Thursday, December 06, 2012

QR Codes - Have fun (visually)!

QR codes are quite commonly used nowadays - an application of technology to improve efficiency. Obvious advantage is, it saves one from keying in URLs which comes with a string of characters (although nowadays people start to use shorten URLs).

Shortened URLs are useful when we attempt the access with a computer, a device that comes with a keyboard (if we were to talk about efficiency). However, when it comes to mobile devices where the buttons of the 'virtual keyboard' fight for space to 'receive' the touch of our finger tips, here's where the QR code technology comes in very handy. No typing or remembering of URLs needed. Just scan the image using the QR Code reader! That it goes! To some extend, it is making the 'minds' to become lazier? (haha...)

There are lots of potential in the use of QR codes in education. Though up to now, we see its use as a productivity 'tool' being most common. Of course, QR codes have become increasing popular for trail activities... hm... to add that 'mysterious' flavour? Hm...

Today, come across this the website:
which brings 'enhances' the visual presentation - or to give more character or identity to the code that's generated... Here's one that I created in less than a minute :)

Tested out with my iPhone... and yes, it works (and it's free)

Saturday, December 01, 2012

"Learned Optimism" or... "Hard Optimism"

In the recent year-end staff closure session, we went through a session about Resilience... well, the one that really struck me was about "optimism", which has been defined as one of the elements. In fact, I think it's critical because it's one that generates from self, and to some extent, it demands we, ourselves to "manipulate" how we think (ok, though we put it across as we can learn to be optimistic).

Of course, after going through the survey designed by Martin Seligman, many of us, to our misbelief that we were labelled being "pessimists"! Hahaha... we were taken aback! Of course, it's really based on the perspective on how the inputs were analysed. On the other hand, think about it, it's about being cautious (or sometimes overly cautious?)

According to the write-up in Wikipedia:

"Other differences exist between pessimists and optimists in terms of explanatory style:
  • Permanence: Optimistic people believe bad events to be more temporary than permanent and bounce back quickly from failure, whereas others may take longer periods to recover or may never recover. They also believe good things happen for reasons that are permanent, rather than seeing the transient nature of positive events. Optimists point to specific temporary causes for negative events; pessimists point to permanent causes.
  • Pervasiveness: Optimistic people compartmentalize helplessness, whereas pessimistic people assume that failure in one area of life means failure in life as a whole. Optimistic people also allow good events to brighten every area of their lives rather than just the particular area in which the event occurred.
  • Personalization: Optimists blame bad events on causes outside of themselves, whereas pessimists blame themselves for events that occur. Optimists are therefore generally more confident. Optimists also quickly internalize positive events while pessimists externalize them."
So, based on my test score:

As Doreen shared (based on her reading), it's also dependent on culture! Yes, I agree. Asians tend to be more humble (like what Mrs Chew said) and we tend to work on to improve ourselves despite the fact that we are pretty ok... haha... Perfectionist in act! Of course, anything that's too extreme will have its downside. The same applies to the those who have been diagnosed very optimistic, too! So, we should not be overly concern over the score, but the score would be an indication on how we see things and put things in perspective, and sometimes they could turn out to be our strengths :)
Look from another perspective, it also to some extent an indication of how reflective we are, in terms of our actions and how we do things... the ability to look inwards, which is definitely important for us to continually strive to improve :)

Google New Search Feature - Search by Image!

This was something I thought of a couple of months ago, since I received the pot of plant because to-date, I still do not know "what" this plant is... haha... The first thing crossed my mind was, can we search by image! (without going to those portals/ forums where people talk about plants!)

Chanced upon this update by Google on search by images; and it's god-send! I would not have dreamt of search engine has become so powerful! Here's the steps described (see image below).
It's easy! I've tried!

Of course, the first thing I try is the plant! 
and this is what I got. I guess, it attempted to get the closest possible match? 
Hm... unfortunately, no luck this time... 

I suspect it's probably because the library is not huge enough or the image search engine is still in its infant stage? or it's the mechanism - the features the engine uses to match and map?

So, here's my 2nd attempt - to upload a photo I took inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Guess what! Bingo! It maps correctly! 

Here's the search result:

Hard Optimism by Price Pritchett (I) Counting my Blessings - a Reflection

"Hard optimism represents a disciplined, deliberate way of thinking about whatever life throws at us. It's about focusing on blessings rather than bad things... emphasizing opportunities instead of obstacles... explaining events to ourselves in a way that enhances performance and improves our quality of life." (p11)

True, indeed, by looking out and counting blessings, sometimes we are surprised to find there are so many good things (especially people around us) bestowed upon us! Without them, we might not even be able to get to the present stage (I won't say "state", as it's subjective).

In the recent years, when I do my work review with my reporting officers, I never forget to give credit to people around me...  the fact that what I have achieved to-date is made possible because of all the blessings that I can count on. My bosses are important, though I might not have conveyed my thanks and appreciation to them verbally. Some may see from another perspective that we are working 'for' the organisation and therefore it's an expectation that the bosses have to support what we do to fulfill what's defined in our job scope. For those who have been at work long enough (not necessary in education, but in any other business), we know that it's not always the case. Ironically, if we have stretch our 'antenna' far enough, we would have heard that there were instances where people having a hard time to get their work done because the lack of support. Ironical? Well, it happened, and it happens elsewhere too! So, we should not take for granted about the support; although sometimes we do experience frustration when we could not understand the rationale of some actions that go against what we do. On the other hand, do we trust our bosses? It's an important question to ourselves. I think it makes a difference when we attempt to rationalise some decisions or actions when we are not told the "why"s. Of course, "trust" cannot be taken for granted. It's not a given. It's earned. I believe bosses know this well.

In an organisation, there's no such thing as "a one-man show", no matter how capable one is. In fact, how capable one is does not depend solely on the expertise/ skills one has, but how he/ she works with others, or get others to work(?) (hm...). Again, one may argue that since people are assigned to the team, it means they are expected to 'work'. Now it's the effort that counts, of course, that goes back to one's attitude! That 'little difference' makes a huge difference! It's just like my encounter with two persons who were given the role of coordinators. One was full of initiative, anticipated and sought to find out what she did not know; and to ask what she did not even know. Another simply served as a messenger and thought that she had done a perfect job. Attitude counts! Be it the first or the second coordinator, I still thank them for the work they did (though it's "for" the organisation) and different degree of effectiveness; as I might end up having someone whom I need to 'coordinate' on-behalf. Well, such human being exists! So, count my blessings! Of course, I'm more thankful to the one who was exercise great initiative! So, no matter big or small kind of support, count our blessing that someone has done the work instead of having them falling back onto our laps!
So, to my fellow colleagues... thanks for all the work carried out! You may think you are just doing your job, but to me, it matters!

Success is not merely a "within organisation" matter. Undeniably, what's available within the organisation matters a lot; in my case, the external entities are very important and critical in order for the "in-house" projects to take place smoothly. Without the support from my fellow colleagues in ETD, ITB and IDA, life would have been many many more times challenging. Much appreciation to the timely advices and efforts they put into the project; and also their understanding and willingness to stand in sometimes. Well, similar to the scenario of the "Coordinator" described in the earlier paragraph. These 'external' parties were not obliged to put in extra effort beyond what's written (at the surface) of their job scope - to "support" the school! There are varying degree and level of support! And quality matters! Fortunately or unfortunately, I am able to tell and feel this difference strongly because I "worked with" officers from these agencies in my past context and had experiences that were totally different. Again, one may argue that these people have their own KPIs; however, they could just 'report' instead of coming forward at their own course and go an extra mile! These are definitely blessings, especially when they are beyond our circle of influence or control. These are  blessings that I would not have dreamt of when started the journey :) In the same note, appreciate the friendship that grows along the way, too!

