Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘news

You are biased and I am biased. If you choose not to admit that, then you are stubborn and biased.

We are biased because we learn things that help us survive. Things like talking or acting a certain way. We are biased even when we learn to balance a bike a certain way.

Video source

This amusing and informative video illustrates just that. If you ride a bike that turns right when you try to turn left, you cannot ride it even if you already know how to ride a normal bike well.

The creator of the video declared: Once you have a rigid way of thinking… you cannot change that even if you want to.

Most people can relate to this if they think about value systems or mindsets. Change agents learn this lesson the hard way and very quickly when trying to implement change.

But an anecdote with multiple demonstrations, no matter how intriguing, is not necessarily representative.

The man and his son illustrated that it was possible to unlearn something deeply embedded. He learnt to ride the “backwards bike” in eight weeks; his son did it in two weeks.

He then made a statement about neuroplasticity that reeks of Prensky-speak that should be ignored in this context. Neuroplasticity is a physiological process that refers to how the brain can change throughout life.

While it might be true that a young brain learns faster than an old one, we also retain the capacity to unlearn and relearn throughout life. It is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. It just takes time and effort.

One thing the video did not explore is mindset. This is not a function of brain physiology but of many other things like work culture, social environment, individual drive, risk-taking capacity, etc. We will change only when we

  • are aware there is a different way of doing things (e.g., just-in-time and just-for-me learning via Twitter)
  • realize that there is a problem with the status quo (e.g., meaningless mandatory workshops), and
  • think we have the capacity to change (e.g., mentors to guide).

If you want to teach an actual old dog new tricks, it will require practice and rewards. The process is Pavlovian.

If you want to change people, you must not only persist and incentivize. You must also address their mindsets.

Yesterday, STonline highlighted six stories that broke on social media before other media outlets picked up on them.

The writer declared: What is clear from these impactful social media stories is that whatever happens online could lead to serious real life consequences.

That is putting things backwards.

What should be clearer is that these events started with real life and its consequences. Social media was part of real life and its consequences.

Some quarters of the media and schools might wish to dwell in a dichotomous world of social media and non-social media. The rest of the world has moved on.

But just because you get it backwards does not mean that you have to live backwards. Move forwards and keep going that way.

Pot was out numbered 2:1 and thought twi by ....Tim, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  ….Tim 

I have been following the official news on MH370, the Malaysian Airlines plane that disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

In the absence of compelling evidence, possibilities have emerged from a multitude of sources. They range from an act of terrorism or hijacking to aircraft malfunction or psychologically unstable or irresponsible person(s).

These in turn were due to rumours or information on a relatively unknown group claiming responsibility for the downing of the plane, stolen passports and illegal immigrants, the aircraft reportedly veering off course or turning back, the co-pilot previously allowing two female passengers into the cockpit against regulations, and even someone who might want to pay off debts with insurance money.

The traditional media channels often vilify social media for creating a frenzy. Look who’s talking now!

One might argue that creating a media frenzy is a sure fire way of selling papers. It is might also be a method of investigation by considering all possibilities and then narrowing them down.

But the media circus largely ignores two other aspects.

The first is the human story of the loved ones of the victims of this event. They want action and answers. But the press is not doing them any favours particularly when their anguish becomes the news. An exception to this rule might be the Boston Globe’s Big Picture series.

The second is how more quickly rumours are spread (but also more quickly weeded out) when leveraging on the collective intelligence on platforms like Twitter. Traditional media channels want to take advantage of the first part (share information), but they do not have strategic mechanisms to resolve the issues the information creates.

To be fair, it is not necessarily the role of traditional media channels to educate. So my mind wanders and attempts to connect these aspects with educational technology.

The press tend to highlight dangers or misuse of new/social media. Teachers and parents fear technology because of promised ills instead of working towards the possible good. If teachers use technology, it tends to be in transmission mode instead of problem-solving mode.

I titled this reflection “pot calling the kettle black” because traditional media (the pot) is creating the same type of frenzy that it normally accuses new or social media (the kettle) of doing. But it is not educating people on how to resolve such issues. Educators of all kinds must do this.

More of such content dissemination and discussion will take place in social media channels, not less. It is up to us to model and teach behaviours like finding, analyzing, evaluating, and creating in social media so that there is more signal and less noise. But many teachers still drag their feet on doing this.

Both the missing plane and irresponsible teaching affect lives.

The missing plane might lead to the revelation of lives lost. While tragic and difficult to understand, this is a relatively rare event. But it is immediate and high profile, so it captures attention.

The poor integration of technology like social media in school seems relatively mundane. But for me this is just as tragic and difficult to accept because it is an accident happening in slow motion and totally preventable.

I read this in a news digest earlier this week.

Students use new media technologies to record their overseas adventures (Evelyn Lam, MediaCorp News 8, 31/8)

Report noted that students in a primary school were making use of new media technologies to document their overseas learning journeys. Report noted that the students used an iPad app to produce an electronic journal to document what they learned during their trips by using photos, narrative scripts and voice recordings. Report also noted that to produce a more interesting journal, students became more involved during the trip so as to better understand the cultural and historical facts of the destination. A student said that the use of the app also helped to improve her language skills as she needed to write and record her narration of the sights she encountered.

Does what kids can already do when they travel with their families count as news simply because they now do them during school trips?

That is not news. That is olds.

For the traditional media, this might be a step up from fear-mongering. It might be news if some schools are catching up to what happens in homes that are on the right side of the divide.

What would really be news is “old” media not calling other media “new”. What is news is doing something different but meaningful as a result of technology integration. What is old is doing the same thing with a new tool.

What is news is challenging your readers or generating critical discussion. What is old is telling the same old story differently.


I am privvy to news digests provided by a group in MOE. I really appreciate the work that this group does because they trawl the papers, listen to radio boradcasts, and watch TV to bring summaries on education issue to us.

I really like having summaries from papers I do not read or do not understand because they are in a different language. They provide me with other world views and fodder for reactions.

Here are two digests and my reactions.

Scolded by teacher for tearing her books, student rebuts that it is none of the teacher’s business (Huang Jian Ye, SM, 2/5, p4)

Follow-up report to a letter by Chen Wei Jun, a secondary school CL teacher, who wrote to the ZB Forum on 2/5 commenting that her students had bad manners and bad attitude during the weekly CL reading period in her school. Chen had shared that she noticed that some students tore out pages from their Chinese books for the reading sessions instead of bringing the entire book.

Report carried comments by Minister that this incident showed that it was important to teach character development and values. Minister said that teachers could use this incident for classroom discussion with their students. He added that while some students would burn their books after the examinations, other students would generously donate their books to help others.

Report carried comments by a counsellor that nowadays students were influenced by the Western way of thinking and valued an individual’s rights. Some students felt that they had every right to vandalise or tear their own books as it was their individual right.

Report also carried comments by teachers that the student had gone too far. One teacher said that a lot of students came from rich families so they did not know how to treasure their books. Another teacher felt that he would counsel the student and inform the parents, adding that teachers needed to have a lot of patience in educating their students.

Reaction 1: Was is so Western about valuing one’s individual rights?

Reaction 2: It may be true that those students do not know how to take care of their books. But it is also true that students carry lots of books to school and that books can be heavy. They are just trying to lighten the load. That is why a few schools have begun slate or tablet initiatives to provide e-books or references as alternatives. Countries like Korea and Thailand are set to do the same.

Error existed in History textbook for seven years: parents surprised that 700 teachers did not discover it (Lin Wen Chuan and Gao Jian Kang, WB, 2/5, p8)

Follow-up report on the Secondary One History textbook – The Living Past: History of Ancient India, China and Southeast Asia (2nd Edition) – erroneously referring to “feudal lords” in the Shang and Zhou dynasties as ‘shi’ noted that academics and parents were surprised that the error in the history textbook had gone unnoticed for seven years, and that 700 history teachers from over 200 schools here did not discover it. Report also noted that some parents were concerned that there might be more errors left undiscovered.

Report carried comments from a literature and history scholar who said that the error was an indication of a decline in Singaporeans’ knowledge of Chinese culture, and the lack of a questioning spirit among educators.

Report added that the history textbook was not used in all schools here. Intergrated Programme schools could choose not to use the history textbook, and some schools could choose to use history textbooks compiled by their own teachers. Thus, they were not affected by the erroneous history textbook. Report carried comments by an NIE staff member that when training history teachers, they focused on teaching methods for history without using any specific history textbooks.

Report also clarified that the History textbook was a Secondary One textbook.

Reaction 1: This is news? Textbooks are bound to have errors, perhaps fewer than newspapers have errors, but errors nonetheless.

Reaction 2: What is an error now might not be an error later. Or what was correct then is an error now, e.g., calling Pluto a planet.

Reaction 3: Imagine if the textbook was online and like Wikipedia. If it was, the error would have been detected much earlier.

I got a bit steamed when I read yesterday’s ST article, MOE seeks ways to beat the heat in class. It is looking into ways of cooling schools in our hot and humid clime.

Singapore’s mrbrown was not impressed. I’m not either, but for different reasons.

The first might be an error in reporting. Or it might be that I don’t understand north-south orientations:

Given that most schools don’t have a think-outside-the-rectangular-box shape, a north-south orientation is like a lower case “l”. This would mean the building absorbs the most heat throughout the day. To reduce heat absorption, the building needs an east-west orientation on its long axis; the windows need a north-south orientation (i.e., be facing north and south).

Then there is the reason for the move in the first place:

A lack of focus and the ability to stay awake are not just because of the heat. How about a more reasonable start time? How about reducing the amount of “hot air” that is generated during teaching?

My suggestions? Make use of our plentiful sunlight to partially or fully power fans and air-conditioners. This might be expensive initially but it can pay for itself in the long run.

The other two suggestions I hinted at aren’t going to happen any time soon. We are held captive by the private bus companies and many teachers don’t know any other way of teaching.

End of nit-picky rant.

Tags: ,

You might have read this Channel News Asia (CNA) article about MOE’s latest buzz phrase. I’ve highlighted two parts of the article but I actually have three things to say about it.


First, teachers now have a vision statement: “Singapore Teachers: Lead. Care. Inspire”. A former colleague of mine that I follow on Facebook said:

slightly bemused at MOE’s new vision statement: ‘lead. care. inspire’. Indeed, but who’s going to do the actual teaching? (not to mention marking!)

It’s tongue-in-cheek, but typical of what an experienced teacher might say. In reality, the vision might play out as teach, mark, cry (teacher), scold, cry (student), teach…

Second, most teachers would recognise the picture that CNA used. Sadly it still represents the typical classroom. So tell me: How do teachers lead, care and inspire with PowerPoint? Oh wait, maybe they will upgrade and use “Smart” boards or “Interactive” White Boards! (Long time readers will know that I am being sarcastic.)

At this point, I highlight an article that a former trainee of mine, Laremy, brought to my attention about a teacher education programme in the UK, Teach First, that emphasizes that teaching is difficult. They do this in an attempt to recruit and retain the best talent. Here’s a snippet from the article:

Unlike government recruitment drives, which tend to present teaching as appealing, even easy, Teach First describes the job as tough and demanding because the right people are those who are attracted by the most daunting tasks.

This is in direct contrast to our MOE-sanctioned ads that show teaching or teachers as inspiring , hip or surrounded by a permanent mist that magically makes everything better. I also recall that MOE used to have a recruitment ad that said: Teach, if you care. My response then (and still) is they should have gone with Teach, if you dare.

So back to the CNA article which reports that MOE has signed 3,040 teachers. Our NIE records indicate that we have 2,233 as of 18 Aug 09. The remaining 807 are either in cold storage or they will join us next year. If they dare!

Tags: , ,

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code

Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: