Friday, September 23, 2005

Blue Revolution

Tried to find out more about this "blue revolution"... has this to say about it:

"Some slight evidence suggests blue is joining green as an environmental buzzword. The blue revolution is the water equivalent of the green revolution and primarily refers to the need to get water for drinking and crop irrigation to the many millions of people worldwide who do not have it. The phrase has been used for some years, but it came to notice particularly in press reports of the recent Third World Water Forum in Tokyo. Many environmentalists believe that the need is not simply to provide water, but to do so in ways that are ecologically sound and sustainable; for example, they feel that building dams is not the right technique. Solutions are desperately needed, since the UN estimates that 2.7 billion people face a critical shortage of drinkable water by 2025."

And this guy has an interesting website about the Blue Revolution and Pakistan:

Sunday, September 18, 2005

more clarification

I hate to drag this out, but after a discussion with SW over lunch and reading SJ's blog, I thought I should just try to clarify what I said in my previous two posts:

I wrote in the previous post, something to the effect that geog is at the bottom of our priorities. Ok, that is an exaggeration (overstatement, hyperbole?), which I used to contrast with my expectations of teaching before I entered NIE. It's a personal issue. I don't mean to extend it to represent everybody's point of view. I have a tendency to dramatise things and exaggerate especially when I'm feeling agitated. I guess that teaches me not to blog when I'm feeling down.

But as I commented in SJ's blog, I don't feel like sec sch/JC geog content is second nature to me. I feel quite out of touch with it actually, after all the human geog we've been exposed to in uni. That is why I keep saying I would appreciate geog teaching tips. But since Kenneth has said we will get ample opportunities for that when we enter the schools, I'm perfectly okay with what we're doing now. In fact I was really enjoying the classes and I appreciate highly the tips we've been getting on school, exams, classroom management, social studies and so on. I don't want things to change. And I think we're pretty well agreed on that point. So I think it'd be great if we just let this whole thing drop.

However, before I go, one last thought I just had: I am beginning to regret having made my previous post at all. I don't want to go into the ramifications of this in case I stir up another muddy pool, but it brought up a thought. I think some of our students may not volunteer any contributions (ie. are quiet in class) simply because they don't want to cause trouble/draw attention to themselves/whatever, not because they're afraid of being wrong. We have to encourage feedback among our students, but we don't want to make them the centre of attention if they don't feel that they can handle it. So when we pick students to answer opinion-type questions, maybe we can keep that in mind? How can we involve such students without making them feel "targetted"?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

geography: we bring the world to you

I just finished catching up on the blog posts (finally!) and together with the recent mail from Kenneth, it's really making me feel very disturbed. I can't really pin it down, why I feel so disturbed either. I guess part of it is this feeling of division in the class. And it's a teacher-student divide. I know I shouldn't really put it that way, but the fact is that we are here to learn from Kenneth and in that sense we are students and he is the teacher. But anyway let's not debate that for now...

Kenneth is trying very hard to bring the real world to us so that we're not completely sealed off from the school experience for this one year in NIE. I do appreciate that and I think I see very clearly what he's doing: thank you Kenneth for that, because I know life would be a lot easier for you if you just caved in and taught us lots of geog the way we are being swamped with literature in my CS2. However you choose to try to remind us that as teachers, geography is actually quite low on our list of priorities. I'm not trying to sound sarcastic or anything here; I'm just trying to come to terms with the idea, because I came into teaching thinking that I now have a big picture of how geography is useful and therefore I can better pass on this broader understanding to the students, who have no idea why they're doing geog. But through our geog class, I have come to realise that it's really and truly not "how much you know, but how much they know you care". I used to think that having a passion for your subject is half the battle won, since some of the more sensitive students might pick up the infectiousness of your passion. Yeah... naive, I know. I know better now. To students, you can try to sell the subject until your breath runs out but in the end they are taking it to pass exams. They would appreciate it if you relate it to their immediate interests (developmental tasks anyone?) but they are more interested in passing exams, or else they are likely to not be interested at all. The students of now really do seem very different from the students we used to be, or at least I used to be, because as everyone has probably guessed I was one of those really quiet sponges in class.

