Saturday, June 30, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - Use of ICT in IBL for Maths Learning

This is the 2nd time I conduct this workshop. The 1st run was last year, when I took over the immature baby from another colleague. That time, had the first taste of 'dingdong' of materials for workshop. Inquiry-based learning in Maths? Something that was alien to me... To-date, I still have not really grasp the essence of it... nevertheless, after the 1st session, I realise I'm able to articulate it clearer, understand it better... in the process...

Some observations:

  1. Although blog has been pretty common - in the virtual world, among youngsters, etc... It seems that blog is still a novelty among Maths teachers! Surprise? Well, it's the fact.
  2. The participants were indeed drawn to the use of blogs. I was presently surprised... on the other hand, it's what I hope to see... isnt' it?
  3. In managing the time for the activity, it's the first time to 'merge' activity and break... thought it was quite a good idea :D

By the end fo the 1st session, I think the most rewarding part is... {click HERE to see Day 1 reflections from participants}

updated... 4 July 2007... after 2nd session

  • Today, I ran the show solo... well, WK was on child care leave while BY was bogged down by the revision of workshop materials... well, no point getting others as they are not aware of what's in "IBL" and the "tools" going to be used (ie. BUBBL.US)... 'better still'... Wee Hong (the ICT executive of the school) was on half-day leave... and Harris (the 2nd TA) was engaged in work elsewhere in the school... and well, well... the user account could not be logged in... Ahh!!! It's crazy, isn't it? I thought... well, no problem, this year, have conducted 2 sessions solo before - 2nd session of GSP (Pri) & 1st session of HOD/Maths workshop... nevermind... 孰能生巧。
  • Hm... glad that things still went on as a breeze, I think... Hm... a pad on my shoulder :D
  • In fact, I just wonder... be it the 1st trainer or the supporting trainer, it's really necessary to know the work inside out... 'cos workshop still have to proceed as usual!

Observations... & Findings...

  • When the participants arrived, many of them were busily 'submitting' their homework in the blog. In a way, I'm enthused by their enthusiasm. They actually remember the 'homework' assigned. In fact, it's the first time I see my participants took the homework so seriously... I guess, must be because every group has been tasked to do so... if they don't... everybody know lah!!! Oops! It also gave me an excuse not being able to consolidate their inputs before hand, since many did it last minute. On the other hand, they seem to enjoy exploring or playing the blog.
  • Back in HQ, I guess we have, to a certain extent, 'stereotype' a tool - where blog lands itself better in language related studies... or we made an assumption that it's common among teachers. Surprising, only 2 in the group have blogged before! and the depth seems to be minimial! So, have we overlooked this? Or it's...
  • I 'overspent' the time on the discussion on the use of the various ICT tools in for the various stages of the IBL circle. Observation: Some colleagues in fact tried very hard to fit the ICT tool to each stage, when the value is not really obvious or there!!! But I think I did well in 2 areas here - (i) Being able to do the necessary 'connection' such that even when the not-so-relevant response is given, I'm able to connect it to somewhere appropriate such that no one get embarrassed for giving an irrelevant response. (ii) Indirectly, have used this process to reinforce what happens in each stage; also to provide participants with a broader perspective of what's available there :D
  • Actually did not really carry out the IBL activity - hm... think about it, it's more like showing them an example, rather than asking them to attempt...OK, this point I now agree with Sai Choo that it's not necessary to ask participants to attempt the pupils' activities in all cases unless there's some objective we want to achieve through their experience. Another thing I thought it went on well was through participants' questions, I am able to turn it into a learning point that they should take note of when designing an IBL task, especially one that's very open-ended (like the hire purchase case). There are parameters that we have to define, but, to what extent, depends on the profile/calibre of the class! This has somehow created the link to the next example - about the cube! Hm... this is unintentional, but connected the tasks... Hm... well done :D
  • I'm also proud being able to re-design the cube question to something pretty open.. From the participants' reaction and responses to the question, hey, they seem to be pleasantly surprise with the "new ideas" injected into the old question !!! Another pad on the shoulder :D

The final verdict...

