Posts Tagged ‘straits times’
Dr Cheah Horn Mun, the director of ETD of the MOE, responded to a contributor to the Straits Time forum who asked, “What’s the update on digital learning?”
Horn Mun was a colleague of mine in NIE before taking the post in the MOE. I wonder if he (or one of his people) will read my blog entry as I have a critique on his response. I have nothing against him, of course, as he is a really nice guy and I think I know where he is coming from. I realize that he has to represent an organization, so his personal views may be clouded. It is the content of his reply that I critique, not the person.
I am glad that he informed the public about financial assistance schemes for bridging the technology divide [see text blocked in green]. I am also glad that he mentioned the cyberwellness efforts in schools. We in NIE have introduced this concept in our ICT course a semester ago and made it part of a graded assignment so that new teachers are aware of the concept.
In trying to provide a succinct reply, it was not possible for Horn Mun to list all the schools and all their ICT and “digital learning” efforts. But I was left wondering why the usual suspects keep appearing. Are there no other schools worthy of mention?
Why don’t stakeholders (parents in particular) know what is happening in schools with regards to ICT integration? Why do they have to wait for limited and selective coverage by the press? Every school should be proudly publishing its efforts in its Web 1.0 school site, or better still, taking advantage of Web 2.0 to regularly update the school’s blog, Twitter or Facebook account.
Perhaps most schools have little to say. Why? In my opinion, they are not, as the director of ETD wrote [see text blocked in orange], “well resourced with the computing infrastructure and digital resources to harness ICT for learning”. It might appear so administratively on paper and on VIP visits to schools, but the reality is that most schools do not yet have early 21st century tools in place because of industrial age hangovers.
Yes, a few schools have 1:1 computing programmes and campus wide wireless networks. The majority do not. A few more schools have IWBs and “special” rooms. But these tools and venues are of little use (and little used) if pedagogy does not change with the times.
How do I know? I have friends and former trainees who are school principals, heads of departments or teachers. I follow teachers on Twitter, Facebook or their blogs. As a supervisor, consultant and teacher educator, I visit schools regularly and make it a point to ask about their ICT infrastructure and actually see the rooms. I do school-based research and collect uncensored information from teachers about their schools. Finally, I was a teacher before I was a teacher educator, so I know how most teachers think and react.
Teachers will complain that the infrastructure is not in place. They are right but it will never be in place because technology changes so rapidly. Instead, they could use what the students already have or think of ways to work with businesses and the community to get what they need.
Teachers complain of a lack of time despite efforts to reduce curriculum time for more innovative instruction. The integration of ICT does make lesson planning and implementation more complex, but it does not have to be overly elaborate or time-consuming.
One thing I model for my teacher trainees is how to facilitate ICT embedded activities that are only 5-15 minutes long. Think about how you might conduct a 5-minute brainstorming session using a collaboratively generated online mindmap. Think about 10-minute learning stations that students visit and where they search for information, solve mini problems (that are part of a larger problem) and reflect on them… all using iPod Touches and a wireless router. Think about a concept that no one, including the teacher, is sure about and everyone uses their iPhones or netbooks to instantly get information from the Web and then have a class discussion to clarify that concept.
What schools should invest in are technologies that will support pedagogies and strategies that last. Pedagogies that build upon experiential learning, problem-based learning, case-based learning or game-based learning. Digital learning then becomes learning that is enabled, not just enhanced, by critical, powerful and meaningful forms of technology.
So what exactly do schools need? Wireless Internet access anywhere in school and mobile computing devices like iPod Touches, variants of the Nintendo DS, Sony PSPs, smartphones or netbooks. Do schools have these in place? Most do not. Do some students already have some of these kid-friendly devices? Yes, they do and half the need is potentially fulfilled. Are most schools taking advantage of this? No, they are not. They need to put technology in the hands and minds of the learners. After all, we are in their service and preparing them for their futures, not our past.
So it there digital learning in schools? From my point of view as a teacher educator, a researcher and a concerned parent, I’d say certainly not enough.
Straits Times online featured this article on gaming:
I guess only negative or sensationalistic headlines grab eyeballs. Youth are “stuck” (as in addicted or immobile) and this “raises fears”. This isn’t news, it’s olds. The layperson already has this perception and ST is telling them what they want to read or hear.
If ST really wanted to report the news, report it when the results have been properly analyzed. Or link it to opportunities such as Singapore’s game development, participation in cyber competitions or educational gaming. These highlight Singapore’s reputation and savvy as well as the educational ground we can break in this area.
ST highlights fears but I am already aware of them. Folks at this forum are livid about the article. I see opportunities and pursue them instead. The layperson might see 27 hours a week wasted on gaming. I see 27 hours of informal and meaningful learning initiated by the learner!
