At the same time, it’s also good to ‘shake things up’ a little once in a while: when you get into a routine, things become quite predictable, so I want to do something different – and perhaps, not-so-predictable – this week.
The Cool Tools Trap
Firstly, as Dr Tan himself mentioned, we should avoid “fall[ing] into the cool tools trap”. It’s all very fine and well to be using Web 2.0 tools to deliver lessons. However, there are some caveats to this, and this is my take on it:
- Don’t do it for the sake of doing it. If one is just going to be using Web 2.0 tools because one’s ‘HOD said so’, then why bother? I think we as teachers must be fully aware of the functions and objectives of any teaching tool before we use it, so here, it is of the imperative that we find the meaning in the tool we use before using it.
- Don’t do it blindly. Action must meet the need, so the tool we use must have some congruency to the topic or lesson we are going to teach. Bubbl.us is definitely very useful if you’re going to be teaching *cough cough* Educational Psychology, and you are going to draw extensive mind-maps for your students, but it may not be very useful in a grammar lesson, unless the link or connection can be drawn between creating mind-maps and grammar rules. I don’t doubt it can be done, but the teacher must rigorously test her/his idea before implementing it.
- Don’t do it, period. If the traditional pen-and-paper method works best, then I’d say: go for it. One doesn’t lose anything if one is able to be doubly effective in her/his lessons using simple tools. On the other hand, one could stand to lose valuable teaching time – and the attention and respect of the students, even – if one uses tools just because they’re cool.
This is a very fun section in which I answer Dr Tan’s questions, as posed on his Powerpoint slides:
- Have you come across any of these approaches as students?
Of course! However, perhaps my definition of “student” in this case may veer slightly from the norm: I was exposed to the concept of Problem-Based Learning as an Officer Cadet while serving my National Service. Feedback from previous batches of Logistics Officers was that they had not been adequately trained/prepared to deal with problems ‘on the ground’. Hence, part of our course required us to find solutions to logistical problems that our instructors posed, based on actual events that took place in the Singapore Armed Forces.
- What is the relationship of these approaches?
One thing that links these approaches together has to be the amount of emphasis placed on collaborative work. Regardless of whether it is through group discussions, presentations/critiques or online forums, the scope for interaction among students is very wide. This is important, as it not only encourages the distribution of knowledge, but it also flexible in that it builds upon knowledge bases that each pupil already has, so each pupil has the own autonomy to decide how far s/he may want to expand this knowledge base that s/he possesses.
- What roles do the various ICT tools/interactive resources play in these approaches?
One role I see the various ICT tools/interactive resources playing is to facilitate the collaboration between students, thereby fulfilling one of the dimensions of engaged learning.