  • Things went on well in the last session - most of the items were covered but not the last one, which is the implementation issues. But I included something that was never mentioned to participants of workshops in the past... that I think, as I reflect, am closer to buying in the participants - in agreeing that we are not hardselling technology use, but trying to help them 'bring out' what they can potentially do - and also to present to them the reality - all that we talked about... during the workshop were plans! Yes, they're just plans that we hope to apply back in the classroom... We also have to acknowledge that execution is another challenge... and I think, more importantly to let them know that the end of the workshop is not really the 'end' of the support that we can give to the participants. I think it's this long term relationship brings people together...
  • I have this impression (er... assumption?? belief??), and to a certain extent, my action (ie. why I wanted most, if not all, groups to share the idea during a workshop) was driven by this. That is, after a workshop, how many of us will "do" homework -browsing through and finding out more of what others have done if we are left on our own to look at it? Of course, this time, I face another challenge because it's a mixed group! I still remember very clearly one of the feedback received last year - the duration should be shrunk - as the primary school teachers did not see the relevance of what the secondary school teachers shared (and vice versa). That's also why, from the start, I tried very hard to 'marry' the 2 - to get them see the interconnectedness - one builds on the other or one is the extension of the other... Hm... based on the feedback and interaction, I think I have succeeded :D
  • Glad that they like the new tools, too... of course, must also credit the participants' active participation
  • Now, what's left is really the follow-up that I've promised the participants...


About the support from the school... the smoothness and success of the workshop cannot be complete with mentioning the support by the ICT executive, Wee Hong. I'm impressed by his willingness to help and not expressing any impatience and reluctance to bring service an extra mile - to provide assistance to us as well as the participants. Thanks to Wee Hong for his excellent support!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

on Mobile, Handheld Technologies

on 15 June 2007 @ NIE
Presented by Cathie Norris (University of North Texas, Denton, TX) & Elliot Soloway (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI)

There were 2 parts to the presentation:
1. Hands-on Workshop for Mobile, Handheld Computers: PocketPC Session
2. Talk on Integrated Instructional Framework: Guiding Teachers in Using Mobile Technologies Effectively

Part 1
The first part deals with something we are already aware of: Exploring the use of applications that come with (or can be installed in) PocketPCs for learning.

It has been known (for many years) that office applications can be integrated into the little gadget for productivity use. At one time, I was so fascinated that I bought one and tried to adapt to the 'new' way of life... well, it failed - apart from the convenience, and unless we need to access info while on the move, still not quite convince of its value. Well, in fact, my life went into chaos during that transition period of adopting the PocketPC. I returned to my good old ways!

Apart from mobility (and its quick boot-up time and looking stylish???), the difference on the use of PocketPC and a laptop computer is still not quite clear.

The presenters have integrated several applications for a task (an illustration - to draw up a family tree): The word application, a spreadsheet, a mindmapping tool (picomap) and an animation tool (sketchy) - that they put together called HLE 1.0. Well, I thought the illustration was not convincing in the use of the technology. No doubt, the animation tool, sketchy, could be fun, and can develop one's logical thinking (if used in a well-structured/scaffolded lesson). So, the purpose and the design of the task matters!

The presenters also pointed out that the tool could be used to promote collaboration - ie. the PocketPC can 'interact' with each other through beaming and simultaneous editing (which I experienced in a similar presentation about 5 years ago!). Well, so, what's new? Probably the 'beaming' process takes place more frequently with PocketPCs than laptop computers? So, that's the selling point? Hm....

One observation shared by the presenter, which I thought relevant to our local context is:

  • Difference in Use... between Paperback books and eBooks: Cathie shared that Paperback books is still the preferred mode when it comes to reading storybooks (for leisure). Yes, I agree, it's the touch and feel... On the other hand, pupils prefer eBooks 'cos (i) they could make notes easily on the ebooks - such as inserting 'notes' and highlighting (ii) its mobility - simply chuck it into the pocket after use.

