Sunday, August 31, 2014
Anyway, a colleague sent me the website to check my status, which I did. And my name appeared. It is strange that we needed 2 years to process a set of results. And during those 2 years, many teachers had already been asked to attend the APTIS course which is kinda like a remedial... they have a nicer sounding term. They call it upskilling.
The MOE took away our Critical Allowance last year. The PPSMI was supposed to continue till 2018... (I might have the year wrong) and the Critical Allowance was supposed to be till then. But I supposed, with most schools teaching Maths and Science in BM, it was only logical that the allowance be taken away. One of the reasons for the failure of PPSMI I still believe is the lack of teachers skilled enough in English... If a teacher cannot convey a lesson across effectively due to the lack of language, that is already problem enough.
If the CPT results are anything to go by, they point too, to (in)competency problems among the English teachers. Results were dismal, I read. And where I am, I think it's a real problem too. Grades for CPT are C2 (Mastery; 90-100), C1 (Effective Proficiency; 75-89), B2 (Vantage; 60-74), B1 (Threshold; 40-59), A2 (Waystage, 20-39), A1 (Breakthrough; 10-19) and Pre A1 (0-9).
From among those I know, there were some C1(s) and fewer C2(s). And from the C2 group, many of them had retired. We keep saying that our education system is world class... if it is so, then there should be a big group of C2(s) and even bigger group of C1(s). Yet it is heavily skewed towards the B(s) and A(s). But like the proverbial frog under the coconut shell who has only a narrow view of one spot of blue sky, we believe that all is well.
This Merdeka Day... while many adverts keep heaping praises on our diversity, yet when you go out onto the streets... the Merdeka spirit seems kinda lacking. Fewer flags seem to be flown, the air of Merdeka-ness just doesn't seem to be in the air... It feels kinda dampened. I think many are weighed down by many things... being squeezed by rising costs, GST looms ahead... But I think too, it is hard to build a Malaysian race when so many policies around us still divide us by ethnicity. What has that to do with the CPT results? Well... the CPT result is an indication too at a nation blinding itself to our skewed values which has brought us where we are.
Well, maybe that's just me feeling it.
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Most of the time, we were game enough to try any thing. We built, took things apart, made our own toys, played seasonal games... kite flying, marbles, gasing... We still had time to smell the roses...
Many kids I see do very little of those activities.... Maybe there are other pressing needs now, tuition, music and art lessons. Busy lives we lead now. The young seems to be as busy as the adults. Busy topping up knowledge..... certs. We are all on the superhighways now, zooming at prescribed speeds trying to get to our destinations ASAP. Gone are the winding roads hugging the hillside and snaking through the countryside. The terrain used to dictate how the roads traverse the country. These days, the roads bulldozed through everything.....even mountains.
Many of us seems to be in a constant rush.... I think many of us don't have time for small talk. Or time to ask each other about the mundane.. When we have no time for that, I think we don't take much interest in each other's lives too. There are more who want to talk and less who are willing to listen... We seem to thrive on the sensational or events that will elicit oohs and aahs. I don't know whether it's just social reengineering or we are more prone to the continuous effort of creating an image.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... They have changed the way we create image too apart from the interacting part. The Ice Bucket Challenge for example. It succeeded in collecting close to USD16 million compared to just USD 2 million the previous year. ALS is a debilitating disease. But once this hype dies, ALS will be forgotten again. If it was donation sought, even a million for many of the celebrities is just small change.
Then the honours accorded to those who died in the MH17 tragedy... even the King was there! There are many who die senseless deaths in the country every day. And there were many too who gave their lives for the country who did not get the same honour. It's rather peculiar the way we operate.. we seem to have this need to show that we care or grief in a way that lets the whole world know that we are feeling that. Or maybe it's just to satisfy this need which is innate in every one of us.. the need to show. Maybe it's just we have no time..... and we need such outlets.
A 'one-off' grieving moment... or a moment to show we care. I don't know. Over the years I have learned that it takes time to build a character. It needs time to show we care. It requires effort to know. And we don't have that sort of time. No time to even smell the roses. Maybe the social structure has changed. Maybe this is the reengineering of the way we should operate as a society of the new millennium.
But perhaps in all these.. it might do us well to take time and smell the roses again. Sit down face to face, over a cuppa and sembang-sembang...
