Thursday, March 27, 2008

Game for learning in an Immersive Virtual Environment?

This afternoon attended the 1st session of the IVE workshop. Though have little idea what IVEs are and what it really offers (in the educational context), am somewhat excited - before and during the workshop :D Hm... not so much of a fear factor anyway... unlike the eLearning session.

Spend a fair bit of playing the game... perhaps I started with the right footing - the easiest one first - Food Force. (
- For a start, it's not easy to play - because there wasn't any background or 'objective' mentioned in the handout.
- OK, one 'guy' was talking to give the background - but, not patient enough to listen through before jumping into the game!
- There are 6 missions - seem to be sequential, though at the end of each mission, the links to the 6 missions are displayed together with the 'results' of that mission.
- Again, curriculum link from each activity was not clear.
- Teaching Idea that I could think of is, National Education and Character Education - in particular, I think the NE message, "No one owes Singapore a living". In the last mission (#6), the player will start to build a village, having to take into consideration which sector (eg. farming, education, health care) will receive more support (some kind of balancing act) such that by the end of 10 years, the village would be able to survive on its own, and not to depend on the help rendered by UN. Of course, there are other things and learning points that would be valuable to our students - when they compare and reflect on the 2 different 'worlds'.

The other game introduced is "Darfur is Dying" ( - which is a springoff from Food Force. This online game is a "Refugee Game".
- Did not play this during the workshop, but spent about 20 minutes
- The website provides some background info of this region call Darfur (well, it's something new to me!) though I have heard of Sudan!
- It started off with identifying someone to get water and this person has to avoid the militiamen. Notice that it's really an 'action' activity - run and run and run! Doubt can link to any subject learning outcome directly (Oops! it requires a fair bit of creativity!).
- More info can be found at;

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Reflection: Workshop for HOD/Maths (3rd Run)

on 26 March 2008 @ Commonwealth Secondary (workshop blog)

Things that went well...
  • For the 1st run, we started quite punctually.
  • Once again, most participants expressed the ICT tools in Education component was useful.
  • We managed the time of the activities pretty well - time spent on the activities were close to what's allocated.
  • Participants had some fun with the grouping activity, using the strings.
  • Participants managed to find something appropriate to address the learning gap - some brought in their own resources, one group had suggested a spreadsheet resource to learn quadratic inequalities - thought that's something we can work on :D
  • Able to answer to the queries from participants pertaining to baseline - (i) eLearning - activities that incorporate baseline skills (ii) BY(i)TES in relation to Baseline (iii) Graphmatical use - yes & no for baseline
  • Pointing out to participants another way to identify learning gaps, apart from approaching by topics; but also make reference to the Mathematics Framework
Things that could be better...
  • Remembering to refer participants to handouts - especially Handout 1 (the Cycle)
  • Helping participants to interpret the learning gaps correctly and being able to explain beyond the words already printed there.
  • Clarify/elaborate the examples came up by the participants and help to sharpen it so that it illustrates the gap better.
  • Notice the discussion on the ICT Tools in Education was less rigor than that of the 2nd run. Hm... Why??? Just wonder - the liveliness somehow was not there. What caused the dip?
  • The activities in 2nd session did not seem solid enough...
  • Some participants did not bring their scheme of work though they had been informed... looks like it works better when they were reminded via email - the emphasis on the need to use.

Anyway, am glad that it's the last run of the full series of the Baseline Workshop for HODs/Maths (Secondary).

2 more things to follow-up: Post participants' work - Learning Gaps and findings into the wiki (for both 2nd & 3rd runs)... have to keep in mind... must work on this...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Eat That Frog! (1st thoughts)

This reminded me about Frog Porridge!!! Hahaha... yes, it's a delicacy! But my Bhutanese friends, to-date, still can't believe we eat Frog Porridge! :P

No, no... this book is not about eating REAL frogs! It's a metaphor.

It's about fighting "Procrastinating" by reframing the "problem" positively... have just started reading... hahaha... wondering if I would finish the book... OK, it's self-fulfilling prophecy in play again, "I don't like to read"... Sign... looking at the shelf - hm... they are not impulsive buys... I'm very sure ('cos I know I usually won't finish the book), but it's really... Argrrrrrrrrrrr....

