Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - HOD Workshop (2nd run)

Preparation of the workshop

This is the first workshop where so many brains and hands are put together... really, can't tell it's good or not:

  • Good sign that all are contributing, helping - I think, along the way, it helps to synergise... but in a stressful manner. By thinking and discussing together, it helps us to better understand what we are into... what we are delivering...
  • Not good as we are all working towards last minute... also, because of the very first version of the workshop is really bad??!!

In fact, I agree with Sai Choo when she says this, "Make sure you look smart when you are standing in front, conducting the workshop." In fact, before SC eventually said these, Poh Heng has already been emphasizing it through - constant reminders on the knowing and understanding what we are delivering, to an extent of getting us to dry-run... in fact, getting us to do debrief after the session - well, all these are part and parcel of building our capacity. Yes, when we attend workshops, we look up to the trainer as someone who knows and provides anwers to our queries. That will mean we must be ready to dish out answers or suggestions at any one time... well, say as you like, it's to be 'kiasu' and over-prepare... once we lost the participants in the first day, it's going to create snow ball effect... 人言可畏!It's back to the 'emotional bank account' thingy (mentioned in an earlier post).

In fact, in those few days, the team was like preparing for an exam! of course, with SC as our chief examiner! who else? On the other hand, just wonder... maybe we are destined to learn via the hard way? BTW, it's not easy to be a 'bad' person who consistently have to post pressure... to be picky for the better... I can remember to occasions when blood shot up to my brain when looking at pieces of work! 辛苦了你,也辛苦了自己.

Session 1

  • In terms of confidence level, there's a definite improvement - when delivery the cycle at the beginning... in fact, it's 头头是道, I must say. Except the tone, which I realised, each time I hear the word "you", it hit me as if it's a lecture. Putting myself in my old shoes - as a HOD, I won't like someone there to lecture me... Anyway, I think it's also the delivery/presentation style that comes in play here... of course, the hand in the pocket or at the waist raised the wall between the audience and the presenter, too...
  • For content, I think there's a big improvement - for explanation, as well as the materials handed out to the participants. It's definitely a result of the hardwork put in by everybody.
  • For purpose and instructions to activities: There is still room for improvement.
  • It is necessary to communicate to participants the purpose of the activity, eg. how the document facilitates the activity - to capture our learning over the next 2 hours(?), to complete it along the way, as we go through various stages - otherwise, it will be ended up as a form filling exercise (as a couple of them cited at the end-of-session feedback) - when the operation clouded the purpose.
  • Realised the usefulness of puting up the instructions of activity in the slides to guide participants, too...
  • In fact, it is also the first time that we all stayed back after the workshop and immediately go through AFIs of the workshop so that these can be addressed by the next run. Think about it... it's good to have more than one run of the same workshop... it really helps in improving the practice over time.
  • We have been told it is necessary to include a slide that describe the activity; however, the seem-to-logical reason was not communicated to us. Er... I personally thought it was because that helps us to communicate the instructions. Indeed, the word "Activity" is to capture the participants' attention on what's on the way.

Some areas for improvement (for the workshop delivery)

  • Familiarity of the slides and remember where examples come... Remember to describe the example before pointing out to participants where to get resources
  • Explain to participants how to document is being used - each time, will fill up one column.
  • Extend the example - beyond the "Learning Gap" stage - as a guidance to the participants. Another suggestion:
  • When going through the different tools, more can be done when participants shared... we can elaborate more... on how the tool can be used, in what way...
  • Interesting, a few participants pointed out that the 'setting' of the eVideo has been quite out-dated (eg. nowadays, pupils will not be able to associate to typewriters).

Session 2

  • coming soon...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pointers from HOD Maths Briefing (Secondary) - North Zone @ Northland Pri (25 April)

  • Digital Video taking - clips on symmetry > share with class
  • Digital camera - enlargement & reflection
  • GSP - Additional Maths: Differentiation - Maximum and Minimum Areas - Pupils can see animation while they do calculation (on paper)
  • Maths Journal Writing - Reflective wirting on what they have learnt
  • Maths Forum - Teacher puts up questions to get pupils to discuss (questions similar to Maths journal)
  • SAIL Projects - statistics
  • eLearning
  • Blogging

Alternative Modes of Assessment:

  • Sec 3 pupils create games > Sec 1 pupils scheduled to attempt the game stations - gather a stamp upon completion to get a token.
  • Trail stations > Pupils move around to learn Maths in real life
  • Problem posting - using MSN chatroom
  • GEP: uses differentiated learning - emphasis of tasks - Process; Content; Product - where pupils are grouped according to abilities
  • "viva voce" - to develop pupils' communication skills. Usually, pupils will work out their steps by writing them down. Here, pupils verbalise what they're going to do, describe how they solve the problem.