Well, well... blessings are not only those we can find at work... friends around - be it their presence are always felt or only 'appear' once in a blue moon. I guess this is something that we all agree. And of course, count the blessings each day when we step into our house! How often, we forget about these people and take them for granted.

To look around... yes, abundance of blessings to count on :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Continuing "the Path"... Chap 8: To Further Expand Your Business

Two parts in this chapter that resonate with me:

Gratitude (p119):
"The prices may be the same, but people will naturally tend to patronise the shop that takes good care of its customers and is thoughtful and conscientious about its services or merchandise. Few customers will return to an establishment where they get little attention and where common courtesy and respect is not observed."

What's in this paragraph is commonsense, isn't it? Especially, as a consumer, service matters, and more people would rather pay more for a good service than to compromise the experience at a lower price. Today, the expectations has changed, in particular the consumers'. Let's ask ourselves, how many of us are willing to pay slightly more for better quality and service? Not difficult to find, right?

I therefore fully agree that "Service rendered with kindness, quality, and quickness, as well as a spirit of reverence - a business thus run, no matter where it is, will be successful." (p120)

Following Through (p129): 
"People order others to perform some task. They give directions, request tasks to be done. But it is meaningless if they simply send off orders, issue commands, and make request without following up on them, and the results would be minimal."

"Those who do the follow-up as well as those who are followed up on must cultivate the resolve and the courage to resist the tendency to leave any given task unresolved and unfinished."

How true! Indeed, how often we are guilty of making assumptions that things will go on smoothly in the hands of others, especially when it's not the first time that others execute the task? Yes, experience, and good work habits are often assumed when one is assigned to do the work that's no longer for the first time. 

Continuing "the Path"... Chap 7: To Further Improve Your Work

This Chapter discussed about work... actually, to be precise, it's about one's attitude towards work.
I'm sure different people hold different perspectives... and it's really how we define "work", I think.

I like how the chapter started - to highlight the value of "work" comes from the "meaning" behind it. Yes, it serves a purpose. Because it has its value, and therefore it has a reason to exist. It's just like some work no longer exist because their role has been 'automated' and there's no value to put a human being to do the job. It's no longer meaningful if the machine or device can do a even better job! E.g. We don't need a bus conductor in the bus anymore.

So, when we are employed to do the work, we take up the job because we first find (or at least we think we will find) meaning doing it (although sometimes the meaning 'behind' the job might have changed in our eyes, or due to changes of the environment).

Next, it examines our attitude towards work... if it's something we are passionate about, there's where we devote our time and effort into it... and soon, the thin fine line between work and life would start to become blur. Well, sometimes, we call these people workaholic, I guess, when they dwell too deeply into work and forget other things in life, I guess. However, sometimes workaholics may just fall for (or fall in love with) it.. because it has become a means they derive satisfaction from, there's where they felt driven... Hm... ok, these are words from a deemed workaholic :) Of course, it doesn't mean that workaholic doesn't have his/ her own life... except that, in the eyes of others, it seems like work is life to him/ her... confession from a 'workaholic' ~ "I have life... except that I spend a smaller portion to seek joy and satisfaction via other means, apart from work."

To quote, from p99, "A person who is devoted to and enthusiastic about his or her work may be able to exercise some say regarding the way it is done, but if it is forgotten that the work being done is for society, it could be reduced to a selfish action that is done only for one's personal interest and gain." This reminds us that work is not just a means to getting paid, but it's about giving back to the society, for the growth of the community. It serves a larger purpose. That's why we work... "What matters most is to pursue the work society has given us to do in a conscientious, humble and careful manner."

To "truly" complete a job, it's about giving the attention to ensure that the work is not just done, but properly done, and well done. It's about seeing it through to make sure it has "reached/ created" the desired impact/ outcome. It's about reporting one's effort put into the piece of work. 

It's the same when one is tasked to be a coordinator of the project. It's more than just "coordinating" information or passing information, putting the stuff together, and making sure everyone gets the info. An outstanding coordinator will see through the work to ensure that he/ she knows the reason or purpose behind the information gathering or dissemination, being able to articulate the rationale is important. On top of that, it's the following through to see that everyone understands the intent, not to wait for "questions" or "problems" that arise.

As described in p106, it says "Even if it might be a bit bothersome, the consumer is happy and grateful to know that the manufacturer is concerned about its products, and that it is serious and sincere in its post sale service." This would be the kind of desireable attitude to see at our work place, be it we are in the managerial/ coordinator role; or be it we are just team members.

To be continued in posts to come... looking back, the path made its first appearance in the blog in May 2011.

Continuing "the Path"... Chap 5: When You Face Adversity

This is one of the many good books that I read halfway and shelved... shelved not because it's no longer interesting, but because other more urgent matter took over the time...

Picked up this book (which was the first book bought in 2011) again... and I was less than halfway - only at Chapter 5. On the other hand, it's one of those books that I can afford to chew over and over again... and get connected to it :)

Here, the last couple of paragraphs set me thinking on what has been hovering in my mind in the past couple of months...

"When a situation goes contrary to plan, people seem to expend their energy on shifting the responsibility, abusing others, and blaming society." Does this sound familiar? OK, often, we can immediately associate this description with some people around us. Now, let's look at ourselves. Have we been guilty of this before? Sad to say, yes, I'm have been one of those guilty ones.

I think what the next paragraphs really reminded us not to get stuck at that 'blaming' stage, but to move on in a more constructive manner.

It says, "An entrepreneur has to have staying power. We need determination to accept the situation, devotion to revise the strategy, and efforts to build up the capacity to make the plan work. So, when goods don't sell, we would first examine why, tighten our belts, and go to work to make or develop products with qualities that consumers would be happy to buy."

Hm... think about it... this applies to almost all situations... be it in our classrooms... imagine if our students do not learn well... why? why? why? Let's look inward... though there are factors that lie on the children... but, let's look inward first!!! Next, moving on to managing organisations... same here, what do we do if we are not attracting the right people? Hm...

It's not the end. It's only the beginning. But to visit reality and face it with courage to see how to move on :)

To be continued in posts to come... looking back, the path made its first appearance in the blog in May 2011.

Anyway, the Paradoxical Commandments

The book caught my attention... when it appeared as the 'odd' one out amongst the stacks of academic books in the Lunch time Book Display earlier last week. Indeed, I took the book without looking even reading a page or two - the title tells me that its some reading that I would resonate with :)

I guess, that's what we call 缘 (Fate? Destiny? Maybe there's a better choice of word?). I'm not looking at any "10 Commandments" to abide to or to lead my life. But I think see some of my beliefs (and life philosophy) are nicely written in words by others. It's a little book of philosophy that I enjoyed chewing it over the past 2 hours.

No disappointment.  It's easy to finish this tiny book with slightly more than 100 pages. Simple reading yet I could get connected to, almost every page. Thanks, Kent Keith for putting the thoughts so nicely and neatly together. BTW, here's the website: for the complete list.

Here are the lines that I like... and for some of them, I had the ah-ha moment when I read them... enlightening :)

...Not all the 10 are reflected below:

#1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centred - Love them anyway.
  • Sometimes people appear to be illogical and unreasonable, when they are simply using a different logic and different method of reasoning. They may have different worldviews, or different experiences, or see a different set of facts that we do. (p24)
  • Yes, this is something that we might have forgotten to recognise the fact that different people see things at different perspectives. How often we remind ourselves that we should be open to see or hear from a different perspective? Then when it comes to instances when we disagree, we forget to see that others may see things from a different perspective too! Then can we accept this difference and humble ourselves to embrace such diverse view?
#2.  If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives - Do good anyway. 
  • People who are twisted and bent, cynical and tired, have usually given up doing good. Instead, they are just trying to get what they can for themselves. They justify their behaviour by claiming that everybody else is the same... They attribute their own motives to others. They see people who are doing good as people who are only pretending to be doing good, when in fact they are really after something selfish. (p33)
  • Indeed, I like the fact that it started by believing that people are old (for the start)... and how often it's the situation or environment that has changed them (gradually). In fact, these are loners who are afraid, that's why they need to speak with a louder voice to drown others and making everyone else think that everyone else agree with them!
  • You will need to do what is right and good and true. That is where personal meaning and satisfaction are to be found. (p34)
  • That's where our personal beliefs and moral compass are.
#3.  If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies - Succeed anyway.
  • It's enlightening to see how the author had differentiated: A Personal Friend, A Positional Friend, A False Friend and A True Enemy. Indeed, instead of looking around me what kind of "friends/ enemies" are around us... I think it's more importantly to ask ourselves, who are we? To what extend that I have been successful being a "Personal Friend" to others? 
  • Some people attack because they crave more attention for themselves, and attacking you is one way to get it. Others attack because they are passionate about their beliefs and are upset that you don't see things the same way. (p42)
#4.  The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow - Do good anyway.
  • When you do what is right and good and true, you will know, and you will remember. That will give you all the personal meaning you need. (p48)
  • What matter is how you live. If you are living authentically and generously, you won't worry about whether anyone else knows or remembers. (p48)
  • When you lay the foundation for the future of your organisation, you will know the good that you have done. You can also find great satisfaction in seeing the eventual success, even if you have retired or gone on to the other things. (p49). Anyway, I would like to dedicate this one to my peers - whether you were @ Clementi Ave 6 or are still @ 1 Technology Drive :)
  • Many of the best things we do for each other are little things that bring a smile or lift the spirits as we go through daily life together. Sometimes, doing good is the common courtesy and thoughtfulness. (p49)
  • Do good for its own sake. Do good because it is part of who you are, part of your quality of life. The good you do will be a source of personal meaning for you, even if nobody knows or if those who know forget. (p51)
 #5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable - Be honest and frank anyway.
  • Building trust is something you must do if you are to have successful relationships, teams, organisations and communities. (p60)
  • Yes, it is important to be tactful... Confidentiality is part of a trusting relationship... But tact and confidentiality should not prevent you from being honest and frank in most of your daily relationships. (p60)
  • Vulnerability is a door to a new relationship, new opportunities, new ways to grow, and new ways to live and work together. (p61)
#6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds - Think big anyway.
  • A "small person" is often a good person, a hard worker committed to the organisation... he or she sees life in very small terms... He has usually mastered his daily routine and doesn't want it to change. (p66)
  • A small person often sees things in terms of his or her own power or comfort and convenience, and believes that what is best for him is best for the family or organisation or community. (p67)
  • Indeed, the "small person" is defined in a totally surprising manner (to me!). It has changed my perspective! And more worrying, when I look back, I think I exhibit the characteristics of a "small person" occasionally. It's thought provoking! And how often we forget we are the small person when we think we are trying to guard the interest of others? Hm...
 #8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight - Build anyway.
  • In organisational life, what we accomplish can fade quickly. We bring people together, build teams, and work toward our goals. When we leave the organisation, we leave a legacy in the hearts and minds of the people who remain there, a legacy reflected in the culture of the organisation. (p89) Anyway, here's another one I would like to dedicate to my peers - whether you were @ Clementi Ave 6 or are still @ 1 Technology Drive :)
  • What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. But that doesn't change what you accomplished. You did something you can remember with pride and pleasure. (p90)
  • The joy and meaning that come with building will last. They will be yours forever. (p90)
 #9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them - Help people anyway.
  • Some people who need help deny they need it. They don't want to face their inadequencies. Others who need help won't deny it, but they resent it. They don't want to be helpless or dependent, they don't want to appear ignorant. (p95)
  • They may be struggling with their pride, their self-image. (p96)
  • ... the attack may not be against you. They may be angry about their conditions or fighting against their feelings of helplessness or need. (p97)
  • My heart goes out to these people. Indeed, it takes courage to manage the struggle that comes from within too. Confused? Yes, I believe they are the confused lot, too!
 #10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth - Give the world the best you have anyway.
  • The cost of giving your best can be high. The only thing that costs more is not giving your best. If you aren't giving your best, you aren't who you are supposed to be. (p102)
  • Fully agree... and to give our best, we need the support from people around us, too! Irregardless they share the same beliefs or philosophy or not :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I'm "Facebooking"

"Facebook" - to many of those born in my "era" - is something quite distant... and often, people asked, "Why Facebook?"

Well, the word "Facebook" is no longer just a noun, but it has become so tuned into human activity that the word is also used as an adjective... just like "Google" that started off as a search engine, and now people simply say that "Let's google for the ..."

I guess, this 'humanisation' comes about because it has become part of our lives - in one way or another, inevitably, we'll cross path with it - because of the "human activity chain". For instance, one of my brother does not believe spending time in Facebook, and he therefore insisted that such an account is irrelevant, and it's a time-consumer. However, with members in the family (as young as the baby) started posting stuff in the social network, he has, eventually created an account, so that he could keep in touch what's happening :) OK, in a way, he was 'forced' by circumstances; and I'm the main culprit.

Now, back to the question at the opening paragraph - "Why Facebook?"

I guess many of us, without second thought might offer the following responses:
  • To touch base with friends
  • To let others know what we are doing
  • To share what we think is good/ interesting/ useful with others
  • To subscribe to a range of services so that updates will be 'pushed down' automatically... all at one place! (for convenience)
  • To seek attention!!! (because the size of "Friends" we have become our audience!)
  • and... To stalk people! (hahah... this is what some people do... especially those who have some "idols" to  that they follow very closely
  • Basically, that's home to my cyber-self!
Haha... those are the more common ones (from the individuals).

Of course, apart from the above, Facebook has features that support educational purposes, when these features are creatively tapped on, and coupled with teaching and learning strategies.

One day, someone commented that I'm a regular to Facebook... based on my postings, I guess! (Though sometimes I do comment, but not that often).

