Monday, February 27, 2006

Fever (not a metaphor)

Ephraim came down (why is the phrasal verb called "came down" when his temperature actually went up? someone, anyone can explain this to me???!!!) with a fever after his vaccination last Saturday. He took the 5 in 1 (which was supposed to have decreased fever symptoms and cost so much more and why didn't it work????) jab for DPT and 2 other diseases (I have forgotten what they are obviously).

He was okay after his jab (and may I add he was so brave. The needle went into his right thigh and he yelled in pain but once I brought him to my chest, he stopped crying. SO BRAVE YOU ARE PICKLES! *in case you are wondering, "pickles" is the nickname we gave Ephraim because he smells like that towards the evening...hahaha*

Of course my wife and I then dropped him off (yet again another phrasal verb that doesn't make sense!!!) at my parents' place so that we could go and have some alone-time (NOT THAT KIND OF THING YOU WERE THINKING ABOUT!!! TSK TSK TSK!!!) and shop at NTUC Fairprice! *SO PATHETIC RIGHT!*

We brought him back around 7pm and I noticed immediately he was hotter than usual! My radar went off (argh, perhaps I should stop using phrasal verbs) and I took his temperature, which went up steadily!!! We got worried because this was the first time my baby boy is feverish!!! *I of course did not feel like doing any work as a result, not an excuse but our pickles was not feeling well* He became very drowsy and did not even wake when we were sponging him down (argh!)

That night we slept in the living room where the sarong is and monitored his temperature (my wife did most of the work. I was just too conked out after our yoga lesson). I took over from 5am onwards.

Finally, this morning before we left, we think his temperature is back to his pre-vaccination one and I kissed him on the cheeks, forehead and lips before I set off (argh!) HAPPILY for work :)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Blog Reflection 1

This is the fourth reflection I am writing really for PDDP (but I have numbered it differently :)

I will not really go into details as to the induction programme (as I have already shared with the branch my experience being a HQ officer). I will however, devote some time to reflecting about CoPs.

Communities of Practice (CoPs) is going to be the one big thing for me because I am curious as to how this whole thing will start off and then function on its own as an organism that seeks (and requires) constant growth and renewal.

The compressed slides given to us really did not do justice to the very comprehensive presentation given by Dr. Hung during our lunch time. He was able to keep me interested throughout his talk and actually made me understand how a CoP should look like (with all the interactions taking place between all the various participants).

It would not be meaningful for me to regurgitate the information gleaned from the slides but one key-takeaway I have is that there are 3 kinds of communities that could be formed:
1. Task-based learning communities
2. Practice-based learning communities
3. Knowledge-based learning communities

It would seem to me the third one is the most difficult to achieve but I think with evolution and the right guidance given, a task-based learning community can become a practice-based one to finally a knowledge-based one. *but I could be wrong here*

As the slides were too "compressed" for me to recollect what Dr Hung has talked about, I went to the internet and found this article (which I must emphasize TO ME) useful, even though the context is more for business-related CoPs. But the concept should cut across all domains - education, business etc.

A few things that went through my mind while I was reading the article were:
1. Dr Hung's slides sort of provide the inner workings of a CoP and what we can do to design and sustain one.
2. This article gives a very macro view and offers an interesting concept of interactions at the boundaries (between CoPs). I realise Dr Hung's slides provide this idea but this article gives me a better understanding what it really means.
3. A general progression as to the kinds of activities and involvement that occur within a CoP is given (which I wonder if it ties in with the 3 kinds of communities that Dr Hung mentioned in his slides)...*still wondering*

A quote which I found good:
"CoPs develop around things that matter to people...Even when a community's actions conform to an external mandate, it is the community-not the mandate-that produces the practice."

*pondering* Are we the mandate? *haha*

What I found useful is the distinction made between CoPs, Teams, Tasks and Network. This might give us a better understanding as to what a CoP really is.

Another quote which I found good:
"People belong to communities of practice at the same time as they belong to other organizational structures. In their business units, they shape the organization. In their teams, they take care of projects. In their networks, they form relationships. And in their communities of practice, they develop the knowledge that lets them do these other tasks. This informal fabric of communities and shared practices makes the official organization effective and, indeed, possible."

