Saturday, December 18, 2010

Habits of Mind

Brought the book with me when went to Kyushu. In fact, bought this book for more than a year, but was left in the shelf.

There are 16 habits altogether. Indeed, after going trhough a few chapters, thought some of these habits are highly applicable to Mathematics in a classroom - to inculcate the discipline of thinking and working together.

The 16 habits are:
  1. Persisting
  2. Managing Impulsivity
  3. Listening with Understanding and Empathy
  4. Think Flexibly
  5. Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition)
  6. Striving for Accuracy
  7. Questioning and Posing Problems
  8. Applying Past Knowledge to New Situation
  9. Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
  10. Gathering Data through all Senses
  11. Creating, Imagining and Innovating
  12. Responding with Wonderment and Awe
  13. Taking Responsible Risks
  14. Finding Humour
  15. Think Independently
  16. Remaining Open to Continuous Learning
I think some of these simply sit very well in the Maths classroom... and would like to introduce some of these to my classes next year :)

Some encouraging phrases that echo my beliefs (as I read):
  • [Persisting] If the only tool you have is a hammer, you will treat the whole world as if it were a nail. ~ Edward de Bono
  • [Managing Impulsivity] The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into smaller manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. ~ Mark Twain
  • [Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision] This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read. ~ Winston Churchill
  • [Creating, Imagining, Innovating] I believe everybody is creative, and everybody is talented. I just don't think that everybody is disciplined. I think that's a rare commodity. ~ Al Hirshfield

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Learning Boost - A 'LMS' application
Came across this in the eduCamp @ NP.

A pretty interesting tool that could help the teacher to manage the class schedule, attendance and even assignments, and to the extent of allowing parents to access, too! Wow! It sounds great, and there's one example of how it's being used (in SAIS!). Thanks for the sharing!

It's a pretty simple tool, though, and it's free!
On the other hand, to integrate into the school's google domain, it would mean allowing the apps to access data from the site, hence, would probably compromise the security level, I think. Hence, it's pretty unlikely to incorporate it into the staff domain.

What are some features that are interesting to me:
  • It allows one to plan the classroom layout... haha... it's a good to have where we could drag and drop students' names to the classroom layout (as we wish) :)
  • Attendance marking, which could be extracted in CSV format
  • Indication of home work (and teacher could elaborate) in the system
  • Recording of marks and review
  • Of course, parents could access!
Of course, there's one features I was trying to find... but was not there...
having a link that I could post at the public blog or embed into the GoogleSite/ Blog...

I guess it's worth exploring if one's use of the GoogleSite is not in a mature stage, which unfortunately, in my situation, we are...

eduCamp @ NP on 3 December 2010

First heard about "BarCamp" from Preetam in March this year, when attended the Asia ADE Institute. Was curious about it... it's a totally new concept, at least, to me. I guess, it's not just me... but to many fellow educators. It's an interesting concept of 'formalising' a gathering of like-minded people. It sounds abit contradictory 'cos it's supposed to be sharing in an informal setting. Haha... well, well, moving inwards from both ends, there's where the "barcamp" is :)

Indeed, very much like to know how this whole "Barcamp" operates.
I guess, having been in the education system for such a long time and got so used to organise everything with a certain format/ structure, I was quite lost how how event could kick off and how the responses like. I think, the most uncertain thing was, who's going to turn up for the event!? This is utmost to many of us, in particular, in the school environment, when we do not want to be caught with unpleasant surprises.

Hence, am thankful to have the opportunity to attend one last week.
Missed the start... but I guess I know how it was like... started with a list of topics that people are keen to share. Topics of interest are written in the post-its and these were sorted out accordingly.

Then knowing the timeslots for each topic that's going on in each room, that helps the interested participants to roam from one room to another.

Amongs those presented, there were familiar ones, there were also new ones :)
Here are some of the sharing:

1. Mobile Learning (Adrian & Ruiwen)
Indeed, this was something that I'm very familiar with 'cos what's presented was basically the activities conducted in the school. Yup, I thought the platform presented was a good one, though it's some initial ideas. Yes... there's potential for more developments. Thanks to Adrian acknowledging the school :)

Oh yes, people are looking at lighter and more portable devices. I'm not sceptical over the change of device (instead of using a macbook), to use a more 'sexy' device like the iPad. But my point is really, how we could leverage of the capability of the device and 'marry it with the application to bring about a new/ different experience! On the other hand, some old issues will not disappear even if we change to a smaller device, that is, how the students manage the device. Some 'old' problems (that sounded as if would disappear) such as having one student holding the device such that the rest would be able to view. This would not disappear. Instead, we have to teach (yes, I mean teach - sounds directive) the students to handle the device so all students could discuss and work together!

Anyway, let's see how it goes when we move on to more portable devices next year :)

2. OLPC XO laptops
The first time I see such 'toy-lookalike' laptop. It's really small - in green and white.
Yup... vaguely, I remember the demo set wa a monochrome one? (I think) or it only came with 2 colour display... with either a white or grey background (i.e. wall paper)

Something caught my attending is its display mode. So, unconventional! The icons were organised in a circle! haha... just wondering... what if we only have 3 apps? will the icons come closer? On the other hand, if I have 10 apps, then they will be organised on the arc of the circle... hence the circumference of the cirle increases! Just imagine, if there were 12 apps, then it's like a clock. We could just direct someone to "3 o'clock", "8 o'clock" position! hahaha...

