Thursday, July 26, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - WebLog as a Thinking Tool for Maths Learning

At the start... when it was first conceptualised - the very starting intent is to introduce "BLOGGING" to Maths teachers.

I thought it was just be my mindset.

But it's real - especially when we started to feature blog in our workshops!

The observation: The level of excitement, disbelief(???) and surprises reaffirmed what I thought the situation was. "Blogging" is a new entertainment, new toy to the Maths people. It remains as an alien to the Maths teaching and learning world! It generates a brand new learning experience - to the teachers!!!

Yes, who would have associate blog with Maths learning??? Very very few people!!! Blog has been well known and well-used in language learning. For Maths??? You must be joking!!! Maths people talk very little! We only solve problems!!! hahahaha..... Do you agree? Maths People out there! Alright, stop stereotyping the activities that Maths people do!

OK, to be fair, there were some teachers already started using Blogs for Maths lessons, however, in a very limited fashion - Most treat it like a normal website for information delivery or as an alternative channel for communication (FAQ-type).

Why "Blogging" to Maths learning?
I thought, in fact, I took a very bold step... The only thing I knew (last year... hm... sometime Term 3), after having much fun and exposure and use of the tool to facilitate workshop, I thought, hey, how about using the tool for Maths learning...

  • went on further when we found its potential in Maths journal writing, which is an alternative assessment mode that was sounded to teachers in recent years.
  • also because I bought those 2 books - Journal Writing in the Mathematics classroom, that I found the potential
  • of course, this was further reaffirmed when we conducted the 3h session with the 10 DDMers (Primary HODs/Maths) last year, when I first introduced blog to maths learning (as an alternative platform they could tap on). The level of excitement and the feedback from the participants had reaffirmed the signal - my thoughts are at the right track.

Like it or not... it's really experimentation - it's really trying out what's widely believed not possible, or unlikely... but I think this is really a big success - a breakthrough -

  • not just the way to use an 'unlikely' technology for Maths learning
  • but also a breakthrough of my mental model. Well Done ^.^

Challenges I face...

The challenge are really the words 'thinking tool' (that's reflected in the workshop title)!!! OK, now I suffer (the effect) from not have thought through deep and broad enough! The title of the workshop instead defines what I'm going to delivery! Oh no! That should not be the case!

What I had in mind initially was really very very narrow... for pupils to put up in the blog for reflection writing... and that's all! hahaha...

Anyway, managed to resolve this... with sheer hardwork and active thinking and digging... hahaha... It pays! When the response fo the workshop turn out positive :D I think that's where all the hardwork pays off!


Prior to the class, I did a pre-workshop survey - that I thought it was a very idea (that I thought of this year, and have implemented quite consistently for almost all the school-based workshops) - a pat on my shoulder... hahaha... almost all, except 2 (from the replies) have not blogged before - meaning, created and maintain a blog... So, I'm right, most of them come with 2 objectives

  • to learn how to blog - which I think this is the key motivation to sign up for this workshop. Well, there isn't any workshop (that I'm aware of) that teaches how to blog. In fact, I learn this through sheer exploration and of course, interest and curiosity are the key drivers to further exploration :D
  • to see how it can be used in Maths learning - I believe many come with a sceptical mind... hahaha... I'm making an assumption that I think I'm right to a large extent. As I said, there's a common belief - Maths and blogs? What's the relationship? In fact, there's little literature on the use of Blogs in Maths learning... Hey, perhaps I can start writing a paper on this???

The tone of the class... The class was very quiet and there are many stern-looking faces... at the start... little responses... Oops! So different from my IBL class. OK, another observation: Our Primary School colleagues are livelier... the Secondary School colleagues look more serious... take me right, I'm not referring to their attitude, but the observable body language... Oops! It's like the latter is there to assess!!! Tried to loosen them up a little... and one responded jokingly... "oh yes, Maths people are generally quieter and look more serious, compared to the language people..." Thanks for the comment... and it generated smiles in some faces... Oh well, we can see they livened up when we did the hands-on activity where 4 have to worked together. A good strategy (I thought) that requires them to work as a group and to move around... hahaha... and perhaps such strategy should be adopted for the 1st session - to warm them up first...

