Saturday, February 11, 2012

God's preferred dress code

I sympathize with the lady who got kicked off church premises due to wearing 'inappropriate' attire: a samfoo with accompanying 3/4 pants. The horror! The scandal!

People have got the idea of dress-code in church all messed up. They think dressing to the nines and covering every square-inch of skin is reverent and worshipful. They couldn't be more wrong. For just trying to wear a fig leaf over their sensitive bits our Apocryphal ancestors, Adam and Eve, got themselves unceremoniously dumped out of the Garden of Eden.

Wanna really worship God, I say do it in the buff. Else, back off with the holier-than-thou attitude.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mascot picket line

The closest thing we have to a students' protest. The kids are hoping to save their beloved House system from imminent closure. Like the sweet kids they are, their argument of this banner display takes the 'don't kill us; we're cute!' approach.

Apart from raising the banners, the kids also activated everyone on their social networks with this 'viral' meme (cringeworthy copy, but the intention is crystal clear) calling for everyone to wear their House tees today. To the J2s' credit, the majority did... which is odd because in the past it was like pulling teeth to raise representatives for their respective houses in sporting events and contests of skill. Guess it's another case of  you-don't-miss-it-till-it's-gone.

Today's subdued little protest does show something of a school spirit within the student body. Today's student voice may not have been a yawp but a squeak. Still, at least they took a stand on something they believed in and made us believe that they believed. Call me a softie but I am sincerely moved. :'(

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Oh, the Humanities!

Can it be true? Is the industry really taking a step away from assembly-line QC checks that used to be done on pen-and-paper? For a society banking on acing exams as the prime achievement of our education policy, this looks like quite a bold step -- to quit the familiar and start a new assessment mode from scratch.

Guess the Bosses are serious about developing self-directedness, and collaborative learning in our students to prepare them for 'life' instead of just exams. It's exactly what our last three days of training had been all about. I am cautiously excited.

Today's surprise announcement also answers a question that's been bugging me through this week's Infocomm Tech training: with all the technology we're expected to train the kids to use, when it comes to the pen-and-paper final assessment, won't the kids be handicapped if they haven't got their networked systems to play with and work together on?

Also, there will be trust issues. Parents, institutes of higher learning and the employment market would need assurances that the graduating kids are still competitive with their peers from elsewhere. We, as trainers and assessors would want a rubric that is fair and empowering, and not demoralizing like the previous exam-based curriculum eventually became.

Believe me, it'll get worse before it gets better. I've been pretty hard on the alternative assessment we call 'Project Work' (which we also unofficially call by more colourful aliases), and I take any opportunity I can to deride the way it is being implemented. In reality, I still believe that it's a step in the right direction. But as we muddle our way through uncharted waters, we're bound to hit rough seas (and probably lose not a few men overboard) before we finally get the hang of it. Until then, it's going to be a long, harrowing ride while we pull through this transition phase.

It'll be that way for lower sec Humanities too. Why experiment with the Humanities in the lower secondary grades? Because, pragmatically speaking, they aren't high-stakes subjects. Nobody in our science/math-mad society is going to complain too much if we mess with exams there. And, who knows? An investigative, project-based approach might be the best way to make these hugely underrated subjects relevant and stimulating to a new batch of young learners.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Benefits of S'pore-US education partnership

I hope that with our employer's new understanding to collaborate with the US on education, we'll get to see more student projects being less hypothetical and 'safe', and more daring and tangible, like this 14 year-old's Marshmallow Projectile Cannon (above) which the PotUS himself couldn't resist taking a pot shot from. How soon can we get this kid over to supervise a project team?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Short circuits in the e-classroom

First day of Infocomm Tech in Education course. Thought I'd be excited about all the new stuff I'd be getting my hands on (free, public domain web-based productivity and info-sharing tools, btw, not commercial samples or taxpayer purchased software suites), but for today's sampling I'm completely underwhelmed.

Not that the tools aren't fun to use and useful to play with in the classroom, but I'm approaching this whole thing with a lot more caution now. Just because there is a tool doesn't necessarily mean there is a use for it.

Most of the apps we tried out were rather like chat boards that collated the audience's typed comments 'live' while a talk or lesson was going on, cork board backgrounds for students to 'pin' comments and reflections on and see others' at the same time, collaborative graphic organizers that assist group knowledge construction, and many activities primarily guided by Google Forms, which will definitely save money Xeroxing worksheets, while aggregating all responses into a handy document, again for all to see.

The apps were all colourful and relatively easy-to-use, but I'm not convinced that they offer my students the opportunity to explore ideas in depth like they need to. Many of these apps will only accept short off-the-cuff shoutouts, so expression is terse, abrupt and may encourage L337speak as the lingua franca of classroom chat *growls

Besides, when I picture my kids trying to sit through a lesson using these tools, I foresee a very long day ahead. You'd think, like I once did, that the kids would be eating out of my hand if they got some 'computer time'. But, oddly enough, unlike their predecessors of, say the '03 batch, my current kids are comparative Luddites. I can only guess that they qualified for JC by studying from textBOOKS and working through assessment BOOKS. Hence, they still trust in BOOKS, and pen-and-paper exercises. Electronic media -- including the Internet -- are merely channels from which they absorb entertainment (not information and certainly not knowledge), and they have not yet discovered that creating is as rewarding (if not moreso) as downloading; funny cat videos notwithstanding.

So, my problem for today is quite unique for someone tasked with what I have been tasked. My biggest obstacle to creating ICT-based lessons is not staff buy-in, not infrastructure support, not skills or training deficiencies, but in convincing my students that they stand to learn more from the networked computer than from their scrolls and quills. In that, I wonder, between us who really is the smarter?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

With great power

Superhero overload at the movies? Tired of storylines in which ordinary people gaining extraordinary abilities suddenly feel obliged to save the world? Reality check: chances are, if I was to somehow inexplicably gain powers beyond mortal ken, I'd probably use them to screw around and entertain myself all day long. Wearing tights and a cape is really entertaining other people at my own expense, anyway.

So when three high school buddies develop powers when exploring an unnatural phenomenon together, let's just say great power + juvenile irresponsibility = tragedy + citywide collateral damage. Throw in a video camera the kids use to record all their superpowered shenanegans and you have "Chronicle", a story of human falliability and hyper hubris.

I was a bit worried about how a 90 minute movie shot on a handheld cam would turn out. Fortunately, apart from some abrupt pans and jump cuts to suggest amateur shooting and editing, the shots remained stable. No Blair Witch syndrome here. The shots from the main handheld cam were montaged together with footage from other cameras: news and security cams, mostly, so there is a closeness and intimacy to the characters which emphasizes the 'reality' of what we're watching.

My first movie of the year, and though it anticipates a whole new crop of  men in tights movies yet to come this summer, this one reminds us that maybe the 'Superhuman Registration Act' might not be such a bad idea after all.

And if you're wondering why I'm still watching movies after my call to boycott Hollywood, I bought my tix with complementary vouchers. So there.