Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘singapore

Disclaimer: My reflection below is not authoritative information about the new health protocols for Singapore’s COVID-19 strategies. The authoritative source is MOH (see points 21 and 22) and the reporting article is from CNA. My focus is the design of a job aid.

Maybe it is the educator who provides feedback or the instructional designer in me, but I look for clarity in any work. So I thought that the protocols presented by CNA could have been better.

I watched the video briefing, read the article, and studied the protocol summaries. The original protocol by CNA was:

The improvements (in blue) might include:

  • For clarity, the numbers refer to protocols, not steps to follow. Each should be labelled “Protocol #”. This sends a message: Do one of the following depending on which category you fall into.
  • I swapped the positions of protocols 1 and 2 because the majority of people (almost 99% according to point 5 of the MOH source) do not have mild or no symptoms. So the first protocol should address the majority.
  • Protocol 2 (formerly the first protocol) lacked the instruction to see a doctor. The CNA article stated that you are “encouraged” to do this; the MOH source has stronger wording (“should see a doctor, point 21). In the video briefing, the doctor’s diagnosis seemed to be a given. This instruction is not clear in the summary. This is remedied with the phrase “After you see a doctor”.
  • Protocol 3 should provide information (or a link) to where ART results should be uploaded. If an ART result is positive, the instruction should be to follow protocol 1 or 2 depending on the person’s health.

In the presence of a lot of information, people tend to refer to summaries, lists, job aids, etc. These are succinct versions of the long form instructions. Short forms tend to lose information and context, but they do not have to lose quality or clarity if we take care to design them carefully for communication or education.

I do not claim to have a perfect job aid. My background of instructional design simply gives me a critical eye for usability and clarity. It is a skill that transfers from the design of materials for teaching and learning to communication to the general public. I leave this critique here should I need it later as a reference for instructional/consultation material.

Yes, kids should learn from mistakes. But they are not likely to this as a result of high stakes summative exams.

Tests are not the best method for developing resilience and critical reflection. A major exam like the PSLE has one main purpose — to sort. 

Assessment and evaluation experts know this. The layperson does not. It will take a lot of re-education of learners young and old to beat the exam mindset into submission. I doubt we can do this. But we might be able to get enough people to realise the limits of tests and exams.

If have not been living under a rock, you know that a local enrichment centre posted clowns outside schools to market their wares [STonline article].

I would not ordinarily propagate such “news” and am triggered by the fact that it crossed borders. It was featured in a Washington Post article and was a question in an NPR quiz.

According to STonline, the director of the enrichment centre “did not expect the backlash” from the general public. Really? The Speaker of Parliament had to declare on Facebook: “Whoever is doing what I assume to be some viral marketing nonsense, stop it!”

Some folks say that there is no such thing as bad publicity. I say otherwise. If that centre thinks that the marketing stunt was a good idea and could not see its consequences, I question what it might offer in terms of pedagogy and content.

Video source

The Judy Collins song, Send in the Clowns, has the lines: 

Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here

I say we do not need more of these clowns. But we need not bring the whole circus tent down on them because this affects everyone else under it. Don’t send them in or give them attention. Vote by keeping your wallets shut.

This is a PSA of sorts. If you want to recycle an Apple product in Singapore via a trade-in scheme, you have to do so through an Apple partner.

There is just one local partner and it tries to be helpful by asking you for your device’s serial number. It does not tell you that only some devices are eligible.

Brightstar, Apple trade-in parter in Singapore.

I have used the service often enough to learn that it rejects items that were refurbished by Apple. It only seems to accept first-time purchased Apple products. Items that are vintage and obsolete — whether first-time or refurbished — also get rejected. This does not make sense given that the aim is to return the item so that parts and materials can be salvaged instead of mining the earth and manufacturing new parts.

However, the partner company will gladly accept a refurbished, vintage, obsolete item I donate. The company benefits financially and I do not. I would rather recycle items through ALBA or donate the items to a worthy cause, and I have.

One result of this selective trade-in practice is that I keep using old devices. My son has a hand-me-down iPhone 7 (the latest model number is 13) and the family uses a late 2012 iMac and a late 2012 Mac Mini.

This would be fine if Apple services them when they break down. Unfortunately, this task is outsourced to third-party players who charge a premium for their services. I had to repair the 2012 iMac twice and I could have bought a brand-new M1 iMac or a new Mini with external monitor for what I paid.

Refurbished Apple products initially cost less than original items, but I have discovered that I need to hang on to them longer than I need because the lone partner company that collects them has a strange stance. This could mean that I pay more over the long term to maintain my items. It also means that I look for other ways to donate or recycle them when they outlive their usefulness.

This news surprised me: A local university seemed to insist on in-person classes despite some staff and students being stuck overseas.

This information was published in a local newspaper on 18 August but was already reported on elsewhere on 10 August.

The TODAY paper reported that the university:

…is facing criticism because it is the only one of Singapore’s main universities where students and faculty staff members stranded abroad are unable to study or teach online until they are able to enter the country.

Staff and students are overseas and having trouble travelling to Singapore due to strict border restrictions. They have had to struggle with issues like dropping out, being put on no-pay leave, getting courses cancelled, etc.

The earlier article revealed that: 

…academics who have been granted compassionate leave, and thus allowed to teach classes remotely, will be paid only for the days that they teach.

…based on this payment system, a professor whose classes are clustered within two or three days will be paid only for those days, while another with the same number of teaching hours, but with classes spread across all five days of the week, will receive full pay.

As a former academic, I feel for the teaching faculty who are affected by bean-counting administrators and micromanagers. I borrow an argument from that same article on valuing teaching faculty: 

…academics do work, even on the days they don’t have classes, and that teaching online might even require more work in terms of planning and coordination than in-person lessons.

The university policies probably do not make sense. If teaching staff and students are stuck overseas for legitimate reasons and both have the capacity to teach and take classes online, why not do that? 

Have we learnt nothing from enforced remote teaching and learning due to COVID-19 lockdown? Why return to normal when you can do better?

Looking elsewhere, some faculty take to Zoom as a fact of life. Take Dr Inna in her tweet above as an example.

Teaching online is not a substitute for a campus experience. But it is better than cancelling classes, treating people like numbers in a spreadsheet, and implementing cruel policy.

It is Singapore’s 56th birthday today. Other than singing our national anthem, we also sing theme songs.

Video source

The video above is our official theme song for 2021. But we have unsanctioned efforts elsewhere.

Video source

Last year, a 900-person online choir sang the evergreen Home. It was particularly relevant when we were in full pandemic lockdown. It is still relevant in the age of Zoom.

Video source

But my favourite offering is this 2018 synthesis by local a cappella group, MICapella. It is a joyful piece that time-travelled from our independence to today.

I prefer the unofficial efforts because they are authentic. They are works of passion and collaboration from folks on the ground. 

The article linked in the tweet above gave me a case of déjà vu. It outlined what other similar articles have reported about sleep:

  • Kids need their sleep
  • They are not getting enough partly because school starts too early
  • Adolescents sleep later due to developmental changes

The only newsworthy item was a benefit of the pandemic: As kids were staying home from school, they were sleeping longer.

Citing a study conducted during the “circuit breaker” period last year, Dr Lim said that with children waking up 55 minutes later on average due to enforced home-based learning, those in primary school gained an extra 30 minutes of sleep, while students in secondary school level slept 56 minutes longer compared to pre-pandemic times.

Unfortunately, the article returned to form. The pros of changing our policies and practices were weighed against the cons. For example:

  • One big pro: Kids perform better academically if they get optimum amounts of sleep.
  • One big con: We need to change transportation schedules if we are to accommodate later school start times.

The big con seems be such an immovable object that sleep ends up in a hard place. I am tempted to call the con a sleeping giant.

According to the report, one expert suggested that telecommuting enforced by the pandemic resulted in less worker transport. When will we wake up to the idea that the problem is an opportunity to provide a benefit to kids and take advantage of changing travel patterns?

A local news report seeks to clickbait with its headline instead of educate. Again.

The number 129 might seem like a large number. It actually represents just 0.03% of all students in Singapore (primary to pre-university levels). That is part of the context.

The other part is that students are actually safer in school due to safe management measures [1] [2]. The distancing, hygiene, and modified classroom practices [3] mean that students are probably at greater risk in transit to/from school when they interact with adults who are less fastidious.

Such context provides quantitative and qualitative arguments for educating the general public. Such arguments make us smarter and more confident of our actions. Reading clickbait keeps us in the state of ignorance and fear.

One aspect of modern information literacy is not just reading beyond the headline, it is also about reading wide to other valid and reliable sources of information. Then another element of information literacy should kick in: Evaluating the original article for its worth.

It was just over a month ago when I first read about Singapore’s new e-waste recycling bins.

My first reaction was: Finally! My next was to collect all the old electronic gadgets that I had not been able to sell or donate. Yes, some organisations have the luxury of refusing to take gently used electronics.

I downloaded the ALBA Step Up app to get token points for my efforts. Note: I have not been asked to promote this app or the Step Up program. It is just the right thing to do.

Video source

I have made three deposits and have 1) contributed to the initial 34 tonnes collected (see video above), and 2) learnt to recycle strategically.

I found out that I get the same number of points each time no matter how much or what I deposit. In my first attempt, I gave three old recharging battery packs and three tablets. In my next drop, I recycled an old PC laptop. Each deposit gave me 1000 points regardless of product.

Each time I recycle, I need to use the ALBA app to scan a QR code on the outside of the bin. This activates the camera and a prompt to photograph the donation before I drop in into the bin. I do not think that the app has AI sophisticated enough to tell the items apart, so each donation seems to be worth a default 1000 points.

The current version of the app says that I can only scan and snap once a day for points. This policy was probably implemented to prevent abuse. I will recycle my cache over the next few weeks and months and reward myself with points for the effort.

There are many practices that those of us in schooling and education can learn from the rest of the world. But I wish we would not adopt military and corporate terms (e.g., SOP, ROI) without considering their contexts.

And then there are things that the rest of the world can learn from higher education. Take this tweeted news report, for example.

Unfortunately, giving credit where credit is due is not yet under Singapore’s Copyright Act. According to this news piece, we will have to wait till November and only if the changes are passed in parliament. The same article stated:

…the changes are not meant to go after the man in the street, but rather to prevent businesses from getting away with not crediting creators when profiting from their works. 

…if a person does not credit the creator of a work that he uses publicly, the creator can ask to be identified.

And if the person refuses to do so, the creator can take legal action to get credited or have the work taken down, as well as seek financial compensation from the person if there is potential income loss that can be shown.

One one hand, I am glad that the amendments require clear attribution. I know of far too many people who think that anything they find online is free to use. Worse still, they take credit when they use it wholesale or make modifications to it.

On the other, I am disappointed that the law needs to spell this out. This means that our schooling has not done enough to help make attribution a mindset. If students make their way to higher education, they almost invariably learn how to cite sources. But if their workplaces do not reinforce this practice, they unlearn it.

An interviewee in the article highlighted what he considered a potential problem:

…social media users, such as influencers who make money from their accounts, repost content such as videos and images, they could be infringing the copyrights for the content unless they can prove that they used the videos and images fairly.

This is not a problem, it is an opportunity to operate ethically and fairly. We are not asking social media creators to be academics using APA or MLA to cite and list their sources. We are merely requiring them to give credit where it is due.

This is also an opportunity for all to learn about Creative Commons (CC). Some problems with ownership and licensing are figuring out who to credit, whether you can use their creations, and how you can use them. CC addresses all three.

The news article says that the changes to our laws will happen soon. November cannot come soon enough. In the meantime, all of us can learn more about and use CC licensing.

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