Don't you find this quote sort of describes what we are doing now? Is this case, we are actually a CoP right, seeking to find out more about CoPs *haha*

Another thing I learnt from this article is that leadership is important to develop and nurture CoPs. There are various forms of leadership:
a. inspirational
b. day-to-day
c. institutional etc *I shall not go into the details now but if you found this useful, go and read the article :)*

Some ways to nurture CoPs are:
1. legitimizing participation
2. negotiating strategic context - do organizations have a clear direction?
3. being attuned to real practice (which I think could be linked to engaged learning)
4. fine-tuning the organization - any recognition? what repercussions might result?
5. providing support - perhaps where we really come in as a division / branch / section?

I think I know now that CoPs are theoretically, beings with identities that evolve with time and that it is really not that easy a task to sustain one as a CoP can occur naturally and unknowingly. Perhaps our task is then to go and seek existing CoPs-in-the-making and see how we can help them get a heartbeat (formally I think).

That, (un)fortunately, is something I don't know how it can be done :p

Blog Reflection 2

Words I didn't know when I was reading the article:
1. didactic (line 2, p.1)
2. mooted (line 14, p.2)
3. iterative (line 37, p.6)

I have (by 1638h, 23 Feb 06) gone to to find out the meanings.

Othographical error I found:
1. meatcognitive (line 4, p.8) - perhaps I am wrong here. We are supposed to think about the meat we are going to eat OR perhaps it should be "metacognitive" :P

*OKAY, Richard! These are not reflections! No one is interested you did not know what some words mean or whether there is any spelling mistake! GET STRAIGHT TO THE POINT!*


There are many things covered in this article. Firstly, a definition of engaged learning is illustrated from various sources. The few things I can gather (and believe me you they are not many) are:
a. learners are responsible for their own learning
b. there should be AUTHENTIC interdisciplinary problems to solve.

Next the article goes on to define what AUTHENTIC tasks are. I mean, as educators, we know we should as far as possible, incorporate authentic tasks into our lessons but how do we know they are authentic? The article gives some aspects like:
1. Contexts with ill-defined problems
2. Presence of ambiguities and uncertainties
3. Driven to apply existing knowledge state
4. Communal inquiry
5. Presence of expertise

One thing that leaps out at me at this point is that "the fundamental difference between the active and traditional forms of learning is in the exercising of self-regulation behaviours such as planning, organising, and other monitoring actions" (p.4). This somehow reminds me of SAIL (yes, yes, I have actually done my blog reflection for SAIL earlier and then came to this thicker article, but you didn't see this)

And then, Problem-based Learning (PBL) is suggested to not only provide authentic learning but also promote self-regulated learning. What I found interesting is the fact that PBL originated from medical school real-world case studies. This reminds me of a show I am watching called Grey's Anatomy. For those who are working at night (wait, we should all be working at night), this show airs on Mondays at 11pm after Desperate Housewives.

Allow me to jump to p.9. "AUTHENTICITY IS BOTH PROBLEM AND PROCESS". This statement is powerful because I realise I always think I should come up with authentic problems. The process of getting to some solutions should just be as real as possible!

The article then suggests a set of design principles for both the problem and the process which I shall summarize as PA(D)OCMETS. I have put parentheses for D because this element appears both for the design of problems and processes.

When the article discusses the implications for engaged learning environments, I was thinking how technology can help foster such an environment.

1. WebQuests might be useful for
(a) giving meaningful and real life complex problems for pupils
(b) staging activities and investigations
(c) embedding information cases

2. Blogs, forum discussions (and perhaps TJC's THINKCYCLE) might be useful for
(a) providing supportive, cognitive and reflective tools
(b) monitoring and planning

Thus, my proposal is this: Should there be a workshop that allows us to promote engaged learning (which is the key focus) by incorporating webquests, blogs and/or forum discussions? Hitherto we are already providing workshops that use these tools (but so far none showing how they can be linked and used to impact teaching and learning).

I only have one dilemma: If we were to use these tools, then why are we giving authentic problems in a virtual environment?

