If e-Learning works, it’s because of the teacher.

What is “e-Learning” in teachers’ minds?

16 years ago: Using PPT to present a lesson.
8 years ago: Playing a Youtube video during a lesson.
Today: ?????

A former student has a friend who claimed to be doing e-Learning. She later found out that to her friend, e-Learning meant using the electronic version of the textbook during a lesson.

Another former student has told me that some of the teachers she knows think that doing e-Learning means playing a Kahoot game towards the end of a lesson.

It’s actually not easy to define e-learning today, as the field is developing so fast, and there is such a wide range of things you can do under the umbrella term of e-Learning. Also, it’s difficult to judge whether a teacher is doing e-learning because there is no, and there shouldn’t be, a rigid threshold for implementing e-Learning, such as 30% of the curriculum, or 25% of lesson time.

This is because e-Learning is only the means – a tool which has the capacity for (a) making teaching and learning more effective, and (b) opening up possibilities of new learning activities which would otherwise be impossible in a traditional classroom.

But e-Learning is only the means – the end is good teaching. Hence, if the e-Learning teacher judges that a particular lesson design will work even better without technology, then he or she should not do e-Learning just for its own sake.

But one thing that worries me is the quickly widening gap between teachers who are fanatics of e-Learning (who keep exploring and experimenting), and those who have a phobia about technology.

To the latter group of teachers, I can assure them that technology is the last thing they need to worry about when they embark on their e-Learning attempts. The applications and the technology have become so user-friendly and simple-to-use today that all they need is a bit of initial familiarization with the technical aspects.

The real challenge is still the pedagogy. What is your teaching objective? What do you want your students to learn, or achieve? What initial teaching ideas do you have in mind?

It is then you turn to the technology for support. Which application may help you achieve your teaching objective most efficiently and effectively? How do you design your e-learning activity that will reap the biggest benefit given your teaching objective?

That is why in e-Learning PD events, my maxim for the teachers is always: “If e-Learning works, it’s not because of the technology. It’s because of the teacher.”

Why are we putting ourselves in this scenario?

Recently, I asked a former student whether she was leading a happy life. I knew it would not be an easy question to answer. And indeed, she did have to do some soul-searching before she could come up with a response, which was multi-faceted. Then, I found myself saying to her: “If you’re not distinctly unhappy, you’re already quite OK in present-day society, which is full of stress, hostility, and(workplace) politics.”

But why do we have to put up with this not-distinctly-unhappy-is-already-not-bad scenario? If being happy is one major purpose of life, and a fundamental human need, why can’t we work together to build a happier world? Why do we have to keep up our hostility, prejudice, and hatred? What don’t we step back, and contemplate what exactly we are presently toiling for?

 

傾城之戀

昨天探訪舊學生Monica現時任教的學校,在圖書館赫然看見一叠新購入,張愛玲的傾城之戀,雀躍之餘又覺得不可置信,不得不問Monica: 今天還會有中學生看張愛玲的小說嗎?

那個年代,我和很多年青人一樣,要看通俗的會看亦舒永遠的玫瑰與家明,要表示自己是文藝青年,則看張愛玲的半生緣和傾城之戀;老實說,那個年紀並不完全領畧張愛玲故事主角的情懷,但是為了表示自己有文化……

所以如果今天的中學生喜歡看傾城之戀,也是好事啊。

What should kids be doing in the summer?

Yesterday, one of the former students who came to the reunion lunch brought along her 9-year-old-son, Chester. His mum didn’t buy any supplementary workbooks from the Book Fair for him. She didn’t sign him up for any additional summer short courses. When I asked Chester whether he was feeling bored, his answer was a resounding NO. Why was that so?

He has several storybooks from the Book Fair to read. He is writing and creating his own storybooks. He has his Lego blocks to play with. He produces mini videos of his Lego characters in action. He turns to his musical instruments when he is in the right mood. He plays chess with others, and when no one is around to play chess with him, he takes on both opposing sides simultaneously. He experiments with science building blocks bought from the Science Museum. He takes a nap when he feels sleepy. And I’m sure his mum will also organise gatherings for him to play with other kids.

And he snubs mechanical supplementary workbooks, finding them meaningless.

Summer is a good time to let kids express their creativity, to arouse their curiosity in things around them, to allow them to find their own elements (Sir Ken Robinson), to develop their interest in reading, or, to simply let them play. We can put them through 5 additional summer courses, or subject them to 20 supplementary workbooks. But there is a heavy price to pay.

Would you rather be a man or a woman?

The other day, while discussing the many difficulties that a woman needs to face during her journey of life, I concluded: “I have never wanted to be a woman.”

But a former student, Andrea, proclaimed, “I have never wanted to be a man.”

I met up with Andrea and Clairine, another former student, today, and over lunch, I asked them the very question, “What’s so good about being a woman in today’s society?”

Interestingly, Clairine sided with Andrea, and they started to enumerate the advantages of being a woman, and the disadvantages of being a man, in present-day society.

Listening intently, I came to realise the huge difference between our perceptions of the life that members of the opposite sex are experiencing. For example, they see men’s financial responsibility for the family as a great burden, while I don’t see it as a source of stress. I see a woman’s major chapters of life as sources of worry, but they didn’t experience them as worrisome.

Perhaps we can only fully understand the joys and sorrows of the opposite sex by living our life a second time, in a different gender role. But for me the problem is: If I could live my life a second time, I would still want to be a man!

教育是一份訓練慈悲心的工作

在舊學生的臉書看見這句說話:「教育是一份訓練慈悲心的工作。」此刻我特別有感受。

昨天就一項校本教學計劃認識了幾位充滿熱誠和專業精神的老師,我們討論計劃內容,臨走時他們告訴我他們頗多學生都是來自基層家庭,領綜緩的也大有人在,SEN 學生更不在話下;他們的一個使命, 就是要幫助這些學生也能跟得上學業。

下午較後時間和另一舊學生見面,她先前教過的學校都是傳統名校,學生大多來自中產家庭,父母給予充足的支持。她最近𨍭職做校本支援,有機會探訪一些學生主要來自基層家庭的學校,發覺這些學校內不少教師為了幫助學生學業,做了很多額外的工作,作了不少犧牲,令她大為感動。

我們當教師的都是教育制度的勝出者,我們也許也來自基層以上的階層,如果教的學生家境淸貧,乏人照顧,我們以什麼心態看待他們?覺得他們不值得自己的努力,他們只好自生自滅?還是以慈悲之心,盡其在我,幫助他們成材?

These connections are possible, because we are teachers

Yesterday morning while I was presenting certificates and awards to the graduating students at Bishop Ford Memorial School on the stage, Miss Winnie was watching intently from among the audience. She had been their teacher and was content to see her students reach this milestone of their education.

About 2 months ago on April 29, I attended Miss Winnie’s wedding at Chung Chi Chapel on CUHK campus. I had been Miss Winnie’s PGDE teacher, and was content to see her reach this milestone of her life.

Back in 2003, one day while I was thumbing through the timetables of the teachers on the PGDE programme, in preparation for the upcoming Teaching Practice visits, I saw that Miss Winnie was a teacher at Bishop Ford Memorial School, the school that I went to as a primary kid.

The next week, when I saw Miss Winnie in class, I said proudly to her, “Winnie, did you know that I went to Bishop Ford Memorial School as a student many years ago?”

Miss Winnie replied, even more proudly, “Paul, did you know that I also went to this school as a student some years ago?”

All these miraculous connections are made possible, because we are teachers.