Monday, March 13, 2006

Reflection 6 - New Tools!

Just discovered a neat freeware (GPS Tracker) that allows one to digitize a map in a jiffy!*. Only 2 points are required for the calibration (usual long/latitude in degrees/min/sec). Once the calibration is completed, the ‘map’ is locked into position. Move your cursor across the map and coordinates will appear!

GPS Tracker is primarily used for the design of tracking routes and it can be interfaced with GPS sensors (don’t have one to try though). Coupled with another database system (e.g. Excel or Access), one can conduct fieldtrips with minimal fuss.

*Margin of error is pretty big though, so the application is best reserved for visualisation purposes. Experiment was conducted by importing a satellite image exported from GOOGLE Earth.

Reflection 5 - Contributions to TLLM

Of the 5 PETALS under TLLM, “Assessment for Learning” seems the one that is in greatest need for IT infusion. Spoke to a few teachers and all could not suggest alternative forms of IT based assessment; other than the usual LMS tracking approach. Thought that CPS could be marketed as a means of formative assessment but still, what we lack is a pool of examples that can be showcased.

Then again, is it a matter of variety or how we actually utilise the LMS/CPS for assessment? Is there a framework that guides educators in the ‘right’ use of IT-based assessment?

It was reported in the Straits Times (early March ’06) that tertiary students have been capitalising on loopholes in IT-based assessments. Schools are aware of the situation and have embarked on a cat and mouse chase to close the gaps. This is exactly what I’ve tried in school for an IT-based summative assessment. To ensure a high level of security, three times the usual number of test questions was set to allow for randomization. Have asked around but there seems no easy way out. Hence, to convince teachers to use IT in assessment for learning, more has to be done and quick! Schools will be looking up to us when the baseline skills are rolled out next year!

Reflection 7 - Good Practices in Workshops

Had observed CPDD/TDD colleagues during the TLLM workshops. Thought that the following tips would be useful for ETOs in the conduct of workshops:

Wait time – Though commonly stressed, it is seldom employed in a consistent manner. Adequate wait time during questioning allows participants to internalise and think through the issue before responding.

Type of Questioning
– Three models were observed: Kipling’s (5W1H), Bloom’s Taxonomy and Socratic Questioning. Good questioning is by no means an easy feat. Socratic questioning is by far the most demanding… Here’re some notes:

(Richard Paul’s Reasoning Model – Taxonomy of Socratic Questioning)

· Purpose
· Question
· Assumption
· Point of View
· Data
· Concept
· Inference and Consequences
· Implications

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Reflection 1 - David's Talk

Part 1: David's Talk

Etienne Wenger has aptly defined how COPs are developed, i.e. despite the direct/indirect influence an external mandate, it is ultimately the community itself that peforms self regulation.

Whilst David's sharing was angled at how COPs could be developed from a central 'core', Wenger's model of COP development charts the inevitable route of progression. According to Wenger, it has to be understood that at the outset, it is unlikely that a COP be maintained at its 'peak' of performance (i.e. the "Active" stage). Here lies the fundamental question - Are we more concerned about the mechanics of setting up new COPs or to sustain/excite existing ones? If our focus is on the latter, then David's approach is merely a prelude to our larger agenda. We need to look beyond the creation but the sustenance of a community.

All is not lost. Although Wenger advocates a natural "decline" of COPs, he also shares on how the organization could benefit the community. For the case of ETD, Wenger cautions that there are 3 main challenges: scrutiny, over-management and new demands. Balancing the challenges against the engineering of a COP would be a highly delicate task, but nonetheless an importnant one. It would be interesting to see how David's model addresses these issues.

Part 2: Use of IT in Engaged Learning

Under the PETALS framework, engaged learning could be defined by 5 principles - Use of Pedagogy, Experiences for Learning, Tone of Environment, Assessment for Learning and Learning Content.

Current IT practices in schools supports the first 3 principles. For instance, the WISE resources promotes IBL/PBL which engages students in authentic and relevant activities. Scaffolding is available to ensure interconnectedness between disciplines. In addition, the recent interests in the use of CPS promotes a safe learning environment by minimising 'public embarressment'.

On the other hand, there are only a handful of means in the use of IT for assessment. At least in the local context, IT in assessment primarily involves the use of CPS/LMS, or the like. Some schools have taken to the marking of digitised homework via the inking technology (One simply wonders how IT has value-added the process).