Assessment for Learning

  • Reflection
  • Indept Learning (Internet Research)
  • Question Booklet (small group) clarification of questoins
  • Maths trail online - teacher designs questions in the web

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Online Learning

Sharing by Dr Teo Yong Hwee (LETS/TFL Branch) on 13 April 2007 @ P2-1

Online learning

  • What is it? What's the definition? Maybe I missed out the first slide? Maybe it's intentionally left out for us to conclude what it is after the 2 hour session?

  • Here's a list when I type "Online learning" definition in google search.

  • Indeed, some common terms/words that keep appearing are "elearning", "online", "environment"... so it's simply learning via the internet. Of course, here sounds vague, as it does not describe (or set any condition) what kind of learning environment it is, and how it drives learning? What are the unique or desirable elements, characteristics of such environment? Of course, next question is, who learns best in this kind of learning environment?
Value-add of web resources

  • This have been re-iterated... whether during the critique sessions, or meetings, or workshops (when we started to 'preach' that after having internalised)... and now...

  • The emphasis: Interaction among the 3 entities - Content, Instructor, Learner. I thought this is really short and sweet.

Classroom Teaching vs Online learning

  • One difference pointed out is clear: Classroom teaching is mostly teacher-lead whereas online learning is really in the hands of the learner and as a result, the "made" of learner is critical here, whether it is going to be successful or not.

  • The other is time: In classroom teaching, it's bounded by the 'curriculum time' (or period) allocated to the subject (ie. 30 min in a day, or 5 periods in a week). It is 'fixed' amount of time, we can't stretch... (of course, the primary classroom could possibly exercise more flexibility since the same teacher teaches two or more subjects with the same class). The biggest gain of an online learning environment is, it allows learning take place anytime, anywhere and of course, as Dr Teo put it across nicely, it fits into inculcating the Lifelong learning attitude and building an online Community of Learners. Well, I think it is a yes and no: Yes, technology has given us the room to stretch and come together; from a teacher's perspective, it stretches the 'learning environment' to manage on top of something they still cling on dearly too... ie. teacher-led instruction - so, I foresee some concern in selling online learning with this 'advantage' being put upfront.

  • The web offers, not just a lot, but enriched materials: The full range is almost available via the internet - virtual simulation, multimedia, interactive materials, and other productivity & assessment tools that provide feedback to learners immediately. This is what teachers can't do - to monitor everybody's learning at the same time and giving immediate attention/feedback. Yes, I agree with this. Like the old saying, "A picture speaks a thousand words", so do the resources in the internet!

  • Another point brought up is - because it offers "time", therefore provides a platform for highly reflective activities. Agree! It allows time for the brain to process and type in the thoughts, and thoughts lead to more thoughts... am going through it personally. Of course this leads to the next point, what kind of people are suitable for online learning?

What learners are suitable for online learning?

  • Self-motivated, self-disciplined - realised that "self" comes first? Yes, it largely depends on how self-driven the learner is.

  • This also comes with maturity of the learner, apart from something that comes naturally. As Dr Teo pointed out - age matters. Lower primary pupils may not fit into this mode of learning that well as their attention span is short and easily distracted by things around them. Of course, we can interpret the reverse, when kids are attracted to something, they would indulge in it... so shall I say, it depends on how the media engages the learner, too! One real life example is when children are attracted to a cartoon, they would sit in front of the TV all day long! Of the media plays the critical role in engaging the learner, then it does not mean that older children can take on to online learning that well. Of course, to enhance the 'self-driven-ness', a reward system can be introduced (if not a demerit system?). Again, it still depends on how engaging the resources are or the activity is. Isn't it?

  • Visual learners. The internet provides media that helps the visual learner to learn better because they can see better, they can manipulate the different objects virtually (eg. virtual science lab to conduct an experiment)

  • Social learners. There are 2 points of view. Perhaps it's where the "Digital Immigrants" vs the "Digital Natives". The face-to-face interaction is normally the preferred mode of "Digital immigrants" - that's the human nature, isn't it? Hence, to the digital immigrants, online learning platform forces them to communicate through another platform... there it goes, the verbal cues (that SK pointed out)... yes, the body language tells a lot more, the tone of the voice communicates the "lines in-between"... though the written language has been "enhanced" by the emoticons. Hence, this platform reduces the 'social' level among people. On the other hand, to the digital natives, it's so much easier and quicker to communicate online... they could stay up in the middle of the night to chat... so, a new kind of community is born! They are highly social in such online community!

