Friday, September 09, 2016

6 Sep 2016: Getting to know you.... COFFEE

Was it a coffee appreciation session? Hm.... I guess it depends on how we define the word "appreciation" - it's about depth? or breadth?

Anyway, through the session, I learn to appreciate the effort behind the making of a cup of good coffee more now... and therefore give the coffee a higher 'value' tag (for money). Unfortunately, as Phil, the owner of Highlander Coffee said, the revenue generated hardly goes back to the farmers or workers behind the product.

Here are some takeaways from the 2-hour session:

1. There are two types of beans were introduced: arabica vs robusta beans:

While Arabica beans are of higher quality (grow at higher altitudes), Robusta (being the 'cheaper' ones) comes with more caffaine.

2. The traditional "local" coffee powder: It's not purely made up of coffee bean. If we look at the powder packaging carefully (it was the first time I looked at it), it would say, a mixture. Due to central quality control by the government, all mixture must have at least 50% from coffee beans. Fillers added to it could be corn and wheat! And coffee beans are roasted with butter and sugar!

3. About roasting: Good coffee should taste acidic.
How acidic it is depends on how long the beans are roasted. Once turned bitter implies the beans are over-roasted and no longer good.

4. Several terms were introduced - e.g. espresso, americano, etc. While I'm not into these terms and have already forgotten some of them. What left an impression were:
  • Basically, espresso is brewed coffee 
  • The concentration of caffaine depends on the 'making' - the quick press would be less concentrated, compared to the dripped method (which makes sense)
  • americano - water is added to dilute the coffee (note the sequence)
5. Coffee powder's freshness - lifespan is very short. So, grind on demand!

6. For good coffee, do not add sugar. One should taste the tint of sweetness in the sip :)

On the whole, the key takeaway is - it's far much more complicated (the need to look into the details) if we want to brew a really nice good cup of coffee. So, in that case, just buy one from a decent cafe. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Picking up the paint brush, once more...

The last time to use a brush to paint (with poster colours) was when in secondary 2, during the Art lesson! Since then... I've not painted anything.  For acrylic paint, it's the first time! Interesting! It's a different 'handling' experience (for the materials - the paint, as well as the canvas)

Thanks to Samantha who organised for this bonding session for the CWSAP teachers (unfortunately, only 4 out of 6 able to turn up). Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable session.
@ Artestiq, Mandarin Gallery

Tubes of paints

er... where we dipped our brushes here to wet and 'wash' the brushes

The first item completed in the entire painting - in Quadrant 1

My masterpiece - after 1 hour
incorporated some tips from Samantha 
(e.g. the need to balance the picture in terms of colour and weight)

Monday, June 06, 2016

Citation made easy with EasyBib

Citation is usually the 'least liked' but must do "chore", though there exists some systematic way to do it. 

EasyBib is a tool positioned to help generate the citation of resources. One interesting feature that caught my attention is the ability to cite the resource based on the barcode it scanned!

For example: 

The APA format of the book is

The app is available in both iOS and Android versions :)

Revisiting the Potential of ThingLink

Saw Thinglink ( in an article introduced a range of tools for classroom use. Sometimes, we could get quite excited over the tools highlighted in articles like this because of its 'newness' to us. Many of us would immediately sign up to create an account to explore and quite often would seek opportunity to use this in class the soonest possible. I am no different.

Because of this, in fact, I ended up with many accounts that I forgot I had registered for.  Because of this, my iPad was installed with many apps that I used only once or twice... For the 'fortunate' enough once, they would make a come back a few weeks, months or even years before I tap on them to recall what it offered! Does this sound familiar to you?

Indeed, I forgot that I had signed up an account with Thinglink until I attempted to register for the account again. The website actually told me that I had an account! Haha.... Resetting password was the next step.

A search in this blog showed that I had written a blog post for Thinglink (barely a year ago!): Simple feature, Many applications: "Thinglink" for Learning (2015 June).

This shows how overwhelmed we were... overwhelmed by the humongous amount of resources and information available in the internet. On the other hand, it is also an indication that I had not 'played' enough with the tool to 'internalise' the use, before reaching the stage that I could apply in an intuitive or natural way!
[OK, this is a self-developed approach that I would share in another post another time]

1. What is ThingLink
As the suggested, the application allows one to add links to an image. The "link" is not necessary an URL but it could be text, an image, a video clip or an URL to a website. All these could be done in the FREE version!