Part 2

Several Success Factors for Technology Projects are shared:

  1. Access (no access > no use > no learning with technology) - Elliot highlighted that the 'duration' of exposure to technology plays a critical part in the use of technology in learning. We could not possibly conclude that technology has no positive in learning if pupils were only exposed to 10 min of technology use for learning!
  2. Appropriate Curriculum
  3. Effective Professional Development
  4. Appropriate Evaluation
  5. School Leadership - though placed 5th, without the support leadership, nothing moves!
  6. Community Support
  7. Sustainability

There is a wide range of mobile devices out there! That includes

  • PDA (ie. PocketPCs)
  • Nova 5000 (VGA 7")
  • Laptop
  • Cellphone
  • Low cost tablet devices

Some benefits on the use of PocketPCs highlighted:

  1. Swivel & Beam (Peer editing, Brainstorming, Collaboration)
  2. Annotate & Animate
  3. Remix

Other readings:

Friday, June 08, 2007

Organisational Culture Narrative Capture

Duration: 29 May 2007 - 15 June 2007

Our Corporate values:
Integrity the Foundation • People our Focus • Learning our Passion • Excellence our Pursuit

QUESTION 1 (Compulsory Question)
During a family gathering, your brother said that he has been promoted as a Director in his company. He is concerned about general perception that staff have on leaders.
What stories, from your personal experience or the experience of someone you know who have had interactions with the senior management (i.e. Directors and above) in MOE, would you tell him to better prepare him for his new position?

Question 2
Your friend from another division confided in you that he had made a big mistake in his work, which would impact some schools adversely if nothing was done to rectify it. However, he was worried about the consequences if he were to own up to it.
Describe something that happened either from your personal experience in your division or someone you know in MOE HQ that would either encourage or discourage him to resolve the matter in the proper manner.

Question 3
At a family gathering, one of your relatives commented that MOE HQ must be a place where staff's interests are taken seriously since their work contributes to the moulding of young lives and the future of Singapore.
Describe an incident, either from your personal experience in MOE HQ or someone you know, to either support or disagree with the comment.

Question 4
You have a colleague who recently completed a one-year work attachment to a private sector company and has just joined your office. He wants to organise some sharing sessions to share new ideas that he borrowed from the private sector company.
What stories, from your personal experience or that of someone you know, would you tell him about your office to encourage or dissuade him from doing so?

Question 5
On his first day of work, a new colleague of yours is curious about the quality of work that your division produces.
What stories from your personal experience would you tell your colleague to either reassure or caution him about the work expectations in your division / MOE HQ?

Password: 847mhq

Friday, June 01, 2007

Maths Teachers Conference 2007

On the whole, feel that the conference was not solid enough... in fact, throughout the whole day, thought only 2 items worth the time and travelling - (i) Guest Lecture by Prof Jin Akiyama - 7 Questions for Mathematics Teachers (ii) Workshop S3 by A/P Yap Sook Fwe - Data Analysis with IT). Thought they are the saving grace of the event.

The Opening 0845 - 0915: In fact, there wasn't much for this session, especially when I was seated in LT12... watching the 'live' broadcast - it's like what mentioned to the team, perhaps, we could just turn up during tea break. Nevermind, one learning point - never never let an opening ceremony to 'stand-alone' as a session. It vows to generate lots of grumbling... especially when people have to travel from all over the island to a ulu-ulu place in the west...

Keynote (Secondary)1a on Mathematical Literacy - the Case of Quantitative Reasoning (Dr Liu Yan): Don't quite appreciate the lecture. Hm... maybe I 'operated' at a slower frequency... Thought that the context of the presentation was not well set out. It was too quick, esp at the beginning. Probably there's an assumption knowing what's "Quantitative Reasoning".

At the start, there was an attempt to break down the terms "Quantitative Literacy" (as a lead to the reasoning):

  • "Quantitative literacy" has been defined from various perspectives - as a set of basic skills, higher order thinking skills, or even ICT related tools. It touches on a several elements, that includes Confidence in Mathematics, Cultural Appreciation (of course, ie. Maths), Data Interpretation, Number Sense, Logical Thinking, Practical skills, Decision making... and more (that I wasn't quick enough to jot down).

  • "Quantitative" is used interchangeably with "Mathematics"

  • "Literacy" can also be simply interpreted as the minimum ability to read, write and calculate.

Moving on to "Quantitative Reasoning", which is the key of the entire presentation:

  • It comes in 4 combinations - with 4 magic words - combine, compare, additively & multiplicatively: (i) Combine quantities additively (ii) Compare quantities multiplicatively (iii) Combine quantitites additively (iv) Compare quantities multiplicatively.