Indeed, to look back, my reasons for visiting Facebook has evolved over the past few years. It got start because of work, when I was still in ETD, that we had to explore platforms that enable us to deliver our professional development when we ran training sessions where digital materials were to be disseminated to participants; at the same time, we wanted to promote interactivity. OK, it was about 5 years ago.
There were already some great "features" that we started to ride on - Groups and pages; and I vaguely remember there was some kind of circles, too :)

The "next" change was when first joined my current context, where I had a couple of colleagues who were looking at leveraging social network to promote programmes and activities of our new entity. It was exciting, when we started to create groups/ pages to invite 'strangers' (ok, those were people who were keen to find out more about the school and were potentially parents sending kids to our school).

Facebook 'walked' into my classroom when I realised that it's where I could get quick responses from students (though today, I still firmly believe that Blog is a better way to manage learning activities). I started a group called Mathematics in Real Life, which was in line with the teaching approach we adopted in the school. It kicked start well... and it's an open group which was only publicised amongst my classes. Well, the group size grew pretty slowly as it's exclusive - in terms of who has the 'power' to post here :)

Of course, with students came into the picture, that's where I started to maintain a different account to draw a line between my private life and the 'public (to students)' life :)

Most of the time, it was about work... but eventually I realised that its presence and features could help me organise and document my personal journey too... as I started to discover there pretty useful "facilities" like photo albums that allow me to organise photos and images in a pretty structured manner. Of course, I also like the "comments" features that the album comes with. It has made sharing very much hassle free too, as long as we manage the access rights carefully :)

I blog pretty regularly... however, blogs is where I would spend more time to craft the story. It takes more effort and really requires some quiet time to work on.

On the other hand, Facebook, because of its 'short-and-quick' posting nature, it's where it would capture our immediate responses and even reactions to things happening around us. I think that's where Facebook becomes a very convenient tool to capture the "attitude-at-that moment". It, indeed, is a good tool to document our 'growing up'. If we get the time to sit down and revisit the entire journey, we would learn not just what he/she does and where he/she has gone to, but through the way one expresses his/her view points and the choice of words and reaction, we could see how one matures over time... the whole life story unfolds :)

Isn't this beautiful? Isn't this going to be the most detailed biography?

Facebook what I did Today: Facebook - what I did in the Yester-Year x

Sunday, October 28, 2012

8 Qualities of a Wise Leader

Source: The Straits Times R16 (2012, October 27)

Intelligence vs Wisdom... are they equal?
Certainly, wisdom comes with EQ and certain degree of IQ.
Is it one is a subset of another? If represented in a venn diagram, how will it look like?
Food for thought, isn't it?

Well, here are 8 points presented by the writer (Dr Sheh Seow Wah), which I think, it's "commonsense" that worth spending time to chew and reflect upon :)

8 qualities of a wise leader that was drawn out from works of Confucius, Mencius, Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi:
  1. He believes in upholding ethics
  2. He believes in upholding benevolence and humanism
  3. He values the Principle of Moderation
  4. He emphasizes continuous learning
  5. He embraces everything
  6. He thinks paradoxically
  7. He uses fluidity and flexibility as a source of strength
  8. He interferes the least
I shall not elaborate what's written in the article; however, would leave it to our wisdom to seek deeper insights on these pointers :)

Facebook Albums for Documentation of Visual Reflection

One of the features I like about Facebook is its Album feature, which allows us to post our thoughts together with images.

Not a avid reader, the only time I really sit down to read is the weekend - which is one of the most enjoyable moments in the week (apart from watching my beloved "Doraemon")  ^.^

Newspapers reading is interesting - it's short articles that informs us of the happenings around us. It's not just reporting of events, but occasionally, insights from others. Sometimes, if we would also notice that a seemingly objective report presented its 'facts' with the reporter's perspectives 'embedded'. So, that's how mighty a 'pen' could be... it subtly sharps others' perspectives & mindsets sometimes!

That's also one reason why I find reading newspapers articles is not just for information, but it's also time when I respond with my own reflections, too! It becomes interactive. This interaction is also a reflection of our values, that sometimes we don't articulate! A collection of these thoughts, in times to come, would be a good documentation of who we are, what our values are, and it definitely helps to 'track' (or show us) over a reasonable amount of time, how we have changed, or what are the things that we hold dearly to (our principles?).

Because most of these articles come in paper (of course, there are those from the website), photographs become the most convenient means for documentation. And I choose to post in them in Facebook. One valuable feature is that it allows comments from others, where sometimes that offers different or deepened insights that help me grow, too!  And certainly the Facebook Album becomes a good platform to organise them :)

So, do drop by "ArticleMe", a public album once in a while to share your thoughts, too :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Flipped Classroom: Some Quick Thoughts

People talked about it and they are still talking about it.
Many have explored; and some are keen to explore.
We heard many sing praises over the impact of "Flipped Classrooms" to students learning. However, once in a while, we also hear people talking about the no so good side of it.

Of course, when we talked about "Flipped Classroom", it's so natural that "Khan Academy" will be mentioned... and many heard of "Khan Academy" before hearing the "flipped classroom" concept.

Came across Khan Academy several years ago. 
That time, I think it's still a pretty 'raw' version, which, to me, is merely a library of resources - yes, a very comprehensive library with video clips that were very systematically organised - and it's as good as a digital "textbook" - that would appeal to visual & auditory learners! Of course, now it's as good as a learning management system that we know - couple with exercises and even a map that illustrates the linkages across the various strands and topics within the subject discipline. Impressive!

As mentioned by Khan (, the introduction of the flipped classroom has increased the teacher-student interaction time, which is valuable, in particular, for children to clarify to learn. And I think this is the 'best' selling point of adopting the 'flipped classroom' approach; and no doubt, it helps to 'create' time for valuable personalised coaching to the individuals.

There are also suggestions about adopting the "Flipped Classrooms" in my current context. I think, while we have heard so much good things we need to recognise that fact that it's not a one-size-fit-all approach... and prior to implementation, we have to examine how to go about mapping the relevant experience of the topic to the approach delivery approach. In addition, we must also take into consideration the format/ mode of delivery (not just depending on video clips alone!).

While many (as we have heard or read from the web) shared that the "Flipped Classroom" was adopted in their practices, I think the 'how' is still not quite elaborated in details. What's often highlighted in the articles are "What a Flipped Classroom is?" "What it is not...".
The critical success factors are often not mentioned - the qualities that the teachers should possess, the mindset that both the teachers and students should adopt, the strategies that teachers need to incorporate into such learning environment, and the way the resources are selected and/or presented, the preparation of the students; just to name a few. I may sound very 'operational'... and that's precisely where I want to focus on because we understand from the big idea what it is and the impact... but as a classroom teacher, "show me how" it works most important to me! A similar analogy: To listen to some experts to tell us the theory about what "differentiated learning" is, as  compared to someone demonstrates how the strategies 'preached' play out in the classroom!

There were reports on how the approach has helped students learnt better, and of course, the teachers' role during lesson time has also been emphasized - for discussion and coaching. Nevertheless, definitely there are more to these. The planning and action behind somehow, to me, is still a blackbox.

OK, for experienced educators, it seems to be commonsense. What I'm looking at is really a guide? A guide that newcomers (those who just come on board) could make reference to and get ideas. I'm quite sure that it's not difficult to start "flipped classroom" in my current context. However, the implementation consideration and approach are what I'm most interested in. I guess what I'm most fearful of is how the good intent and opportunity created could be misinterpreted for those who take the notion superficially. It's not just about video lessons. It's not about discussion in the classrooms. It's not about just doing homework or classwork in class. It's definitely not for every single lesson. It's not about transforming the entire way learning is... but I think, it's about how the approach would augment what's lacking in the known approach.

