Sunday, March 29, 2015

When the going is good....

... many of us tend to forget how to appreciate it. That's one of the lessons I learned this past week, after the demise of Lee Kuan Yew. I have 'followed' his 'life as a public figure' for almost all my life. It's something which can't be really helped because Singapore's history is so closely intertwined with ours, the proximity of Malaysia and Singapore gave many of us no choice. I have read his speeches, books, listened and watched him (the Internet is an amazing window) over the years. This past week, I revisited those media again to relive his moments.

While he was alive, especially after he retired, there were many who would jump at the opportunity to throw potshots at him. There are many Singaporean issues which have become the butt of many jokes. Yet as I watched again some of those old videos this past week, reread some of his speeches, took out the books he authored I had in my possessions, I am reminded of one thing too. Whatever we might say of him, Lee Kuan Yew was consistent in one thing... his unwavering belief in the principle of justice, one that is fair to all. Where he succeeded, Malaysia failed... We are still deeply communal based.

Death.... It sums up the worth of your life. If you are someone public like LKY, your whole life is played like a movie again. And you have many proofs to fall back on. It becomes possible and easy to dissect his life. And it makes a clear conclusion possible.

That is the one major plus of looking at something on hindsight. You get to see the whole picture of what made this man great. In being able to do that, you see a picture of one who has been a remarkably consistent leader. I can't think of any country like Singapore. Third world to first within one generation, a city state that is super efficient and safe. How many cities or countries can claim that honour? Small as it may be, this tiny dot south to Malaysia, is still a country to be reckoned with cos they have the wealth that does a lot of their talking too.

However when one works into the future and even if he is fortunate enough to have the gift of foresight, it is still quite impossible to see the whole picture. With just the foresight, it is a lot of conjectures. You have to just hope you know what you are doing and that whatever you are doing will be the right thing. But this premise of hindsight is a good thing cos with it, we can reflect on many things too.

In our every day lives, we tend not to appreciate the good things we have around us, when we still have them. Busy schedules, preoccupation with ourselves... we make excuses, we find reasons. The outpouring of affection at death... though it is an inevitable one.. it's another one of those reminders that come my way this week.

It's Cheng Beng season now.. we see outpouring of piety and affection too, to the dead. One wonders whether there was the same outpouring of affection for the deceased while they were alive. In death what is left with us are just rituals and memories. The latter fades after some time. And that leaves me  to wonder too if the act of carrying out these rituals make a difference to the dead. How many generations of Cheng Beng because it is all forgotten and the circle begins again?

Ramblings on the day rain came back again after so many dry weeks....

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How My Classroom Has Evolved

My classroom has undergone quite a few changes in the last 24 months. Come July, it will be exactly 2 years since I last used a chalkboard to teach.

It has been an exciting journey for me as a teacher. Not having to use the chalkboard... I find it most liberating. From Doceri, I ventured into so many other apps which gave me a versatility which made teaching (and learning too) so much fun. The icing on the cake... I did not need to turn my back on my students. I have not done that in class for a long time. All my classes are now face to face all the time.

I now write so much less in class. Typing has replaced much of the writing. Am thankful for my typing skills which I owe to Dad. He used to pay me 50 sen to do his typing sometimes, and I did it happily for the extra pocket money. I move from one form to another quite easily in class. This year I added another projector in the lab. I now operate with 2 projectors.

With 2 projectors, I can put up passages on one to annotate and questions on another for easy reference. I can use one for mind map and the other for other media in the lesson. One can come up with any combo of preferences.

Chromebooks are used for Google Drive and Socrative. There other assessment apps which I am itching to try but with the workload piling up, it'll have to take a while. Using Google Docs for essay writing is more effective than the traditional 'write-in-exercise-book' method. With a few add-ons like Doctopus and Goobric, I can view more students work. And monitoring... Today I asked a student if she was working on her writing. She said yes. I told her she wasn't. There was some denying but finally she admitted. It's amazing how I can click the tabs containing my students work and know whether they are working on their piece. There is also a more personal touch and students learn other skills too as they work on their writing online. And Goobric.... with the writing rubric attached, students get a clearer picture of where they stand. Google Drive ... almost like a 'one-stop' centre.

Students seem to enjoy this way of learning. I have had students coming back to ask whether they could take their online assessments again. I get more interests shown by the kids too.

Apps ... it's amazing what one can achieve when there is media as your teaching aid. A picture, or video, or even a caption... in the traditional class, it would have been a gargantuan task just to bring them into the class. These days, with just a computer or a tablet and a projector, you are good to go. And oh yes... a speaker system would definitely add the oomph.

And emails... I email my students reminders to pay their fees. Their parents can emailed me when their children are sick. I scan timetables, textbooks and ebooks I prepared to my students too. I am fostering a new culture of learning too, I realised. Many students usually are not aware that their smartphones can be used to enhance their learning because they were not taught so. My classes are slowly learning. Our students have not been allowed to bring their technology to class because we deem those gadgets as a distraction. Well, I disagree... It's mainly because they have not been shown the way.

But despite all the breakthroughs in technology... I learned one thing too. It is the teacher that makes a greater difference. The personal touch, the story teller, the listening ears, etc.... these are still unmatched by the gadgets. A good teacher is still more about those than just technology.

I have also been privileged to set up a digital signage for the school with the help of Other Half. Using Raspberry Pi(s) we now run two 60-inch TVs as our digital signage. Announcements are now in poster or video forms. The time saved due to announcement over the PA system is quite substantial.

Changes ... they are inevitable. We can choose to remain in our old but comfortable ways or force our learning curve upwards and change with the inevitable...Oh ya.. SPM results are out. One sees the usual rounds of jubilations and dejections. A parent said this when she was congratulated for her daughter's excellent set of results. Her answer..."God's blessings.' Sigh... means those whose children did not do well did not get God's blessings???