Here's an example of what I created: It took less than 15 minutes to explore and produce this:
A few links were embedded on this photo:
  • A & C: Text
  • B: Link to a website 
  • D: Video clip from Youtube
  • 3 Pic Icons: Images were uploaded with caption.

Broadly, the above are the features that ThingLink offers that I think could be very useful for Teaching and Learning.

On the other hand, ThingLink also came with similar features in the VIDEO feature. Relooking at what I posted, I think applications like Youtube and EdPuzzle would probably do a better job. That explains why I did not elaborate the video feature in this post.

2. Some ideas: ThingLink for T&L (by Teachers)

Below are some ideas specific to the subject discipline.
While some land themselves more naturally in certain subjects, many of these are ideas are applicable across disciplines, depending on the purpose of the activity.

(1) Image Analysis  
in Languages & Humanities

One of the applications of a ThingLink image is to provide scaffolds to analysize images.

Example 1:
Getting students to talk about what they saw in the image (oral communication) or to write an composition based on the media provided on attributes of a neighbourhood that make it attractive or conducive for living?
  • Images of related facilities (but not clearly shown) can be added. We could embed questions/ key words or clues in the caption to guide them to elaborate.

  • Hyperlinks to relevant websites serve to provide additional information related to the context for them to read up the background/ content so that they could better articulate their point with greater clarity. The intent of inserting the link can be added as text (in the box).

  • Relevant objects in the image could be used as stimulus to set students think deeper for issues. When used appropriately, it could lead students to present different points of views and discuss social issues.
  • Make the picture speak with video or audio files to provide information from a different dimension.

Example 2:
While the above illustrates how we could tap on the features to scaffold students in a writing activity, we could do the same for Geography lessons where key features (e.g. facilities) of a neighbourhood/ town are highlighted to get students learn about (residential) town planning - through providing clues and asking questions.

(2) Flipped Learning  
for Sciences & Humanities

More often than not, video clip is the primary resource used for flipped learning because of the immense amount of information illustrated through sound and motion.

For content-heavy subjects, a Thinglink image would probably help students to make connection between related ideas much easily when the information are embedded in a single image.

Below is a simple illustration on introduction to 'cloud formation' and recognition of clouds.
Mouse over A, B and C to see what are embedded at this links.

We can embed different types of 'information' at the appropriate locations in the image.
  • In the form of text (entered in the textbox), relevant (amount of) information can be 'downloaded' to the students. Bite size is recommended as overwhelming amount would turn students off sometimes.
  • Insert a hyperlink to the website providing the content.
  • Add a video clip to illustrate a process.  
To make the process a meaningful one for students,
  • Try to insert a question or the comment that requires students to apply the reading/ viewing to answer the question, make a stand or verify the comment.

    (3) Drawing conclusions using inductive approach 
    in Humanities & Character Education

    We can add links to a relevant image to "drop" clues that enable students to collect a range of information so that they could piece the information/ observations together, make sense out of the information and draw connections that could even be used to influence or help them make a decision in a proposal.

    3. Some ideas: ThingLink for Assignments (by Students)

    While ThingLink does not have provision for online collaboration, students can work in groups, discuss and put the collective responses in a single image for submission. Students could submit the hyperlinks to the teachers. Alternatively, they can also embed the image in a given website.

    By collating the images in a single website (e.g. Blog, GoogleSite, Spaces), it allows students' learning to expand beyond own/ self-discovery.

    Some ideas:
    • If groups are students are working with the same focus (e.g. commercial activities in housing estate, however different resources (e.g. image of different housing estates), they could look at each others' inputs to draw out a collection of commercial activities that are common and not common across the images, where they could categorise as "core/ essential/ basic" as well as those unique to the demographics (e.g. mature estate with lots of elderly).
    • It could be groups working on the same resource but with different focuses. For instance the biodiversity of the rainforest where groups are tasks to report on the areas that they are tasked to investigate. E.g. Animals, Plants, Terrains.
    • To present a collection of views from different groups of stakeholders over an heartland issue.

     1. To demonstrate understanding of (functions in) a system

    Example: Science - To demonstrate the understanding of the functions of the different parts of the plant cell.
    On an image of the plant cell, students can embed text to describe functions of each part of the cell. They could also embed video clips that provide more in-depth explanation on the function of the part (e.g. the types of tests to carry out to assess the presence of the part).

     2. For narrative reporting

    Example: History - To illustrate the core activities Singapore island in the early years when Raffles landed in Singapore
    On the old map, students could plant links at the relevant locations that lead the reader to images of activities took place, write short description of the activities.

    There are more examples available at the ThingLink website

    Other useful links:
    Thinglink for Interactive Images: Amazing Creation Tools

    Any other suggested ideas are most welcomed :)

    Wednesday, June 01, 2016

    Google Spaces - Something new, Something with potential in classroom

    Came across an article that "talked" about "Google Spaces". I wonder - what's it up to?
    An Introduction to Google Spaces

    Explored. It took less than 10 minutes to get it up and running :)

    There are 3 parts to this post:
    • 1st impression
    • Technicalities
    • Its potential

    1st impression...

    This is the first space I created: Books...书中自有黄金屋
    - to explore its potential with an end in mind :P

    The intent is to create a space to document the collection of books that I read, and meanwhile explore the features available.

    Indeed, at the first look, the GUI looks pretty familiar - it's the Google look on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. The layout, the icon... maybe closer to Google+?

    Similar to the G+ apps and Blogger, the posts are organised by chronological order (reverse) - with the latest post on top.

    Indeed, when I attempt to change the settings, it brought me to the G+ page where all my info are there. Afterall, it's the same account and no doubt, everything is integrated.


    To start the posting in the space, you will see this:
    A clean space that allows us to put in some text (that serves as the first comment) as well as a hyperlink or image. This looks similar to posting in G+ Community, isn't it?

    Some 'constraints' I encounter:
    • I think the greatest drawback is being unable to edit the post, or any subsequent comments
      • In fact, I had to delete the entire post and re-post because I wanted to replace the original link with an image instead.
    • Subsequent comments do not make provision for paragraphs (i.e. it will be posted once you hit the 'enter' button)
    • Subsequent comments only allow one 'type' of entry - text, image or link. You can't add text in the same comment where the video link is posted
    • I am unable to re-shuffle/ re-order the posts. All posts are organised in reverse chronological order, i.e. the latest post will be placed on top - this is not critical if the space is used to carry out a specific exercise/ activity
    • We are unable to tag/ label a post - something that could be handy if this space is going hold entries of more than one category. Nevertheless, if the space is used for a specific purpose, the absence of this feature is a non-issue
    • I used my personal GMail account to create the space. By default, I think the space is open to public as long as the link is provided. 
      • I tested viewing the space using another browser when did not log into any Google account; I could view it. 
    • Something 'strange' but I could not quite figure out yet...
      • On the other hand, in another browser when I'm logged in to the GoogleEdu account (i.e. the school account) that does not have access to Google Spaces yet, I am unable to view the space page (i.e. the webpage becomes inaccessible)
      • It says "Service not allowed" at the URL!
      • So, while the page is "public", it is not as public as I have thought of!

    Its potential...

    What are some ways that Spaces could be part of the learning experiences?

    Let's take a closer look at what I've done... and start to generate ideas from there...
    (1) The individual posts...

    (2) Within each post...

    Key consideration for use:
    Given the 'limitations', spaces land itself into very 'focused' kind of use - as a collection of specific activities or event.
    • It is not suitable if one intends to use it over a longer period of time with a variety of learning materials (with more than one topic) posted here because of the absence of tag/ label feature (that Blogger and G+ Community have)

    Some suggested uses:
    While examples are tagged to subjects, some of these ideas are applicable across subjects.

    1. Library/ Info Hub:
    New arrivals can be posted in the space (since the posts are organised by reverse chronological order).

    1. We can post a picture of the book cover (like what I did in my posts), and selected pages (interesting, eye-catching, quotes) under comments - this helps to promote the book and generate some curiosity. This idea is quite similar to what Amazon does - given potential buyer a glimpse of selected pages of the book.
    2. Hyperlinks to online reviews, related video clips and additional information can come in as comments.
    3. After reading the articles, readers can post their thoughts and feedback.

    2. Language Classroom:
    Lessons that focus a specific genre or themes.
    Create a space dedicated just for this topic - it could be one lesson or a collection of lessons

    1. Students to post links to websites or video clips in the space - this would generate a list of resources for a genre in the Space.
    2. In the very first comment, the post author could highlight/ describe the features he/ she notices in the article/ video clip that are attributes of the specific genre or fit into the theme.
    3. Peers can...
    (a) add observations that the post author has missed out.
    (b) ask questions/ clarify with the author's point of view if they are unclear.
    (c) strengthen what the author has posted by extending what the post author has mentioned
    (d) present a different point of view, to agree or disagree.
    (e) enhance the post with links to relevant resources - e..g the post author might have posted an image to Van Gogh's Starry Night. Peers could add a link to the Youtube clip of the song, the wikipedia page related of Starry Night and the song lyrics at the comments of the post

    3. Mathematics Classroom:
    Topic of specific activities

    Below are some topics and how activities could leverage the spaces.
    The ideas could be applied across other topics.

