Sunday, August 15, 2010


Here is a showcase of some of the students' work that my colleague and I have facilitated. Do enjoy the creativity and unique metaphors that these clips offer, on the theme 'Environment'. The link is HERE.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The iPad as a brainstorming tool

I am currently very much interested in exploring how the iPad platform could be used in teaching and learning. One of the first few apps that I have purchased and used is this app called Popplet. The nice thing about this app is not just its mindmapping-like structures, but also its ability to incorporate drawings/sketches and pictures into its whole scheme of things, compared to just pure text! Of course there are a couple of features that I would like this app to have, but I guess this would definitely take time. In the meantime, I am enjoying the use of Popplet as an ideation and also a planning tool. In fact I was just using it the other day for brainstorming about my possible business ventures, should I want to be an entrepreneur one day.

Here I have used it to look at some of the ideation tools that I have knowledge of, that I planned to incorporate into my current and future lessons.

Ideation tool popplet

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Playing to Learn?

I thought this presentation on Learning through playing is rather interesting. I certainly would love to emulate some of the ideas given in my teaching, and I do hope I can do so.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The iPad as a disruptive technology in education

I thought with the recent craze on the iPad, it would be good for us to look at how such a device could be useful as a tool for teaching and learning. I sincerely think that such a tool can be a disruptive technology of sorts, much like how the iPhone changes our idea of what a smartphone is supposed to be. Just think of the possibilities, and 'impossibilities' that such a device could offer and overcome respectively. It's lightweight feature could redefine how a physical space for teaching and learning ought to look like, it's touch-screen ability bridges the gap of artists and handwriting purists, who thinks that the use of keyboards are slowly 'killing' the art of writing. Couple these with perhaps the immense possibilities that an app could muster, I would think that the idea of how teaching and learning is supposednto be done, and experienced, is just something that we could only imagine, or even have not imagined of!

And I'm happy to say that I hope I would be able to be part of this wave, this defining of what education for the future is all about. It's really about redefining of how a learning experience ought to be, leveraging on the use of a device. But before I forgot all about the primary objective, let us not forget too, it is still all about the child, first and foremost. Like what I always remind myself: Teach the child first, and then the subject.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The DaVinci Creativity Code

An interesting look at how to be creative, from 'Da Vinci' himself. Interesting points he brought up...especially on the part about knowing so much because he took the time to draw! An interesting food for thought...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Do schools kill creativity?

A little bit late for me to realise the enormity of the message, but nonetheless still as inspiring as ever. Perhaps there could be many more Gillian Lynne that have slipped pass by us...if we don't do something about it.

Harnessing the power of our creative and innovative youths

Why are children more creative and innovative than adults? Would this lead on to a systemic way of being more creative/innovative?

The oxymoronic thinking would be that because we know a lot more things as adults...the structures and the methods of being creative, we tend to look down and scoff on some of the ideas given by our children. But the truth of the matter perhaps is that, they could be the ones that have an edge in terms of coming out with these more creative ideas. Perhaps it is this environment of 'not knowing' that provides the catalyst for creativity to bloom. Perhaps...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Designing for the elderly...

I was pretty impressed with some of the thoughts put up by some of my students when I did a group-think sort of exercise on designing a calculator and a mobile phone specifically for the elderly. I thought that perhaps this is something that I would like to showcase immediately, given that they have done and put in some depth and criticality in their thoughts/ideas/comments. Here's the embedded information:

Wall wisher 1

Wall wisher 2

Update: as an update to compatibility issues that I have when viewing on my iPad, I've decided to just put in the URL link instead of embedding the wall wisher in my blog post.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The gift of Giftedness

I have always been tickled by the idea that one is defined as gifted (or not) by virtue of an IQ test, and the resultant score that he or she obtains from that test. During one of the training sessions that I had recently, I can't help but concur with the trainer on how superficial this type of indices is...and like what the trainer mentioned, so what if you have an IQ of 120? What is the maximum score that one can score for this? Does getting such a score, over say a theoretical value of 200 necessarily make him gifted, over say, someone who scores 119? Hmmm...