BTW, I only have access to the digital copy above and don’t have the full article. I neither subscribe to ST online (cough, ripoff, cough) nor a paper copy (a waste of resources). The NIE library has “lost” yesterday’s newspaper too. I’d appreciate a copy of the full article if anyone has it.
This was recently featured in the Straits Times.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Second Life (SL) is not a game. There are no levels to go through, points to get, or game bosses to kill. It is a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE).
There are MUVE games like World of Warcraft, but SL is not a game. As its name implies, SL is another life you can live. It can be as mundane or as exciting as you want it to be. You can recreate your existing life or live out a fantasy. If you wish to create a game-like environment, you can. But SL is not a game in itself. It is a virtual space to create and collaborate.
Newspapers do a disservice by spreading this sort of misinformation. Label SL a game and other layperson perceptions creep in: Violence, addiction, anti-social behaviour, no educational value, time-wasting, etc. This could not be further from practice. Half the battle to win the minds of an overly critical but ignorant public is lost.
This is one reason why I include SL and other 21st century learning environments in the ICT course that I facilitate. I offer a Prezi presentation on educational SL to any and all who are interested. But the best thing you can do is get a SL avatar, try it out for yourself and read about the powerful things that people are doing with it to promote meaningful learning.
ST Online reported today that schools here might resort to e-learning [PDF] “if H1N1 worsens.” ST also reported that some schools in Hong Kong had already taken that route [PDF] with the outbreak of A(H1N1).
The articles are revealing in what they say and what they don’t. In Singapore’s case, “most of the 15 parents interviewed by The Straits Times did not think it necessary to keep schools closed.” In the Australian International School in HK, a primary school teacher was quoted:
It is surprising how technologically savvy children are getting from a young age… Students see the integration of IT (information technology) as a logical progression in their school life.
The same article then gave an example of the e-learning:
Instructors at a kindergarten in Causeway Bay record themselves reading story books and singing songs as if their students were in the classroom and send the videos out the next day.
If you ignore the standard we-are-ready responses that other interviewees gave, that in gist is what the articles reported. What the articles did not report is that such e-learning:
- is still peripheral and something to resort to only in emergencies
- tries to replicate what goes on in the classroom (when it shouldn’t)
- does not push pedagogies, that is, it does not change the way teachers teach despite the affordances of various technologies
- is designed to be e-doing instead of actual e-learning.
- does not take advantage of what children are already using competently inside and outside the home, e.g., mobile phones, portable gaming consoles, laptop computers, netbooks, etc.
If you want to design e-learning, make it meaningful and logical to the learner. What is the point of replicating what they do in school when you have school for that? Take advantage of the medium in which e-learning takes place. To not do that is like watching TV with the picture off because you only used a radio before. Explore independent and collaborative forms of learning that promote information literacies and thinking that is both creative and critical!
E-learning is more reflective of the way we need to think and learn in today’s (and tomorrow’s) world. It is more informal and the problems are more complex or less well-defined. Multiple resources are used to solve the problem and there is often more than one solution to the problem. The process often requires a fair amount of effort from the individual and some form of collaboration with others to make the solution logical and meaningful.
Doing e-learning for its own sake or only in situations like A(H1N1) outbreaks creates negative learning experiences. As a result, it reinforces the negative perception of e-learning. Worse still, it frustrates our learners and does not prepare them for the world that they will live in.
The online Straits Times decided to feature something from My Paper (slow news day?) and in the Breaking News section no less.
The article? Kids’ errors posted online. A secondary school teacher posted “her students’ poor English usage in their assignments on her Facebook account.”
Of course people had a reaction to that. The article was careful to include the feedback from Stompers and MOE. And we know how, um, different those perspectives can be. (Several English lessons can be conducted on the article and their responses alone!)
My reaction is in the title of my entry, but I am not nonchalant about it.
There is nothing new about teachers doing this. Before Facebook there were blogs. Before blogs, there were personal Web sites and email. Before that teachers would compile these gems on paper.
The greater issue is why and how teachers do this. Are they doing this for a hearty laugh, privately I might add, among a community of practitioners? Are they also sharing these with students for the purpose of educating them instead of embarrassing them?
In either case, the paper medium used to restrict access to these gaffes. Blogs and Facebook are more public, hence the greater access and scrutiny. The public reacts to the published work but does not necessarily understand the teacher’s intentions.
Instead of reacting negatively to this event, I see this an opportunity to educate. Administrators and educators should not shy from Web 2.0 because it is an excellent platform for personal publishing and social networking. Informally it is also a platform for modelling values and practices.
In this case, how the teacher shared the examples is a key issue. If the examples were incriminating, then limit the posting to one or only an invited few. If the examples were educationally useful, then prepare them and the posting for public viewing. In the latter case, this could include clearly stating the intent, stripping the writing of all means of identifying the students, and maintaining a professional tone in the posting.
There may be a thin line in social media that divides when one is writing personally or professionally. But there is a line nonetheless. If you cross it, you deal with the circumstances.