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Posts Tagged ‘solar

Yesterday I outlined why the powers-that-be in Singapore have refused reduce the number of students in classrooms. To oversimplify matters, the almost Freudian response is that size does not matter. It is what you do in the classroom that matters.

They have a point. We seem to top international tests even though that might have to do more with our regime of teaching to the test than class size. Current technology like adaptive content delivery and testing might reduce the need for teaching and coaching, but these are not common in classrooms (quite the opposite really).

The most important rebuttal that those-in-authority might have is that the quality of our teachers is more important than class size. Here they might cite the work of John Hattie while conveniently ignoring the critique.

The quality of our teachers is very important and it is very high in Singapore. I know because I was a teacher and am a teacher educator. But our teachers are far from perfect and one need only engage in regular “canteen talk” to make that clear.

How do solar panels fit in? In yesterday’s reflection, I mentioned the issues of reducing class sizes and adopting solar energy in Singapore are cyclic issues and dependent on right timing.

Suggestions that Singapore take solar energy seriously appeared in the news for more than a decade. From the layperson’s point of view, this made sense since sunlight is something we have plenty of. Contrary to our national education refrain, people are not our only natural resource.

However, the initially high cost of solar panels was a barrier, as was the availability of surface area. When the idea to use buildings like our HDB flats to house these panels was raised, it was rejected because the returns then were not cost-effective.

Fast forward to today and we have trials to use water reservoirs for floating panels, the Apple Singapore being fully solar-powered, more HDB flats having solar panels, and at least one electricity provider whose primary source of energy is sunlight.

A decade ago, these realities would have been a pipe dream. There was so much opposition to an idea that made so much sense. Its main obstacle seemed to be cents and dollars. With cheaper and more efficient solar technologies, that barrier was removed.

The issue of reducing student-to-teacher ratios reappears in the news periodically, just like the adoption solar energy did. We recognise it is cyclic, but when might the timing be right? What might be the straw that breaks the classroom camel’s back?

You had to be deaf, blind, or asleep to not hear about the solar eclipse yesterday or to see it.

Singapore’s Prime Minister even asked the public via social media to share their best photos of the eclipse. Some did not disappoint, to humorous effect.

Many took the trouble and the precautions to observe this astronomical phenomenon. I wonder how much they learnt.

By this I do not simply mean an appreciation for celestial bodies or basic astronomy. I am referring to the thinking behind our collective understanding of the phenomenon.

For example, did anyone in the position to educate get learners to ponder questions like:

  • What did we use to believe about such phenomena? Why?
  • How do we enable safe viewings and why do these methods work?
  • Why it is important to appreciate such opportunities?

Teachers might focus on the facts (learning about). Educators will also emphasise the thinking of a scientist or astronomer (learning-to-be).

Teachers might focus on such teachable moments. Educators will work on making such moments more common and how to turn them into learning ones.

I was excited to read about Singapore’s plans to trial a Smart Nation Platform (SNP) in the Jurong Lake District. This was reported in CNA and STonline.

Examples of what such a system could do was highlighted in the latter as:

Using your smartphone to sense the bumpiness of a bus ride and sending the data back to the local authorities will soon be a click away. Similarly, drivers will not be able to get away with illegal parking when advanced cameras that automate the work of enforcement officers are turned on. These cameras can also detect people smoking in prohibited zones.

I am not going to make a statement about us being police state version 2 because that is not all the system does.

The trial is slated to begin in “the third quarter of this year in Singapore’s push to be a smart nation to improve citizens’ quality of life.” A system that deters inconsiderate behaviour like indiscriminate parking or smoking is great.

Instead of the bumpiness of a bus ride, I would rather the system detect the jerkiness of one. Bumpiness reflects the condition of the road. Having a system that detects road defects is good. Having a system that provides evidence of errant bus drivers is better.

If you take public transport as often as I do here, you know that bus drivers only behave when inspectors or supervisors are on board. Otherwise they pretend to be Grand Prix drivers on quiet roads, roll over speed bumps like they were not there, speed up just before pulling into bus bays only to test their brakes, and provide their best simulation of a horizontal roller coaster.

I hope we have systems that improve human behaviours. That would make the quality of life better here.

If the SNP includes roads, I suggest this idea.

Video source

We have an abundance of sunlight and we could use a system of roads and surfaces that are easy to repair and configure, take away our torrential rain, and generate electricity to boot. It is a system that minimizes our carbon footprint, encourages the use of recycled materials, and creates jobs.

I do not think I am being a jerk to suggest that we be humble enough to accept that someone else had a better idea and to work with them to scale it up in small country like ours. I think it is a bump in the right direction.

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