Sunday, March 29, 2009

20090326 Visit to the Classroom of the Future

It's the second time visiting the COTF. Well, hoping to see something new... hm... was more like hoping for surprises, compared to my previous visit together with Timothy and San Chye 3 years ago.

Well, one difference is - the "smart card" that we had in the last visit has been upgraded to an UMPC... hm... more interactive :D By and large, the concept is still quite similar (though there are some new enhancements)!

The sequence we entered the room was reversed. We visited the cafe first. Ah! Placing order of the favourite cappuccino via an interactive table-top! Wah! So seamlessly! Well, well... recall seeing something like this is Sakae Sushi (if remember correctly), but it's placing order via the little computer (think it's UMPC) mounted at the side of each table.

One thing brought up was, the technology is still single user-touch... it would be more interactive if it could move beyond one user!

Next, it's where "business" comes in play... hm... it's like having a tablet PC (with a touch screen, just what my Fujitsu offers now) lying on the table. Well, I guess the advantage is, it has a large screen... and therefore allows participation for a slightly larger group of about 6 students.

The cluster search engine presents a new way that search engine can "appear" - seems more customised... of course, this comes with special attention to organising the resources and information!

In terms of practical use... hm... it's a good to have, I guess...

Going into the MRT, electronic billboards with sensors allowing commuters to download information such as previews to musicals, snippets of clips and even discount vouchers! Ha! That's very convenient... and Ah! what an innovative and enterprising way to reach out to a wider audience!

I think, the most impressive amongst all would be the immersive classroom - where we were all excited over the 'huge' 4-screen size projection. Of course, also saw the value of using it for learning.

Well, the first thing we experience is... being immersed in an ocean... as if we were surrounded by the sea creatures! Well, we also notice the remaining walls were covered with mirrors... to create that effect of depth and over-encompassing

Technical aspect: It's made up of a computer that is configured (with some software applications) such that it could capture 4 screens. Each screen is projected out by a back-projector. With a wireless keyboard and mouse, the facilitator could manipulate the screens to be projected out.

This is quite similar to what Glenn shared the other day, when, in an US school, students' screens are projected out - displaying their findings on the topic that the teacher is teaching.

An example of classroom use is the study of landscape and design of city-building, probably in Geography lessons... Perhaps also virtual field trip.

One may argue why do we need such a huge screen (investment!) for this while a computer screen would be enough to display. Well, I think, it's really the 'user experience' that's different... when it's huge and you are surrounded by it... it's simply put one in a subreal environment, having the urge to touch what's displayed!

The Photo Album:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Exploring entities related to the "new" fruit...

Some useful links...

About Tri-Rivers Educational Computer Association

Apple Professional Development Sales Tool: Systems Leadership in the Digital Age

Planning for Technology, an analysis

Apple Education

Values Day @ YJC

It's the 2nd time visiting YJC - for the same purpose: Values Day.

It's just very carnival-like... with stalls from games to handy crafts to snacks and even games! There's wider variety than last year's! The overall atmosphere was relaxing and the entire show is run by the students! Wah! Can we do the same for our students? I wonder.

It was just the day before when we discussed about to what degree are we comfortable enough to relax the rule or guidelines, and having trust in our students being able to get things done on their own. One good point brought up was - in our eyes, the secondary one students are the youngest amongst all in the school and we forget that they were the most senior in the primary school system and many a times, they were entrusted with much more responsibilities that we had doubt they could shoulder! What an irony!

Apart from the Principal's hospitality, what left an impression were....

(i) The personalised test-tube... it's a combination of art and science... hahaha... Science, not because test-tubes were used, but it's changes of the gel colours as a result of osmosis! Charging at $3 per tube, the profit margin is definitely high...

(ii) The hunted house is the another good one... Ok, applaud the students' effort, it's definitely more 'haunted' than the one we experience in London Dungeon 2 years ago! Not much special effect, though... but it's the complete darkness that creates the fear factor! Hahaha... laughed my way out the haunted journey... Good effort!

Friday, March 13, 2009

NUS Museum

Didn't know there's a NUS Museum till visited the University Cultural Centre for the "Discoveries in Science" exhibition.

It's a mixture of paintings, sculptures and installations! Wah! Ambitious, isnt' it? Within that small floor area... didn't create, but I think they are from the local artists!

One interesting installation is the blooming garden - Boom Blooms!

See gardener - work in progress? Yes, it's a audio installation, whereby each flower sings a different tune... and putting them together (and after they are programmed), it would "perform" like a choir/ orchestra.

The other one is just a painting with the few words scribbled there: "I like to see myself as a Prophet". Some quick analysis:

The painter is probably a believer of Islam - because of the word "Prophet". Why wanted to see himself/herself as a prophet? What's the role (or duty) of the prophet? He's the messager of god? He's one who could predict or foretell the future? Oh... someone who would give advice for the goodness of people around him/her?

Discoveries in Science (13 March 2009)

Went to the exhibition on Friday. Was expecting some interesting installation or displays to illustrate (more concretely) the researches that the faculty showcased.

Well, in terms of visual display... it's the 'standard' kind of booth exhibition... Posters and some 'still objects' in display... ok, except the glofish... and the spiders!

A couple of showcase projects that caught our attention include:
  1. Glowing zebraglow in the tank
  2. Spiders that fall in love in UV light
  3. What are some plants that can be used as medicine?
  4. Story behind the uniquely Singapore’s gift – the RISIS Orchid.
  5. Mathematical braids

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Reflection: Workshop - Weblog for Maths (5 & 12 March 2009)

Workshop @ Compassvale Secondary. Workshop blog:

Am into the "next 50%"... hahaha... only those who have the background knows what it's about :D

Something new today - partnering with a colleague - Grace, who just joined ETD for barely a week! And it's the first time meeting her (for this partnering relationship). Though went through the workshop details once with Ghee Han and Audrea, and received the handouts via email a couple of days ago - it's still not as good as having sometime to discuss and go through with the partner prior to the session, although the entire workshop is largely guided by the revised IG and the blog. Fortunately, the workshop is something that I'm very familiar with... yes, past experiences count.

The group seemed small as the pool of applicants was divided into 2 groups - cosy & manageable...

  • The amended IG (received) said, the 1st 4 activities said employ the jigsaw (expert group) strategy. Oh... something recommended during the team's critique (which I need not be present, fortunately or unfortunately). Neverthless, after weighing purpose of the activity vs efficiency (so that can complete the tasks within a given timeframe), We decided to go back to the previous approach - participants really taste what's like when answering questions via a blog. It's through such participation that participants are able to connect to the activitie and the thoughts (and even anxiety) that students would probably go through. At the same time, it also allows us to role-play and share some of the classroom strategies.
  • Still, first activity get everyone to contribute their inputs - all 21 participants submitted. It's from their inputs that we brought up points like eliciting prior knowledge and connecting to real world application. Of course, also shared the strategy of getting all responses to come in.
  • It's the first time we encountered so much problem in registering for the account... Just wondering why.... Is it because Blogger has become smarter... and detected an increased in traffic coming from the same IP address? I guess it must be... hm.. probably it has been refining its system (it's just like, we were 'told' the maximum number of blogs per account is 100... while we already exceeded way beyond).
  • Something new, compared to previous years, was the part on viewing a range of learning activities posted by teachers, to understand the purpose and how they monitor students' learning/participation. This time, inputs were captured via the electronic form created with the googlespreadsheet. Ha! It's another illustration of mash-up!

Session 2

It begins with a recap with the 4 activities participants attempted at the beginning of the workshop. Ah! I remembered all 4!

Only 4 participants gungho to get their students to try... and that's good enough as their experiences already helped to bring out salient points to take note of when one intends to use blog for Maths lessons!

  • In fact, one of the participants even get the students to feed their inputs by getting them to take turns to use her laptop. I really admire her courage to try...
  • One feedback was students were sceptical ... yes, I think not just students, but also some of the participants who signed up for the workshop might have this thought, "See what you got to say... " I guess, no matter what, it's really, the spirit of trying that matters!
  • That's also why most of the time, we'll start off with simple and manageable activities.
  • Just wondering... if the outcome of this segment would be more fruitful if participants are given 2 weeks instead of one week to attempt the class activity? Hm...

Time passed very quickly... Be it doing the blog aggregrator or the group blog... Blog aggregator works pretty well, looks like everybody could follow through.. while group blog - I guess is a bit abstract... but certainly, the powerpoint slides help... also, the part that gets participants to point out the differences between being the adminstrator and the co-auhtor helps, too! The facilitation of this part could be more structured, though...

Anyway... all came to an end at just past 5 pm... That adds up to 100% of the CIP commitment this year...

It's a good break from the work doing now... I guess, also because of the different role I play this time :D


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Research Editorial Workshop - Session 1

This is the 1st session of the 3-session workshop on Research Editiorial Work, by Dr Soh Kay Cheng.

Know that this is useful to the writing of the Proposal... but thought that I'll be yawning my way through... Surprisingly! No, I was wide awake throughout... perhaps, it's pretty hands-on and it's delivered in an easy to understand manner... of course, also found the opportunity to seek inputs for the Proposal!

Things covered

(A) The structure of an Action Research Paper

1. Introduction

  1. General introduction of the PROBLEM. It comes with a description of a problem
  2. Literature Review of about 6-12 articles within the 5 years. The reading need not be extensive. These articles are to be reflected under Reference.
  3. Specific problem, which could include the hypothesis.
  4. 1st & 3rd points are linked.
2. Method - This is moving into the project

  1. Who are the participants of the research project? Terms used include "Samples", "Subjects" but in this workshop, we will use "Participants".
  2. What are some peculiar characteristics or features about these groups of participants - for instance, the entire group are boys, half the class speak Mandarin at home, etc. This would allow us identify some of the limitations of the research project under Discussion & Conclusion.
  3. Note the terms used: The group that undergoes the research treatment is referred to as "Experimental" group, "Project" group (in this case). The group that does not go through treatment is referred to as "Controlled" group, "Comparison" group (in this case)
  4. Procedure: How the project is carried out. For example: The project group uses ICT in the research whereas the comparison group goes through the tradition chalk-and-talk method. If there are too much details, then reflect key information like timeframe; include others under Appendices.
  5. Measures: How evidences are collected (e.g. by tests)
  6. How data is analysed: Sometimes this component, may or may not be there, it may be subsumed under Procedure.

3. Results

  1. Based on analysis, what's found?
  2. Survey results

4. Discussion & Conclusion

  1. Recap problem - 1 paragraph about what the study is about and who's involved.
  2. Implication for instruction - mention if any contradiction to the literature review (Reflection)
  3. Limitation - It's on the basis that no research is perfect, and therefore there is always room for improvement. For instance, the study only involves boys, hence the outcomes could be different if it's a co-ed class. Note that resource constraints should not be cited here. These are not considered limitations.
  4. Further suggestions.

5. References

  1. List of literature reviews
  2. Needs to be consistent with those quoted under Introduction.

(B) Purpose of Literature Review

  • To see if people have done similar things
  • Look out for pitfalls people have encountered and hence avoid
  • Sometimes, not sure of outcomes; so read to find out to gain more confidence in the research direction

(C) Project Group vs Comparison Group - Mistakes to Avoid

  • This seems to be a common mistake, as mentioned by Dr Soh - that many RA uses the pre/post test of the same class as the basis for 'comparison'!
  • In fact, to carry out research, there must be 2 groups - one that have gone through "treatment" while the other remains "original", go through the kind the conventional approach as usual.
  • Only then we can make a comparison of the 2 groups.

(D) Scoping of Research Topics for Action Research

  • Focus is to solve a classroom instrumental problem.
  • For AR, it should be related to classroom practices - for instance, the use of ICT in learning language; rather then "compare the outcomes when students go through IBL and PBL programmes.

Other web resources:

10Cs into Better Teamwork

It's from the book - Teamwork makes the Dream Work - Together we can do the impossible - by John C Maxwell.

One of the books bought recently - it's easy to read as it doesn't come with paragraphs of text... nevertheless, it doesn't mean what's carried in it are superficial... it fact, the few the words, the more to think over the lines... chew and chew... Ha! notice that I've been using this verb quite often recently? Really, it's like chewing gum, one just need to chew over and over again... and it emits a different kind of taste and fragrance... the juices simply change as the piece of gum goes through repeated chews... It's not just chewing gum, but also applies to others - ha! like bakgwa! (indeed, I've not chew any gums since my primary school days!).

Here are the 10Cs cited in page 21 of the book. Of which, for some, could interpret from my observations and experiences... but for some, still quite not able make connections... maybe it's a matter of time... the accumulated experiences and exposures will help, I guess...

1. Commitment that inspires results
As John C Maxwell said, "Ordinary people with commitment can make an extraordinary impact on their world."

  • Yes, one might possess all the talents, skills and knowledge to do a great job, however, if one is not committed - or being half-hearted... not giving his best, it'll just be a mediocre piece of work.
  • According to the book, "The 17 essential qualities of a Teamplayer", Commitment usually is discovered in the midst of adversity (p23). People won't really know they are committed to something until they face adversity. Struggles strength a person's resolve. Adversity forces commitment, and commitment fosters hard work.
  • How do we decide what are the things we are going to be committed to? Well, many a time, it's linked to our value-system, it's also coherent to our beliefs. Then, it's also when we are able to keep to our commitment.
2. Contributions that make a difference

  • I believe this is really referring to embracing the strengths of the team members - each individual comes with his/her own set of experiences and expertise... that's when we leverage on each others' strengths at where it best fits to bring out the best in a piece of work.
  • Big or small, it doesn't matter - one may lead the project, however, one would not be able to complete the entire project without the participation and contribution from the team members. Like it or not, there's no one man show - there might be just one Project Leader, but everyone is a leader in his/her own way.

3. Competency that raises the standard
As Howard W Netwon said, "People forget how fast you did the job - but they remember how well you did it."

  • True... what really leaves an impression or what people really remember is the outcome of the work done. Also, varying importance of the piece of work triggers different kinds of attention. For a job that's so routine - people will only take for granted that "It's a Given", that is, an expected performance which one could not go below. In such an instance, when things don't go well, it becomes very glaring!
  • On the other hand, when it's something new, praise and credit follows when the job is successfully completed. Of course, it also takes into account if one has prior experience to handling similar jobs.
  • Being competent is only one level - that is being equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge, however, executing is when we observe competence! This usually takes in extra effort - and also setting the performance target beyond just the requirement needed by the job. One has to be committed to excellent work! For this to take place, it is necessary to pay attention to small details, however, it does not mean one must work on all small details - but the ability to assess and identify critical ones to work on, being able to see the big picture and look at both macro and micro levels.

4. Communication that increases effectiveness

  • Here's Aesop's fable - The Lion and the Bull: Three bulls lived together... Though they ate and live side by side, they did not speak to one another. One day, the hungry lion came and he knew he would not be able to overcome the bulls becuase they would overpower him. So, the lion approached the bulls one at a time - since the bulls did not speak to one another, they didn't realise the lion was working to separate them. The lion, which was crafty, succeeded in dividing them and attacked them individually - to satisfy his hunger. The moral of the story is "United we stand, divided we fall"... however, what made them fall? Absence of good communication!
  • With pervasive use of technology, we now tend to leverage on technology for communication - from handphone to computers! Yes, email... at a click of the button, the message goes and awaits the receipt. It's almost immediate. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that, no matter how convenient email is, it still doesn't quite bring out the true expressions of words we want to say. The use of written words informs the reader the sincerity of the message. Nevertheless, when heard, it allows one to differentiate "genuine" sincerity or it's use the use of words. That's why the language people always stress the importance of tone! Indeed, I learnt through the hard way, too... So, when possible, talking is still better than anything.

5. Cooperation that creates harmony
Still trying to figure this out...

6. Chemistry that enhances the team's potential
According to, Chemistry (in this context) refers to:

  • the interaction of one personality with another: The chemistry between him and his boss was all wrong.
  • sympathetic understanding; rapport: the astonishing chemistry between the actors.

It's about the interaction, the degree of bonding the team has. How to cultivate such chemistry among the team members? I think, several elements are necessary - Openness, Trust and Understanding - to create the kind of environment that encourages the desireable team spirit.

7. Creativity that enlarges the team's potential
Still trying to figure this out...

8. Confilict management that reduces tension rapidly
When we face conflict, we will try to avoid the person whom we have problem with. Of course, very often, when conflict arises, we could only see negative motives and actions in others and are blind to our very own actions or responses to the entire situation.

  • Preventation is always better than cure; although another school of thought says, having gone through and resolve the conflict, the team strengthens. Yes - Provided it's resolved, Provided all have an open mind to accept own's responsibility in the entire conflict matter!
  • Open communication and maturity are really the means to prevent conflict. The focus is on the matter, and it should not bring in personal reasons! This is the first step, to deal with it in an objective manner! Rule by the Head, Not by the Heart.
  • Conflict often arises because of mismatch in communication. We take for granted that all in the team interpret the team's objectives in the same manner. Not necessary. We came with different background and experiences - and often, we make inference to our past experiences, which could be very different from one person to another! Sometimes, it's also because we have not explain clearly where we are coming from, hence leading to some decision made in certain manner.

9. Cohesiveness that allows change to be rapid
It's about speaking the same voice is a pre-requisite to this.

  • Before that... shared vision and mission are critical...
  • Having understood how each member in the team carries out their responsibilities - the trust and support for each other
  • Being able to see the big picture and therefore able to act in a manner without jeopardising the good work done by all in the team.

10. Community that makes the journey fun.
Certainly... a community is needed... whether it's fun or not, I think, it's subjective though it reflects the team's cohesiveness and closelessness.

For sure, having someone to talk to and consult makes a difference!

Eat that Frog - Revisiting

Bought this book last March... it's one of those self management book . The full title is "Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time" by Brian Tracy. Ha! The title looks attractive, isn't it? Yes, yes... how to kill procrastination? I like to procrastinate! Yes! Especially when it comes to something I'm not too sure... I don't quite like to do... hahaha... like reading a book, writing minutes!!! hahahaha.... colleagues who know me would like this...

In fact, made an effort to read the 117-page book... oh yes, by doing so, I was trying to eat one of the frogs! hahaha... managed to go all the way to p43! There's where my last pencil mark found! Yes, have this happen of penning down little notes or highlighting text... Oh yes, I even have a blog post on that - my initial thoughts! Then... I stopped! Er... maybe should say, the frog won! It survived! Till I'm re-visiting it again... one year later... starting off with the audiobook. Yes, I thought perhaps that helps me to continue the frog feast... but also help me to chew and get the essence out of it.

Yes... lots and lots of frogs... but many arises because of procrastination - from non-urgent upgraded to urgent things to handle! It's not that I'm not productive, but, it's procrastination! Ha! What a good word to blame!

... some phrases came across... that struck me deeper now, compared to my first attempt...

One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not be done at all (p10)
Yes, this is the most cruel reality! Well, if it's something one likes to would normal put in all the time and effort (and soul!) into it... sometimes lost its way and deviate from its original/intended course... as a result, time and effort are wasted! This is most cruel when there's no way to tap on this outcome at all! Hence, clarity and focus are very important in the direction one undertakes!

Six-P Formula - Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance (p15)
Yes, it takes time to plan - to plan means to do extensive planning, sometimes. To look at both macro and micro views. Only when one has a full picture - that's when contingency plans and the "how" to react to changes/situations come in to support the entire programme. It's not nitty gitty - it's not kiasu or kiasi - but just to reduce as much mistakes as possible - indirectly saving us to do damage control and wasting time to re-act to it...

OK... will continue to eat that frog on my way home... shall chew and chew...

The Frog Principle and Budgeting

Casually flipped through one of the books bought recently - "Follow Your Heart - Finding purpose in your life and work" by Andrew Matthews... There, one section talked about the Frog Principle, which caught my attention.

Yes, the story of the boiling frog is well-known... the moral of the story to being sensitive and alert to changes in the environment, otherwise, 死了都不晓得是什么一回事。

But, the add next analogy echoes something that we should look into very seriously... and I believe not many would associate it to... the importance of budgeting and spending. This struck me more especially when recently, we are working on some budgeting for our department and expenditure for some school publicity events.

... When you overspend on your budget by $10 in a day, it's no big deal. But if you do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, you end up broke. For people who go broke.... it usually isn't one big disaster - it's a bit of today and a bit of tomorrow - and then one day "Kaboom!" - and they say: "What happened?"

Life is accumulative. One thing ADDS to another - like the drops of water that wear away the rock. The frog principle is telling us to watch the trends...