And the idea that tickled me most was the scenario that educators like me always get from some parents, and giftedness proponents, that in order for one to know that a child is gifted, he or she would have to sit for a test. So lets say the qualifying score for 'being labelled gifted' is 80%, would a child scoring 78% be any less 'ungifted' than one who scores, say 81%. Wouldn't it be even funnier if, say the former scenario happens, the parent were then to ask the child to sit for the test again? And if the child passes the mark, he or she would then be qualified to be called gifted!

So then, is giftedness just about making and reaching that particular number?

On the other hand, I do believe in the existence of natural flair, talents, abilities...but then, if this was just subsumed and labelled under a particular number, it would be such a sad state of affairs for mankind, wouldn't it?

And now just a little something for that comic relief...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What motivates us?

I thought this clip is an interesting one as it perhaps debunk the myth that money is the sole or primary motivator in all of us! How disruptive this idea can be, but nonetheless if such a thing could be use and done to save our planet, I sure do hope that they do it fast:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dealing with the age of free knowledge

The ride so far for me in this new set up that I am in has been rough so far, but it sure has been one hell of an exhilarating experience. I came to realise that knowledge is free, well almost. Less important than that is this idea that I have about the validity of calling myself a teacher. I think a more appropriate term for my role in the classroom right now would be that of a 'Learning Facilitator'. In this age where everything else can be Googled, and almost every bit of knowledge that has been created since the dawn of Man has been Wiki-ed, who are we as teachers to teach the students something that is totally and 'revolutionarily' NEW? Unless we are engaged in a field that is like totally new to the human race, which is perhaps the sole domain of the few amongst us, what we are teaching our young charges are not new content knowledge per se, but just something that has been discovered by our fathers and forefathers. Well perhaps the definition of 'NEW' here is contextual...yes it is new to our young charges, but then again, there is NO stopping them to learn about quantum physics at age 10 just by Googling, when perhaps a more age-appropriate level is when they are perhaps in upper high school and upwards. But then again, this is again, our assumptions about age-appropriateness.

So perhaps an evolutionary idea here, which I think is currently happening in small sectors of the education field here, is the practice that no longer is learning defined by what is written in the textbooks or assessment books! I mean should we stop teaching and engaging the students if they show interests in the Chaos Theory, just because it is not part of the curriculum. Yes assessment is important at the end of the day, but there should also be certain aspects of their assessment that targets the learning that takes place beyond the classroom or textbooks, the learning that happens when they either pushed the boundaries of their own learning, and start to explore and discover things that they are interested in. As an analogy, this notion is certainly nothing new in the workplaces of innovative firms all around the world. How many times have we heard about how 3M encourages her employees to spend some time within their official working hours, to be engaged in something that they like to do, some thing that seems to be seemingly out of sync with their official duties in the company, but at least they enjoy doing! Hmmm, could we adopt something similar to the education of our future leaders. Perhaps we could...and who knows, we might just do it very very soon!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wishing upon a wall...

I'm now in an experimentation mode of sorts! No, not the sort who would want to create anything that can explode in your face, but more importantly i'm in the mode for experimenting, and even 'hunting' for relevant Web 2.0 tools that I can use in both within and out of my classrooms. The first quarter have been a successful experiment for me, what with the numerous possibilities that a blogging platform has to offer! And I must say, it has been an interesting journey so far. Has it been COMPLETELY successful? Well, I think that it is not entirely successful on all fronts, but then again, the irony about this kind of experimental tinkering is the fact that we wouldn't know that something DOESN'T work, until we try it out, and then discover that it doesn't!