What went well...

  • Participants respond well to the new tool.
  • The openness of questions have pleasantly surprised them.
  • They are pretty convinced of the value-add of using the "Comments" feature - that supports the interactive activities.
  • From their participation, the participants were also convinced on the ease to implement blog-based activities (using Comments)
  • Their enthusiasm once got fired up :D Despite many are first timers to blogging, they are patient and asked for more... though it started to get complicated in the 2nd session - where they participated in the group blog.
  • All the activities! That I would safely say, went well and have brought out the 'value-add' of blog to the participants...
  • The attempt to implement in class - about 50% had tried using the blog with their classes after the 1st session (ok, it's part of their homework... but I thought, they responded well to it).
  • Rewarding #1... when in the 2nd session, one participant told me that she actually used blog in a lesson demonstration when a foreign visitor came to the school and visited her class! She even mentioned that she's applying what she learnt from the workshop into practice (showing him the notes!) Bravo! ^.^
  • Rewarding #2... one participant actually applied the skills she learnt to facilitate a learning circle within her department... and she event tried using Group blog! Deserves a good pat on the shoulder for trying this out :D {Trust me, it's not that easy and not many are courgeous enough to try that!}

The school personnel...

Credit must be given to our host - the Queensway staff, who have rendered assistance - in one way or another...

  • Ms Chan, the HOD/Maths. She plays a great hosts in ensuring the things run smoothly... not just to see that the lab is booked, the refreshments are arranged, she even checks that the lab is ok and the TA is available to provide the necessary assistance. She'll even drop-by and get teachers to help to see things through! Really appreciate her help :D
  • Chong, the TA. Another exemplar of excellent service! Everything has been so well thought-through, which we would not find in most TA, especially when providing support to external parties - it's in fact extra service... He ensures that all the things are tested in the preparation day - more kiasu than myself. The very first sign was even before we met, he actually forwarded the detail specs to me as the 1st cut information. He knows what to prepare and how to prepare the trainer - for the logistics aspect. What impressed me more was he bothers to call when he realised that the internet was down in the morning! This is really going an extra mile.
  • I must say, the school is really fortunate to have staff like this :D

Monday, July 23, 2007

When dealing with Vendor

I must admit, being HOD/ICT for more than 5 years, I gained a fair bit of experience, in dealing with vendors. Yes, also came across a wide range - greenhorns as well as er... :P

Realised something - as I wear different shoes, what I say does matter, at least something just I realised.

In school, the vendor will try to sell the item/service by citing how other schools have been using it, what impact it has generate, and lots and lots of FOC services being offered. So, we're also at a position to ask lots of information, how other schools are using the item/service, how they manage the resources as well. Vendors have somehow become our info media - to transfer the info.

Being at HQ, I realised vendors may see us differently. They are talking to someone from HQ... probably someone who's going to give them some indication what's going to take place in the school! In fact, there are a few things all of us should observe:
1. Do not do comparison of products in front of vendors, when possible
2. Do not upfront comment the product they just demonstrated the use is a better one. Avoid being quote - I think is very important.
3. Do not say "I would recommend..." - beware that they may take that as an endorsement!
4. Do not say something that one is not sure and it is not reflective of the actual situation in the schools (-at-large) - it misleads or in fact, if the vendor knows the market well, what does that tell about you?
5. Forget about the school we come from! And forget how 'disadvantaged' one was while in the school. Because this notions distracts!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Reflection: Workshop @ EXCEL Fest on... Graphing Calculator

The workshop is a modified version of the TRAISI workshop... with the activities went through a pretty rigorous critique - as there were some face-lifting done to the activities.

Well, it's really making Mathematics experimental, I think.
Yes, the activities are pretty interesting, however, I think, as a teacher, I will not (quite definite) spend that amount of time and get my pupils to go through the tasks:

1. Matching me: I agree that it's really interesting to get pupils to experience what 'speed' is, and really figure out the movement represented by different slopes - especially the plateau - when there's no motion while time runs.... of course, another learning point is to learn the concept of displacement (where the graph also double up as a 'displacement-time' graph). Perhaps, this would be something we do as a class - getting a couple of students to demonstrate. Hm... how about turning it into a competition between groups?

