Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Being Connected

I read somewhere that as educators we should be connected... It got me thinking. I recently was invited to give an inhouse training to a school. This has been a year of changes, challenges and a time of revisiting the past for me. It's been a while since I addressed a crowd of people other than students. Over a decade ago, I had the opportunity to attend some IT related courses in Universiti Tenaga and Universiti Telekom. They were short courses running for 2-3 weeks. And soon after, I was again fortunate enough to be involved in some projects. Those days, even the use of PowerPoint was something of a novelty. And I was one of the early adopters.

Yet, because I served under a visionary Principal who was visionary in every sense of the word, I was given many opportunities...... opportunities which would not have come my way if not for the way he 'fought' for me to be included in the courses I mentioned above, courses which I attended and where I would often find myself the only or if not, one of the very few teachers of other than those from the dominant race. But I have since also learned that unequal opportunities and treatments come in all forms.... and the worst sometimes come from within the same race itself.

Anyway, going out to give a course allowed me to reconnect with an old friend of mine. And it reminded me too how despite everything, there can still be opportunities. And if one continues to work and improve oneself from the opportunities that come along, we can still move forward. My early exposure to the world of Photoshop, Macromedia, sound editing planted long lasting interests in things related to IT. And over the years, it has somehow been sustained. My home became a 'hotbed' of innovations of sorts as my other half was just as interested. We scrooged and saved but IT stuff were things which we'd 'invest' in. Till today, purchasing gadgets out of curiousity remains a practise in our house. Gadgets like Raspberry Pi, the NAS have made their presence felt

The internet was a boon. Where once we had to search high and low for information. The world wide web opened up possibilities. I am a fervent believer of lifelong learning now. I might also add that the net has also enabled personalized Learning in a way not imagined a decade ago. I read about Flipped Learning some time ago. And it works for me too! Theories abound these days in the field of education. I believe that there is much to be learned still. There is no end to learning.... If we can continue learning, I guess it also points to us still being able to progress... to live.... cos life is about challenges. Learning something new is a challenge.

The inhouse training my friend and I conducted was on the use if tablets (namely the iPad) in classroom teaching. It was an experience of sorts. I have carried out 2 of such courses in my own school this year. We are slow in adopting technologies which enhance our teaching as well as the students' learning experiences. We are too bogged down by too much of our own self interests very often which affect a school's abilities to make school meaningful to many of the students. The system that we're in, coupled with the political practices create a situation where sharing is somehow dampened. But I guess too, without such a climate, such things will still rear their ugly heads.

One thing I mentioned in one of my closing statements to the participants of the course though.... Technology if adopted for the 'wow' factor will not impact the learning experience very much cos the focus would be on either the tool or the 'deliverer'. At the end of the day, that which makes the greatest difference, is still the teacher. Tools such as the iPad (and the other tablets) serve to assist the teachers and students. How effective a lesson turns out....... well, it still depends on a big part on the educators.

Being connected. We were among the earliest adopters of the internet where we are many years ago. How did I know that? When we went to Telekom to sign up, they showed us this list that had names of those who had applied for the service. We were among the first 5 who signed up! We were early adopters! Lol! And oh how this connection has enabled us to learn stuff never imagined before. Most of us take the Net connection as something that is just there these days. For me, the Net connected me to a world of amazing stuff, one made possible when we decided to journey on the roads it paved for us.

Thoughts in the cold wee hours of the morning.... It's the end of the year when the northern winds are blowing. The cold woke me up and connected me to these thoughts.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Yet Almost Another Year Gone By

This blog has been kinda quite this year. But it's not for the lack of things to write. It's just that I've been preoccuppied..... with things, changes.... the mundane existence of life. I've been busy. Have kept myself busy too. Age is also slowly and surely catching up. The stamina takes a beating these days. Joints ache more. Tiredness sets in more easily too. And it's also a time for lots of reflection.

New work environment. Old challenges with a new face. Almost the same sets of problems too. I guess it shouldn't be surprising. After all, our lives are surrounded by people. One thing though, I try to maintain my old pace as much as I can. But bones are creaking and muscles protest quite readily these days.

Tonight I had a visit from a young lady I used to teach and mentor. She is a young lady now. I kinda miss those days when Son was schooling and I used to have kids over for lessons. They have all grown up now.... all in college and in a year or two, all of them will be graduating. Time flies. Those mad years! Yet I cherish such visits now... Young men and ladies they are now...

I still have kids over for lessons. I guess I'd probably do it for as long as I can. Working with kids... I discovered that I actually enjoy it. Each one of them is different, yet same at the same time too. It's always a nice feeling realizing that one can make a difference in another's life.

It's been a challenging year at work too. I finally got to teach history. For the first time since I started teaching, I actually got to teach it for the whole year. And it's been a learning experience for me. I have experimented with different approaches, trying to make kids understand a subject which they've not been able to make sense of the whole time they have been at school, either through the lack of interest or language. It remains that vernacular school kids continue to be at a noticeable disadvantage when it comes to language mastery. And that lack of mastery impedes learning and puts them at a disadvantage.

One nice thing though, when kids come back on their own accord for lessons.... It's one of those things I cherish. Somewhere, at some point of time, we connected. And history lessons have gone into ideological arguments of communism vs capitalism. How is that for a bunch of kids with no inkling or interest for history at the beginning of the year?

But while I have made some headway in some, in a few, the battle seems lost for some too. Sometimes all it takes is just the lack of presence to seal a kid's fate. The lack of presence can be due to so many reasons too, and some of our own making. Schools are not without blame too. Too much effort in window dressing often leads to the loss of such students.

The year has almost gone by... I thought I'd continue to try to keep this going too. More to come, I hope.... cos I have been up to quite a bit too...