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Posts Tagged ‘results

Last Saturday, STonline reported the International Baccalaureate (IB) performances by Singapore schools. As usual, it featured pass rates and the number of perfect scores.

The local rag does this with our PSLEs, GCE O-Levels, and GCE A-Levels, so the article almost writes itself with a template. To be fair, the template has been updated to include human interest stories — the people behind the numbers — but these can seem like afterthought or filling newspaper space for a few days.

The IB result article fit the mould perfectly. It featured the usual suspects with the usual stellar results. Then it zoomed in on twins from the School of the Arts who got perfect scores.

What is wrong with doing this?

There is nothing wrong with human interest stories provided the children are not coerced into doing them and if the overcoming-the-odds stories inspire others.

What is wrong is the almost perverse fascination with quantitive results. It is one thing for schools and the Ministry of Education to keep track of these statistics, it is another to tout them and lead stories with them.

The health of our schooling system is not just measured by numbers. This would be like diagnosing sick patients by measuring only their temperatures and blood pressure. Even a layperson would say that stopping at such triage is irresponsible. The same could be said of the STonline reporting.

About five years ago, the MOE stopped revealing the names and schools of the top Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) students. It also discouraged the ranking and banding of schools into socially-engineered leagues in order to operate by its “every school a good school” principle. The move was meant to emphasise the holistic development of each child.

The IB results article and its ilk hold us back. Yes, the template includes human interest stories and background information about the IB. But the newspaper conveniently forgets or ignores that the IB practically an alternative form of assessment. From the article:

Founded in Geneva in 1968, the programme is now available in 4,783 schools in over 150 countries and territories.

IB diploma students take six subjects and Theory of Knowledge, a course that combines philosophy, religion and logical reasoning. They also learn a second language, write a 4,000-word essay and complete a community service project.

Why not focus on how the thinking and value systems are nurtured? What are the impacts of the community service projects on all stakeholders? How might the rest of the schooling system learn from the IB process? Finding these things out is not easy. Then again, nothing worth doing is easy. Using a writing template is easy.

STonline might think it has the perfect template for reporting academic results. It might. But this template has lost relevance given MOE policy changes. In emphasising the numbers game, it creates speed bumps and barriers in a schooling system that is trying to plod slowly forward.

Late last year, the OECD released a report that declared that using educational technology did not guarantee good results.

The press had a field day with it, nay-sayers gleefully taunted “I told you so!”, and anyone associated with enabling change with ICT questioned their lot in life.

Well, this was not quite true for the last group of people.

While some suffered a dent in confidence, other educators moved beyond this argument and focused on what was and still is important: Enabling powerful and meaningful learning by students regardless of results measured only by narrow-beam tests.

The argument that technology does not help is old and invalid.

The press and nay-sayers focused on the negative and forgot to point out that the ineffectiveness could be due to teachers who do not know how to marry new tools with new strategies.

Consider a person with a hammer (old tool) and who is an expert at hammering (old strategy). Now give them a Swiss Army Knife (new set of tools). They might struggle to use the tools (poor strategy) or resort to hammering (using the old strategy regardless of tool affordances).

The argument is old because we already know that for something like a wide range of ICTs to be effective, there must be broad acceptance, regular use, and rigorous professional development. There must be changes in teaching behaviours before we try measuring the effectiveness of ICT.

How you measure effectiveness is also important. Schools and the OECD used tests. Do these test for knowledge, attitudes, and skills that are a result of ICT-enabled learning? For example, are the tests open, collaborative, and Google-enabled?

No, they are not. It is like the tests are designed to measure how someone can run in a straight line when you actually need to determine how well they can climb up a tree. The body motions look similar when the person is miming the actions, but climbing is very different from running. The tests are simply invalid.

Say no to the nay-sayers because they do not know what they are talking about. I have told you do. Now you tell them so!


Here are some results of the survey I posted online. They have helped me shape the proposal to YouTube/Google.

Almost three quarters of the surveyees opted for the workshop to be held on Fridays, 4-7pm. I have incorporated the time into the proposal.

The same proportion preferred a buffet approach to a fixed menu of pedagogical-technical content. The buffet approach is going to be challenging and I will have to manage expectations of all stakeholders.

The top two pedagogy-related topics were meaningful content delivery and the pedagogy of questions. I expected the former because teachers rarely venture beyond what they already know. But I was very pleased to see that some were willing to break out of the norm.

The top three video skill-related topics were screencasting, and a tie between simple animation and vlogging. All were expected since screencasting and animation are what most teachers have seen other teachers do on video. I wonder how many will be comfortable in vlogging/demonstrating mode.

About two-thirds said they would attend a Singapore-based conference with a focus on flipping in May 2015. Even more (just over 80%) said they would attend an unconference before the conference. You cannot imagine how happy that makes me because this is an indication of what teachers value at conferences: Not sitting and listening, but connecting and talking.

I reached out to #edsg after learning that a contact of mine was thinking of organizing a flipcon (conference on flipped classrooms/learning).

I prepared a quick survey because I believe in making data-informed decisions and not just gut feel or good intent. Thankfully 43 generous folks participated.

Here are some answers summarized in visual form. Click on the image below for a larger version.


Almost three-quarters of the respondents said they would attend a flipcon, but most were not willing to pay much for it.

My guess is that most teachers do not realize how much it costs to fly in and host speakers, rent a venue, and cater for the event. Most teachers here also do not have to pay for their professional development if their school principal gives approval to attend the event and make claims. This might sound harsh, but this is a reality that many teachers are not aware of and a privilege that they have that many teachers elsewhere do not.

I was pleasantly surprised that almost two-thirds of the respondents said they would rather attend a hybrid conference. This would be an excellent way to model flipping and to design for better interaction during the conference.

Sadly, two thirds would rather attend to learn instead of sharing. This might be because they have not flipped, are not confident about sharing, or fear the impact of sharing.

If fear is what is stopping them from sharing, we have a bigger problem than to flip or not to flip. Part of the value system of flipping is the sharing of ideas and resources openly to keep this ground-up movement going forward.

I would also like to reply to some comments and questions raised in response to the open ended question.

While a lot of us are certainly keen to share, to present at an event typically makes us put in a lot of time and effort. So perhaps to reduce the kind of stress, it can be an unconference where the theme is to share about struggles, so it needn’t be too formal and stressful. Just a thought… =D

I agree. I even mooted the idea that if the flipcon does not happen that we band together and organize our own unconference!

I would like to know about the failures. Often conferences only focus on the spectacle of the successes without highlighting the initial failures.

Again, I agree. That is why I phrased one of the questions: Would you be keen on sharing your flipping journey/struggles at the event?

How much time the pre-conference would take. [sic]

I am not sure what a pre-conference is.

Perhaps the respondent was thinking about the watching of presenter’s videos in a hybrid conference and then attending the face-to-face component. If this is the case, then my answer would be: As long as you wish because you watch what you want and interact with whom you wish.

After all, self-directed and independent learning is one of the desired outcomes of flipping.

Follow-up classroom activities after flipped content.

I must correct a misconception here. Far too many teachers think that flipping is only about what happens outside the classroom or focus their energies on that.

Flipping is about improving the quality of what happens inside the classroom. What happens in the classroom are not follow-ups; they are core to the process.

Question 4 should include an additional option “Perhaps in near future”

Question 4 was “Would you be keen on sharing your flipping journey/struggles at the event?” In order to gauge how many people would speak and share, this was a Yes/No question.

Perhaps in the near future is 1) non-committal, 2) does not actually help answer the question (would you share at the event), and 3) gives no clear indication of when.

CAN THE COST BE LOWERED? IM NOT WILLING TO PAY AT ALL 😦 is it applicable to all subjects?
Sigh. I do not want to get snarky so I am not going to say anything other than pointing out what I wrote about paying for the event.

I will reply to the question about academic subjects. Flipping is content neutral and can be applied even to meetings and conferences.

Oh, and watch the all CAPS. That means you are SHOUTING.

Have a nice day.

It would be awesome. Flipped learning is something that’s essential in education today and teachers need a platform to learn from one another.

Thank you. This is the kind of attitude and energy we need.

Click to see all the nominees!

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