2. Bouncing Ball: As one of the teachers commented (in fact the facial expression already told) - what's the relevance? Yes, I think it's something we are not clear, too! Apart from capturing 'movement' for analysis...

3. Golden Ratio: An interesting activity, but again, I think it's its value-add - apart being a productivity tool. The use of the TI navigator in this activity was really something new to us. Its wireless feature - however, realised that it's not-so-wireless... in a way that the GCs have to be connected to the navigator before doing the wireless transfer... seems like it's still in the primitive stage? Hm... why technology like blue-tooth is not tapped on???

On the whole (at least from the Match Me station that I assisted)... the follow points were noted:
- Participants (most of them) seem reluctant to move around... so after a while, they got tired... They also did not seem interested in the pupil activity.
- Participants are more interested in the prices of the equipment.

Hm... I don't quite find satisfaction in this session...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Instructional Design Workshop on 4 July 2007

by Dr Teo Yiong Hwee & Dr Chai Ching Sing @ Level 4 Studio

The workshop started off with the introduction of the "MAGER and PIPE's PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS MODEL":

It's a flow-chart that runs through areas that helps to examine and hence identify area for improvement (or should I say, area of concern).

  • It started off by "Describing performance discrepancy", ie. "Is this set of skill important?" If not, then igore... otherwise move on...
  • "Skill Deficiency": Is what we observed (ie. when the jobholder could not perform the duty) is really because the jobholder lacks the skill? or it's a result of other factors?
  • For the former - when it's due to the lack of skill, the series fo diagnosis tests and the kind of prescription seem to be quite direct.
  • The one that arouse my interest is really the other reason - that leads to other 'checks': when the jobholder is not performing...Is it because...
  • >>> the Performance is punishing? The mindset of the more you do, the better you do a piece of work, more work will be landed up on your lap? In fact, this is true. Isn't it? When one does a good piece of work, it raises expectation in the next task. When one has established that 'good reputation' and trust... more often, work will knock at your door... you'll be the first person that cross others' minds! So, there's no end to the 做牛做马life. Right? With this mindset - who dares to give a too-perfect piece of work? Oh yes, someone also pointed out (during the workshop) how powerful the comment "don't spoil the market" could be! Well, one way to address to this is to remove the 'punishing factors' - eg. the mental model of the people, the reaction of the people around.
  • >>> the non-performing rewarding? Yes, when it's "OK" when one does not do the expected amount of work. Then, why do more? So??? This implies monitoring is necessary to point out non-performing instances and emphasise the need to perform on par. On this, I think I'm also a culprit who encourages this to happen... especially when I see I'm able to manage while the other party is stressed up with other work...
  • >>> the performance matters? does good performance matters? If yes, what are the motivators to further reinforce it?
  • >>> any obstacles? For instance, the lack of resource... then tackle it first.
The ADDIE model

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation
There are several kinds of analysis

  1. Need Analysis: (i) What do you want the learners to be able to perform? (ii) What can they perform now? (ie. the pre-requisites) (iii) What's the performance gap? (iv) Can the gap be addressed by training?

  2. Learner Analysis: Classify goals by learning domain (i) Psychomotor skill (eg. separate egg white from the yolk) (ii) Intellectual Skill (eg. open and maintain cheque book) (iii) Verbal Information (eg. able to name the different parts of the flower) (iv) Attitude (eg. choose to drive safely)
  3. Learner Background: Age (attention span); Grade; Stream; Sex; General Experience with the world they live in
  4. Knowledge: Entry skills/Pre-requisites/Prior Knowledge; Literacy level (eg. level of difficulty of English); Level of ICT skills
  5. Psychological: Motivational level; Ability; Learning Style (verbal, visual)
  6. Social: Cultural Background; Readiness for pair work; group work; Group composition

  7. Content Analysis: Break subject matter into smaller and instructionally useful units (i) identify and isolate single idea/skill units for instruction (ii) act as an objective decision rule - to include/exclude. Tools for Content Analysis can include: mindmap, table, charts

  1. Task Analysis: Content analysis differs from task analysis because it stems from an examination of information. Task analysis involves intensive examination on how people perform work activities. It should start with VERB (eg. execute, operate).

