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).