So, broadly (and in a rather 'sketchy' manner - since it's the first time I give "flipped classroom" a thought)...
  • The approach frees students from the one-size-fits-all lessons in the classroom; similarly that means the teachers no longer have to repeat the same old lesson across the classes. Instead, students "learn" before they turn up for class. This is one important 'space' that we must pay attention and leverage on. This would mean that we must be mindful that given the 'cyberspace', there is more room for us to deliver lessons more effectively, in terms of differentiating resources or materials for a range of learners (in terms of learning styles, as well as ability group)! So, those who think that by uploading a set of material up would have to re-look at the new demands it has the teachers too, when we are to leverage on this 'space' to better the learning experience of each individual student.
  • This brings us to the next point, which is the expectations on the teachers - the quality of materials put up in the web (in this case, I'm making reference to my current context, and assuming accessibility to the web is a 'given'). The quality refers to the suitability and relevance, not just one type, but a range of materials to engage the learners. It's not just video clips, which many a time, it's a "one way" delivery - from the computer to learner. It should provide an avenue for interaction. This interaction could be both "teacher-through-computer-to-student" type of interaction, or could be the "intelligence-behind-computer-to-student" type of interaction. This is something that 'sounds' simple yet tests one's expertise in the subject discipline to be able to take into consideration the learner's needs and mapping back what's pegged at the appropriate level. Video clips, no doubt is useful (and a common resource that's easily available), however, what's next after watching it? or how should the student be engaged while watching it, so that the experience is meaningful? Many experienced teachers would be able to do this with ease when it's about executing such approach in the face-to-face classroom. However, when it comes to online learning, it's definitely a different ball game. 
  • When moving back to the classroom, how would the teacher approach the lessons now? This is something that the teachers must be mindful - the attitude and the beliefs (to some extent), and confidence (they have with the students). It requires a whole new way of thinking and 'shaping' one's way of thinking. Of course, the teachers' utmost fear is that the students do not take up the ownership of learning, and turn up the class without going through the materials. That is very real, and a definite issue that we can't run away. However, do we just 'dismiss' everybody when the issue lies on the small handful of students? I think sometimes it's our comfort level, or sense of security? For instance, I have heard complaints from some that after the elearning week, they have to re-teach the lessons; and the reason being students did not 'study' or they don't understand. The "tricky" part is... they have pointed out that the students "don't understand". What are some reasons behind this "failure"? What "went wrong"? The first thing I look at would be the materials - how are they designed? have been been designed such that it has taken into the account that it's no longer just classroom face-to-face lesson, but something that's delivered online? Has the lesson design leverage on the affordances of the web and platform? Has it take into account what's lacking (compared to face-to-face lesson)? These are questions that I presume that any experienced teachers would have thought through... Nevertheless, I was proven wrong most of the time. So, this points back to the earlier point discussed.
  • Managing (i.e. balancing) tasks carry out online (i.e. outside curriculum time) and in class is an art and science, too! As teachers, we are often 'greedy' and want the students to devote as much time as possible in our subject (so that they could do well), right? To some, I might be 'too kind' to keep reminding ourselves to help manage the students' work load. Yes! Loads and loads of papers issued to them (homework!) and now, more... online learning materials! So, we would seriously need to relook the kind of work given to students if we were to adopt the "Flipped Classroom" approach (for any selected topics/ modules). We cannot "half-heartedly" adopt by saying giving them the materials to 'preload' before lessons, yet give them much practices as well. I'm not saying not giving them homework, but we need to moderate... and pace it accordingly. Get what I mean? Each of us only have that amount of time, and by giving them more means they have lesser time for other engagement (which includes ample rest time). 
  • The next thing is, what goes into the classroom now? How differentiated the learning activities need to be? Must it be differentiated at all times? Can we have time and space for something that's common amongst all the students, too? Definitely! (Keeping in mind that there's always value and a time for everything (approach/ strategy), no matter how big or small it is.

Comparing "Search Box" and "Customised Search" for Blogs

One of the biggest takeaway from the SG GAFE Summit and the GTA is about Customising Search Engine for a website.

The key is to enable the visitor (or the user) to carry out targeted search - whether is in the site where they are visiting, or to narrow down to specific websites for their work.

In Blogger, there already exists the "Search Box"

that allows us to 'customise' the scope of search:
From the option, we would notice the limitations - which is could be 'narrow', yet pretty general. OK, I know it sounds oxymoron. Let's take a look at this illustration.

I inserted this gadget in my class Maths blog:

Here's the search outcome with the "Search Box":

  • Under "This Blog": Only limited posts (in this case, only 3) were surfaced to meet the key word entered into the search box
  • Under "Link from here": It goes through the external links that were placed in this blog to check if it presents 'topic' that maps the key word entered into the search box.
  • Under "The Web": I guess it's similar to the search results if we enter the key word into the (general) Google Search engine.
On the other hand, when I attempt creating my own "Google Custom Search" (, the engine goes through the entire blog and surface all the posts that comprises of the key word entered into the search box, which is very thorough, I thought.

In addition, it allows us to define the 'specific' websites that the search is to be conducted, which I thought it is very helpful :).

BTW, we can do more customisation, which includes consolidating and presenting the search results on a separate "Search Results" page.

Click HERE to view Youtube video "Google Custom Site Search Tutorial". The creation is put across in a pretty easy-to-understand manner.

What's the Potential of the Custom Search... in a blog?

Prior to introducing the custom search engine, "Labels" is one of the good organisers in the blog that enables us to tag our posts so that posts under the same label (scattered all over the blog) can be filtered very easily and efficiently. The only drawback is, it depends on the 'discipline' of the user - who would diligently add the label to the post.

On the other hand, the custom search will list out all the posts that contain the key word entered (as the word, "search" implies it will sieve out anything under the sun as long as it consists of "key word").

If we examine carefully, "Labels" and "Custom Search" - each serves a different purpose; and each has its own merits! So, it would be great to have both included in the website (in particular the blog).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Managing Events across Time Zones!

Another cool feature discovered!
Converting time across different time zones in Google Calendar

It was kind of challenging when we attempt to meet across the continents and have to deal with time zones that we are unfamiliar with. This was one of the 'issues' that we had to resolve when I attempt my 1st Hangout with peers in US :) Thanks to Cory for introducing the "Meeting Planner World Time Table". And yes, there are several similar online services to provide the same too.

Just "discovered" that Google Calendar can do the conversion automatically!
  • Simply change the "Event Time Zone" to what is given when entering the event. 
  • Save the Event. 
  • And it automatically appear at the right time (and date) in the Calendar. 
Isn't this cool?

GoogleSpreadsheet: "Insert Note" & "Insert Comment" feature

A new discovery! The "Insert note" feature in GoogleSpreadsheet.
Now it makes it much easier and neater to manage information in the spreadsheet:
> Insert comments for items that require action/ attention ('cos they could be 'resolved' once it's dealt with)
> Insert notes for further elaboration of content in the cell.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Personal Creativity Characteristics: Generating Ideas

Source: Creative Learning Today Newsletter Issue Volume 11, Number 1:

The article in this issue: Personal Creativity Characteristics (Part 1 of 4 By Don Treffinger, Grover Young, Ed Selby, and Cindy Shepardson) has offered a deepened perspective of what accounts the quality outputs from the "generating ideas" process.

One of the most frequently strategy used in classroom is "brainstorming". How do we 'facilitate' the brainstorming process? or we assume that anyone can brainstorm and generate ideas naturally? Often, we assume that our students "will know" how to generate ideas (that align to a given topic), and we would  encourage them to put down any ideas that cross their mind, and reminding them no judgement to be passed during the process (so as to encourage a 'conducive and safe' environment for every participant).

The article sheds light on the characteristics on the processes that go on in the individual's heads, which determine the quality of the "generating ideas" exercise; which subsequently leads us to identifying and streamlining the 'produce' from the exercise:

(1) Fluency
(2) Flexibility
(3) Originality
(4) Elaboration
(5) Metaphorical Thinking

which, if we look at them, in a while, it's 'progressive' (in terms of the demand of one's ability to come up with great ideas!)

(1) Fluency is, most of the time, the primary focus in class activity - the more the merrier so that we have more choices; moreover, it gives us the premise to organise the ideas to surface brought categories (zooming out from specifics).

(2) Flexibility has to do with one's ability to see multiple perspectives - not only from the one who generates ideas, it's also a characteristics (or more like the mindset) that the group members should possess so that good ideas are not discriminated when 'processing' the 'raw ideas' generated.

(3) Originality, I think, comes with the individual's capacity. It has a lot to do with one's background and prior knowledge/ exposure! So, it's the make-up of the members in the group that has an 'impact' on how 'original' the ideas (in the eyes of the other group members).

(4) Elaboration takes place when one builds ideas on top of another's - which could agree or disagree with what was originally proposed. Often we think elaboration has to be 'aligned' to original idea (that started off the discussion). However, diversity of views helps to give depth to the idea too - of course, one should not come with the mindset to dispute and discard. The attitude is important here.

(5) Metaphorical thinking is the 'highest level' amongst the five (I think), which requires the above so as to be able to finally connecting things together to come up with new possibilities.

It takes time for us to progress from one stage to another (though I'm not sure if the five are intended to be 'staged' in the way it's presented in the article). And it would definitely be beneficial to train our students, from young along these 5 'stages'. It would certainly be helpful if we are able to point out to them, when "generating ideas" the 'stage' that they are expected to perform (over time).

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Safety in the Web

This is an article published in 20120923 The Sunday Times Reflect 16.

It's been increasing common that people post their lives (& happenings around them) in the web, in particular, in social media platforms like Facebook and Youtube. It's a place that people share their joy with others, or share some discoveries, etc with others. Of course, there are also people who wish to leverage on this platform to increase their publicity (or network) for various purposes.

In this article, I guess the writer's concern is not unfounded. In fact, the "careless" posting of family videos sometimes can bring about undesirable things and even dangers to the subjects who appear in the clip. There are also instances that kids (or even adults) are stalked.

I think it's important for one to exercise discretion on what's for self and what should be made available to others (a selected group or the public). To address to this, there is an increasing trend that more social media platforms are looking into this area and start providing features to allow one to decide on the visibility of content to selected group of audience. Unfortunately, not all are aware of this; and often, worse off, many are ignorant about the dangers being overly 'exposed'.

In some commonly used platforms:

  • GoogleSites & GoogleDocs (including PICASA albums) - accessibility are managed via the "Shared" features. 
    • Private - only accessible by self
    • Share with selected group of people with varying rights
    • Share with public such that it's searchable, or remain unsearchable (i.e. unlisted)

@PICASA albums (when linked with Google+)

  • Blogger - the administrator could visibility and accessibility at various levels 
    • Selected group of people to be viewers and/or authors (up to 100)
    • Could be open to public to view
    • On top of that we could also decide on the accessibility to "comment" 

  • Youtube - the administrator could visibility and accessibility at various levels 
    • Private - only accessible by self
    • Share with selected group of people with varying rights
    • Share with public such that it's searchable, or remain unsearchable (i.e. unlisted)
    • This also applies to Playlist, too :)

  •  Facebook - For any posts, including video clips and photo albums
    •  In general, we can set the visibility at Friends, Public, or Only Me
    • Apart from that, we can also create lists so that postings are only made viewable to selected group

  • Google+ comes with the "Circles" feature which allows us to create groups of people to share posts with. This concept is similar to the Facebook list (I suppose). Well, I'm still quite new to Google+. I guess there are more to discover :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Interesting Feature from Chrome Apps store

This feature was introduced at the "SLAM" session. It's an apps available from the Google Chrome Apps store and it works especially with YouTube. Of course, it works Chrome browser only.

Basically it dims the area of the Youtube page except the video screen. This helps to focus one's attention at the video clip.
When installed, a little light bulb icon will appear at the website address 'bar'.

On clicking at the bulb, the surrounding area of the video clip will be dimmed automatically.
BTW, it only affects the Youtube window.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mapping of tools to Bloom's Taxonomy

Useful Mapping of tools to Bloom's Taxonomy

The mapping is cool... though it's not new. It suggested the potential how different applications/ tools could be used to facilitate or promote learning at various levels.

On the other hand, it also requires us to learn, deeper, what each stage of the taxonomy mean before we start describing how these applications/ tools are to be brought into the picture.
e.g. in the 1st chart on "Web 2.0 apps", we see "Blogger" is placed at "Evaluating" level. On the other hand, it could also easily land itself at the lowest level if the learner simply use the platform to document learning (minus reflection). Similarly for "Prezi" which is placed at "Creating", again can easily earn a place at the lowest level.

All in all, it depends on how the teacher - how he/ she deploys the tool, as well as how 'deep' he/ she gets the students to use the tool. About from this, it's also how the teacher makes use of the work done (e.g. data collected/ presented in these "end products") to get students to apply the skills or seek deeper understanding (through probing or building on the 'surface' knowledge presented).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Takeaway: Photo Peach

This is an 'accidental' find when I browse through the resources from the Google Apps for Education Singapore Summit website.

Photo Peach ( - apart being a digital album, it comes with another interesting feature - the Quiz.

Makan @ Russia on PhotoPeach - The Spiral Format

Makan @ Russia on PhotoPeach - The Story Format

Here's an attempt to embed quizzes in the digital presentation.
Pretty easy to do... though the feature is limited :)
It's immediate "marking".

Highlights @ Russia on PhotoPeach

Highlights @ Russia on PhotoPeach

Takeaway from SG GAFE: Youtube Annotation Features

Session: Gettin' Flippy with it: Using YouTube to Support Reverse Instruction by Patrick Green

In this session, several editing features were shared, which includes "Pause" and "Annotation".
While it might be seen as a 'technical' session, actually, if we think deeper, we could make good use of such features to develop our learning resources, or even to scaffold students' learning.

Indeed, the sharing focused on the use of YouTube video clip to support a 'flipped' classroom, where students were to learn the content or gain an overview of the topic prior to attending the lesson in the classroom, which would focus on the application (e.g. discussion of word problems that require students to apply what they learnt in the materials they studied at home).

In fact, one potential opportunity to implement a similar teaching approach is our eLearning week. We could insert pauses and questions in video resources that students have to view by posting questions to them at the appropriate junctures, and inserting pauses that give them "think time".

Here's the sharing by Patrick Green - a demonstration on how to edit, as well as a couple of ideas how these could be incorporated to run learning activities:

Here's something that I've tried (Hands-on).
Features include:
  • Annotation with Title (at the beginning)
  • Annotation using Speech Bubble (that pointed out where the Krelim is)
  • Annotation with a pause (St Basil's Cathedral)
  • A note (which comes with more text)

I've also added background music, which masked the noise in the original clip. This could be easily done by selecting the sound clip available under "audio":

Takeaway from SG GAFE: About Youtube Playlist

"Playlist" - to many is not new. For instance, we could find it in iTunes. Basically, it's a consolidation of items for easy and convenient access.

Nevertheless, I have this habit of not relying on templates or tapping on some of these 'conveniences' that does not really 'cross line' with my daily work. So, to-date, Ive not quite taken advantage of what's available :) Of course, I've also not quite bother to explore something that I think might not be too relevant to my work.

The session at the Singapore Google Summit (sg gafe) - by Patrick Green, "Harnessing the Power of YouTube in Education" been very helpful. It has brought me further, not only to use video clips as a means for teaching and learning, but also realising that "Playlist" could be a good productivity tool - to help us organise our teaching and learning resources - in particular, (in came at the right time) when managing video clips for teaching and learning, as well as to organise the "viva voce" submissions by students.

In fact, it came in a very timely manner, when I am actually organising some of the 'favourited' clips as well as the students' viva voce submissions.

Look! I've just organised my collections of clips - and I love it!
It even allows me to set the privacy to public or private! and it allows me to share "by collection".

One interesting discovery is, we can set the playlist such that it will loop when all the clips in the collection are played. That's nice! (Notice the "Play all" button at the banner?)

On the other hand, I also learnt the difference when running the playlist in the laptop, as well as in the iPhone or iPad. It seems like playlist in the iPhone or iPad devices do not really does not play the next clip in the list automatically. Hm...

Anyway, this is definitely one good takeaway I have from the session.
Perhaps colleagues who are like me who have yet explored this would find this feature very handy :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Real World Application of Mathematics!

It was kind of exciting to learn about the pre-GTA activity - the Google Hangout with members in the group assigned. Of course, the excitement came about not only to start meeting people before  physically face-to-face, but also the virtual one, which post to be a more real world 'challenge' as I'm the only one living outside the US timezone!

Of course, MDT is a certainly new jargon to me! Started scratching my head to figure out the time that my US counterparts are trying to indicate. Adding to the complication, I guess is the "Day Time Saving" thing! Good luck to me :)

Found this, which could be pretty handy:

Food for Thought: Quick Snaphots

These were snapshot thoughts I posted in Facebook - about a month apart.
 It's a reflection of assessment... as we got pigeonholed into the everyday routines which is coupled with other external pressures, sometimes we forget the objective and intent of some things we do. Of course, this pressure could be due to an individual's desire to shape or mould some "desired" outcomes, which might be of an individual or the organisation's interest (depending on which perspective we see it).

Ultimately, it goes back to the "why"... why do we assess? 
I think it's only when we are clear about the 'motive' of assessment, then it would only be clear to our 'subjects' (i.e. students) who are going to be assessed by us.

Look inward and ask ourselves - all of us (adults) had worked through so many exams and tests in those years, which was the first 'hurdle' to cross before stepping into our adulthood. Have we wonder why do we have to go through all those exams?

I must admit that I was not very reflective in my younger days. Ok, sometimes I would like to blame it on the system that I was brought up. I knew that I should just follow and it should not go wrong. I did not question. It's been planned. So, don't bother to argue. That was the mentality. Of course, thankful to the maturity developed over the years, and with several good mentors, I grew to become more reflective and started asking questions (within and only heard by myself), though might not voice it out (you know what I mean?).
I guess, that's growing up.

My thinking (in those school days) was just paper chasing... and we simply need that certification fr survival. Looking back, it's sad. Isn't it? I think that comes with the fact that in those good old days, my parents have been enforcing that fact that we have to study hard so that we could secure a job for a better living. Yes, the background and context matters! and it shapes the way I think. Similarly, in school, we seldom heard teachers emphasized the importance of understanding. Instead, it's about passing the tests and exams, and for certain subjects, we knew that the teachers had pinned high hope on some of us being the top performing student in their subject. Hm... think from a more selfish angle, so that they could 'show-off' to their peers that they had developed the top student? Hm... (of course, this thought is one-sided 'cos I've never, and would never had the chance to verify with them).
How often did our teacher got us thinking about the importance of understanding what's thought and the relevance and usefulness of what I were to learn (for the exam?)? Maybe some of the teachers did, but I did not pay attention to it when they emphasized?

I think it was a good start when I was first enrolled into the NIE - my step into the Teacherhood. The model of assessment opened up the idea why students have to be assessed. The objectives, the purpose, the why! This had provided answers to many questions that I had not even asked myself. Nevertheless, all these notions disappeared into the thin air when we were so caught up with the activities in the schools, especially when we had a syllabus to complete given a certain timeframe. There, we were there to assess students for the stake of making sure they learnt what's required in the exam. Hardly, we question again, the ultimate purpose of assessment - though broadly we know it's about their understanding. I believe many of us had not really sit down to think through very deeply when we set the tests and crafting the questions. I think, the thinking bit would come in, however, translating it into action is another story. Because the emphasis has most of the time focus on the what to test... and forget to keep in mind - the learners who would be assessed.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Educator at Heart...

#iwonder How often that we not only praise students under our care who have done well, and also remember to do the same when students we don't teach but have also done well?

Sometimes, #iwonder if we are too 'stingy' (er... or forgetful) to give praises and affirmation to students who have demonstrated ability beyond their level (in particular during the assessment)?

When the student uses a more advance method to solve the problem right, how often we would just accept the working with the tone of "Ok, you are lucky that we are not rejecting it."

How many of us would have this cross our mind first when seeing such working: "Well done!" and affirm the student's ability to do so, especially under the test condition.

Sometimes, #iwonder why Maths teachers like to give very complicated expressions to 'challenge' students to simplify or evaluate?

Isn't it that we want to emphasize the principles and concepts rather than to test their perseverance or being meticulous during tests, though undeniably these are the attributes we would like to inculcate within the discipline.
Then the next question to ask is the val
ue of "packaging" simple concepts in a complicated manner to put (especially the weaker) students off? Then it would deprive them the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding because they need to overcome the psychological barrier first.

It goes back to the fundamental question: what is the objective of assessment?

There's definitely a difference between "complicated" and "complex" questions. The latter, #IMHO, would value-add as it drives deeper understanding of the discipline :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Reflection / Short notes: CBL Workshop

(I) Establishing Norms
It's group work! We worked from two per group at the start, and very quickly merged into bigger groups. Haha... it sounds like small companies could not 'survive' with limited resources (in this case, brain power) so the next clever thing to do is the go for 'merger' :)

It has reminded us of something that we take for granted... and often because we 'neglected' it, we could not understand why students don't work well in a group, and we do not know how to help them to trash out their problematic group relationships.

