MOOC, is it about education, or … ?

the word MOOC is running around my ears for the past week or so. so what does MOOC really offer? din have time to dwell too much into it, so let me just capture some thoughts based on quotes from a WSJ article “The Opportunities—and Risks—in the MOOC Business Model“. some quotes that caught my eyes:

“… the uncertainty that surrounds the nature of MOOCs as viable businesses.”

- should any institution embark on MOOC if it’s not to earn money from it? becos …

“High-quality ones are expensive to produce but well suited to efficiently broadcasting knowledge to large, distributed crowds.”

- knowledge is described as distributable entity. how much of a teacher’s knowledge belongs to static ‘distributable’ stuff? is knowledge broadcastable to begin with?

“… Why should a student listen to her local professor profess, if the same topic is available online from a more compelling instructor halfway across the globe?”

- lecturer’s ‘pull factor’ is extremely important.

“There still is too wide a gap between the idealistic promise of MOOCs as a means to democratize education and the ideological practice of using MOOCs as means to cut costs in already underfunded public universities”

- the ideal vs. implementation gap, as ever. looks like cost-cutting rules the day.

“They reduce the potential for teacher-student interaction, lessening the ability of the professor to provide individualized instructional support.”

- MOOC doesnt stamp from a social constructivist view of learning anyway. not it’s current form at least.

“Those best educators work at institutions that might benefit from their courses being sold online, as the competition crowds out all but the stars.”

- institutions sell and benefit from MOOC

“MOOCs have the potential to bring higher education and generate revenue from millions of students who don’t have access to today”

- again, it’s abt money-making for the institution

“MOOCs are globally accessible, so a weak MOOC can have adverse reputational consequences for its creating institution.”

- an institution’s reputation hangs in there. $$$ hangs in there too i supposed?

and one key reminder for myself, MOOC is a Higher Education entity. if our day-to-day affair concerns Teachers’ PD, how much does MOOC belong? these are entirely two different contexts with different needs; an attempt to plug-n-play like plugging in USB devices is dangerous.

kindle paperwhite chinese english dictionaries

kindle paperwhite has many built-in dictionaries. for a learner of both English and Chinese language, you may want to make full use of this feature. if you have a kindle running in English (US) as your default language like me, your should have no difficulty locating the “Modern Chinese-English Dictionary”. This dictionary is hardly enough for a keen learner, for e.g. it doesn’t even have the pronunciation (hanyu pinyin) of the words!

Sometime having access to a full Chinese-Chinese dictionary is useful. To get this, you will need to do a ‘workaround’. The option for 现代汉语词典 (Xian Dai Han Yu Ci Dian) appears in my case after I:

1. set the language of my kindle to 简体中文
2. reboot into 简体中文 interface (with internet connection enabled)
3. go to ‘default dictionary for each language and you should now see 现代汉语词典 under the Chinese section.
4. select 现代汉语词典 as default dictionary
5. set the language of my kindle back to English (US)
6. reboot back to English (US) interface

and you should now have access to BOTH 现代汉语词典 and Modern Chinese-English Dictionary (:

a photo of my kindle with English interface with 现代汉语词典 activated:
140726-kindle chinese dictionary

[update 27/7]
i may have found a FASTER and easier way to install the dictionaries.
1. logon to your amazon account
2. go to “Manage your content and devices”
3. click on Show –> Dictionaries and User Guides
4. select the dictionary you want, and “Deliver” it to your kindle
5. enjoy (:

TALIS 2013

TALIS, which stands for OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey, final report 2013 was released yesterday. was first brought to the attention of it via some fb shares of the CNA report.

TALIS 2013 has an interactive webpage which allows users to make comparison between two countries, and the overall average. after making some chart comparisons between SG and Finland, i am glad our system is doing significantly a lot more (not sure statistically so or not) in terms of teachers’ PD. MOE’s belief that PD can improve our teachers and education as a whole is strongly reflected in the charts; this also matches my personal experience and belief (not sure how much belongs to MOE’s influence in this). CNA’s headline “Teachers in Singapore are … among the best-trained worldwide” rightly captured this gist.

another piece of writing related to the TALIS 2013 report is a blog post by Andreas Schleicher, Director of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills. for those of us who dun have time (which is most of us and i confess i am one of us) to read the 442-page report, Schleicher has shared some of his takeaways which could be useful for us too. cut-n-paste a few quotes that i find meaningful [personally]:

  • “if a teacher is convinced that students learn better when they are encouraged to think through and solve problems on their own, then they are likely to use more active, student-centred approaches to teaching and learning” [this touches on the importance of teachers' beliefs]
  • “constructive and fair teacher appraisals and feedback have a positive effect on teachers’ job satisfaction and on their confidence in their abilities as teachers” [teachers, students, we are all alike, aren't we?]
  • “they should also work with other teachers to develop a system of peer feedback on all aspects of teaching, from lesson planning and classroom practice to student evaluation” [this requires a very open-mind about feedback. is strongly culturally related.]
  • “While in many countries there is a lot of debate about the ideal class size, TALIS finds that class size has no measurable impact on teaching efficacy. But teachers who reported that they teach classes where more than one in ten students are low academic achievers or have behavioural problems also reported significantly lower levels of confidence in their abilities to teach, or what is known as self-efficacy.” [work on our students' self-efficacy, and the classroom size issue may just be no issue anymore?]
  • “Since TALIS finds that teachers who participate more in decision making in their school are also more likely to believe that society values teachers, they should be open to work together with colleagues and school leaders.” [ownership, buy-in ... reminded me somewhat of SDL]

US road trip 2014

just completed a California-Navada-Arizona 17 days road trip (actual driving: 13 days), our 3rd driving holidays.
total 2253 miles (3625.85203 km) covered with this trustworthy Dodge Avenger (:


[updated 3rd July] Itinerary of the trip
Day – Point(s) of interest [Lodging]
Day 1 SIN to LAX
Day 2 – Day 4 Disneyland and California Adventure Park [Americas Best Value Inn Anaheim]
Day 5 – Begin car rental days; SeaWorld @San Diego [Dolphin Motel]
Day 6 – Day 7 Legoland [Legoland Hotel; Hollywood La Brea Inn]
Day 8 – Universal Studio [Hollywood La Brea Inn]
Day 9 – Las Vegas [Circus circus]
Day 10 – Hoover Dam; Meteor Crater near Winslow; Sedona via historic route 66 [Sky Ranch Lodge]
Day 11 – Sedona; Grand Canyon [Maswik Lodge]
Day 12 – Grand Canyon; Barstow [Holiday Inn Express Bakersfield]
Day 13 – Sequoia National Forest [John Muir Lodge]
Day 14 – Kings Canyon National Park; Moonstone beach & elephant seals [Silver Surf Motel]
Day 15 – Beach@ Monterey Bay [Sanctuary Beach Resort]
Day 16 – San Francisco Pier 39 [Coventry Motor Inn]
Day 17 – Return car; SFO to SIN

us prepaid sim card

if you are looking to buy a prepaid SIM card to be used in the us (united states, or usa), AT&T is one choice, and you can get it shipped to you in advance and activate it according to this guide by

you can buy it from, or do a search on ebay if you like to compare prices from other vendor. good to do buy it at least 3-4 weeks in advance to allow time for (slow) shipping (: