Friday, October 12, 2012

4 Weeks On... Coursera

... and I am still at it. I've actually had quite a insightful and wonderful time following my World History course at Coursera. I didn't expect to last this long. At this stage, I am only 1/3 through. Listened to 8 hours of lectures. Done 1 assignment and 5 peer reviews. There are 4 or 5 more assignments to go, if I finish this course. It's a struggle to find time to listen to the lectures but with each of the 1 hour lecture broken up into segments of between 10 - 15 minutes (some just slightly longer), it becomes very possible to finish section by section.

I've actually learned a lot. Shows that having someone teach still makes a difference. I mean one can always read but it's different listening and 'interacting' with a person, even though it's just a video. I'm seeing History from more angles, am still learning that there are more similarities than most of us care to know or imagine of events which have taken place throughout recorded history. The Philosopher in the Book of Ecclesiastes said there is nothing new under the sun. Having listened and read through some of the events in history, I think I see what he means. Only the actors are different. Why and how things happen... well, they sort of follow a few types of scripts.

It's end of the year again. Every year end, we're reminded to fill in our Latihan Dalam Perkhidmatan card, to make up the 42 hours of in-house training that each of us is supposed to go through. These days instead of the physical card, we do it online. And even attending a Hari Anugerah Cemerlang qualifies for LDP!! Fancy that! What training does one get out of it? Decorating skills? The Mesyuarat Agung PIBG counts too. I don't quite know how those things are going to make us better professionally. I mean they're school annual events. LDP started off with noble intentions. Somehow along the way, it got hijacked (like most things) by mediocrity, lack of funds and imagination. So most of the 42 hours on paper don't quite make us better teachers. But since they've started it, they'll have to let it continue.

We might as well just stick book reviews only since this is one sure way of making sure we learn something. After all, given to our own devices, most of us won't even touch any 'ilimiah'-like books. Some are too tired from the demands of school and home. Many just don't like to read cos the pull to sit and yak is very great. Actually, it'd be quite interesting to do a study on how much time teachers spend time in places like the canteen (or any other favourite yakking place - usually a spot in the Staff Room)... do something like a "productive hours vs the hours spent at school" study. It is interesting though, to note that canteens are like echo chambers. A colleague of mine just told me recently that she's going to try to stop going there next year... been hearing too much negative echoes, apparently. I wouldn't know since it's been over 2 years since I last stepped in there... after I found myself being charged indiscriminately for the food.

And so I wonder too, whether the hours I spent listening to courses online (like my current World History course conducted by a bona fide professor of History) would counts.  It's quite funny actually cos this definitely by far is the best course that I've taken this whole year.... how to find a better teacher than a Princeton professor of history, by the way? Lol! And what's funnier, I realised this is one course I took up on my own free will.... no paksaan, some more had to curi time here and there to listen and and even squeezing in more of the limited stolen time to write the assignment. I find myself looking forward to the next segment after listening to one.... Quite ironic cos in a way, it's also a reflection of how the system is failing to engage its own teachers... And we in turn fail to engage our students.

It's the end of the year too... a time when a stray (or more) student here end up with me. What do I do with these kids? These are kids who somehow got lost in our unengaging system. Almost everyone of them has a problem with History; some more than that. I get many such kids at school too. However, the difference is the former have had a change of heart. So, I walk down the path with them, hold them accountable, try to inspire them to to see the practicality of studying history. But that's another story for another time.

Anyway, 8 more weeks to go.... before the completion of this course. I hope I can see it to the end, if not all the assignments, at least finish the lectures. Free quality education. Who'd think it possible even a decade ago?

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