cultural forum

the next cultural forum (aka 精品文化论坛), co-organised by sccl and ci (both belonging to NTU), is coming up on 6th Sep. am preparing for a sharing for the event. will be touching on “Knowledge creation ∙ Education ∙ Information & Communication Technology” and am still in the process of figuring out how to fit everything together for the audience. wish me luck (:

140821-Sep 6 Cultural Forum

reflection on course 12470-00001 facilitation

2 weeks have been put behind for my new Clinic course at SCCL, and today marks the end of the 2nd discussion forum posting (帖子B). my observations for the past 2 weeks are as follows:

1. the 10 teacher participants are highly motivated & on-task, and all of them have shared a lesson example as 帖子B and most of them had reviewed 2 peers’ shared lesson and posted questions and comments. **WELL DONE TEACHERS**

2. content of 帖子B is however missing in focus. while some teachers have highlighted 不满意的地方。But none of these are related to self-directed learning (SDL). it appears that teachers have no issue with carrying out SDL. is this true? why is this so?

3. the discussions were superficial. teachers only agree with each other, and there were no alternative views? why?

4a. i have sent out 2 brief emails (and cross-posted to the DF). for most teachers, i do not know if they have read my email and acted on it.

4b. in a related note, i also do not know how often the teachers were (re)visiting the online discussions. OPAL does not provide details of last login/visit timestamp of participants (which blackboard does).

5. there were multiple technical-related issues. in all, 9 feedback to OPAL helpdesk were sent.

in response to the above observations, i would carry out the following refinements:

for (2), i hypothesise that the instructions in the handout weren’t clear enough. to rewrite instructions in the handout to spell the 2 parts that are expected; hopefully this makes instructions clearer.

for (3), i hypothesise multiple causes. [1], the 1-week interaction cycle may not be long enough for teachers to have multiple answer-reply iterations to dwell deeper into the SDL topic. to overcome this, i will modify the existing plan and try out a 2-week cycle instead. [2], the 24-hours rule is not enforced throughout the entire interaction period; thus teachers may not have caught up with the momentum to have more extensive discussions. to overcome this, i will remove the 廿四小时行动, and extend the ‘game rule’ to be constantly abided throughout the 2-week. [3], teachers only agree with each other, and there were no alternative views. to overcome this, i could perhaps provide some scaffolds on the question types.

for (4a), i would add a line towards the end of the email requesting for read acknowledgement.
for (4b), this is an OPAL design issue, which is beyond my control. i could file another suggestion to OPAL team via OPAL helpdesk.

i hope the above refinements will help to bring discussions to a greater depth so that participants may reach a deeper understanding of the upcoming 协作学习 (collaborative learning, CoL) theme.

reflection photo

flipped classrooms, some thoughts

the idea of “flipping” the classroom is not new (has been hearing it floating around for at least 1-2 yrs now). while different pple may use the “flip” term, different conceptions may exist behind those uses. my understanding of it is this:

1. it removes the didactic teaching of a lesson away from the face-to-face (f2f) lesson
2. the didactic part is replaced by the use of ICT-media online. usually videos as it captures images, animations, and sound nicely all-in-one.
3. students are expected to “learn” from the media posted online
4. with the f2f time freed-up, teachers are able to let students do homework and provide closer (or even 1:1 guidance) for students

the above presented some basic assumptions about teaching and learning:

a. teaching is a didactic activity. this is most often found in schools that implement a lecture (with or without tutorials) system. it’s no wonder flipped classrooms have seen many ‘success’ in higher ed (an example) settings as most of us may recall how useful lectures are, perhaps even from (my) JC days. a replacement of the talking head/person in front of the lecture hall with a video definitely presents multiple opportunities, esp. when you have lecturers who speak too softly, speak too fast, speak too slow, talk about things you can read off texts, or talk about things that have nothing to do with the topic at hand and you are expected to read on your own anyway. video, with the ability to play, replay, fast-forward, is simply a saviour!

a related qn would be: is our current CL classrooms (you may replace CL with any subject u teach) as didactic as a lecture? current teachers, especially the teachers who have walked their practicum journey with me during 2012-2013 would know they would never graduate from NIE if that’s the case. since our classroom practices have already shifted towards more interaction, albeit IRE interactions still exist largely, how much would our students benefit from a flip?

b. teachers post a video of him/herself talking, students watch, and students learn! **WOW** if learning takes place so simply, why do we need teachers stepping into the classrooms at all? just employ a group of “expert teachers” to produce videos, ask students to buy a portable internet-enabled video player, watch the videos, and they will have learnt everything and anything. **WOW** from this perspective, part of the flipped classroom idea takes on an extreme naive assumption of learning. and why does it remind me of educational videos produced by CDIS and played back on Channel 8 some 20-30 yrs ago? or, Sesame Street, anyone?

i would like to also ask: if teachers claim that students are unmotivated during f2f lessons, how motivated would they be to watch/hear you talking to them for an hour or two AFTER SCHOOL? to learn? so, the flip idea appears to require students who are already motivated to learn (for whatever reason(s)) to begin with, isn’t it?

while posting videos appear to be the hype to some when they learnt about the flip idea, it is the f2f time that is the key consideration. WHAT are we going to do now with time supposedly freed up? say, i. let students do more drill-and-practice related to the topic in the video?, ii. engage students in discussion about the topic in the video?, iii. organise students into groups to discuss their ideas about the videos followed by some presentations?, iv. give students enrichment materials related but beyond the scope of the video and do (i) to (iii)?

now, does one realise that (i) to (iv) still presents a largely teacher-centered way of managing learning activities? while there may be group work, the task, the goal, the topic, and the timeline are all determined by teachers. it is still very far away, if not going against our vision to develop 21 century learners, or self-directed (SDL) & collaborative (CoL) learners.

therefore up to this point, any implementation of “flipped classroom” without the use of ICT (an example), or any implementation that does not advance students’ 21cc, especially SDL and CoL with ICT, isn’t good enough for me. these are just age-old practices relabelled to bring some hype. full-stop.

flipped classroom has to service the rethinking about education (e.g. Bereiter, 2002) if we were to ready our students for the knowledge society. blindly jumping onto this bandwagon, or any other to come in future, isn’t going to help.

the power of introverts

Susan Cain’s TED talk in 2012 – The power of introverts

although we may argue that introvert-extrovert is a spectrum, many at times, introverts are expected to perform based on extroverts’ measures. it’s no surprise that fewer introverts are in leadership positions, cos a key mechanism for assessing someone’s suitability for a position is most often, interview. i’m not sure about other introverts, but i am definitely a fish who feels that it is a (monkey) climbing the tree test an interview is to me. Cain (2012) called it the Extrovert Ideal which all of us are expected to perform towards or under (:

2014-08-08-Susan Cain 2012 look inside
[acknowledgement: Amazon Look Inside of Susan Cain's Quiet]

english dictation vs chinese dictation

today marks the opening session of ICT for SDL and CoL Clinic (traisi code 12470) for sec/jc/ci CL teachers. this course marks two first, a. the first blended learning course conducted at SCCL, and b. the first course i conduct at SCCL after joining the centre for 8 months. thanks to two fellow colleagues, Wu Jing and Anchi, who were there to lend support (:

during the class with 10 fellow CL teachers from 8 schools, i had a chance to share my view on the importance of questioning and be clear about the purpose(s) every time we introduce something (for e.g. an activity, an instruction, an approach) to our students.

this evening, i helped yh4 revised his english dictation taking place tmr. english dictation is carried out by the teacher reading aloud the words and punctuations, with students listening and writing out the passage on paper. last week this time, i helped yh3 revised his chinese dictation. chinese dictation is carried out by the students memorising 3 lengthy sentences and regurgitating them in class with pencil/pen & paper.

it appears that the practices of english dictation and chinese dictation haven been quite different with 30 yrs in between. i recalled going through such activities when i was a pri & sec student. i wonder when teachers carry out dictation, do anyone of us understand and/or question the purpose of carrying it out? until i do more research, i can only hypothesise that in english, the purpose is to assess if students could recall words as a whole, or to form words based on hearing pronunciation. ‘sound’ is closely associated with the word forms. at the same time, it could also be a training for students to sharpen their listening ability as they reproduce what they’ve heard in writing.

now, what’s the purpose of chinese dictation, aka mo-xie 默写? is the purpose just to test students’ ability to memorise chinese characters after characters? why arent chinese dictation carried out the english way? given that chinese characters are logograms, the purpose of testing students’ memory can likewise be achieved. why do we not use the same opportunity to sharpen students’ listening ability too? are any underlying assumptions about chinese language learning preventing chinese teachers from doing so? i suspect it is, for one, linked to the chinese’ belief of equating the ability to memorise as a virtue. but the larger question here is, how often do we revisit the purpose, or at a deeper level, our underlying assumptions about chinese language learning as we design our activities?

if i were a student, you really cant blame me for “liking” english lessons more than chinese lessons just by comparing the dictation activity alone. before we jump to the conclusion that it’s difficult to “interest” students to learn chinese, perhaps we should take time to reflect upon how we’re teaching the language, and the soundness of existing approaches. we could be a major culprit in ‘killing’ off the language though i doubt anyone would readily admit it.