  1. Context Environment Analysis: Factors for consideration includes (i) What environment the learners are based at? (lab, classroom, hardware/software) (ii) What other tools needed? (plugins required to go with the learning package) (iii) Internet bandwidth that learners have (iv) cost (v) any other constraints exist?

After the analysis....

  • do not jump into design immediately!
  • assess existing resources - there are those that exactly fits the needs or can be adapted/modified?
  • design and develop only the inavailable components


  • Design what needs/need not to be taught
  • Sequence the content (however, note that it is not necessary to be linear)
  • Write instructional objective
  • Write instructional strategies are chosen
  • Assessment procedures are selected

Specific Instructional Objectives (SIO)

ABCD model

  • Audience
  • Behaviour - use observable terms
  • Conditions - eg. with equipment
  • Degree - how much to achieve: 80% of the pupils able to do; any deviations allowed?

Eg: Given a bar, line or circle graph, the 7th grade Maths students will be able to verbally present all the statistical information with 100% accuracy.

Other references Rothwell & Kazanas (1998). Mastering the Instructional Design Process: A Systematic Approach.


Of the entire workshop, think I'm amaze by the types of analysis that one has to come up with - before really putting the hands into developing a module. Yes, it's really ideal... to be foolproof.

Moreover, the point that Dr Teo mentioned (towards the end) that by right, the assessment should be ready even before implementation of the module. Yes, again, it's really very very ideal in the school situation. As he said, many a time, teachers will only start preparing the exam papers about 2 months before the exam... ok, this current practice has its plus and minus:

  • the plus in the sense that what's tested would be likely what's taught... it could also take into account any 'special situation' arises.
  • the minus will probably reinforce the problem "not enough time to cover", so push coverage after the exam... yes, it's a really bad bad habit!

In fact, isn't it that there exists the 'ideal' when the exam syllabus of the "O" and "N" levels are given and all schools are given 2 years to complete... and there, nobody dares to complain "push the topic 'cos no time to cover!" hahaha...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Reflection: Workshop - Advance Senior Teacher Programme

Before meeting up with the participants, indeed, thought that "wah! it's a group of very very experienced teachers! Will I be able to answer to their questions? Will they be posting 'difficult' and very challenging questions?".. Er... they know more than what we can offer??? etc... Haha... these were some thoughts that went through my head..

The Preparation...
The preparation was 'xiong'... again towards the couple of days before the actual workshop took place. But I was glad that Hwee Peng had us get ready the outline and stuff before meeting up with Kok Seng about 2 weeks before the session. It in fact helped to push us into the thinking and preparation... otherwise, on the day itself, will 死得更难看!

As she said, we were over prepared - especially with the ICT tools materials that Paul came up with... really, not enough time for the participants to look at. But, as Sai Choo always said, it's good to be overprepared than underprepared.

Another challenge that we both faced is really the time to meet up and have a good discussion after inputs from Hwee Peng. Yes, must admit, we have chosen not to acknowledge the 'wide' knowledge gap of some participants... and wanted to take the opportunity to expose them to what's new... then after Hwee Peng's advice and a 2nd thought, just a day before!!! OK, quickly 'packed' some down-to-earth stuff for the session... and because of that, I think we used up about 1 brim of papers... Oops!

The other challenge was... we did not really plan who to take which part... hahaha... but we are quite sure who is good at which part...

Another challenge: Just the day before, we realised that the application software list has not reached the technical stuff... Ah!!!! Changes to strategy??? Oh know!!! Yes, it's quite stressful for someone who's not too use to surprises!!! OK, pack more stuff... as a result, we pulled in more resources, materials, etc... Oh yes, some changes to the execution... Reflecting back... Think I must have added more stress to my co-trainer... for bringing in the unplanned stuff into the session! my sincere apologies...