Well so far, the use of the relevant tools has been met with measured success (and failures). TWITTER is not as good when one wants to have a visual and more complete idea of how things are going, although it does capture the responses in a chronological manner, if that is indeed your lesson's cup of tea. And using mindmapping apps have been useful and enlightening, I think, as it does manage to capture the varied thought processes, the multiplicity of synapses that are happening in my charges' grey matter, and the sometimes almost awkward yet seemingly innocent way of looking at things. It is sometimes refreshing to see their ideas at their baseline levels being developed into something more mature, more robust, and perhaps even something more critical, with a dash of innovation and creativity thrown in for good measure.

I tried earlier today and found it to be quite an impressive tool for the collation of ideas and comments, much better than TWITTER. Here's a final screenshot of the task given to the students:

Screenshot on the 'Bird Problem'

But I think, where my area of expertise is concerned, there is still something missing, something perhaps that I can use to go beyond just the texting speciality of wallwisher, to something that can be used to collaborate even further through sketches and other means. (photos and annotation). Well I think I have found one or two of those tools, but have yet to put it in practise, and by that I mean to be used by my students. Let me have a go at them first, and maybe, just maybe, report my findings later on.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Diary of a Reformed Elitist

I got this post from an email, which was taken from the ST Forum Online, dated 8th April 2010, written by a Ms Sim Soek Tien. I thought this was one of the more thoughtful and sincere letters that touched on the topic of elitism. Reading this, I do hope that the students that I am currently teaching will remember to be humble, and to know that it is NOT their God-given right to be where they are right now. Success is hard-earned, and once its theirs, please do remember to help those that have been left behind.

"I AM as Rafflesian/Raffles Girls' School (RGS)/'elite' as they come. My father was a Raffles Institution boy; I went through Raffles Girls' Primary School (RGPS), RGS, then Raffles Junior College, then on to the National University of Singapore, boarding at Raffles Hall. My sisters went through much the same route. My little girls are in RGPS.

I recognise the syndrome Ms Sandra Leong talks about ('Scoring high in grades but not in values', last Saturday). I live it, breathe it. Most of my friends are like me, graduates. Most of us live in landed property, condominiums or minimally, executive condos or five-room flats. None of us talks about making ends meet, or how we must turn down medical treatment for our aged parents because we cannot find the money.

But I will add to her essay: that those traits, that aura is not unique to RGS girls. It resonates within a social group, and its aspirants, the well educated or well endowed. I hang out with so many, I have stories by the barrel.

- My doctor friend, non-RGS and one would even say anti-RGS, was shocked when she found out how many As I got in my A levels, since I opted to do an arts degree. In her words, 'I thought all arts people were dumb, that is why they go to arts'. Her own family boasts only doctors and lawyers - she said they would never contemplate any other profession - and by implication, all other professions are below those two.

- A church-mate who lived in a landed property in District 10 - definitely not an RGS girl, and I venture to guess, not even a graduate - once, in all sincerity and innocence, prayed for all those who had to take public transport and live in HDB flats, for God to give them strength to bear these trials.

- Another friend, also non-RGS and a non-graduate, shudders when she recounts the few months she lived in an HDB flat. And that was a five-room flat. Imagine the culture shock if she had lived in a three-room flat.

I continue to meet people who never visit hawker centres, who wonder why the poor people do not work harder to help themselves, who fret if their children do not get into the Gifted Education Programme (reserved for the top 1 per cent of nine-year-olds).

The pattern repeats itself in the next generation. When my 11-year-old had to go on a 'race' around Singapore, using only public transport, the teacher asked for a show of hands on how many had never taken public transport (bus and MRT) before. In a class of 30, five raised their hands. I think if the teacher had asked for those who had taken public transport fewer than 10 times in their young lives, the number would have more than doubled or tripled.

Many of us live in ivory towers. I know I did. I used to think Singapore was pretty much 'it' all - a fantastic meritocracy that allowed an 'HDB child' from a non-graduate family to make it. I boasted about our efficiency - 'you can emerge from your plane and be out in 10 minutes' - and so on.

It was not that I thought little of the rest of the world or other people; it was that I was so ensconced in my cocoon, I just thought little of anything outside my own zone. 'Snow? Yes, nice.' 'Starvation in Ethiopia? Donate $50.' The wonders of the world we lived in, the sufferings and joys of those who shared this earth were just academic knowledge to me, voraciously devoured for my essays or to hold intelligent conversations at dinner parties.

Then I lived in China for seven years. I looked on in amazement as the skinny tree trunk in front of my yard blossomed and bore pomegranates when spring thawed the ground. And marvelled at the lands that spread east, west, north and south of me as we drove and drove and drove, and never ended. I became friends and fans of colleagues and other Chinese nationals, whom so many Singapore friends had warned me to be wary of.

I realised it was not the world and other people who were limited in their intellect, in their determination, in their resourcefulness; it was me and my world views which were limited. I also know full well that if I had stayed in Singapore, in my cushy job, comfortable in my Bukit Timah home, I would have remained the same - self-sufficient. I had always believed that if I put my mind to it, I could achieve anything. For example, I used to look at sick people and root: 'Fight with all your willpower, and you will recover. 'And when they did not, I'd think they had failed themselves. I, like Ms Leong, believed 'mental dexterity equated strength of character and virtue'.

But those years in China taught me terrible lessons on loneliness. I learnt that money (an expatriate pay package) and brains (suitcases of books) did not make me happier than my maid who cycled home to her family every night in minus 20 deg C on icy roads to a dinner of rice and vegetables. The past few years, I have known devastating loss and grief so deep I woke up in the morning and wondered how the sun could still shine and people could go on with their lives.

And so perhaps I have learnt the humility I lacked. Humility about how small I am in the whole schema of things. About how helpless I truly stand, with my intellect in my hands, with my million-dollar roof over my head. To remember, in the darkest valleys of my journey, it was not Ayn Rand or other Booker list authors who lifted me, but the phone calls, the kindness of strangers, that made each day a little less bleak.

And perhaps finally, to really see other people, and understand - not deflect, nor reflect their anger and viewpoints, but see their shyness, pain, struggles, joys. Just because I was 'fortunate enough' to have trawled the bottom levels. And perhaps that is the antidote to the oft unwitting elitism so many of us carry with us."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

‘Don’t get the SCHOOLING get in the way of the LEARNING’

The trip to Prague that I made about a fortnight ago has indeed been a fruitful one, for both the professional and personal side of me. It was an inspiring and enriching experience to see what are the possibilities that lay out before me as both a teacher/educator, and as a man who believes in the underlying value of education as the great connector of any social chasms. It was a uniquely satisfying experience, to see fellow educators in action, and to see how they have managed to change the lives of tens, hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, by the mere believe in the education of the child, rather than of a subject...and in the belief that technology is just a mere tool, as a means to an end, and as a great leveragor (for lack of a better term) of making the classroom experience that much more engaging and enriching.

‘Don’t get the schooling get in the way of the Learning’

The mantra above has somehow just got stuck to my head from the time that it was uttered during the seminar. Upon reflection, I guess it was one of those moment of revelation that perhaps we as teachers and educators would regularly need so that we may not lose sight of our bearings! Of how sometimes we as educators, tend to ‘lose’ the notion of what learning is all about, and perhaps even of embracing the belief that it is something that happens beyond just the mere confines of the four walls of a classroom too. And I personally believe that here at my current institution, we have been doing something right so far, it is perhaps novel, new and innovative, but it is definitely something right! And I guess in doing all things that are of such a nature, there would be critics, both positive and negative.

And as we trod along a path that has never been trodden, we do need to muster a lot of courage in doing things that have not been done before. And perhaps also, of believing and embracing that the way to go forward is to believe that we are, and should be just as curious as our students...perhaps even enough to say that in a class of 20 students that we are usually teaching in, there are actually 21 learners!

An interesting facet that I realise is how the convergence of technology has merely hasten the transition between one of digital immigrants to digital natives, and how 'DIGITAL' is now THE natural environment that our students are growing up in! For us educators, we must realise that by leveraging on our unique teaching and learning experience in a 1-to-1 platform, what we are doing is actually ‘disrupting’ the status quo, the very same modus operandi of how teaching (and perhaps learning at times) have been conducted for the last 1 to 2 generations. History have shown how these ‘disruption’ and 'disruptors' are both revolutionary and evolutionary in nature, and how these have turn out to be the ones who have stood the test of time as THE way to go forward! And perhaps, what we are doing here @SST right now could just perhaps be that, THE great disruptor, to both revolutionise teaching, and perhaps to evolutionise learning!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

(S)Killing them softly...part 1

It is interesting to note the recent debate in the papers regarding the skilling of our students with soft skills. I guess it is one of those things that will eventually happen...this realisation that no matter how much we equipped our students with the more 'hardcore' and fact-based content knowledge, it is sometimes these 'softer' skillsets that matters in the end..very much like how a skilled striker in a soccer game will need to be a good finisher to score more goals.

And it is interesting to note how these need for 'softer' skillsets is very much different from the focus during my time, about 15 to 20 years ago, where the major concern in education back then, well at least from the perspective of a student, was more to indulge and imbibe the students with content knowledge from the more hard sciences stuffs, and very little on the arts and media. I don't seem to be able to remember the number of times that I actually did a presentation to my classmates or schoolmates, because simply these were few and far in-between. And compare that to now, whereby if a student was to share the same statement, it would specifically mean that he or she would have had done NUMEROUS presentations, so much so that he or she would have lost count!

But let me reiterate that soft skills is not just about presentation alone! More importantly, it is about developing that HUMAN RELATIONSHIP component in our skillsets, specifically that Emotional Quotient (EQ). Daniel Goleman's book on EQ clearly states the dichotomy in EQ, whereby it is not just about understanding oneself, but also reaching out to others, and UNDERSTANDING them. How many times, as adults, have we been so clearly transfixed with getting things done, and focusing too much on our own Cognitive Intelligence, and forgot about the human dimensions to any forms of interaction. And how many times have we forgotten about the inequality of perception, whether actual or assumed, about our own EQ, i.e. human dynamicism...about the fact that there is someone on the receiving end of our interaction,whether good or bad? Perhaps it is something that all of us should reflect. And if I may borrow the words from the late Michael Jackson's song, 'Man in the Mirror', you should be the one who initiate the change.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ideation: Shape Borrowing

Testing - Check out this SlideShare Presentation: A presentation slide that I did for my lesson on Ideation: Shape Borrowing

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Revving up their engines...and mine!

Week 4 has been more of a tiring yet grueling week for me, but thank goodness the heavens must have heard my laments and did allow me some breathing space to tie up some loose ends. The students were amazing, in fact I was surprised that they are actually able to manage their timing and work well, at least for a great majority of them. What really makes me so proud of them was their tenacity to be good, or at least to show a great degree of pride in their works, especially in their sketches! This is especially so since I am of the view that in order to be good communicators, sketching skills are just ONE of the pre-requisite skills that they must be taught, and at least be decently good at, in order to level up on their communicating competencies.

I still think that there is still a gap in how they can communicate their ideas better and hopefully with my help, and their great desire to learn, I would be able to scaffold their learning, and they in turn be able to be deeply engaged in learning to how then make their online portfolios that much more interesting. Well I sure hope that this great experiment that I am currently exploring would be a tremendous success...this whole idea and notion of an online portfolio! It is something new, definitely, but I am very happy to say that I have indeed a great amount of support from my colleagues, something that I truly appreciate!