Anyway, started reading the first few chapters... along the way jotted down some thoughts and questions... after setting level 14 as the background...

What's the "frog"? Hm... like the "monkey" (in the one-minute manager), it's a piece of work to complete - but it's more than that, it comes with a perception casted on it, the doer's emotion and psyche towards the task! Ah... very difficult to put it across in black and white, but as you read the book, you can connect to it pretty easily.

There are a few "Rules" at the beginning chapter - again, it's a "Who don't know?" but it's really "How often it's practise?!"

The 1st rule of frog eating is: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest first.
That is to practise 先苦后甜nothing more worse off will come...

The 2nd rule of frog eating is: If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn't pay to sit and look at it for very long.
So, it's a matter of time, isn't it? Don't prolong suffering - the longer you wait, the more fear, the more worry will be generated... 速战速决,长痛不如短痛 cut short the pain.


Friday, March 21, 2008


Something new, introduced by BY two days ago... interesting... it's called voicethread (

First impression: It produces a multimedia presentation that allows once to add commentary - in the form of voice, text or even 'freehand' sketching - be it by the author or the viewer.

Hm... would say, it's slideshow that comes alive?!

Saw one interesting production by a 10-year old boy on his trip to Washington DC this March.

This gives me some ideas for this web application to be used:
1. Language - get pupils narrate an experience/story? (eg.
2. Get pupils to describe a process - this could be science? maths?
3. Fieldtrip - as shown in the example
4. Combining the above, it could be interdisciplinary, too...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Venturing into 'new' tools?

Am on leave today... but that created the opportunity to 'play' with an online tool - "Chat". Haha... In fact, it was a very imprompt to (on Thursday) to ask everyone in the subject cluster to go into the chat on the following day - it was an appointment, and there's a mission to accomplish... hahaha...

Don't be surprise... Am really new to chat, although such a tool exists for ages. Well, different people have different strengths - that's where we could embrace diversity and one's strength(s) to complement each other, right??? :P

Chat has exists for ages but I have not been bothered how to use it... despite the fact everyone - colleagues, students had talked about it.

The motivation...

  • The Fear factor. No, no, no... I'm not joking. Yes, I was worry after attending Monday's eLearning workshop. Maybe I should re-position it... it''s driven by Needs... since we are going to model the use of the tool when conducting the eLearning model in May! So, time to catch up...
  • Yeap, "Chat" is one of the most basic collaborative tool when one could not do a face-to-face meet-up. This morning would not be fruitful if without the participation of peers! Thanks, folks! Yeap, something we can't quite experiment on our own... and certainly, it requires people who are game enough to explore to make the experience a good one :D

The experience...

  • For a first-timer, excitement and anxiety - the moment when we first got connected to others and start to manage the little icons/hyperlinks in the little dialogue window.
  • Impatience - it really goes back to how fast one thinks and how fast one types! hahaha... and especially when we don't 'see' any action from the others. What crossed my mind? "What's happening over the other side?". Do you notice that as far as one types, it is reflected on others' screen that "so-and-so is typing"? It's also exciting to see when more than one started to respond at the same time. It's an indication that one is around. Of course, when there's silence, that doesn't mean the others are not engaged in front of the computer - they could be thinking.
  • Oh yes, being away from the office added 'authenticity' to the activity - when one fellow could not do any face-to-face query... all help and guidance has to go through the 'chat'... Can't possibly ask students to do all discussions via the handphone or via mass emails, right? BTW, folks at Level 14 did a good job in saving me handling 3 separate chat windows! hahaha... U made it!

Learning points...

We are able to pre-empt better the kind of problems that one has to look into so that users can emerge in a 'conducive environment' for an activity via the platform. There are at least 2 aspects - the user psyche and the technical aspect.