Perhaps we need a system that goes beyond the monitoring of students' performance in online quizzes/assessments. A system that is able to provide feedback on students' intermittent progress, based on sound analysis of their responses... one that is able to suggest strategies for improvement/reinforcement.

Reflection 2 - Engaged Learning: Making Learning an Authentic Experience

First Thoughts

The main concepts involved in the proposed engaged learning framework are not new. What the authors have done is to amalgamate some current thoughts and existing practices into an implementable whole. Whilst there is general consensus that problem-based, engaged learning experiences would benefit students, practitioners would also have to address the challenge of designing activities that will necessarily nudge students towards to coverage of key concepts within the syllabus. This is by no means an easy feat.

A well defined, ‘ill-structured’ problem is one that has no ready solutions. How then do teachers engineer the convergence towards the curriculum? At this stage, one should accept that complete convergence is not possible nor desirable. Educators should be reminded that ‘accidental’ discoveries are part and parcel of engaged learning which should be valued.

Impact on Normal Technical Curriculum

The ultimate litmus test for the effectiveness of the proposed framework is to implement it for the students who need it most – the students from the Normal Technical (NT) stream, in other words, a convincing proof-of-concept is to engage the disengaged.

It is believed that the NT stream is a natural fertile ground for the implementation of the framework. First of all, these are students who appreciate ‘hands-on’ learning, particularly with the use of IT tools. Secondly, the usual approaches to T&L have been tried and tested for umpteen times, without much success. Last but not least, the breadth of the existing syllabus (i.e. at the expense of depth, in comparison to NA and Exp students) supports general ‘problem’ solving.

Special considerations need to be made to customize the framework for NT students. Areas to be addressed include: Scaffolds, Tools and Collaboration.


Clear expectations within and across stages need to be spelt out. Teachers should model some of the processes (e.g. soliciting feedback from experts) in context to an actual assignment. If necessary, students should be carefully grouped (e.g. by taking into considerations the sociometry, aptitude or attitude of students) and ‘training’ be administered to specific students who can then lead/assist other group members.


Being academically weak, the need for tools of communication and analysis for NT students cannot be further underscored. For instance, graphical representation of data is much preferred and the use of an appropriate graphing tool would greatly enhance the learning process.


Group work is particularly important for NT students. It inculcates the value of cooperation and through leveraging on the strengths of individual members, students are more likely to attain the objectives that are laid out.

Reflection 3-4 - Of SEED & SAIL

General Information:

SEED: Strategies for Effective Engagement and Development.Schools design their own teaching/learning programmes, pedagogical approaches and assessment modes, based on the specific needs, abilities and learning styles of their pupils, to engage and develop their pupils.

SAIL: SAIL is an innovative teaching and learning approach that seeks to develop our students into reflective, life-long learners. Teachers can use the approach as part of their repertoire of pedagogical tools to enhance their students' learning experience.

What they mean to me:

SEED: From what I’ve gathered, many primary schools have implemented station learning in light of SEED. In fact, teachers at P1-2 levels are now requesting for PCs to be deployed in their classrooms (hurray!!!). Definitely a good opportunity for us to soft sell how IT can enhance learning… right at the foundation!

SAIL: To be very honest, I’ve not been SAILING… but it seems to me that it’s synonymous with rubrics and open-ended tasks (not unlike PBL in some aspects?). Important to know that CPDD does provided school-based workshops on this initiative.

Specific Information on how schools operationalise SEED:

Ai Tong Primary – Adopts ‘cyclical method’ to maximise resources, i.e. classes across the same level are divided into 2 groups. Each group would carry out a unit of work (according to a particular theme). After 3-4 weeks, classes will swop ‘themes’.

Hougang Primary – iCRISP Project (I Create Resources for SEED Project). P5 pupils create resources (i.e. by writing books), in support of the SEED programme in the school.

Yumin Primary – Integrated lessons comprising EL, MATH, ART, PE, HE and SS. Indoor/Outdoor lessons are conducted.
River Valley Primary – Use of manipulatives in Mathematics for formative assessments.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Wonderful experience in this cosmopolitan city. Cool breeze at the bund... clubbing @ XinTianDi... umm...

Still yearning for an opportunity to fish in '06. Willing to try exotic places with only one rule of thumb - No commercial fish ponds pl.