Why indeed?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Blog Reflection 4

Why do I have to SAIL from place to place when walking is just as fine? *and perhaps burn more calories...let's think for a moment, when you sail, you are really using the energy from moving air* *but I am seriously side-tracking and God forbids that :)*

In the educational landscape, SAIL really stands for Strategies for Active and Independent Learning. This teaching and learning approach is created because it was found *I think someone must have discovered this* that even though our education system is robust and excellent by many international comparisons, a few things could be improved.

What are these things, you might ask? *actually you should ask*
1. Sometimes pupils are not very explicitly told what they are going to learn.
2. Learning targets are unclear and therefore easy to miss.
3. We are always the ones evaluating our pupils' work.
4. National examinations are used as models for most learning and assessment activities.

SAIL hence looks into how those AFIs can be *erm hm* eradicated by
1. Selection and explanation of learning expectations to pupils
2. Selection of tasks to realise those expectations
3. Assessment of pupils based on articulated expectations
4. Provision of qualitative feedback
5. Provision of self and peer evaluation

Some of the key ideas I took away from my reading are:
1. Learning expectations can be broad but should provide a focal point for pupils's learning.
2. Tasks should encourage divergent thinking.
3. Rubrics should be created to assess pupils - used as a platform for items 3-5 mentioned above.

But some of my concerns are:
1. Will this approach be well-received by parents (and their well-taken-care-of children)?
2. Will the crafting of rubrics be difficult?
3. Anyone can come up with rubrics but who will ensure they are good?

Nonetheless, I shall bear SAIL in my mind and whenever the wind caresses my cheeks, I shall dream about where my ship will take me *that's if I can afford one...okay, make it a sampan* while I create wondrous lesson plans that will hopefully incorporate some of the features mentioned.

Blog Reflection 3

The first question that came to my mind was how to go about SEEDING for my English lesson plans.

To give a quick background *I shall not bore you with the details :)*, this programme (SEED-EL) will be rolled out this year and I know quite a reliable source that it is in its GESTATION stage now. It is therefore no longer a seed but an organism that is going to break out of its shell pretty soon to face the "cruel" world.

SEED-EL is actually a re-invention of Reading and English Acquisition Programme (REAP) *erm, are we always thinking of sowing the seeds and reaping the harvest?* Primary 1 to 3 children will be exposed to the Shared Book Approach (SBA) in a more structured way.

One thing that came strongly across in this document is that reading (with BIG books) will be enjoyable, meaningful, non-threatening and impactful in many ways.

How can my design of lessons (with use of ICT of course) be aligned in that way? *let's face it, no one likes their lessons to be boring or run-of-the-mill* *or worse no use of ICT involved* *gasp*

Would online-stories be able to create the same impact? Where can I get GOOD online-stories?

Another thing that came across very strongly is the use of heterogenous groupings to bring about learning. If Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development were to be applied here, then not only will the teacher be providing the scaffold and stimulii, "high progress" pupils can model for the "middle progress" or "low progress" pupils. There, I learnt a new way of describing the abilities of pupils (^_^)

Finally, we must never forget that when we conduct (or create) any lessons, the best way to know if our lessons have been effective is through the kind of work pupils produce. For SEED-EL, observation checklists are used to evaluate if pupils exhibit the skills taught. For my lessons, what am I going to structure in so that I know my students have learnt something?

Nevertheless, I believe in order to ensure a good harvest, more seeds should be sown (of course in a very organised way *i.e. a clear direction to be given* so that growth is optimized). Love, care and PATIENCE must be shown to ensure that these seeds do not wither and perish.

Will there be nurturing rain or punishing rays? I really wonder...

Fever (a metaphor)

1. San Chye told me for MRL, I will be monitoring model schools.
2. Need to re-format the FGD notes
3. Need to find out information relating to self-check machines
4. Need to discuss with Bernard for ESD on 6 March 2006
5. Need to design 2 more lessons for BLS
6. Need to finalise workshop dates and get back to Linda
7. Need to be more regular with exercising or else all past efforts will go down the drain (into my buttocks) - most important because if I were not alive, I won't be able to do items 1 to 6.

So priority list - health (and sanity) followed by family (with wife and Ephraim and immediate family) followed by relationships with friends followed by relationships with colleagues followed by work (oh dear :)