  • For all to participate in such synchronous activity - the first important step is: Coordintation (a) REPORTING TIME to go into the chatroom! How do we know if all's there? Using GMail, the 'presence' will be reflected when one logs in. (b) Who is going to create that Chatroom (ie. who's the one going to initiate and start inviting others). Yes, need someone to initiate and invite. Beware - 1st time users can be so confused and would probably create several rooms and going into the wrong rooms! Hey, this was what we experience!
  • The Focus of the discussion - Yes, we're there for a purpose - it's not just casual talk and say hello. We wanted everyone to contribute constructively. To make the session fruitful, we have to define the topic of discussion. It would be even better if we know the topic before the session, ponder over it and start rattling when we meet online. This will also give a better control over the amount of time (for this meeting). In our maiden attempt, setting up a smooth-operating environment is at the top of our agenda since many of us (in the team) are not that familiar with group chat... It took longer than expected (only allocated 1 hour for that). But I thought the time spent is useful, for us to share the experience and "how to overcome these potential hitches" with our participants in the workshop. Of course, the one who gain most ought to be the team, as we go the chance to experience it! Hey, this is experiential learning :D
  • We also discover the "log (tracking/recording)" feature - that the dialogue is automatically logged in under the 'chat' page. #1: It captures the learning process! We had a hard time thinking, how online chat can be 'recorded' as an evidence of learning process. When the activity is designed with this in mind, one could easily retrieve segments to illustrate the learning. #2: We can always surface pertinent points in the discussion as follow-up. Of course, as a teacher, to monitor pupils' participation - Ah ha... whether they have 'attended' the virtual class!
  • It could be chaotic when there are 'side' conversations in the same chat room. For instance, we might be asking for a response from a particular participant, however, did not specify whom the message is targetted at. The rest may be confused? To answer or not to? So, some kind of norm has to be established.
  • Back to reality - all would not be smooth unless all technical issues are resolved...
  • Browser - different browsers (Internet Explorer or Firefox) results different 'look' of the platfom. On Monday, we noticed that not all systems support GTalk (oh yes, can't find the icon on Kevin's iBook). Today, we notice that different versions of Internet Explorer also offers different degree of access - IE7 allows the user to initiate a group chat whereas IE6 behaves more passively, waiting for others to invite. See? If all of us acted so quickly to resolve the problem by installing Firefox, then would not be able to tease out this workable way... who knows? our students use different versions/types of browsers - it's obvious that teacher has to anticipate and be able to guide pupils to work around the problem.

The (shared) Calendar...

  • The Calendar can help to coordinate - especially when it involves a group of people. Time and date - of course, it's also every participants' responsibility to visit and see his/her calendar, as well as the shared calendar.
  • Discovered that we can add others' calendars to ours - so convenient! While we can maintain our own personal calendar, we can also reflect events of others' calendars on ours! Good for planning :D
  • There's the "Discusssion" / "Add comment" feature available in the calendar feature, too! That is helpful in disseminating info or inviting inputs/feedback for a particular event.
  • Oh! It comes with a 'security' measure - only those who have been invited can add in comments - and of course, it's the login username that's reflected there... so can monitor who have input or not, based on the replies
  • Also discover one 'constraint', ie. no one can delete/hind/amend the comment once it's up (even the owner of the calendar). Ah ha! That reminds users to exercise responsibility in speeches!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My Takeaway - Robotics Workshop @ Admiralty Secondary

Arrived early... and was prepared to spend the day in the school. Yes, seldom that we have full-day workshop.

This is one of those Maths workshop that demands lots of preparation - equipment, testing - partly because it comes with experiments! Ah... Science experiments!!! There, the cling-cling-clank-clank stuff - torch lights, (different types of) mirrors and of course, the stars - Robotic cars!

It was rainy... The room (the Technology hub) was cosy... yes, we have to remove our shoes before we enter the room (which is about 2 classroom size) that is laid with carpet (for the first half) and wood (for the main activity room). The space! Yes, envy the amount of space that's specially devoted for the school's robotic programme. It's also like the showroom.

Like the table-chairs set - so compact and neat - and space saving; although it could not stand too much weight... but I thought it was good - to promote small group discussions! Think maintance is easy.


How it went...

