Another dot in the blogosphere?

I did not realise that it was Father’s Day yesterday. I returned home from an errand and found some chocolate and this hastily-made card on my table.

Sweet! Not just the chocolates, but the message in the card. Given what I know about how my son makes cards at the last minute, I appreciate the sentiment with a golden berry and ultra ball.

I also appreciate the “dad” joke on Father’s Day. It’s like a bow that adds some flourish to a present.

Returning to the Seven Terraces in Georgetown, Penang, was like revisiting a friend’s home. A very rich friend’s very large home.

Like my first visit 2.5 years ago, I never got to meet this friend, but I met many of his staff. They were warm, professional, and polite. In both stays, my family and I got extensions at no extra cost thanks to late flights and accommodating front desk folk.

There were also some not-so-subtle changes to the decor. One was this art piece that featured an elephant-giraffe.

This was not there in November 2015. I took this photo of my wife and son in the same spot then.

Like any good art, the piece sparked thought. For me, it was how easy it is to take sides — either extreme with clear views or somewhere in between with a jumbled ones.

While some might point out that only the extremes offer defined views, I prefer to focus on changing one’s perspective by walking back and forth. Doing that takes effort.

The effort was minimal in the case of the art piece. It might not be so easy when trying to see something from someone else’s vantage point. But making the effort is important in both cases.

Today I tie together an edtech staple, SAMR, and Seth Godin’s recent blog post, Better and Different.

SAMR is a model that has been useful for educators to think about what they are doing when teaching with technology — substituting, augmenting, modifying, or redefining.

The model is not perfect (no model is) and it has its fair share of critics and brickbats. A simple Google search will reveal what they are.

However, this does not mean that SAMR is not important or useful. The model might somewhat arbitrarily define SA as possibly enhancing teaching with technology while MR might push this to transforming teaching.

It might help to step outside the walled garden that is the classroom to see why MR and transformation are critical elements of the SAMR model. Godin made this point plainly:

There’s still plenty of room for digital innovations to impact our world. But they won’t simply be a replacement for what we have now. They only earn widespread engagement when they’re much better than the status quo they replace.

And the only way they can be better is when they’re different.

Or to put the same thing a different way:

Doing things differently does not always mean doing things better. But doing things better always means doing things differently. -- Hank McKinnell (Former CEO of Pfizer)

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to play Pokémon Go (PoGo) in yet another country. This time I was in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.

I realised that I could repeat much of my reflection on playing PoGo in Amsterdam last year. The similarities were the slow pace and gentle culture of play.

The best Torkoal I caught in Georgetown, Penang.

One obvious difference this time around was the regional exclusive, Torkoal, that was available here. I only encountered five or six of them, possibly because I travelled while the in-game Water Festival was on.

Wailmer breaching off Penang.

The event saw an increased spawning of water type Pokémon everywhere at the expense of all other types. This was an AR photo that I took of a Wailmer off the waters between mainland Malaysia and the island portion of Penang.

I can already hear someone point out that the more kiasu and frantic style of play in Singapore makes us sharp. But as we gain that, we also lose some things — fair and honourable play, courtesy, a live-and-let-live attitude.

Some might say that our speed, efficiency, and even brutality of play are hard skills honed by playing in a hard environment. But we are what we eat, we become who we are. The longer term soft skills that stem from an even temperament, looking at the long term, and working well with others are far more valuable.

I see a loose parallel between the way we play PoGo here and the hard, grade-based academic environment that is the Singapore schooling system. Ultimately, grades do not matter as much as influence, character, and impact. Currently, the policy and political rhetoric point towards developing students with the latter traits. Are we willing and able to change our style of play?

I am back from my short family vacation to Georgetown, Penang. I was last there in November 2015 and enjoyed the trip so much that we paid it another visit.

While my wife and son chilled the school out of their systems, I wandered around the city with fresh Poké stops and gyms telling me where to go.

This is what part of the city looked like in game.

Georgetown, Penang, in PoGo.

And these are just a few of the cat-themed murals that litter the place.

#Cat got your tongue? No, cats caught my eye in #georgetown #penang revisited.

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

The art was not the only expression of creativity in the city. I noticed how some shop owners set their public wifi passwords — a sourdough place used “fermentation” and a book-and-cafe place used “nookienook”.

I also appreciate Apple’s simple but quality-of-life wifi connection feature — only one of us had to type in a wifi password and connect successfully. After doing so, the phone would prompt the first person to share the password with everyone in a trusted list to connect to the same wifi network. This process is illustrated here.

I do not know if Apple has a name for this feature. If it does not, it should call it Easy Peasy.

I reflected twice on getting a mobile connection while travelling in Malaysia. The first time I relied on a Digi prepaid SIM; the second time I went with Maxis Hotlink.

I just returned from a short trip, this time with neither a mifi device and nor a Malaysian prepaid SIM card.

Local telco providers have made it a bit more convenient to get connected overseas. Emphasis on “a bit“ and not on “convenient“.

If you are on a postpaid plan, you might have the option of applying for a data plan without removing your sim card and not breaking the bank. However, these options are not likely to be as cheap as getting a Malaysian SIM the moment you land in a Malaysian airport. The telco kiosks for such prepaid SIMs are typically positioned right before you hit immigration counters.

A better deal might be had with a Singapore prepaid SIM. I use StarHub and I could use my allotted local data overseas. I ensured that I had:

  • enough purchased data
  • activated the data roaming option in the app (see screenshot below)
  • activated the data roaming setting in the phone
  • ensured the APN was set correctly (see screenshot below)
  • at least $3 in the prepaid app’s wallet

Data roaming setting in StarHub prepaid app.

The prepaid app provided clear instructions and automated the APN setting. I only found out the minimum wallet amount after receiving an SMS from StarHub once I arrived in Malaysia.

$3 minimum wallet amount required in StarHub prepaid app for roaming.

Your telco might disable the tethering function. This means that you cannot share the prepaid data plan with other devices. This was the case with my prepaid plan with StarHub. However, I discovered that the tethering was enabled once connected to Malaysian providers. Your mileage might vary with the overseas country’s telco service you connect to.

It has taken years for us to reach this “seamless” state and I very much appreciate it. I can still remember a fellow traveller and I getting anxious about getting connected in Denmark just four years ago.

Note: I have not been asked to describe or promote the service by StarHub nor have I been paid by the telco to do so. I am sharing my experience as a reminder of my travel needs and to help others in their decision-making.

As well intentioned as this tweet is, its brevity does not allow for caveats or elaborations.

When wisdoms are distilled into 140, or now, 280 characters, they hide the thought processes that generate them. They also create potential misconceptions. I address just two of the latter.

While it is true that the issue is not consumption vs creation, far too many learners still spend far too much time at the consumption end of the continuum.

This creates more problems in teaching, e.g., teachers trying to engage their students by getting them to consume what they present instead of empowering students to create.

Emphasising curation is not wrong, but this is nowhere near as important as content creation. Curation is mostly collating the work of other; creation is making your own.

If no one creates, what is there to curate? We should not just depend on the goodwill and effort of others. We should make and share openly and responsibly.

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