Learning from e-learning students

They say we teachers can sometimes learn from our students.In the case of e-learning, there is no doubt about it. This is because technology is developing so fast that there are bound to be apps or e-learning strategies which have escaped the teacher’s attention.

Earlier on, I learnt about Trello.com from an undergraduate student who was taking my CALL course. It’s an information and communication board for teams working together on a project. On each board are lists, which contain cards. I will spare you the details, but I’m using it as a very versatile to-do list, to juggle and prioritise and reprioritise the dozens of things (one thing on each card) I have to do every day and in the medium term.

Then, the other day, while marking the undergraduate students’ term papers, I came across an app, http://realtimeboard.com, which I immediately fell in love with. It’s like Padlet, which can be used for brainstorming, and displaying things, but it can also be used for team collaborations, and its many visual effects immediately outshine the dull-looking shared Google documents and folders. It’s so cool that I’m already exploring ways to use it in my own work, and also in teaching. ….

So, we e-learning teachers need to be humble – there are always apps, tricks, techniques that some students may know better than we do.

Lesson planning can be rewarding

I enjoy planning new workshops from scratch. This is a highly creative activity. At the same time, it enables me to make full use of my professional knowledge, and experience. The process of planning, however, is not always straightforward. It’s often messy, with hundreds of ideas floating in your mind, and dozens of practical considerations to make. But it gives me a great sense of satisfaction as gradually, the workshop design takes shape, and the ideas become more concrete. I hope that all teachers can share a similar satisfaction, and that’s why we must ensure they have sufficient time to do lesson planning.

行貨的宣傳語句

(Written on May 4)

忍不住要批評香港政府回歸二十週年的宣傳語句: Together, progress, opportunity;政府內有很多英文高手吧,但竟然弄出這樣的行貨,如果是外判得來的,就太輕率收貨了。

中文原文是完整語句,英文要用三個單字顯示相同或近似的意思,本就並非上策,縱使著意用單字,問題是Together, progress, opportunity, 不但太cliche, 三字之間關係不明顯,最令人搖頭的,是連rhetoric的基本原則也漠視:progress, opportunity是名詞,together 是副詞, 在這情形下三個單元要用相同的結構,一是全用名詞,一是全用形容詞,一是全用結構相同的短語或句子,這樣讀起來才有鏗鏘的效果。

是以縱使對together 一詞情有獨鍾,也是togetherness 而不是 together 啊,而togetherness 意思亦太弱,何不索性用 Unity!

要選三個單字,打開thesaurus 便可以慢慢揀,可以選意思上的配合,可以採發音上的巧妙(例如number of syllables; alliteration, rhyming); 但Together, progress, opportunity 這樣的雜牌軍 ……唉!

民間自發的教學改革

(Written on May 7)

昨晚在臉書上分別看到澳門教師自發為配合課改而進行的工作坊,和台灣翻轉教學大師張輝誠老師在彰化舉行的學思達專業分享活動,都很有感動; 作為教師,他們要做好份內工作已很不容易,而犧牲自己大量的時間,目的只希望幫助同工提高教學水平,使行業更專業,讓其他教師更能找到教學的意義和樂趣,這無私的精神真令人敬佩。

我愈來愈相信,由上而下的教學改革,無論這上是政府、辦學團體,或學校高層,所能製造出的效果只會有限;但是只要看看學思達在台灣發展之快,所引發出教師的投入和活力,便可以看到民間自發的教學改革的威力。

政府教育部門在這環節上可以做的,就是提供資源上的支援,並肯定和鼓勵這些活動的策劃人和參加者。香港目前有一班很有心的 FlippEducators 老師,推動翻轉教學,希望這樣的組織和活動能遍地開花,使我們的課室更有生氣,學生更喜歡上學,我們的行業更專業。

百般武藝

昨晚和兩位小學老師閒談,他們告訴我這陣子各式各樣的duties, 我邊聽邊想,今天做小學教師真不簡單啊,應付排山倒海的工作量不在話下,除了學科知識和課室技巧外,還要懂得百般武藝,例如:

要有美術修養以製作美麗的壁報,識唱歌跳舞演戲以便訓練學生演出variety show和參加各式比賽, 教英文又要對STEM 有一點認識,要懂得接力跑步以便在運動會娛樂學生,要有公關技巧以便和一眾家長週旋,要有旅行社領隊的技能以便帶學生往外地比賽或交流,要有救傷證書以便急救學生,要對TECHNOLOGY 有相當認識以便推展電子教學……。想到這裏,更加敬佩他們。今天還有一些人以為教小學很容易,他們是大錯特錯。

Teachers who switched to teaching from other jobs

Today, I caught up with 4 students from last year’s fulltime group over lunch. One of them, before joining the teacher education programme, had already completed a management trainee programme with a major company and had a promising career future before her. Yet, she quit her job, and applied to the PGDE programme, hoping that one day she could find meaning working in the teaching profession.

As usual, this afternoon over lunch, I asked her whether she regretted the change having worked as a real-life teacher for 8 months. It is my usual practice to pose this question to former students who have worked in other fields, because I know the (harsh) realities of working in a school today may not match their previous expectations especially if they have aspired to find meaning and purpose in the work of teaching.

So, I was delighted when this former student told me she was sure she had made the right decision. When I probed further and asked her why she was standing by her previous decision despite the heavy stress of being a teacher today, her answer did not come as a big surprise: “It is gratifying when I see my students are learning and making progress, and that I can have an influence on their lives.”

Many young adults enter teaching out of a desire to do good for other people’s children. We should cherish their altruism. Let us remember that and create a school environment in which they can continue to find meaning and purpose in their work.

Is English difficult to learn?

Is English difficult to learn?

The school-based workshop I ran in Macao this afternoon was also attended by the Portuguese teachers at the school. At one point in the workshop, I was reporting on a lesson on comparative and superlative adjectives that I had taught some time ago. Then, I suddenly felt the urge to ask the Portuguese teachers whether in their language, they had such a complicated system for forming comparative and superlative adjectives (adjectives of 1 to 2 syllables; … 3 syllables or more; exceptional cases).

The Portuguese teachers gleefully gave me a quick lesson on how comparative and superlative adjectives are formed in their mother tongue — and it is such a complicated system. They rounded off by adding that in comparison, English is very easy to learn. (English is their second language.)

Well, this was not the first time I heard the comment that English is actually easy to learn, but it was the first time I heard the remark coming from the mouths of a group of non-English Europeans!

No wonder why English has become the global language. And for those students in Hong Kong who complain that English is difficult to learn, ……