  • Participants were attentive to the details of the activity - One pointed out inconsistency in Activitiy 1 - what's described was different from what's in the lesson plan. Hm... can't remember how this was resolved.
  • Participants were engaged with the activities - Say, in activity 1, hm... not too sure if they know "What to do" or they simply picked up whatever tools is there (eg. torchlight) and just explore (trial-and-error?). Did not see them refer back to the worksheet... but they were more engrossed to see how the robotic car moves.
  • The ability to link the concept to how the tool can be used to support learning is not clear. For instance, in the 2nd activity (Saving the Princess), as HP pointed out that, one team was quick to find the ratio (ie. the speed) so as to solve the problem... however, whether they were able to link what they are doing to SPEED, it was not clear.
  • The linking between IBL and use of Robotics in learning was weak. Just wondering - 2 'new' things were introduced to participants (which turn out that almost all had no background knowledge of robotics and IBL)... too much to grapple with. A suggestion would be: Introduce to participants how robotics can be tapped on for learning of concepts - then place emphasis on the investigative aspect. Eventually, to introduce "IBL" (perhaps for awareness?). It was no doubt we wanted to anchor the workshop with some kind of pedagogy, but being too ambitious does not generate the desired (or expected) outcomes! Then it turned out that we under deliver...
  • "Basic logistics" could be improved - eg. projected image from LCD projector was blur and too bright. Something could be done... The instability of the projection - this problem could be surfaced and addressed during the preparatory stage - it can be avoided.
  • I think... we have to re-assessed our choice of location - ought to be somewhere that is more accessible.

Some videoclips of participants and trainers... in action :D

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

CCEC 2008

on 10 & 11 March 2008 @ Republic Polytechnic
This is the inaugural conference organised for Character and Citizenship Education. The theme is, Citizens of Character.
The 1½ day conference started off with DGE's keynote (opening) address, that connected us to the matter dear to everyone of us - our rootedness, to self, to our country - it all started with SELF, and it's not just we remember it, but it's a matter of practising it (walking the talk) and creating opportunities for the pupils to practise it!

She recapped: CCE is the fundamental aspect of Singapore's Education System adn it exists for a long time. That reminded me of the 生活教育 (Education for Living, EfL) in my primary School Days (yes, I always look forward to those lessons - not much of content, but it was able to connect us to the happenings around us, getting to know the society and yes, that's when I learnt the existance of the ASEAN). 好公民 - that's what I saw among my younger brother's textbooks. Being and Becoming. Religious Studies in my upper secondary days - yes, but sadly, the impression of the subject is... it's one subject that's so easy to score... how about the value part? Hm... think my teachers had not been successful to bring that across... just wondering.. Now Civics and Moral Education... and this was followed by a series of programmes - National Education (NE), Community Involvement Programme (CIP), etc... and yes, heard of character education... though not explicitly, but there was increased emphasis on elements of Character Education when Mr Chua took over the leadership. It was not that there was a lack of emphasis in the past... but it's the positioning... oh yes, looking back, in fact, there are elements of CE in the old Elements of Office Administration curriculum - where we emphasis good traits of a member in a unit, service excellence and integrity, etc...

Yes, so much programmes were introduced to schools... But it's really the first time when someone puts everything into one - all those seemingly compartmentalised programmes seem to be connected overnight! Yes, all these go into developing oneself into good citizens - one who possess and practise the right values, of good character and let these "goods" propagate!

I can't agree more... we would have failed even if our students (even ourselves) could score full marks when 'tested' yet we do not practise. It's really a matter of getting the values internalised and translate them into our beliefs, our behaviours and actions!

DGE also pointed out one very true fact that many of us failed to see - the set of Values and Traits we want to inculcate is the same (it's timeless), but as the world, the make-up of the environment changes, they could be manifested in different forms, and of course, we are also working against the kind of (new) challenges faced by today's students! The magic formula we had in the past does not necessary work... We have to think of new ways! Take into consideration other factors... culture has changed over time... etc... Yes, this is also the biggest challenge of educators today (as educators were brought up in different environment), they have to be sensitive to the current environment.

That reminded me once Mr Chua told the SCC a few years ago - the teachers we receive from NIE in the recent years come with different set of values, and the way they see things or behave differs from us... Like it or not - we are not just dealing with students of different generation, but also teachers!

3 points raised by DGE:

  • Integrity and Honesty: When the pace of life quickens, there's a growing tendency to take shortcuts to achieve what's targetted at. Think! Are these means ethical? What are the options? What principles do we base on when making a decision?
  • Compassion: The growing divide between the Rich and Poor? The rich gets richer... The poor gets poorer (by default, they might not have become poorer, but the baseline has raised)
  • Respect: How this comes in when society becomes more diverse?

