Another dot in the blogosphere?

Come into the light

Posted on: October 15, 2009

I followed Tuck Soon’s tweets as he attended a briefing on baseline ICT standards for students. His culminating tweet:

Baseline ICT Pupil Standards in Singapore Notice the huge emphasis on Microsoft Office and lack of Web 2.0 #edtech

In light of all Singapore schools adopting Google Apps for Education by the end of this year and the need to teach 21st century skills, I fear that some folks might still be in the dark. Let me shed some light.

Teaching students how to word process in MS Word and in Google Docs might seem to be no different. However, a fundamental difference is that Google Apps is online and these documents, presentations and spreadsheets can be more easily and collaboratively created.

This collaboration can take place asynchronously or synchronously. Not only must students be technologically literate to take advantage of this, they must be information and socially literate as well. By these latter two traits I mean that they must be able to, for example, analyze and evaluate a written artefact and then decide how best to edit it while socially negotiating meaning and not treading on others’ toes.

These 21st century skills are better taught with Web 2.0 tools like Google Apps than with the standalone MS Office suite (even MS is going online with the 2010 version of Office). Students learn to collaborate across time and borders. They must create and critique while managing their differences in expectations, culture, language, etc. The technical affordances of Google Apps (and Web 2.0 in general) allows learners to do this easily. MS Office does not.

BTW, I do not have a bone to pick with MS. But I do take issue with folks who set standards that are no longer relevant.

6 Responses to "Come into the light"

Hi Dr Ashley,

Thanks for shedding some light on this.

To be fair to the standards, Web 2.0 did appear quite prominently, only in Secondary 3 and beyond. Question is why only at such a late stage.

Hence my main worry is kids in primary school missing the opportunity to learn and work collaboratively online. Clearly they don’t just send email and attach files anymore 🙂



But standards are guidelines, so teachers who actively sense the environment and respond to it can go above and beyond those standards. After all, who are we to hold students back? Schooling does enough of that already. Let’s liberate learning! 🙂


Hi Ashley,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Here are mine (as an ex-‘insider’… haha):
(1) The standards aimed to empower (e.g. pupils graduating with no ability to navigate the digital world), not limit. Pupils and teachers who find relevance in Web 2.0 tools should be encouraged to use them (and in doing so will surely demonstrate skills that are related to and that go beyond the standards). A possible analogy would be a driving test (e.g. my wife had to re-take her driving test in NZ & found it a breeze as an experienced driver);
(2) We were (sadly) constrained to soft and hardware that MOE provided. It was the only responsible thing to do (can’t expect every teacher to create Google accounts for all her/his pupils). Our humble attempts at encouraging syllabus-based digital collaboration can be found here, for example:

Good to chat with you again 🙂
Swee Kin


Yes Dr Ashley. I almost forgot it’s just baseline standards, not a prescribed ICT curriculum! Haha 😀


Will Richardson is also thinking about standards, albeit a different sort. But they also affect students and learning.


@Swee Kin: Long time no see! Where in NZ are you? You know what, don’t tell me here… we’ll email instead!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think that the problem with having “standards” here is that they can sometimes become limiting factors rather than enabling or empowering ones. For example, if M$ Office is the standard, why use Google Docs?

I do not think that schools are limited to what MOE provides, not nowadays anyway. Yes, the wireless networks are installed by one provider (NCS) but nothing is to stop a school from using 3.5G USB dongles or iPhones (tethered or not). I know of schools who tap innovation funds to buy netbooks instead of “approved” laptops.

Speaking of what MOE provides, schools now have a two year deal with Google for its Edu Apps suite. Teachers don’t need to create accounts for their students; the students can sign up on their own!


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