A resource website was introduced: Sugar Activities

3. The use of GoogleApps to facilitate the learning process + LearnBoost (Sean)
I think, we have done very well in SST in terms of the use of the apps for learning, including the use to facilitate the processes. Am glad that we did not encounter some of the problems that was highlighted. Hm... let me think why? On the other hand, I learnt something new in this session, too! I was not aware that there were templates that could be used to facilitate specific activities or purpose (apart from those fanciful ones that I usually igore during setting up). Ok, I'm not the kind who embrace fanciful stuff if I need to choose between practicality and aesthetic :)

On the other hand, I'll try this out hwen opportunity arises :)

A new platform (new to me) was introduced... it's LearnBoost ( - A pretty interesting platform, which act like a utility tool. Would talk more about it in the next post. Thanks, Sean!

4. Presentation: Using Game Mechanisms to Improve Student Engagement (Ben Leong)
The presenter shared one of the sources of inspiration of this research is from the speech by Jane McGonigal in the 2010 TEDShow - Gaming can make a better world.

The key understanding is to tap on students' emotional response in gaming to complete assignments on time.

The approach is to structure the assignment like "games", using terms such as "Missions", "Quests" and "XP" (ok, that's experience points, based on what I gathered.. haha... I'm no gamer, anyway)... so, it's talking about connecting to the learners through their preferred mode of learning? (I wonder): The game mechanics were:
  • Gratification
  • Progress
  • Small immediate goals
  • Rewards
  • Competition
Hence, it's really about knowing and riding on the 'psyche' of the youngsters these days.
The process, needed to support the above and sustain the users/ learners' interest would include
  • Quality control
  • Timely feedback
  • Normal interactions
  • Social pressure
Wow! Gaming and Learning can join hand to become big business!

The assignment was broken down to 22 missions, together with side quests & contests. This is followed by 24h grading as well as unlocking achievements.
So, to level up, one has to gain enough "XP" (I guess).
Well, it seems to be pretty success, based on the improved number of students submitting their work on time or even earlier.

I guess, one point that the presenter wanted to bring across is, eLearning needed not to be a 'boring' platform which everyone of us know (at least in the Singapore context). It could take place in the form of game! Once they cleared each level, they will be rewarded - be it XP or the comics. Haha... someone asked, what is the relationship between the comics and the work. Well, I was hoping for some useful and relevant response. Unfortunately, no.

5. GMap & GDocs Use in a University Classroom by N. Sivasothi
Glean interesting idea from this presentation, though I'm not Geography trained (oh yes, I only did Geography up to Secondary 2! and it was so many decades ago! haha). I guess it's the appliedness of the learning activity describe that got me 'hooked' to the presentation :) yes, the use of GoogleMap has truly describe how it's applied in the real world! I also like the 'more primitive' lesson that talked about constructing the 16 pt compass! So, map reading and navigation could be so interesting! :) I think I would have enjoyed the lesson if I were in his class :)
Lesson on Spatial Awareness using GoogleMap

From the way he described how he used GoogleMap and GoogleForm/Spreadsheet to facilitate the outdoor programme, etc.. I really take my hat off for him! He's truly a true guru in these 2 applications! I hope those who attended would bring back these ideas and use the applications as well as him! :)

What resonated most was the review he carried out. Key understanding: Observe, take feedback, review and refine - Do not make assumptions, even to the simplest and most commonsensical thing! This is really something that I felt we must keep in mind!

Thanks! It's a very eye-opening session :)

6. Google Search
There are some many useful tools around us that we seldom bother to explore and use it ... so, while on one hand, we felt that we spend too much time doing something like searching information in the internet; on the other hand, we are reluctant to master the basic skills that would help to improve our search effectiveness and efficiency. Haha... What a dilemma!

Something that could be implemented in/with the class:
  • Google Search Operators: Think this has to be reintroduced, to help students to streamline their search. Well, from what we know, the NLB course actually introduced (and taught) the use to students; nevertheless, it seems like they did not apply it beyond the workshop. Let's see what could be done :)
  • Wonder wheel is another wonderful way of presenting search results, not just search results, but also the links between key words! First saw this in Hong Kong when Kathleen shared with the participants!
  • Of course, there are other great features that I've not explored or aware of! Look at the left panel. Just a search of image, it provides other parameters for the search! Wow!

  • On top of that, there's the other one on News Timeline, which seems useful to track events! I'm thinking it from the subject learning aspect - this would be great for language and humanities, and event social studies lessons!

  • Another interesting resource that Google provides is the Year End Zeitgeist. Thought that this is definitely something very interesting - and could be used in subjects like Mathematics where students see the direct application of charts in real world, and also to understand why people did so much data collection and analysis... what's the purpose and intent behind all these?
A good reminder from the presenter, which I almost forget about that totally: Google is not the only Search Engine that exists! There are others... and we should bear in mind, each has its own niche and strength, too! Time for me to review and re-introduce!

Another very useful tip, which actually hit right at the issue that most (or all?) of us face: Students don't seem to remember the search strategies! So, the suggestion is teachers to demonstrate how he/she carry out search... to reinforce the fact that such strategies are really useful, and how to apply the strategy. Ah! The key understanding here: To influence the learners' habits, role model!

Last but not least... suggestions from presenter:
  • Seek out other seekers (e.g. Wolfram|Alpha, cha cha, creative commons, yo search)
  • Bookmark a search folder
  • Customise search engines on your browser
  • Use browser plugin like Fastest Fox
  • Read about Google Search and alternatives
  • Consult librarians - they are natural archivists
  • Check for reliability and biasness - use "Wayback Machine", "EasyWhoIs"
  • Remain sceptical