To caution us, DGE put it across as: MINDS - MORALS = MENANCE

Smart + Good is not enough, but also CITIZENS of Character who thrive and contribute - there, the sense of rootedness and being resilient, gracious, and remember, to reciprocate by giving back to society.

There comes the ABC of Character Education:

  • Anchor in Values
  • Bring values into action
  • Contribute to society

Anchor in Values

  • What values should school teach? and whose values does the school teach? This could be controversial.
  • 6 core values - R³ICH - Respect, Responsible, Resilence, Integrity, Care, Harmony. In fact, harmony is especially emphasis because of the Singapore context - when we are vulnerable to conflicts among the different make-ups of our country.
  • NE messages - How we can hold together as a country; and being competitive as a country
  • School Values - which, more often than not overlaps with the core values. School values, on one hand share the common grounds (with the overarching core values), yet there are emphasis on those that are dear to the school's heart, to remain distinctive.

Bring Values into Action

  • Values are to be internalised through practice.
  • What are the opportunities available for pupils to practise - through CCA, PW, Fun fair, etc...
  • Equipping pupils with social emotional competencies (SEL) - to raise their self-awareness and being able to self-manage one's desire, to heighten social awareness and being able to manage relationships.
  • Eg. Children lack the competency to acknowledge mistake and apologise with sincerity.

Contribute to Society

  • 5Cs: Compassion, Care, Courage, Charity and Commitment
  • Pupils need to learn to put values into action
  • Payback, Pay forward; Community Involvement Programmes

The emphasis is therefore: Pupils are immersed in the experience, not the activity.

The 5 Ps of Character and Citizenship Education:

  • Pupil, our focus: The belief that every pupil can learn - every pupil can be good; Nurturing character takes time and therefore should avoid quick fixes.
  • Creating a Holistic Experience: Hidden curriculum is to inculculate values! The moral climate of the school matters! 2 perspectives - to be taught or to be caught ($5 bill illustration) - are Unacceptable behaviours in school pervasive?
  • Partnership - engaging home and community: To seek alignment of values; garner support and establish partnership. Find out from parents: Is there anyway we could find out what kind of children they wish to have? Feedback to parents: Not just academic performance, but also their character and citizenship development.
  • Providing Professional Support (Professional Development)
  • Having Clarity of Purpose: Whole school approach; Clarity of purpose and Unity of purpose. Who own the interest? Everybody in the school!

Click HERE to see exhibits by some schools.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Workshop: Secondary Students' Understanding of Distributive Property

@ Singapore Polytechnic on 5 March 2008 (3-5 pm)
by Dr Ida Mok Ah Chee 莫亚慈
From the beginning, Dr Mok already 'tuned' our expectation - she emphasized that what's she going to share is on a study where she used an instrument to diagnose the 'cause', and not to propose any solution to the problem identifed. The purpose is to surface symptoms so as to help one to draw out more information about a problem. She also shared that, from the researcher's point of view, we learn from when the 'subjects' made more mistakes - there's where we could find out how one thinks.

Was wondering - what's distributive rule - to me, it's just a procedure that we perform, when need to 'open' brackets - ie. doing expansion. It's amazing, especially when we go beyond 2 terms within each factor. Things can get so complicated and become out of hands!

In fact, it goes all the way back to our understanding of the 'letters' used in mathematics - its meaning changes when put in different context. Here are some commonly made mistakes when dealing with distributive law.

Example 1: (t+1)²
=t² + 1²
= (t² + 1)

Example 2: 5 (x²)(2xy)
=(5 x x² )(5 x 2xy)
= (5 x² )(10 xy)

Example 3: cos 90° - cos 30°
= cos(90° - 30° )
= cos 60°

At one point, it's mentioned that Distributive property is a systemic rule that links multiplication and addition - and in fact, division "is" multiplication while addition "is" subtraction. Well, sounds abstract??? Not really, it brings us back to the fundamentals...
  • 5 - 2 = 5 + (-2)
  • 5 ÷ 4 = 5 x ¼
Dr Mok shared with us the 4 questions that were used in the study; and all participants had the chance to attempt (of course, we were reminded to think - how our pupils will respond to those questions! Hey, that sounds familiar, isn't it?) True enough, a range of strategies (to solve the problems) were shared - some were the 'long-forgotten' methods like substituting numbers to test! Here are some: