Sunday, May 30, 2010

Glogster - an exploration

Chanced upon this new online application while checking out (inside ThinkQuest) for an ADE who worked in Suzhou - Glory Goh, a Singaporean who was also an ex-Teacher, currently working in the Dulwich College Suzhou.

There comes Glogster! It seems to be an dynamic poster application! See what I've created... We could add animation, and even multimedia clips (e.g. video, audio) to the poster as well! Oh yes, we could also upload our own files (including images and clips!)

An interesting productivity tool to consider!

Try click and hold down at the images - We could enlarge the images uploaded to the poster!

Something that I realised it could not work with - at this point of time - i.e. Keying in of Chinese characters... it failed miserably - although 'accepting' the keying in process, the characters were not displayed. Of course, the poster remains 'portrait'.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

ThinkQuest.Org - a collaborative platform

My first encounter with the word "ThinkQuest" was almost a decade ago... Yes, which many local educators came to know it as a competition (er... a competition portal, too? I guess). Its fundamental challengs are: to work collaboratively with someone from another country, to come up with an educational website. Yup, collaboration was the key word then, I gathered.

It never came acrosss as a portal until last year when Mr Chua shared in one of the EXCO/ SLE meetings, to consider for project work... again... it was somehow forgotten, over time and shelved... Hahaha... I could imagine the degree of disappointment of not even taking a good look at it before KIV-ing it. Well, we have moved into using Google... and it's intentional not bring in another portal... again, not quite fair to it, without actually evaluating what it offers!?
[Anyway, I think no lose... till now... after we've evaluated the portal for another purpose]

So, why dig it out and talk about it? Well, well, well... it's all being 'NEED-driven'. I guess, this makes a difference! In terms of assessing its features to match the needs. I guess, this is when I learn - appreciate the purpose the platform/application serves before criticising what it is lack of. Yesterday, Mrs Chew reminded me of the analogy - do not ask for Chinese food in an Indian restaurant. Yes! It was a good one - if I want to eat Chinese food, I'll sure be disappointed when my demands not met - however, forgetting that I was in the wrong place! I step into the Indian restaurant because I wanted something that's specific that only the restaurant serves!

The same analogy applies here! Basically, the purpose of the ThinkQuest platform is to facilitate collaboration - working on a project together. Notice I added the word "Project"? Well, the purpose of adding this word is to differentiate the kind of collaborative activities that we talk about in a classroom - not so instantaneous. It's a co-contribution of ideas and materials, hence making the content enriching, and of course, the kind of 'sharing' & 'collaborating' experience of students who might not have even meet each other.

If we look at the platform, indeed, it has all that's necessary:
  • creation of pages and posts (which are equivalent to wikis and blogs!)
  • uploading and sharing of images and media files - which is definitely very useful.
  • the tracking feature enables the teacher track students' participation
  • other features like messages are useful too...

I like it being highly flexible, enable me to move and organise the various components in the page and across the pages very easily. It is very helpful - which enable us to customise the sections, hence, providing scaffolds to students too!

Being an international platform, that's where it provides and creates opportunities for collaboration, even if one does not have any partners out there at all. It's simply an online platform that encourages the community to interact and work together.

So, back to the Indian restaurant analogy. So, now we know what this "Indian" restaurant offers, it's good to think how to leverage on its features :D

Quite like the components and structures the platform provides... while it does not provide fanciful look and feel (e.g. wall papers, etc) - which is not the key thing either, it allows one to focus on what to accomplish for the task :D

More importantly, this platform works in China!!! and therefore would be a great platform for students in both Singapore and China come together :D

Friday, May 28, 2010

Video Conference Call with Macau Educators

It was a pretty exciting experience - at 2 levels:

  • Having the opportunity to share our "fruits" with overseas partners in an interactive manner via the virtual space
  • Immerse in the "video conference call" experience

It was on 19 May 2010, when we (Ching Ya & myself) did our very first SST video conference call to interact with overseas educators.

In the past, I had experience a couple of voice-only conference call. Well, frankly speaking, it's just like having more than 2 parties doing a telephone conversation. I think the only challenge is knowing who's speaking - as there're more than one party involved. Yes, it could be rude when one interrupts. It could also be confusing if 2 other parties sound similar!

For those who have done video skype might think our experience is trivial 小巫见大巫. But I guess, no matter how small a step, it's deem as a giant step if it's the first time :D Moreover, it's not just video conference, but copied with screen sharing! It's the entire presentation package!