  • Learners of course have to possess the necessary computer skills and have access to internet.

  • Of course, the ability to read and write independently is necessary... otherwise, how to understand what others say and respond accordingly?

Online Pedagogy

Considerations when designing Online Learning

  1. Select a pedagogy, based on learning outcome, learner, context, teacher beliefs

  2. Design content, activities for each learning outcome

  3. Determine type of interaction needed for each activity

  4. Select the type of tool

Hey, do you notice - the tool comes last?

Choice of Pedagogy

An interesting way to remember that:

  • If there is only 1 right answer - the behaviorist (didactic) approach will suffice. One example is to learn to photocopy the 2 page document using a photocopier. Basically, there are only 2 ways - manually or using the automated feature. It does not call for special examination of ways to 'do' it.
  • When there is no complete right answer, the constructivist approach would be appropriate.

Constructivist Pedagogy

It is based on learner's experience + It requires learners to collaborate and work with each other (hence, group work) + the nature of projects are authentic.

  • Resource-based learning: Pupils use various types of web resources to learn. As they go through and work on these resources, they develop information skills. They are actively engaged in learning as they use the resources to learn, to solve problems. (eg. WebQuest)
  • Collaborative Learning: Role play, discussion are common characteristics. The web serves as an interactive medium instead of a delivery mode (compared to resource-based learning). Learning is a social process as it calls for interaction (social constructivist approach). It fosters active learning that can lead to reflection and deeper understanding. Here, the teacher does not provide answers. As a result, pupils may experience frustration as there could be so many possibilities. Some would even question, how this approach matches to the mode of assessment, though the introduction of project work has factored in the interactive processes. The teaming matters! One interesting point brought was, a heterogeneous group will generate more learning, as compared to one whereby learners of the same kind (and those who know each other well) come together. So, like-mindedness may not be beneficial here. Oops! Here, we celebrate diversity?
  • Project-based Learning: The process is driven by the end-product.
  • Problem-based Learning: It comes in the form of a ill-structured problem. Learners have to find information to solve (incorporates resource-based learning). They go through the process of identifying the problem and eventually find a solution to it. The by-product could be products such as powerpoint slides that's used to present the solution. Perhaps, one example could be an experiment that goes wrong - despite the fact that learner follows the procedure. This will lead them to investigate other non-routine problems.
  • Narrative-based Learning: Using stories adn mode of telling them. Examples of application: History, models, cases.
  • Situated Learning: Learning is situated wihin a culture and context and it is incidental. It takes time to 'reinforce' the idea... and in the course of doing so, one learns and moves on to the application stage. People learn best through 'legitimate peripheral participation (ie. apprenticeship. An example is the 'midwives' stories - since young, children of the midwives would hear their stories day-in-day-out... as they grow older, they start helping out with simple chores like getting materials, etc... and move on to more 'important' tasks... and eventually, through the years of observation and 'apprenticeship', they acquire the necessary skills. Another example is cognitive apprenticeship - that happens in the classroom (more often), when the teacher talks aloud while solving the sum... pupils listen... and it's reinforce over time... and that helps pupils to learn better.
  • Pedagogy Approaches @ edu.MALL


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - HOD Workshop (1st run)

Session 1

  • Preparation : It was a nightmare ... the last minute rush... Oops, that's not something foresaw would happen! Sigh... miscalculation (or being over-optimistic) of the many different factors that are related to the materials and workshop, in one way or another.
  • Expectation of the Trainer : Well, the workshop is demanding as it differs totally from what we have in the past or any workshop that we run. It demands deep understanding of the model to deliver confidently, quite definitely, it has nothing to do with technical skills. It's really a matter of 'chewing' and 'digesting' - internalisation is necessary to buy-in totally, and be clear before can go and tell people what it is!
  • Profile of Participants : It matters! Today, we have a full lab of HODs! They know what they want - they are prepared with years of experience! Even if they do not know what they want, they will ask! It's like, "I have to go back to communicate or deliver! So, you, as the trainer, joyly well ensure what's to be communicated to me is clear!" So, it's not just support... Indeeed, if the lab is full of "PHs", then we'll be in trouble, 'cos PH knows better than anyone of us! Count ourselves lucky, the group has been kind to us.
  • Knowing the Content : Have not internalised the 6 stages... ok, some of them is pretty easy, thanks to the year sitting in the SCC... I must say, have never taken any closer look into planning than this time... planning back in the school seemed 'made easy' for us... we learn on the job, of course, we don't seem to know what we don't know... so, there's a problem! Perhaps I also took for granted that LL did the planning and AC submitted me so well in that one year it passed swiftly... though we did review, it was smoothly sailing. Whereas for IT dept, thanks to BK, HP & HT... it has never been too hard for me (hm... looking back....), and before the "ICT Plan" document was released to the school, I've already left! So, just wonder... I've been very well-shelthered... of course, to be "unappreciative", because of the support and timing, I missed out quite a fair bit of opportunities to sharpen myskills.
  • After some thoughts and from the feedback, going to try a way to help 'internalising' (ok, more like familiarising) the 6 stages... going to put up the 'masterpieces' of the participants - probably in the wikispace, where we'll (or at least I'll) try to put up suggestions to improve on each of the stages... hopefully, by going through this, it will help in training the mind and deepening the understanding on this.
  • Thinking through the flow : Yes, I must confess, for workshops, though I script the slides, I don't really follow the script... have tried once, but too stressful and unnatural! On the other hand, the value of scripting comes this year, that guides the thinking, hence taking a more conscious effort to ensure the various segments flows and connects well.
  • Pre-requisite : Am glad that I checked their familiarity to the ICT Plan though it was not in our workshop proper. To our surprise, not many have seen it... (or perhaps to my relief that I'm not the few who have not seen one... there're many out there!). That also require us to adjust our strategy - bear in mind that since many of them are seeing it for the first time, it requires us to go through the structure of the ICT plan with them so that they can make sense out of the documents (unless we assume that they are all from 'gifted'!).
  • Group Activities : It's the first time being 'bold' - to incorporate group activity in the workshop. For group discussions, yes. All workshops require participants to work in pairs or threes to come up with an end-product. In the IBL workshop we conducted last year, they were to move around to take pictures, etc... However, what's new is discussions without the use of technology to facilitate! Using flipchart papers and markers! Consciously put down words like "Think-Pair-Share", "Round Robin"... Have gone through these strategies - as a participant, but not implemented that before! Am glad being 'pushed' to make the first attempt, and thanks to PH for the on-going reassuring that the participants were indeed engaged in the activity.
  • Area for Improvement (Group activities) : (a) Pacing - we lost time! We'll have to assign a 'time-keeper'. (b) Manage and value-add to the group discussion - as facilitators, we have to move around to talk to the groups, to find out the progress and clarify their doubts. Only then we'll value-add to their discussion. As one of the participant asked - less discussion, as post-its... Probably because he/she found there's little value-add to the discussion - when most of the time, they contribute. (c) Wrapping up the 1st activity - realised did not do well for this part - Did not ask the participants to share what they have discussed, probably because I was 'swayed' by the fact that some have already looked at the example and checklist, and therefore quickly went into the checklist instead... For the next time, will be patient... will elicit response from the participants, and think that will help to clarify the "Design Instructional Strategies' part. This should help when they do the illustration. (d) Summarising the 2nd activity - It's really a new challenge to be able to pick up points from the various "masterpieces" to in order to bring out some salient learning points.
  • Learning to be Flexible : (a) It came very quickly when participants need more time to complete the 6-stage activity. It spilled over time. Hence, it called for adjustment to the subsequent segments (eg. the case study as well as the principles of planning). (b) When facilitating case study - be clear when giving instructions and alert to the participants' needs - when necessary, modify the strategy, eg. build in explanation to use the instrument (here, the ICT Plan document), dropping one component (getting participants to improve the plan) and complement it with something else to better the learning (going through the 'answers'). (c) Do not stick to the document and repeat the same thing over and over again... it's also a tell-tale sign to the participants' on one's knowing how to connect the participants to the known and not-known. (d) As far as possible, do not display our internal documents.
  • Objectives of Activity : Bring upfront to participants the objectives of the activity - otherwise they will not know what's the expectation of the discussion; also to get them se the value of going through the motion.
  • "Attention" calling : Realised forget to bring along the "ice-cream" man bell... pretty difficult to get their attention, especially when the voice turns coarse after a while.
  • The grouping : It's the first time we put up our identity... haha... quite fun... also it's the first time in our workshop that our participants were 'made' to display their names, too... although in the past, we gave out the stickers, however, many saved the stickers for us. The grouping warmed up the participants a bit... of course, I won't forget calling participants "the 2 oranges"... hahaha... my apologies... that was unintentional.

Session 2

Clarifying our Stand

  • After reading the "Reflection" / "Take-away" of session 1, there are a few things to address to...
  • Think the rule of thumb is, if there is no action/follow-up, don't ask for the seek of asking... so far, have consciously practise that: (1) In the first session, ask participants' familiarity of the ICT Plan document - that lets us know how much depth we can go into... true enough, most are not familiar, and have not even seen it! (Oops! what happens in the Technology Planning session?) (2) We asked for feedback and inputs in the 1st session, so we have to pick up items and respond to it - at least, I think we should let them know, we are sincere in hearing their feedback and hoping to bring the best to them... of course, it also gives us the opportunity to clarify, especially any misalignment, or for us to do any damage control.
  • Participants' Perception of ICT Planning: There are questions like "Are we going to use the ICT Plan to plan our dept programme from now onwards?" It's a concern from the HODs/IP - true... "What? You mean now I have to do double work? Hey, ICT is not my core business!!!"... I think I heard these inaudible voices... In fact, it tells one thing, to-date, ICT is still seen as a very discrete component, in the eyes of many... and the onus, most of the time, is HOD/IT, unfortunately.
  • Helping others to help us: In fact, I thought I did it quite 'brillantly'... hahaha... by positioning it as a tool that enables the HOD/IT to help the HOD/IP to achieve the objectives/goals... it helps our counterparts (HOD/IT) to understand our needs so that the latter can provide the necessary help to help us achieving our objectives/goals. It's really a win-win move... right? Of course, to do this, it requires the HOD/IP to understand what are helpful to the HODs/IT in planning - that's why we are going through the document to know exactly what kind of information should be forwarded to our counterpart. Hey, it sounds so logical, isn't it? But, why people can't see the point? Too busy to think about it? Can't be bothered? or Simply never cross our mind?

ICT tools in Education

  • Preparation: The various types of tools really come in quite late! Yes, we were still inserting appropriate types of examples 15 minutes before the workshop! The Cat-in-a-line and the WebQuests! Cold sweat!
  • In fact, I think this was the segment that the participants felt relevant and practical as they are exposed to a range of tools. Not finding an excuse, but in reality, how many of them have really looked through the resources in the web and take a deeper look on its value and how to go about using it in class? Looking back, I must admit, I am one of those culprits who'll "look" without deeper thinking... Just identify and use...

Baseline ICT Standards

  • We went through the rationale, the areas it covers. Thought this is useful... in fact, should we elicit their response to the standards? It can probably be a good platform to clarify the our stand, in terms of rolling out the standards... On the other hand, I'm worried having over sell it, so much so that the audience interpret that we are trying to be defensive... then it'll 弄巧反拙.
  • In fact, I thought it was a good move to let them examine the baseline resources, with the lesson plan, so as to 'taste' it personally... it's more like creating time for them to taste the essence of it... rather than just take and use because "it is there" and "we have to use it, anyway..."
  • However, think there was no wrapping up of the activity at all... one AFI to take note of...

Doing the ICT Plan

  • Too rush... no time to think and do... objective is not clear... to be strict, I think this segment is really a flop... the 2nd 遗憾 of the workshop... sign...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Sharing on Workshop Strategies

by Elsie & Poh Heng on 9 April 2007 @ Vista Lab

9 Deadly sins of a Trainer & What makes a Good Trainer
  • Covering too much information - Don't be greedy! Overdosage does not lead to effectiveness or productivity. It kills. Be alert of the participants' reaction. Give them ample time to digest and clarify.
  • Leaving out emotion - show the humane side! haha... sounds terrible, as if trainers appear as some kind of colder robots. Well, learn it is good to show the human touch - eg. if participants came in early, do check with them if they have lunch already... though we don't offer lunch, it's good to show some level of concern. Also, when knowing that someone is not well, it's good to once in a while check it out with him/her... sending warmth to people in need helps to bridge with the participants.
  • Treating every audience the same - no one is the same... although the generic profile is the same (eg. all are HODs, all teach Maths), they are unique. Look out for strengths that we can tap on (create opportunity as a 'co-learner') and weaknesses that we must look out for to provide the necessary amount of support.
  • Inadequate preparation - leading to.... being tongue-tighted and superificial explanation. It loses the connection and practicality... can put people off, too! Of course, also an indication that we don't know our work. Knowing the work is not enough. Never, never deliver from a book or an article - well, we are not engaged to replicate the materials verbally. Participants can read for themselves. One of the easiest way to connect is really to provide examples in an environment that they are familiar with, application or observation in their classrooms... It generates buy-in, too.
  • Poor pacing - lost track of time. This calls for knowing the workshop materials well and being able to be flexible in readjusting the workshop proper. Of course, have to think of ways to overcome this problem - perhaps a timekeeper would be useful.
  • Distracting Habits - that reminds me of my Secondary School teacher, Ms Teo - more of the time looking at the big ear-rings and matching colour dress + big belt + shoes. Of course, also times when people keep repeating the same word, eg. "OK". Raise our 'public self-awareness', get feedback to improve on that.
  • Lack Enthusiasm - it tells and it influences... don't sound draggy... else the participants will also 'drag' through the workshop... they will not appreciate what is useful being communicated to them during the workshop.
  • Argue with a participant - beware of the words to use, beware of where the participant is coming from (including the profile/background). That reminds me of the Spreadsheet workshop that took place at Juying Primary.
  • Not keeping your agreements - always return to the workshop objective, never over promise, don't promise about the dismissal time!
Challenging Situations
  • From the challenging situations and possible ways to resolve them, I think the most useful part is to remind ourselves that - whenever possible, 'throw' the ball back to the participant and his/her school, especially in terms of training.
  • This reminded me of 2 situations: (a) The GSP workshop whereby the group of young teachers whom I encountered: They were sent for the workshop, while they signed up for the GSP workshop, they were also nominated to attend another workshop on the 1st day of the GSP workshop. Among them, one turned up for 1 out of 3 sessions and have the cheek to ask for the Certificate of Participation. Of course, unhappy over the fact that it was not issued to her and started blaming the school. Well, well, well... of course, could only advise them to work out the issues back in the school. (b) In the I-E approach workshop, 3 teachers from a 'pilot' school signed up for the workshop and started to complain about the distance and having to go through similar activity. Well, whose fault? They asked if can withdraw... well, asked them to call up the workshop administer... haa... for similar situation next time, will re-direct them to their ROs!
Share a Strategy

  • One strategy I heard alot but have not tried before - and experienced it today is "Send-a-Problem". Interesting way to generate ideas, without knowing what others have proposed and feel free to add on. The collection of inputs also provides an indication on the common 'solutions' people will adopt.
  • On the other hand, given the 'range' of possible solutions - in the process of prioritising or indicating the most preferred choice, it does tell us something about ourselves - of course, one has to be frank about his/her choice, not because the choice is deemed to be the most politically correct answer.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Making Learning Fun

This article was featured in the Straits Time on 3 April. The article is about ... use(ing) effective methods that hold the attention of your students...

This is a topic that is close to our heart, being workshop trainers, since PD is our core business.

As I scan through the article, picked up a some points to reflect upon:

1. ... Many show up for a training session but have trouble staying focused...

  • Fully agree with this - this is a challenge to both participants and trainers(!) too!
  • We ourselves have been participants... some reasons for having trouble to stay focused, or attentive includes:
  • (a) The presenter's style of presentation - just talk, no hands-on, no activity, or at the other end of the spectrum - we talk and talk and talk... to over-tax the brain cells. Hey, what's the point of attending the workshop when we do most of the talking? That suggested the range of strategies to be incorporated into the workshop, whereby participants not only interact the trainers and the PCs, but also with other participants. OK, must admit that the series of spreadsheet workshop is lacking in this aspect. OK, we'll work harder for the subsequent workshops.
  • (b) The way the content is delivered - at different reception frequency (especially when find what's delivered or suggested is not down-to-earth! Hey, I want to learn something that's practical and can apply. If I want to learn theory, I might as well attend other higher degree classes!). Of course, I want to hear practical examples, convincing examples, cases already took place. That tells me, yes, it's feasible - others can do it, means I can try and there's a likelihood to succeed!
  • (c) The content - it has to meet my expectation, what I draw from the title of the workshop. There are something I expect to get from the workshop, based on the 'superficial' title and synposis. That also means, the more superficial title and synposis we have, a wider range of expectations to manage, and therefore it's more challenging to meet the expectations and the audience leave the workshop satisfied. So, that explains why SC, PH and HP have been emphasizing the fact, the 1st cut of the workshops have to be ready in order to craft a reasonably clear synposis for the PD programme. The intent is to help to shape the participants' expectations, that in turn, enable us to deliver the module more effectively, minimising out-of-the-way expectations.

2. ... Content must be perceived as useful, efficiently presented and with value-add...

  • Yes, this brings us to the previous point - are the content and expectations of the participants pitched at the same frequency.
  • To be perceived useful - It should be something we can bring back to use; it's something easy to follow; it's something easy to apply; more importantly, something that is possible to apply - that also implies, it's easy for us to identify opportunity to apply.
  • Presentation of content is certainly important - Some things can look "chim", or they are "chim" by nature; however, in the hands of an experienced trainer, he will be able to transform this into something digestible to the audience, something that the audience is able to understand and relate to.
  • That reminds me of my encounter with Statistics. In the university days, statistics is delivered as statistics... you know what I mean? The data, the formula and the conditions for application. After many years when took up on module related to statistics in a course, statistics is no longer statistics! It comes alive... it does not sound like maths! The learning experience was great!

3. ... Punctuality...

  • By virtue, it's something that we should observe. Recall when we attend any function, we would expect the host to be there to welcome us. Isn't it?
  • One reason to be early is to get the venue ready - be it hardware or software - files to use for the session. In my opinion, it is unprofessional to work on the files in the presence of the participants or audience. These should be behind the scene. What message will the participant or audience get when they see that the trainer is still preparing for the 'show'? Readiness! that's what I'll question.
  • Hence, punctuality here, I would see it as double meaning - being ready punctually; being there physically punctually.
  • The latter brings me to another point: Being the 'host', one should be at the sign in area to direct the participants on the 'what to do' such as sign their attendance, pick up a copy of the handout... make them feel comfortable and welcome... and of course, do not forget that signature warm smile. I think it helps to bring down the wall between the trainer and participants. That's the first step. Of course, standing at one corner to talk or hogging one system to do last minute revision is a no-no!!!

4. ... speak with confidence. If you seem hesitant or uncertain, you risk losing your credibility.

  • This is important, and I believe it ties in with how well we know our work. The more in depth, the more thoughts have put in, the more confident we are... and of course, to speak or deliver in a natural way. Experience and exposure counts. We can read a lot from the books, however, without having been through it, are we convinced by what we say? Rule No. 1, we ourselves have to buy-in and believe in it. Rule No. 2, do not over-sell or over enthusiastic. It backfires! It kills!

5. ... if you do not have an answer to a question, do not try to bluff your way through...

  • True. Don't try to argue the way out. In chinese, we say, 越描越黑. Things get worse. It's not necessary a bluff, but it's because of insufficient thoughts put in.
  • Personally, I feel that honesty is the best policy. It is alright to admit, when it's outside the scope to be covered. After all, we are not "know-all". However, do offer to take note and follow-up.
  • This year, have this habit of opening up my diary to pen down enquiries or questions by participants so as to bring back to work on. I think it is necessary to show that we bother and we take our business very seriously.
  • The sincerity to offer help is necessary to build a long-term relationship. We won't know until it happens.
  • In 2006, we met the same participant in 3 different Maths workshop; this year, I met at least 2 participants who attended our 2006 workshops. In a school-based workshop, one participant came forward and said she attended another workshop earlier this year! In chinese, 山水有相逢.
  • This brings back one classic example: When IT masterplan first rolled-out to schools and embarked in a series of training, all the departments went through the training. After this series of training, there came a number of TRAISI workshop related to the subject. However, my colleagues teaching the subject were reluctant to sign up any workshop that was conducted by a particular trainer. Why? A few attended the workshop and 'marked' the trainer down because of the approach he/she used to deliver the workshop! This is a true story! What does that tell? Good things may not travel that fast, but unpleasant stuff spreads like wild fires and can be deep-seated!
  • This brings me to something learnt in the 7 habits workshop. Not any of the habits, but one of the foundational principles - the Emotional Bank Account. Quote "The Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor for the amount of trust that exists in a relationship. It suggests that every interaction with another human being may be classified as a deposit or withdrawal. Deposits build and repair trust in relationships. Withdrawals lessen trust in relationships." No matter it's someone that's 萍水相逢 or whom we work closely, the deposits in the account matters. We may forget. But others may remember!

6. ... relevant, provide real-life examples of how participants can use the information...

  • Agree with this. This is probably where the participants can take away most. They are able to connect what's talk-about, promoted during the workshop into real life application.
  • This is also what the workshop generates buy-in, I believe.
  • Of course, to be able to do this is, reading is not enough - that's from the book. Participants can read from the book. What if there's a lack in the experience? Talk to people who have experienced it or done it before... this interaction helps!

7. Feedback... get participants' ideas, reactions, opinions and questions...

  • This is where we manage and align participants' expectations, this measurement of 'temperature' enables us to tune the workshop climate, this is where we exercise our brains.
  • That is also why I use blog in a workshop: Give everyone the chance to air - whether he/she is vocal or shy. There's a platform created for all. With the reduced "public awareness" and increased "private self-awareness", participants are more willing to air their views, without fear(?) or embarrassement(?). It also means that's greater level of openness... which is great for us, as trainers... when some of us are less observant of body language.
  • Of course, this also gives us the opportunity to increase our deposits in the emotional bank account... if we manage well...