Establishing Group Norms is one way to address to potential issues. Of course, that also means that all agreed to follow the norms agreed upon. Right? We can have rules, but if people just break rules, what's the point of having it in the first place?

Interestingly, the group norms are established at 2 stages.
The first round, we were tasked to come up with 5 things that we feel are important for us to agree on when working in groups. After each pair shared the "top" item in the list, we were given another opportunity to re-look at the list, which we can modify. Nevertheless, this time, it came with a condition that requires us to see that what we listed fits into a list of desirable behaviour (e.g. to address to times when we do not question assumptions, our want to win, our need to avoid embarrassed and how we can protect ourselves.

Indeed, for both Karen and I, we did not make changes except that we added the 5th one, "be open".
Indeed, it seems like what we had earlier (the first 4 items) already addressed to "requirements". It's really a matter of making connections and rationalising the descriptors :)

On the other hand, I think, after going through this exercise, we recall (and understand) that it's worth establishing group norms in order to have everybody align to their expectations and goals. Understanding and respect are important. By establishing group norms will help to improve the team performance! So, it's time worth spending. This would be a good attempt to establish a good and pleasant working relationship, especially for those do not know each other well. I guess this is something that we must make an attempt to get the groups to do it whenever we get students to work in groups, even though we know that students might have known each other. Well, sometimes even good friends need to have certain norms established especially when there is a piece of job to complete.

Perhaps we have also taken for granted when working with adult learners. Thinking that all are adults and would 'automatically' work towards the common goal "without much disagreement" (I guess). Seriously, that's something we should look out for...

(II) Using TIME... and In-Action Review
What's the assumption?Time given is just to ensure "job done". More often than not, we are not aware that it could be used to push for more positive team dynamics.

Yes, with the short time frame given, and it's built over 2 to 3 activities, it helps to gel the members more closely and speaking up to ensure getting the work done.

Another pretty useful strategy for teachers to provide feedback to students is doing "In-Action Review". In fact, this is not something new, however, it's the first time hearing it "explicitly". It's actually giving feedback to students (participants) while they are in action. That requires one to direct almost all the attention to observe the process - in particular the behaviour and interaction, and provide feedback to the team. What I noticed was, Paviter did not just describe what he saw, but he attempted to make a comparison and inform us of the change (positive change), which I thought this enforced the team to strive for greater collegiality. In the team we know, it's like providing feedback during formative assessment. Except, this time, he decided to provide us with feedback on the group dynamics.

(III) Clarifying Focus & Priority
The end product was a video clip for the team to demonstrate our understanding of the workshop.
(Well, at the end of the day, it's of course, Paviter's deliverable to the team that initiated the workshop - Mrs Chew & Ron).

When 'announced' that the end-product is a video, some of us immediately 'distracted' by the 'secondary' product (which was the video) and dive into how to create that video production, "conceptualise" how it should look like; of course, for someone who is not familiar with multimedia would be anxious 'cos 'unable' to produce that end product.

Doesn't this sound familiar?  It was very obvious. We were just like any of our students (if we observe carefully amongst ourselves). Unknown to many of us, naturally, we "de"-focus our attention to the "form" rather than the demonstration of learning.

I thought this segment of the workshop is good... and Paviter has done a good job by reminding the team consistently what is the primary task? That is what is the "content"? Focus! Focus! Focus! That helps us to remind ourselves what is our deliverable.

I guess one learning point here is, we must consciously and consistently remind ourselves the primary objective of the outcome. It's not the form (though packaging makes a difference), but the demonstration of understanding (else it would just look like an empty shell). Remember? Sometimes we just feel so unsatisfied after attending some presentation - where speakers come up with fantastic visuals however there was no meaningful takeaway from the session.

(IV) Think-out-of-the-box moment
It is a survival skill!
Haha... I think this applies (in my experience) when one has to think of a means to overcome a 'shortcoming' or disadvantage, and it requires us to make good connections to justify (though sometimes such justifications could be deemed as 'force-fit'). Or it's also a means to get one out of a difficult (er... even embarrassing) situation?

To be able to do this, ah! there's where we exercise our critical thinking skills, make connections and have the courage to present things in a different or even an commonly 'unacceptable' perspective!

Just a simple illustration - the workshop deliverable was a video.
However, the team was not able to create the production that actually would needed more time to do.

In the end, thanks to the fact that each of us have a learning device, we went back to the very first idea that was proposed (however, in 'discrete' pieces) where each created a slide to present one learning point. However, as we did not have the time to put everything together in one single presentation before converting it into a video clip, we arrange all the devices in a circle which the audience could walk around to view the thoughts.

Well, of course, it's not a video, technically. However, let's think slightly deeper to draw some commonalities. In this set-up, audience can start at any point (from any of the computer, from where they stand).  It's just like video, we can just begin at any juncture. However, this format gives us the flexibility of moving forward or backward. In addition, one could adjust the pace, too! slower at junctures that we wanted to pause, chew and digest or junctures that we know and want to move on to the next very quickly!

On the other hand, for someone who insists that it MUST be a 'VIDEO' and sticks to its technical definition, he would consider this as a 'non-submission'. Haha.. So, do we want to encourage people to think out of the box and present the 'arguments' that we had? or do we just want to strictly stick to what we 'know'. So, it again challenges one's flexibility and openness to hear and assess from a different perspective, I think.

(V) 2 relevant websites:

Below are notes & brief reflections made during the workshop on 24 August 2012

Focus of Today's session - Reflection & Rigour

(1) NORMs
Question the norms
- Are we so 'used' to just accepting what's given to us?
- The ask "why" mindset - are we holding on to assumptions that we 'think' is reasonable? and without thinking through/ rationalise

* common goals
* commitment
* be present
* white space

> Time to communicate
> How to communicate without being defensive... using techniques like "Yes... and..." and "Yes... but..." to put down barriers that 'naturally' exist.

** most of the time we do not question assumptions
** we want to win
** we want to avoid being embarrased
** we want to protect ourselves

Establishing norm is key to a performing team: For common understanding (to reduce tension, arguments)
* Everybody speaks once before anybody speaks right
* Allow students to challenge each other - however, it's important for the students to know how to ask questions in a respectful manner

Students should be able to reflect and ask questions - Openness

Think/Writedown our thoughts, what we've just done, how we could do it or bring to class?
<Norms> <Reflection & Rigour>

Use of Ladder of Inference - to test assumptions
- not just question why are we doing it?
- but to ask what is the 'real' big picture - the Big Idea


"In action review" vs "After action review"
  • Reflection can focus on interaction amongst the team members

The use of "time limit" to "pressurise"
  • To 'force' dynamics within a group within a short time
  • To 'force' or direct the members to a common goal 
  • The staging of "time limits" 
In-action review enables teacher to surface potential, possible a good feedback mechanism to level up group performance. At the same time, "trains" students of the appropriate work protocol.
  • Observation is powerful! 
  • By posting provoking questions to redirect/ refocus their thoughts
  • Data-driven process

The task
Create a video that you will share with your students explaining clearly what you learnt today.

The measure of success: Rubrics - the set of guidelines that demonstrates one's understanding

Make your own slide show at Animoto.

Here's the 'complete' one, put together by Aurelius