But as in all things that are new, I do hope that this endeavour would also allow me to fail successfully, (not that I am wishing for it) if there were any shortcomings that I might not have been able to pre-empt. My dream would be to get them to know how to 'choose their nets and then be able to fish'...a metaphor to perhaps give, or rather empower, my students to be able to decide on what to put in into their portfolios. I do hope their reflections and works so far are just a start. Perhaps the photography and other media-related lessons in the very near future would help to enrich them and their portfolios even more. I am definitely excited about all these, but as in all exciting endeavours, a great amount of preparation time is also required to make it a fruitful and a positively-exciting experience, for both the learners and the teacher. And with that in mind, do step aside and allow me to put my foot on the accelerator pedal. I'll be revving up the engine just one notch higher!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Marking their benches...part 2

Things were just picking up steam the last week or so. Work, be it the teaching or the administrative components, are piling up, and well, I guess these are the things that I would need to do. But on a more reflective note, it has been another week of interesting turn of events, for me and my students. It was after all, still a benchmarking phase for me, of the students.

The last week had me enjoying some of my students' presentations and benchmarking their research and analytical skills. Presentation on the 2nd week of lessons...well YES! Why not? But hey, I'm not expecting the Steve Job's style of presentation with visually appealing graphics and a snappy accompanying song to boot. Just a simple one that gives me an idea on how much they know and have researched on, on the given theme, and how comfortable they are presenting in front of the class.

All I can say is that, a great majority are able to present and perhaps standards are decent when you see that they are still 12-year-olds after all! Reading from the slides are still the normal modus operandi for a great majority of them, and cartoonish graphics and multiple font uses and transitions are very much the order of the day when it comes to making their presentations more visually appealing. But hey, I think it was a joy to see them doing all those things, and even more for some of them! Sometimes I do find myself having to stop myself from looking at them from an adult's point of view, and then starting to critically see their presentation from those eyes! What is the underlying theme that they are presenting? Were they comfortable with their slides? Do they enjoy doing the research, the presentation slides, and finally presenting them? I sure hope they did, as much as I enjoyed watching them! But on a more serious and happier note, at least I know I would not be out of job in the immediate future, knowing that there are still areas of improvements that they can make in their own presentation and communication skills.

Research...I think one of the flaws that teachers usually make is to assume what the students already know, or even what they don't know. Interestingly I have made my fair share of such flaws on these 2 fronts too! Firstly assuming that they know what RESEARCH is all no..assuming that they know HOW to present their research! I think my charges DO know what research is all about, but the manner and method of presenting these research information is totally another thing altogether. Perhaps it is this fluidity in becoming a teacher to a bunch of young adults who are soooo willing to learn is what I find great joy in! And that is why it is never ever a boring job! Well, now that I know where the I don't think I want to call it a 'PROBLEM', let's call it shortcomings instead. It does lessen the negative connotations doesn't it. Ok now that I know where the shortcomings are, perhaps it is good for me then to refocus my attention into the other aspects of presentation then...the presentation of their research information, versus research itself.

Hmmm...such is the interesting story of a teacher in week 3 of school! Until my next post...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Marking their benches...

It has been a tiring yet fulfilling week for me this week, with the 1st week of lesson sapping my entire 5-day week, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Add to that the lesson preparations, liasing with vendors, administrative tasks, and other 1001 things to do, and I think I do deserve at least a Masters in the Jack-of-all-trades Institute! But hey this is not a complaint, in fact I am sensing that it has actually spurred me on to do even more, to give my best shot in whatever things that I am doing.

And it was also the perfect chance for me to try out ideas, ideas that have been fermenting so long in my heads, that it almost exploded when school reopens. But I think that I just have to pace myself, lest I burn myself out to fast, too soon.

First week of lessons have been interesting. Have been full of benchmarking, especially in my specific areas of Art, Design, Media and Technology (ADMT). I think the students are really enjoying the 'Sketching' lessons that I have prepared for them, but I think I can do even better.

The next phase or week of lessons would also be consisting of benchmarking lessons too. This time round, I would love to look at their ability to Present and Communicate their ideas as well as their ability to be Creative. Hmmm, a tall order...nah I don't think so. In fact I do think that these students have a reservoir of untapped potential that is just waiting to explode!

Ah well, I guess the weekend is a good respite from all the work. A good time for me to recuperate, reflect and prepare for my next few lessons. Ahh, how I wish I would just be able to prepare lessons and have a personal assistant to do all the other admin. tasks. :(

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