Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - Spreadsheet (1st Run)

On 17 & 24 January 2007 @ SJI Junior

This was the first of the 5 runs of "Learning with Spreadsheet" workshops to run this year, although there was a 'supposedly' 'dry-run' in Nov 2006.

The materials were more or less there, but was the updating and tightening that took a little more time.

From the Nov session, we learn that it was important to find out what's in the participants' mind when they came - was very sure they were 'arrowed'. However, how was this 'arrow' communicated to them? And how to manage these mindsets...

Dealing with "Why am I here?"

I believe, the success of the workshop is not just communicating our intent, what we want to deliver... but largely dependent on the participants - meeting their expectations and at the end of the day, they left the workshop satisfied.

Of course, the challenging part is what's their expectation; and more importantly, it must be aligned to our intent... and eventually it strikes a win-win situation. It means that we have to influence their expectations. Of course, we can't influence without knowing what's theirs... and that means, we have to hear from them.

Here comes the interesting part: What are their expectations?
Do they know why they are arrowed? Do they know the context?

  • Are they aware that it has something to do with Baseline?
  • Then next question: Do they know what's baseline? Are they aware there's this baseline thingy that rolls out to all primary schools this year?
  • Do they know that their role: They are expected to go back to 'contributed positive' by sharing with fellow teachers in schools?
  • More importantly, they are not here because we need an audience. They are there because they are going to be our ambassadors to answer some questions at the frontline.

Actually, it would be interesting if we were to put ourselves in the shoes the participants and analyse what could possibly in their heads. That helps us to anticipate and better manage the concerns... to win them over: As a participant,

  • If I have not been told of the rationale/objective of the workshop, I will presume it's any workshop/briefing that MOE requires an audience - that's why I'm here so that it can take place? Very negative, right? But it's very real...
  • If I know that this workshop is on spreadsheet: I will ask, why send me? I already know spreadsheet skills... is this workshop going to teach something new? Alternatively, I am a well-known "spreadsheet-idiot", then I'm here to learn skills? So, this is tied to skill acquisition.
  • Of course, if I am already an advance user of Spreadsheet, why send me here? Isn't it a waste of time? I have tonnes of marking awaiting me! I can't find any good reason that I am here!

Getting the feel at ground

Indeed, chats with the participants before the workshop started already proved us quite right - many did not know why they were here... looking at their expectations - skills surfaced many times... and of course, there are some very 'diplomatic' answers - to learn how spreadsheet enhance T&L in classroom - too general a statement, right?

The chats also reviewed that, apart from participants of 2 schools involved in the pilot, almost all have not heard about baseline (although the email that went out with this workshop stated baseline as the main to the series of workshops). On the other hand, also discovered 2 schools actually have started getting teachers to look at the materials - one asked for all the resources to be downloadable at one go while another actually brought along with her a photocopied of the baseline guide - I was impressed!

Starting with the right footing

Yes, it was the right move to bring in Baseline right at the beginning... although it was not planned for when the workshop was first designed (even in Nov, we just briefly talked about it and there wasn't even a single slide on this, as it was suppose to exist as the 'hidden agenda').

Am glad that we brought it forth front. Thought have managed to link the workshop objective (spreadsheet) to the big picture (ie. baseline) quite well.

Thanks to Hong Pin for bringing up the idea of the which to front the workshop - baseline or spreadsheet... aka: syllabus vs topic... indeed, that has helped me to better connect the segments when presenting to the participants.

To a large extent, I think participants understood where we were coming from - at least did not detect any resistance sign... The participants listened attentively... at least, the baseline part... I guess we managed to 'sell' it well... they know they were receiving first hand inputs rather than filtered inputs through the key personnel back in schools.

Preparation Visit @ site... has never been as crucial...

It's the first time we used a shared spreadsheet to facilitate the workshop - another brillant idea as a result of discussion. Thanks to Poh Heng's suggestion to use other platforms to facilitate the Data Collection Tools workshop. It's a blessing in disguise...

It was our continguency plan initially. Blog was the first platform we had in mind. However, the comments component in the blog was blocked by a firewall. Of course, other tests such as the shared feature of spreadsheet, macros setting, etc... went on fine.

Requests from Participants after 1st session

  • One participant requested the possibility of doing a one-time download of resources from the baseline website (est. 150 MB)
  • Many indicated (as they attempt the learning activities) wanted to acquire more advanced spreadsheet skills - macros and inserting buttons.
  • Participants were thrilled that a spreadsheet can be accessed and edited simultaneously. As a result, we demonstrated to participants how to do the setting.
  • An additional handout on spreadsheet skills were given out in the 2nd session.
  • Indeed, a couple of participants tried sharing the spreadsheet back in school after the first session and fedback some problems encountered. This was followed-up by a supplementary handout emailed to all participants after the 2nd session.

Changes made...

  • As the Lesson Design Checklist is only mentioned in the 2nd session, it is 'moved' from 'Handout 2' to 'Handout 10'. Its related slides (after each activity) are removed. But the lesson activities are brought in when go through the stages of lesson design in the 2nd session.

During the hands-on and sharing...

  • We managed to get all the groups, except one to share - due to time constraint: One mother tongue teacher who teachers Malay.
  • A few participants modified the existing activities, though many expressed that they do not have enough skills to prepare the templates that they had in mind.
  • One new idea: Use of spreadsheet for language - composition writing, where the shared spreadsheet could serve as a platform where pupils contribute ideas during group discussion. Teacher could gather them and discuss the vocabulary surfaced by pupils.
  • Another idea: Use simple colouring feature in spreadsheet for an inter-disciplinary task - eg. Mother Tongue lesson topic that talks about designs/patterns related to the various culture (NE) and tie to an Art lesson (Asethetics)

Some strengths pointed out by participants...

  • Very informative and useful
  • Explained different ways of teaching using Excel
  • A lot of interaction to clarify our doubts
  • Hands-on, sharing of ideas and resources
  • Some features of spreadsheets are highlighted
  • Learnt many features in Excel which I can use during lessons
  • A lot of lesson ideas were shared – there is a pool
  • The use of spreadsheets to plan interesting lessons for the pupils

What the participants said...

  • Follow up with Macro
  • At least one hands-on to force all participants to modify one of the ready-made spreadsheet and see how participants can apply and not violate copyright law
  • Extension of eg. transfer of learning
  • Actual Excel skills so that participants can design appropriate spreadsheet activities eg. Macros. We are all fine in terms of lesson planning but we have to learn actual techniques
  • Include a little basic skills such as programming the buttons to check

Other areas of training that participants need...

  • Using of Formula in Excel for tabulation
  • Functions in Excel
  • How to adapt and create our own lesson plan/spreadsheets
  • Advanced Excel so that I can use the IF, MAX etc features
  • Learning about Macro (Visual Basic Editor)
  • Programming in Excel so that I could maximize the usage of spreadsheet

and yes... an AFI is time management: The workshop stretched beyond 5.30 pm. Thanks for the participants' patience... Perhaps, we should relook at how to capture participants' inputs during the sharing session...

Some tactics used...

  • In the 1st session, to ensure that participants do not overwrite each others' entries in the spreadsheet, each was assigned a 'magic number' when they received the handouts when signing in. Well, many were kept in suspense not knowing what's that for...
  • In the 2nd session, participants received a colourful sticker, colour according to the level they taught. That helps them to identify fellow participants teaching the same level.

Our participants...

  • mostly P5 and P6 teachers, with 1 teacher teachers Malay language.

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