Friday, August 22, 2014
The venue was Keat Private Hall. Place was quite comfy enough but the chairs were hard. I think my butt feels kinda 'flattened'. And it was a little tiring.. like many 'Chinese events' this didn't start on time and as a result it ended quite late. We left before it ended.
The hall was quite filled. If my smattering Mandarin is anything to go by, I think they managed to collect a tidy sum from the school, which is not bad considering there was just another concert at the same place just 7 days ago. It was also another fund raising concert.
I could understand half of what was going on. The other other... I depended on my own deductions and translation from my two friends. It was a night of three mothers and six children.
Many of the songs were unfamiliar to me... not surprising since it in a language not very familiar to me. The songs came from the late 80s and beyond. Back in those days, the singers were still young. Most of them have passed the half century mark I think.
Some songs were nice. Mostly were slow numbers. The few which were fast and loud were too loud for my liking. The music was too loud for my comfort. But I could see too some of the oldies in the hall enjoying the show. How not to, when a piece of your childhood comes alive for that brief moment.
Totally another first.
And oh yes.. today the remains of the MH17 were finally brought home. There is so much fanfare... Sometimes I wonder whether we were caught up by the precedence in the Netherlands earlier cos not even our fallen soldiers receive such honour.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Was quite amazed with what I could do with it. I experimented with it for a couple of days, created a few forms and sets of questions. Unfortunately, I had no place to try it out. And so, the whole thing just sort of faded into the background.
That was till middle of this year when I cleared up an unused computer lab, which is where I carry out all my classes now. About 2 weeks ago, despite it being exam season, I embarked on another journey of discovery. I tried out Google Docs in class... to teach writing. It is now possible to do what I had learned the year before because I had at my disposal 41 units of chrome books.
And so I started with my classes. But before that I brought my gal and my friend's kids to the lab for a trial run. It was pretty amazing... the result. I felt I could make it work.
However, getting students to listen when the chrome book screen is staring at them is no mean feat. Our young has a fascination with the computer screen and it is often hard to get their attention when the screen is on. Chaos reigned because it was something new for me.
Much to my surprise my students were not as savvy as I had expected, but they learned fast. Many didn't know about the uses of Drive, let alone Google Docs. One thing though, teaching the young wasn't very difficult. They have no phobia. But the patience developed over the years from teaching my senior citizen friends helped a lot in dealing with the chaotic moments teaching the young. It is easy to get flustered...
I started with a short writing assignment... a postcard. And going by the response so far, I think using Google Docs to teach writing is quite cool. The initial wonderment when the kids felt when they realised that I was right there in their documents as they worked on it was quite priceless.
It was a rather steep learning curve for me. I had to figure out how to go around the problems a they presented themselves. You can imagine how chaotic it was with one voice calling out from one table he could not browse, and another voice saying she had no gmail account. Then yet another bringing his chrome book to me saying that it can't be turned on. One more would pipe out that her mouse pointer on the screen was very big.... the list is unending. My phone was used to verify so many new accounts that it was barred by Google! All these, while I was trying to sort out my own filing system and getting back to the students... Patience memang is a virtue.
But despite all those chaos.... learning still took place. Both for me and the students. Practical skills! I felt like my brain is on the overdrive these past weeks. So many files, so many students asking for attention for the littlest problem. And trying to keep a cool head... I think I got really good training in crisis management from this episode.
There is always a light at the end of the tunnel if you persists. It's been 2 weeks. And I am more settled. And I think to be able to use Google Docs to teach writing is quite cool. The experience has convinced me all the more that we need a rethink the way most of us teach.
Details to follow on the 'moments' be they the 'aha' ones or the 'Oh crap!' ones...
Monday, August 11, 2014
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
One can start a day with great plans, a long list of things to do… and the anticipated satisfaction when all is done. Then you sit down to wake your computer up. And plug in the cable to charge the iPad… I am always one who prefer a state of preparedness. So having my iPad charged to the max makes feel 'better'. I like my payung ready at all times if I can help it... 8) But all plans no matter how well thought out can go awry....