The Session...
In the morning, while preparing, some of them scrolled in quite early and it seems like the classroom scenario - they know each other pretty well, joked and laugh... and more importantly (especially before the session commenced) - the tone of conversation was friendly :D

We did not conduct any pre-session survey. In this instance, I realised how important or necessary to have the profile of the participants! (esp when they're experience... now it's a matter of finding out what they do not know, especially the ICT areas). The profile would have helped us in the resources prepared... but we notice that one assumption is always right - ie. They want to know what are the resources available, and it seems like, it's true (almost in all instances) that they have little time to explore and see new tools! So, their entry level to technology use is still quite elementary...
  • This observation seems popping out - especially for the more senior teaching staff - it came true for this group of Senior & Master Teachers, it's true for the HODs in the baseline HOD workshops, it's also true for the DDM HOD/Maths participants! Hm... where are those who have spent hours in exploring technology use? those have been using robotics, 2nd life, tablets, etc? Where are these people? They don't belong to this category who's stronger at the pedagogy (delivery), the management group? Perhaps someone would want to carry out a research in this norm!

The participants were really the enthusiastic lot... I really admire their spirit - their attitude to learning (about the ICT tools!) - especially a handful are very senior and quite a number (1/3) teaches Chinese! Just another interesting observation: The composition is 1/3 for EL & Humanities; 1/3 for Maths & Science; 1/3 for Chinese... in fact, they just converse in any languages (english, chinese or even dialects!). We are glad they reacted well :D

[Click HERE to see their comments of the session]

Talking about NE @ Branch Meeting (3 July 2007)

The first item in the Agenda was news-Teach, on National Education review.

It introduces the 'new framework' where 3Hs come together: Head, Hands & Heart. There's a review of the NE programme in Singapore - like a stock take of how far we have gone on since... several schools shared their practices to inculcate the NE values and communicate the message to pupils:

  • In Cedar Girls' School, pupils take the lead to share in the morning assembly, their reflection - linked to National Education. I guess, it probably anchor on the 6 key NE messages. In fact, I just wonder, it's pretty easy. Take a closer look or deeper thought, there's NE everywhere - I believe my friend (CN) will agree :D
  • Chung Cheng High shared about getting teachers to go for teacher attachment to learn how others integrate NE into the lessons. Through interaction with the implementers - to see, to hear for themselves - it's possible!!! Yes, it could be just my mindset - but I think it's really necessary to show our colleagues that "It's Possible" before 'pushing' them into it... it's one of the strategies to buy in, to convince them!
  • Another clip showed a group of teachers from Bendemeer Secondary packing a first aid kit, contextualised to one of the 'historical' event (eg. in preparation of the riot) so that they could have a more focused and hence in depth discussion (I guess...). On the other hand, I'm not really impressed... it seems (to me) rather force-fitting. After packing the first aid kit, so what? It seems to be just providing a talking object and protected time to the teachers and therefore the first aid kit is just the prop!
  • On the other hand, RJC pupils were given an opportunity to interact with political leaders through the meet-the-people session, that I thought, it's really to hear and understand Singapore (esp the current affairs) from the horses' mouth.
  • After hearing from Victoria School's strategy, now I understand why there's this NE-related website hosted by VS - the multimedia club ran the competition for schools; interesting, the pupils were the judges - and it's through the process, they have to know the country well before they could judge the work submitted.

To enhance the NE experience through collaboration with community,

  • Clementi Town Secondary shared how it engages alumni in the various school activities (which, in fact, I thought it is quite commonly practised in Secondary schools), the only difference could be the extent of activities the alumni is involved in. They also shared about pupils involved in community projects such as promoting "Safe Water" in the neighbourhood parks, gardens, etc.
  • Christ Church Secondary talked about its overseas stint where pupils regularly go to one of the villages to provide support to the needy there - I think it distinguishes itself from projects of others for its sustained effort and support to the same group of beneficiaries. Normally, schools will treat it as a one-off project rather than building up a long-term relationship, which I thought it's good! It's some kind of follow-through. The school also brings up another point - through the interaction with people of a different background, they learn the culture of the foreign land. Indeed, they learnt how fortunate they are.
  • I think among all the instances showed case, the one from ITE struck me most! They use their skills to help others! It's really applying what they are good at and contribute to the society. It's brilliant! I hope, through this, the ITE students know that the skills they learn, does not serve just as a means for living, but it enables them to do something meaningful and appreciated by others!