    E.g. (Basic) Geometry - Identifying and understanding shapes around us
    1. Students can take photos of objects they see in the school or at home where they could find geometry shapes. They can describe the shape(s) and the properties in comments
    2. Peers can give feedback or challenge the assumptions
    3. Students could also further discuss the relationship between shapes in photos that illustrate how 2 or more shapes are put together to form regular patterns (tessellations)

    E.g. Data Handling - Use of statistical representations in real life
    1. Students can post links to online articles/ websites where statistical representations are used.
    2. They can make reference to the context/ content and post their interpretation of the charts - this could include information that they could draw out from the accompanying text or pointing out other observations that were not mentioned before.
    3. Peers can...
    (a) go through the posts to seek further clarification (e.g. they think the post author has interpreted incorrectly)
    (b) share their interpretation of the statistical representation that is different from the post author. This could be interpretation from another perspective, or additional points that are missed out by the post author.
    (c) post an image of another statistical representation of the same set of data. This could be an alternative, or could be a more appropriate representation.

    4. Science Classroom:
    Topics that come with a collection of bite-size content.

    E.g. Understanding Alkali metals in the Periodic Table
    1. In pairs, students are assigned to an alkaline and post a video clip that illustrates the properties of the assigned alkali metal. In the first comment, they will list down the characteristics of the assigned metal.
    2. They can identify other relevant online information related to the assigned metal and post the links under comments. E.g. Videos, websites, illustrations that show the application/ use of the metal in real world.

    E.g. Different forms of alternatives energy sources
    1. Each group/ pair are assigned to look at the one type of (new) alternative energy sources
    2. In the first post, provide a description of type of energy assigned (using text)

    3. Post articles/ online media (e.g. documentaries) to report on how the various countries are harnessing this form of energy, including the different reactions/ perspectives from different "interest" groups.

    5. Humanities Classroom:
    Building resources for comparative studies

    E.g. Industrialisation in Europe countries after the first world war
    1. In pairs or groups, students are assigned to study the development in an assigned country or continent
    2. The pair/ group will post online resources (e.g. websites, documentary clips) in the post they in-charge of
    3. Students gallery-walk to learn from each others' resources before discussion

    E.g A study of different terrain types
    1. In groups, students are assigned to take charge of a type of terrain.
    2. In the main post, the group is to provide text responses to guided questions from the teacher (e.g. characteristics, location)
    3. Students to search for photographs of the assigned type of terrain and post under comments.
    4. They could add links to online websites or video clips that help to understand the topic better

    Tuesday, May 31, 2016

    Playing with iMotion

    iMotion is an iOS app from the Apple Store. Indeed, I did not take any notice of this app though I had it installed in my devices (since...(don't know when)?)

    Thanks to Cathy Hunt who conducted the sharing on the use of this app at the iSummit 2016 ADE workshop - I learnt I have one tool that is simple yet could do interesting stuff in my device. What's more, it's pretty fun and free - these are considerations (though not core) on accessible the tool is - for learning!

    Simplicity is good
    While Cathy only got to show us and got us try some basic features - I think that was enough, and left it to our creativity and imagination to see how they could be applied for teaching & learning (both teachers and students).

    It is a very easy to use tool - only a couple of buttons to tap on. Then we can save our work either as a video or a gif animation file.

    As mentioned, it is a very simple tool - so, don't expect to have sophisticated editing features like what iMoviei provides! Well, sometimes, simple is beauty! Lesser distractions, to the point - and that's what the students need to have if we needed them to focus!
    [Through observations over these years, we notice that many students, and sometimes teachers, would spend more time to address the aesthetic aspect than the content!]

    What does it produce? Well, for newcomer - some of you might recall long long ago, Clay Animation (LINK) was a pretty popular form of the media-related activity where students underwent workshops to use cameras and a range of tools to create short films. Comparing the kind of preparation needed in the past, and now just a device on hand, the portability has indeed make far more accessible to anyone - young or adult, novice or expert. OK, the expert will start to describe what's lacking in the tool... nevertheless, it really depends on the use and its context. For classroom teaching and learning, I think that is sufficient. What's more important is how do we want the learning experience to be like and how we could actually leverage the features in the tool effectively to address the intent of of the lesson activity.