Indeed, thanks to Apple for this opportunity - inviting us to share our learning points and the use of technology in learning in our 5-month journey. I think, apart from getting the platform to showcase the good work we have done so far, it's also the experience of using the online communication technology in an integrated seamless manner :D

The preparation, one might think it's simple... but things to take note include:

  • Having a stable connnection between the event venue at Macau and SST in Singapore! Indeed, in SST alone, we tested 2 venues - the staff room where my workstation is, as well as the Meeting Room, which landed up as our choice. We learnt that no matter what, cable connection is still most stable. A definite NO to the mobile connection dongle (which in the first place, is not made for that purpose).
  • For connection purpose, I created an AOL account so that I could use connect via this account in iChat. Well, these are the little technicalities.
  • Other little things to observe includes background/foreground lighting, voice projection.
  • The choice of projection of materials - whether it's through screen sharing or via the iChat share feature - it makes a difference.
  • We also learnt that it takes about 5 seconds for the screen to be 'stablise' (especially when switching and scrolling of screen is involved) before talking... otherwise... we would really sound like a 'broken record'! hahah...

Of course, to be able to manage all-of-the-above technicalities, we have Shin Fatt, Jiunn Hao and Timothy (from Macau) to thank! Else, the entire transmission process would not have been so smooth :D

Indeed, there were several phases to the entire sharing/presentation package:

  1. Virtual greetings via the video chat - at least we know how the environment that the participants are seated - ah! we notice they all had a macbook in front of them! The room also seemed to be dominated by men! Well, like it or not, having a visual impression makes a difference to a presenter... otherwise would be like a 盲头苍蝇.
  2. Setting the context to provide the background of SST, as well as our approach on ICT integration in the school. This was done through the keynote presentation which was projected via screen sharing.
  3. Showcase of students' work via Blog - which we did some 'switches' in-between... between the blog pages and websites we showed, as well as the videoclips (accessed and shown via the Macau connection.
  4. Switching back to Video chat for a short Q&A session.

Preparation is critical to iron out the technical issues. It also provides the presenter an idea on areas need to look out for when presenting via this platform (e.g. speak slower, getting all the necessary information & screens ready prior the session).

As a whole, the experience was a great one :D

There are several things that we learnt through this experience:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Number Devil (I) The First Night

Reading this title, The Number Devil - a Mathematical Adventure, written by Hans Magnus Enzensherger... about a relationship that changes one's perpsective and attitude towards Mathematics.

It started with numbers... the most fundamental element in the numeric system.
How "1" has wonderfully introduced other numbers into to picture!

starting from 1 x 1 = 1
11 x 11 = 121 (where 2 is introduced)
111 x 111 = 12321 (where 3 is introduced)
Well, there are 2 things to observe:
  • The introduction of the 'new' number as the "size" of the number is increased (by a certain pattern)
  • The repeated pattern within the answer - the number reads the same from left to right or vice versa!

What happens when there are 9 "1"s?

  • 111,111,111 x 111,111,111?
  • We would get 12345678987654321 (according to the pattern)
  • So is it true?

Then what's next? when we have 11 "1"s? Interesting!

Well, the calculator has failed us because it would not be able to display so many figures. How about the spreadsheet? (with more powerful processing rate?)

Well, there's what we get...

Is seeing believing? or do we rule by our left brain?
Hm... do you agree with what the computer has "said" from 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 onwards?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Why Mathematics?"

Was asked this question yesterday... "Why do you like Maths?"

I was caught off-guard! Hahahaha... It's the 1st time someone asked me this question.
I guess, if the question was asked in a different manner, "What subject you like most?" Then it would have been a much easier question to ask... That's Chinese Language (that comes its culture and history)... Which I would 'intensify' it to "Passion".

Having the passion in a subject does not necessary couple with fluency (although most of the time, one leads to another, or vice versa).

For a moment, I was trying to 'retrieve' the relevant pieces of information and organise them. Of course, because of the years of training, I realised what surfaced immediately were those responses that sound so 'politically' correct. Why Mathematics?

So, the first question is really, "Do I really like Mathematics?"
When it doesn't come with assessment and not bounded by the curriculum, the degree of 'like' would have escalated to "love", I guess. This certainly started off with good experiences since young.

Mathematics is a language. Yes, the 10 digits from 0 to 9 are simply powerful and wonderful!

  • Notice the patterns created by these 10 digits? (well, I'm only referring to the Hindu-Arabic numeration system). It could lead one into lost worlds, or worst still... a blackhole, a point of no return.
  • Just 10 digits, it could change the lives of people around! From early civilisations to today! With mathematics, there's how early civilisations came up with so many inventions that today's mankind still rely on!
  • The mathematics in nature! Mysterious and only Mother Nature knows the why...
  • The mathematical laws that reflect the behaviour of mankind & natural phenomenon.
  • The 10 digitals could make a difference to one's life! It could change one's life! one's experience! and even one's destiny!

Mathematics can create wonders... yet at the same time, it could play evil! It gives the best... and yet, it could give the worst.

Think about it... Life would be so dull if the Mathematical Language no longer exist...

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Information Avalanche - extensive "connectivity" to blame?

Social Networking platforms - Facebook, MySpace, Ning... just to name a few more commonly known ones. Indeed, there are many more... so what are they exactly?

Accordingly to Wikipedia...
A social network service focuses on building and reflecting of
social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services. Most social network services are web based and provide means for users to interact over the internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging. Although online community services are sometimes considered as a social network service in a broader sense, social network service usually means an individual-centered service whereas online community services are group-centered. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks.
Source: (retrieved, 2010, May 9)

Indeed, any network, if we were to loosely define, would be a social network... if it allows people to keep in touch and know what's happening within the community (easily).

So, other platforms like microblogging (e.g. Twitter & Plurk) create its own social network, though it doesn't come with a comprehensive suite of features or capabilites. However, it has its unique purpose. Of course, others that are less 'interactive' also started joining in the game!

"Connectivity" is the big word, and also assumed a 'must-have' feature in majority of the platform - be it a simple or comprehensive platform. It is THE way to go - To get connected and to get information channelled from one platform to another so that one could cover as big an audience size as possible. It's this outreach capability that allows information to be swiftly disseminated.

Well, the varoius social networking platforms have made "life" easy for the user - to connect in just a couple of clicks. So, good or bad? When to tap on such feature, when not to? There are pros and cons...

Indeed, I experimented several platforms and 'tested' out the connectivitiy, to experience what and how it is like...

What are the platforms that I tested to link together:

  • Facebook
  • Blogger
  • Youtube
  • Twitter
  • Plurk
Let's examine the 'inter-relationship' amongst these platforms:

  • Blog and Facebook - I could broadcast my blog posts via the Facebook account so that the post reaches not just those visit (or follow) my blog, but also reaches people who are within my network in facebook. For example, recently, I put up a post About "Lesson Study" in my learning journey blog, because my facebook account was set up such it would draw updates from that blog, a comment was posted in my facebook page, and the blog post mirrored in the Notes section.
  • This is helpful especially when we want to keep a space for specific purpose (e.g. to collect and organise our thoughts according to some specific themes). The whole collection in the blog could kept its characteristics (i.e. to remain clean and intact) while giving the content a wider audience.
  • Indeed, if the purpose of the post is to gather feedback or inputs from others, it would have opened up additional channels for inputs. On the other hand, it also means one has to visit the 2 different sites to gather, and respond to queries should that arises.

as a comment in Facebook

under "My Notes"

  • Facebook and Youtube - This is another way to announce to the whole world of any video production. While we could invite others to subscribe to the Youtube Channels for updates, it's a less seamless way of sharing such resources. Hence, riding on Youtube's capability of linking and posting clips in Facebook, it announces (automatically) to a wider audience of new productions. Here's an example when the video clip on the annual track and field was posted in Facebook. Viewers could just watch the clip without having to leave Facebook at all!

  • Twitter and Facebook - In facebook, we could install the Twitter application which allows us to tweet witin facebook, with its post 'put up' in the 'external' Twitter Page, as well as a 'comment' within Facebook. It sounds ridiculous as of... Why don't post directly in Facebook?
  • On the other hand, Facebook is able to capture the tweets posted in Twitter and 'retweet' them as comments within Facebook. Hence, giving the message a wider audience. However, this is only useful in situations when we have 2 groups of audiences who belong to similar category (e.g. students) and we would liek the same message to reach out to them.
  • One clear advantage of this 'linking up' is when one needs to gather feedback or information from the audience - now the net is casted to a wider area.

Here's an example of the tweet being 'retweeted' in facebook and message was received from the 'friends' in Facebook.

  • Plurk and "Twitter and Facebook" - The same analysis for Twitter and Facebook applies to the Plurk and Facebook. Well, loosely speaking, Plurk is Twitter's equivalent. Short message platform that permits updates in multiple platforms. In other words, what's updated in Plurk could be re-posted in Twitter, similarly for Facebook.
  • However, for any follow-up discussion within the Plurk dialogue box will not be re-posted.