Summary of "Tips"

1. Identify ways in which we can relate to and involve each person in the class.

  • One ice-breaker is to get the participants who we are, and who we 'were'.
  • To-date, we are still mistaken as vendors! hahaha...
  • Introducing ourselves is not enough to bridge, but I think the powerful part is to let them know we were teachers from the school and currently playing a slightly different role, and we all have the common goal to reach - to better the learning experience of our pupils, in our case, to harness what technology can do and make use of it.
  • Compliments are free... use it to reward attention and contribution from participants. These are positive reinforcements.
  • Talk to them in the same language and illustrate with examples they are familiar with, put it across explicitly that they have been practising that back in their classroom. Participants realise that we know them 'well' (at least what they do with the children).
  • Be flexible and sharp, show care and concern. Hey, some of us will think, they are adults! They can take care of themselves and be happy if they don't complain. Well, human beings are human beings. Care and concern are elements that reduce the size of the personal bubble. It helps to bond people. A word of care like "Have you had your lunch?", "Are you feeling better/ok?" if we are aware that the participant is not well. Offer to help and follow-up.

2. Do not offend, alienate or anger your participants. Even if a participant appears arrogant or disoriented, maintain your professionalism.

  • Oh yes, 'negative' influence must not be taken lightly.
  • That reminds me of a class of 40 with 2 eye-sores. That would be bad enough to spoil the day!
  • Engage them! Keep them occupied! Give them enough attention! Let them know you know they have special needs!
  • These could be participants whose expectations of workshop do not match with the objectives of the workshop! They get frustrated because they are not learning what they want to. A classic example would be our spreadsheet workshop. A handful came with the expectation to acquire enough technical skills to create sophisticated resource. Well, it's a no-no... they become impatient and started to make their request of the 'skills' openly. So, deal with these cases carefully.
  • That brings out another point, be over-prepared so that they can be challenged... of course, perhaps prepare something that fits their appetite - differentiated learning?
  • Of course, we have to practise patience, patience, patience & remain cool, cool, cool... & remain focused! Do not be steered by these people. Never engage in an argument. However, seize the opportunity to bring out the good rationale and intent of the workshop. Of course, to do this, must know the big picture well.

3. Plan effectively and schedule your activities in a logical sequence. Do not waste your participants' time.

  • True... time is precious for everybody.
  • In particular, that is also why the workshop preparation was built in for workshops. That is to reduce the amount of time spent to troubleshoot problems that we can anticipate. It does not reflect well on the trainers for the inthorough preparation; it also disrupts the flow and momentum of the workshop. What is necessary for pupils to learn well applies here although the target group is adults now. Treat them equally!

4. Avoid controlling language.

  • What does this mean? Will ponder over it...

5. Practise your presentation before the actual training session.

  • Practise, practise, practise... that sounded alien to us in the past, but it's termed as 'dry-run' of workshops. It helps! It helps us to go through what's in our head and see and hear what it's exactly like when the words come out from our mouth. How well we are able to connect the segments...
  • Definitely, after a few rounds of rehearsing, it helps to build up the confidence in the delivery.

6. Provide activities in which teamwork and inclusiveness play a major role.

  • This normally takes place in the last session of the workshop where participants start working in pairs or groups to develop a learning activity.
  • This is an area I have to work harder... to consciously include some of such activities in the workshops to come.

7. Show how to apply what they learn in their personal and professional lives.

  • Link them! Link them! Consistently connect what's done to the classroom learning... when applicable, highlight how the skill is useful when they carry out other tasks like computing marks for the class.

8. Think of ways to discuss key points in an entertaining and stimulating manner.

  • One thing crosses my mind, let's remove the word "entertaining"... hey, we are not clowns to entertain or muse our participants... don't ask me to crack jokes!
  • But I agree in the word 'stimulating' that can bring the class alive. Get participants to think, to share in an unthreatening environment... hm... am I right to say, it's less so in a Maths classroom? Stereotyping, right?
  • Does the way the trainer deliver matter? Does the personality of the trainer matter? Does it come naturally with the trainer? Can it be something acquired? I think it all comes from the heart and the depth of understanding on what's to be delivered, and the passion!!! Let's think about it...

9. Begin your session by establishing ground rules. This can help you to assert some control over participants who talk among themselves.

  • This does not seem quite applicable to our workshops... however, we would run through the expectations and outline so that they know the programme of the day.

10. Continually monitor the verbal and non-verbal reactions of participants, and their level of involvement throughout the programme.

  • Yes, that's important... especially when they start doing hands-on activity.
  • Never never park ourselves at one corner... just move around to see-see-look-look... sometimes, it's good to 'overhear' what they discuss... 'cos they may have doubts to clear... if similar doubt is heard from several groups, it's necessary to intervene or clarify as a class.
  • Also, try to capture comments by participants as they attempt the resources, it gives us opportunities to prompt them to look out for more things. Also, with this, we can invite them to share at the appropriate time.


Last but not least, thanks to BY pointing out this article to me... :D