Saturday, March 10, 2012

Content with Content but value in Values

The industry has set some new targets. We've been so focused on academic goals, it's time to bring back values. That's what I've been saying all along. In the practical sense, it's the way to go because what is abundant is cheap, and what is scarce is treasured. Today, Content (information/knowledge) is so abundant it's virtually free. What we've grown so scarce of is Values, and if we casually scan our immediate environment, it's clear how lacking we are in this basic human trait. So people who chase after Content, hoard it, and seek to capitalize on it are going to be disappointed in how little return they are going to get out of it. Those who will benefit most in the near future are those who have cultivated the right Values that can guide them in putting the freely abundant resource of Content to the best use.

By the way, I'm referring to Content and Values within the context of my pet subject, GP, hence I am looking at the issue as an academic working in the industry, not as a layman. Lately, campus has been looking to add value to our year-end results. Not that it hasn't been a preoccupation before, but now that our intake has been attracting increasingly better performing candidates, it's been getting harder to add value to our students year after year, since by their 'O's they are already doing well in their academic subjects.

It's difficult for us, especially, because we once had students who were happy enough to pass their 'A's; but now our students are aiming for top grades. Our strategies have to change, not in little increments any longer; we have to take bigger and bolder steps. I can only speak for my subject, so I will venture to examine how our grade rubrics work in order to suggest what else we might be doing to squeeze out that extra value to meet and exceed our new expectations.

Remember that there is little value in abundant resources and a much higher value in that which is scarce? Since Content is abundant to the max given our electronic information access and retrieval capabilities today, providing more Content for the kids to study adds little value to their learning. Content makes the difference between outright pass and fail, though, so there is still a bunch of students whom we must feed Content to and they must be content to just scrape through. But if we examine the GP rubric, the higher grades are attainable by exhibiting good judgement in evaluating Content knowledge based on strong moral principles backed up with logical reasoning, communicated clearly and succinctly to others.

If we're wondering how we have the time to 'cover' so much Content and so much skills training in the slightly less than two years that we have with each cohort, I say we up the emphasis on the skills we are lacking in and downplay Content teaching (what most people are so worried about) which is so abundant, it's valueless. After all, in grading GP papers for so many years, it's clear that depth of content does not gain additional marks but instead distracts the candidate from responding to the main question who then fails to show evidence of thinking, reasoning, evaluating and communicating, thus resulting in mediocre to near-fail grades.

Let's be assured that knowing a little about many 'topics' makes a candidate more flexible in dealing with the tough moral questions that he or she will face at the 'A's than a candidate with a lot of knowledge about only a few pet topics. A daily scan of the news as a personal habit is much more beneficial to a student, because it allows him or her to participate in the up-to-the-minute global conversation, than a topical content package that provides a false sense of security. Such packages are more for assuaging guilt than they are useful in training young minds to become global citizens of the 21st century.

Since the JC timeline is two years duration, I think the first year we should train the kids to source Content for themselves, that is to plug themselves into the daily flow of news, to observe patterns of human interaction and to identify people, concerns and events that repeat themselves over time. It's throwing them into the pool at the deep end. It'll be chaotic as they flail about, struggle, curse and complain but most will get the hang of it, while those who are seriously going under are the ones we are watching out for with the rubber ring.

Second year, we push the kids out more to exercise their moral judgement, critical thinking and communication skills as a natural follow-up from their previous experience. Second year is not the time for Content drilling any longer since (ideally) they have already immersed themselves in the ebb and flow of global information currency. What they need now is to be able to pick a point on the Content map and navigate their own way there, and this is going to require more kids getting involved in classroom interaction and less of teacher-talk which just eats into valuable training-time for the kids.

The reason why I've brought up this discussion on values education is because the industry, bless the top management, has clear and good intentions for the needs of our nation but, like the bureaucrats that they are, their only solution for encouraging schools to embark on Values education is to throw money at it. People have the wrong idea that Values education is a separate entity from Subject education. It's not. In fact, Values education is integral to subject mastery (at least it is for GP) and to reward it with money and certificates gives the very wrong impression that a person's values can be exploited for personal gain, and that values are used to differentiate people from one another instead of integrating everyone inclusively through the sharing of the same values in common with one another.

All the more so that we send out the right message of Values education because we are finding ourselves living in an increasingly diverse society, where tension between people groups is running alarmingly high.

Parking lot with a view

Dropped in on the lawyer who's handling the refinancing of our home loan. This is a periodic necessity as every couple of years or so, depending on the loan contract, the bank will increase the interest charged to a ridiculous level.

I don't know why it will do this because what happens is that we will go shopping around for another bank to take over the loan at a more reasonable rate. The formalities are now complete, and now we owe a new bank everything we have -- and everything we are likely to earn in this lifetime -- for the roof over our heads.

The pix represents the view from the parking lot of the lawyer's building. This is another exciting downtown parking facility, accessible only by car elevator. It costs only $5 per entry to park here from 1800 hrs to 2200 hrs on weekdays. Useful to know.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Sleep deprived

That was brilliant. After two straight nights of less than 4 hours sleep due to grading assignments, I overcompensate and have yet another less than 4 hour sleep entirely hooked on ME3.

Am a walking zombie right now... and I still have one more class to get through. Thankfully, I am prepped and ready to deliver. Afternoon classes are the worst to stay awake in, though. Urgh.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Will stick head in bin for food

Momo! I so did not raise you to be a dustbin cat! Just because the packaging we threw out still smells good doesn't mean that your dignity has to go out the window!

The other reason why I took this shot was because she reminded me of a raccoon foraging in the urban landscape. Can't think why.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Perforated pirate

I don't know what's up with Maui, but lately his favourite game is 'Pirate'. The rules: jump as high as possible on owner; climb up T-shirt; perch on shoulder; survey territory. If owner walks around, grab tight with claws and hold on for the ride, just like a pirate's parrot.

It was kinda' cute when he was a kitten, but now he's a full-grown tom. With his combined weight and adamantium talons, my home shirts have become well-ventilated; my epidermis well-lacerated. I'm even afraid of being ambushed in the dark now. It's happened before, stabbed in the back by my own cat.

Tonight, the feline identity crisis is getting both a manicure and a pedicure. Here, Maui-boy... come and get your nice treat...!

(Photo posed to simulate actual events. No animal was harmed in the posting of this entry).

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Normandy ready for boarding

How lazy can one get? I'm not shopping for PC games anymore; not at the mall, anyway. I downloaded my copy of Mass Effect 3 N7 Deluxe Digital Edition direct off Origin, the online games manager EA is using these days.

Which is probably why the Challenger that used to be just down the road has packed up and disappeared. Brick-and-mortar, meet digital... wait, where are you going?

ME3 is now installed and ready to play (so much for Skyrim); but I'm still 24 hours off from the official launch date and the game's locked until then. No early preview for early birds, then? Feh!

24 hours left to complete grading all assignments! I'll never make it!!!

Plus one other thing; I believe I lost the save game I've been keeping over the past 2 installments! Not looking forward to starting with a clean slate all over again. *grumble, grumble...

Dinner with a friend

Dinner at PS Cafe with June's colleague who will soon be departing for England. On the menu we have a mixed grill assiette. Comprises a hunk of lovely fatty lamb, bratwurst sausage and a blackened king prawn served on a bed of zucchini, asparagus and ratatouille.

The yellowtail kingfish. The oozy green stuff is Romesco sauce which was probably there for the aesthetic 'cos it didn't do all that much to add to the flavour of the fish.

Just in case we didn't order enough to fill the three of us, we called in reinforcements in the form of this pork pie served with a side of couscous and a veggie kebab. It didn't matter that Jen was part-vegetarian; we finished the lot, garnish and all, including a side salad and a slice of carrot cake. Good? Yes, and we were hungry.

And here is the reason for our evening. I can say we had dinner with quite a remarkable lady in both intelligence and life experience. Retirement for her simply means an opportunity to dump the corporate world and try her hand at something meaningful, like education.