For example, the following (initial) post was updated in the Facebook and Twitter pages. However, any follow-up discussions were confined within the dialogue box.

When to link and when not to link?

To link - it's obvious when one wants to disseminate information in the quickest possible way. For instance, if I've linked Plurk with Twitter, and Twitter in Facebook, then a single post in Plurk would 'spreadsheet' the news to Twitter and Facebook! Of course, there's something I did not mentioned earlier, which is, within Blog, I could also embed the "update box" for Plurk and Twitter (just like what I did in this blog, bottom right); so it's a one to many function.

On the other hand, because of this multi-links, we are unlikely to preserve the unique nature of the platform, have it exclusive for selected kind of content/ context. Sometimes, certain platforms are used to serve a specific purpose - because of this 'multiple dissemination', it would lost its 'identity', to some extent, its 'privacy'.

One example is... I was quite used to use the 2 platforms quite freely - Twitter and Facebook - for communication/ interaction with friends - at a more private manner. Now, because of the occasion use of Facebook for lesson discussion, it becomes less appropriate for me to express my reactions and thoughts... and even so, I have to use clean and appropriate words - which often requires me to think through more in depth how to express it in a graceful manner. One could say, because of the convenient links, my privacy is compromised, to some extent.

Well, after the experimentation, I've now delinked the platforms. Let's see if they would 'return' to serve their 'initial' purpose...

Saturday, May 08, 2010


a book that I finished in less than half-an-hour... (What a miracle! hahaha...) Bought the book because it's filled with lots of cartoons, but little words... (that's my cup of tea!) More importantly, bought that book because I'm a Singaporean... it's about us! It's about Singapore!

(Image from website, retrieved 8 May 2010)

The book succinctly captured the characteristics of the Singapore culture, the Singaporean characteristics and mental model! Ha! That illustrates how powerful "simple" words and visuals can do! One other unique feature of this book, especially the beginning pages... the text came in 4 languages (fronted by English, followed by Chinese, Malay and Tamil - in summary). What a clever way to weave in our nation's emphasis of the racial harmony and understanding!

Described in the Connexion.Sg website: The So Singapore Toons book features a very vibrant and distinct Singapore culture in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Our common spaces with fun facts are highlighted in this book.

At appropriate junctures, there were questions for the reader to ponder (if the reader takes it seriously). Examples include...
  • Singapore was the second most competitive country in the world in 2007. Will Singapore be just as competitive 30 years later?
  • What kind of work do you do? What have you learnt? How does it changed in the last 5 years? Will it change gain in the next 5 years?
  • What kind of memories do you have of the people and places around you?
  • When was the last time you cheered for our national sportsman/sportswoman or Team

Indeed, the book also provides some vital statistics that we could use in Maths learning :D (of course, think deeper, it could be beyond Maths learning)

  • Singapore has a population of over 4.8 million people who spread across a land area of over 700 square kilometres.
  • We have 4 main ethnic groups. We support 10 main religions, as well as welcome global talent.
  • Singapore is amongs the 20 smallest countries in the world with a population density of 6857 people per square kilometre.
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 Singaporeans live in public housing flats.
  • 64% of local respondents to a 2005 survey felt that hawker centres were unique to Sinapore. However, it was the tourist who felt more strongly about this: 90% said they were unique and 100% said they should be promoted as tourist attractions.
  • National library board posted in FY2006 that it has 1.94 million library members, 37.39 million library visitors, 28.83 million loans and 37.9 million electronic retrievals from their website.
  • Singapore consists fo 1 main island and 63 other tiny islands, most of which are uninhabited.
  • Singapore's population of over 4.8 million people comprises of 75% Chinese, 14% Malays, 8.9% Indians and 2.1% of other descent.
  • Singapore will have 200km of park connectors by 2012, which is longer than our coastline of 193 km.
  • Everyday, 5 million trips were made in public transport.
  • Sinapore has more than 3000 km of roads. Stretched from end to end, they can cover the distance from Singapore to Hongkong.
  • Singapore imported 358,177 tonnes of fruits in 2007. Per capita consumption of fruits in Singapore in 2007 was 72.3 kg.
  • The Singapore flag used in the National Day Parade is a large one at 501 square metres, about 4 times the size of a 4-room flat. It takes 30 men about 1 hour to prepare and attach the flag to the Chinook helicopter, which carries it at a constant speed of about 100 km/h.