I plugged in the cable… and almost immediately, the familiar whirring of the computer stops. That was when I looked up and stared momentarily at my darkened screen. It took a moment for my brain to process an ‘Ooops!” and almost immediately too my hands started to toggle the MagSafe power adapter. Everything seemed fine. The next logical target was the power supply. Nothing wrong there too. No matter what I did, the MacBook remained dead as a doornail.
But the surprising thing this time around was even though I was perturbed, I wasn’t very agitated. Maybe age has caught up. Maybe I am more settled. Maybe it’s easier to get a replacement now. Well, there are many maybes… I sent out a message that my Mac had died! Well, we are social creatures in need of connection, especially when certain moments hit. My Mac dying seemed important enough... LOL!
The day passed… it felt kinda long but there was a steady stream of people into my room and that sort of drew my mind away from the 'loss'. But as soon as the bell rang, I was off to Switch. Got to AS Mall, lugged my heavy bags to the outlet and then plonked my computer on their table. Service was prompt and the guy there tried to see to my problem. He took my charger while I plugged out one of their display units.
The charger I plugged in seemed to work fine…. but.... then the yellow light on the charger faded into nothing right before my eyes. I took it out, toggled it, put it back...Nothing! Then I plugged the charger back to its original computer. The darn light came back on again. I took it out… put into mine. This time, it stayed green. I pressed on the button and my Mac came back to life momentarily, as in the logo lighting up being the only sign of life. And then it promptly 'died' again.
By then the sales assistant had come back. Told me my adapter worked fine. I asked him what could be wrong. He mumbled something about the battery being totally dead, which could not have been because the Mac was fully charged when it died. I asked him whether they could do anything. He told me I needed to send it to the Service Centre in Penang. And since I bought it online, I had to do it myself…. I thought as a premium reseller, they had to take my unit and send it for me… charging me, of course. But... no can do.
Well, I was a little riled up by then, but not because of what that guy said but because I need my computer. Minus a computer at work feels kind of debilitating. I told him I needed to order one but not from them since Education pricing from Apple gives a substantial discount. No way I was going to buy from them if they cannot offer me a goodwill service in my time of need, for one which I would have happily paid if it could be resolved then.
Anyway, I lugged my Mac to my friend’s place, thinking that I would try it out again before making my order. To cut the long story short, it takes a very little convincing (but I still needed that little push sometimes) for me to open it up. So armed with the WWW …. (yup! hurray for WWW! Who needs technicians when you have the treasure trove in the WWW?)... and some screw drivers, we opened up my dead Mac. I read the instructions, watched a video, well parts of it… but all from the WWW and removed the battery….. Then we plugged the MacBook back on. The familiar whirring sound came back.. the lights started blinking… and the screen came alive. So much for the need of a trained technician!!!! The dead Mac was resurrected.
And so, here I am typing this out on my resurrected Mac. I probably will need to get a replacement for my current Mac as it is rather slow now. But at least for now, it is still alive and clicking away. I am also feeling a little comforted that tomorrow my ‘trusted companion’ will still be accompanying me to work. 8) I rarely go to work without it.
Learning how to solve a problem is so easy these days. There are so many ‘teachers’ available out there. If reading the instructions is not enough, there are always the instructional videos. And if those are not enough, you can always send a SOS for help. Someone is very likely to answer your ‘distress’ call. But while the instructions and the tools are there, a more important ingredient to make this work is our attitude. The attitude of wanting to learn, try, explore and not being afraid to fail trying…. those are even more important. A great deal of learning takes place when they are there.
Today, I had all the learning models at my disposal.. blended, flipped, personalised, etc, etc. I collaborated too... Sometimes a little 'collaboration goes a long way in achieving greater things. I have always believed that no man is an island. We need people... We can do way better if we can learn to cooperate, collaborate... One of the best ways to become better is to share. Elon Musk has recently become one of those people I admire because he opened up his patents for Tesla's electric cars. It's free for all to use, adapt, modify. His goal... the demise of the gasoline cars!!! 8)
Education is one thing… but learning??? Well, I had a meaningful learning process from this episode. My learning environment was blended. It was a mix of prior knowledge and multiple platforms as resources. It was flipped because my instruction did not come the traditional way. And I had an amazing personalised learning experience because the whole episode served a need that I had. To top it all up.. I am still learning. Yup! Lifelong learning at work here too. 8)
Isn’t that awesome? On a day, too, I resolved an iPad problem for a colleague too!!