, helping them to anticipate potential 'problems' to manage better.