To round up this segment, Siew Lian asked 2 questions:

  • (i) What does NE mean to you?
  • (ii) What is the difference between empathy and sympathy
  • (iii) Gaslow Airport's case - what's your reaction?

  • To me, NE - National Education - it's a conscious way to bring out our love of the country, to talk about it... and it could not be surfaced, then will probably have to instill in us. So, NE is here to stay because for these 2 purposes - to bring out what's there and to inculcate the kind of mindset...
  • In fact, I think it's really social responsibility - to give in return... because of love... the love we have for our country, and because we want our country to be better, we want our fellow countrymen to lead a good life here... in the country that has provided us with what we have today. Think about it..., we started receiving since day 1 - the stability that we take for granted, the materials provision, the education system that we went through...
  • One of the NE message says, no one owes Singapore a living... True! The growth of the country, what it becomes, it all lies on our hands, how we want to shape our culture, our values! In fact, I can still recall very clearly what the tour guide of my Hokkaido commented about Singapore - well, he's a Japanese, but now a Singapore PR - he commented, Singapore grows very fast, moves very fast - in fact, too fast - that although we are so ahead in terms of economy, our values, our beliefs are not strong! There's a vacuum... some things simply need the time to shape, need the kind of experience that the people go through together to shape. Being a young nation, the pace is too fast for values to take shape. Make a comparison - the social culture of Singapore and Japan... Yes, I agree to a large extent - are our people behaving what it takes to be in a developed (world class) country? We are still very vulnerable to influences... like the chinese say, it takes 3 days to inherit undesireable habits, but it takes 3 years for good behaviour to take shape (学坏三天,学好三年).
  • Just like one of the pupils in the video clip mentioned, after going through the CIP overseas, they learnt to appreciate what we have back at home here... Yes, it's very painful and sad to learn that we have to undergo some deprived conditions before start to appreciate what we have... on the other hand, are we being driven by material needs and that's why we appreciate what Singapore gives us? What happens if one day Singapore could not provide us with the desireable level of material needs? Then we'll look for another place that can satisfy our needs? This is not being appreciative? It's just being practical, right? Think deeper - what makes us appreciate what our country has done for us and how are we going to reciprocate?
  • I must admit... I was one of those who, after having gone through one year of volunteer work, start to compare the system, the environment and came to a point that yes, Singapore has done alot for me... or I should say, I have benefited a lot from what it can provide...
  • In a way, I tend to defend my country - those 'ambiguous' rules that govern our peace and safety and the clean environment... because I could imagine the flip side of things - "what if" we live in the other end of the spectrum? Yes, even the Bhutanese know that we are a "fine" country... but it's then I start to defend our actions and clarify... Oh yes, I surprise my Bhutanese friend when I asked them where I could find rubbish bin!

  • The next question is: What's the difference between empathy and sympathy... Well, being able to empathise is certainly at a much higher level of emotional response compared to just sympathy... which sometimes, I thought the latter is more towards giving lip service - yes, when one sees it, one reacted by sympathising, feeling sorry for the other... To be able to empathsize requires one to think what if it happens to one? How will one react to the situation/problem faced... more like being in one's shoes.
  • To be able to empathsize - especially in NE, I think it really requires one to be exposed to the kind of environment conditions, hardships - then we can 'measure' the empathy - how deep or 'real' it is... The lack of understanding the culture and background and pre-longed exposure/experience discounted the degree of empathy we tend to express we know...

  • As of Gaslow's case, my reaction is really - how could people do such destructive damage to fellow human beings??? Why??? Is that the best way to revenge? There are certainly better channels for communication...
  • Of course, fortunately it doesn't happen in Singapore - but it's possible to happen here, isn't it? So, we should not take for granted of the stability we're enjoying now...