  • There, they moved on to analyse pupils' responses to problem questions in little 'packets'.

  • It's amazing that a simple word problem can be broken down into "Quantities" and "Quantitative Relationships" {ok, from this part of the presentation, "I'm back" again}.

  • So, what I could conclude from this presentation is: No matter how simple a task is, it can still be broken down into parts we never thought of - and for the sake to understand how the young children work, it worth the time and effort and the extent of such research(?). Well, I guess that's what 'mathematicians' are for - to devote time to ask why and investigate. On the other hand, having gone through discussions at work, just wonder, do findings from just "16" students can justify any solid conclusion?

2 questions used in the research:

  • Q1: A group of tourist paid $200 for admission to a theme park. Adults paid $8 each and children $4 each. If there were 7 more adults than children, how many adults and children are there in a group?

  • Q2: In a certain town, 2/3 of adult men are married to 3/5 of the adult women. What fraction of adults in the town are married?

I think my key takeaway is really... to realise how powerful the model method is, to solve Q2. Of course, it is also the thinking process that I went through in the course of solving the problem - a fair bit of interpretation and careful manipulation of the fractions and pieces.

Keynote (Secondary) 1b on Multiple "Literacies" of Representations - the Case of Model Method and Letter Symbolic Algebra (AP Ng Swee Fong):

This keynote deals with something closer to the hearts of secondary school maths teachers, in particular those who teach Sec 1. Being one, I know how painful it is to convince and 'convert' a model user to a 'letter symbolic algebra' user. Like what Prof Ng shared, often secondary school teachers are not aimed with enough reasons to convince the pupils the necessity of using letter symbolic algebra. I guess, partly because being trained in secondary maths in the early years, we were not exposed to the model method - be it in our school days or during our training days at NIE. So, we don't know much of the model method - its strengths and weaknesses! Of course, after a while, we found one reasons to convince pupils something that models can't do - in the presence of negative numbers! In the first place, there were times we wonder... hey, we learnt the letter symbolic algebra since young - in primary schools! So, why can't pupils nowadays do the same too?

On one hand, it seems like pupils are the "immigrant" to the world of letter symbolic algebra... on the other hand, we, teachers are the immigrant to the model method, too!

One thing caught me in surprise was the use of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Method! Wah! The study of how the brain works come into play! Though find the reasoning pretty force-fitting... but it tells one thing: "Think out-of-the-box" to look at other possibilities! OK, what this study shows is , using the letter symbolic algebra method is more cognitively demanding, as compared to using the model method. Just wonder, when this model method was introduced, are there already studies that highlights this aspect?

In fact, AP Ng mentioned casually that perhaps the model method would be suitable for the primary school children since it is a less demanding in solving problems... So... our brains can weather more demands, compared to the younger generations nowadays???

One website on modeling (prototype):

Guest Lecture on 7 Questions for Mathematics Teachers (by Prof Jin Akiyama)

Mathematics came alive in this session! Have not been so engaged with a Mathematics-related talk, since the Stiatistics session at NIE during my DDM course. Wah! Maths everywhere, who would have link 'chim' ideas of ellipses to 'satelite dish' in Singapore? Who would have brought in some much manipulatives to the class to do mathematical experiment? "You mean mathematical experiment in class?", one will give you that 'look'.

A couple of interesting ideas:

  • Circles inscribed within quadrilateral. But is it true? Try it! Rotate a 'quadrilateral' on a circular disc at high speed. If we see a circle - yes! Also, to explore the sum of lengths of opposite sides - they are the same! Hey, I guess not many of us know.
  • The use of models to learn statistics! BTW, I like the tower-like model to learn multiplication. That's fun and I would love to own one :D
  • The amazing means to find the minimum network connecting all points on a plane - with just soap water!
  • Everything about Maths become so exciting!

More info...

Workshop S3: Data Analysis with IT by AP Yap Sook Fwe

This is an introductory session (to me) on the box-and-whisker plot.
Something new, yet is made easy to understand :D

One thing pointed out was to look out the type of data given:
  • Catagorical data: example - survey data. Appropriate representation includes bar chart, pictograph and Pie Chart.
  • Numerical Data: where the 'horizontal axis is usually number.

The hands-on session using winstat is helpful. In fact, it is a freeware that's pretty to use.