Still, I stand by my previous statement that tips in actual geography teaching would be much appreciated too. Not to say that we haven't got that... through our microteaching sessions, I've learned a whole new bag of tricks... for physical geog, anyway *g*. There hasn't really been a lot of human geog. But more of these tips scattered around might go a long way.

That said, I'm completely looking forward to the simulated PTM. A little nervous too, but still, I hope it goes well.

A lot of my discomfort does stem from the fact that I haven't been able to completely throw off my student hat either. It's simply too sudden. I have lived and enjoyed 16 years of my life as a student, I haven't had any extended working experience, none in teaching, and in three short months I'm supposed to have changed my attitude completely around while being piled with endless assignments. I've been told that I have a flair for making the complicated sound simple when teaching peers one-to-one, but teaching students professionally is a whole different ball game. For one thing, the students aren't eager to learn from you, unlike when you're teaching your peers who probably have asked for your help in the first place. Secondly you can't oversimplify since they need the cheem stuff for their exams. Thirdly you're teaching a whole bunch of students, not one-to-one. Whoever told me I would make a good teacher because I could teach them one cheem concept obviously has no idea about the mechanics of teaching in a classroom. Andd if you think having a teacher parent helps, well, it doesn't necessarily. My dad is the fatalistic sort and he's convinced I'll never pull through the trials and stress of being a teacher. I'm trying to conserve my energy but it's hard.

I realise I'm beginning to sound bitter here, but it's just the whining of a person having to face reality after the idealism of being a student. I know it, so don't mind me. I just need to have somewhere to arrange my thoughts.

Kenneth, I apologise for being one of the students misbehaving during the Semakau trip. I enjoyed it immensely. I'm very grateful for that opportunity to go there and learn so much, and I hope it won't be the last.

It is most definitely in our grography lesson at NIE, and only the geography lesson, that the world out there is brought into the classroom. The other geography class is doing what we will be doing to our students next time: bringing them out into the world. Which is better? I'd rather not debate this tired old issue. Being a Libran, I like balance: ideally we would have the best of both worlds. But time is a limiting factor here. So we will make do with what we have and what we can do and be thankful for it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Mappa Singapore

Phew... finally some time to catch a quick breath and unload some thoughts here...

Am still rushing the Ed Psy essay =((( but at least it's moving along.

Literature microteaching is so different from the Geog microteaching. There, the emphasis is getting the content across to the students. In Geog, the emphasis is on classroom management. Although the Geog microteaching is of course more realistic, I sometimes would appreciate some content teaching tips - like the basketball move thing for eastings and northings. That was an interesting tip!

Speaking of maps, Shouwee and I attended Prof Higgitt's talk on cartography last night after the fieldtrip. He talked about the definition of a map, the history of maps, and the future of mapping (GIS and GPS). He also sneaked some old maps from the map room of NUS, and I love old maps so I just had to take some photos. Unfortunately the reflective plastic wrapping over the maps made it very hard to get a clear picture of any of them, especially since the ink on them was already quite illegible. But here are 2 pics anyway so you have an idea of how the maps looked like:

click on pic to see bigger version
This map is from 1864 I think. You can see Fort Canning Hill to the right of the Singapore River. Other than that nothing much is legible... you can hardly make out anything even if you were there.

click on pic to see bigger version
This map is from 1911. It's not very clear but you can make out some interesting details... Clementi area was called Peng Kang, Tampines is a bit further north from where it is today, and so on.

My geog-nutty NUS classmates and I were having so much fun with the maps. Sigh... I wonder how we can try and pass on this kind of enthusiasm to kids nowadays. I remember the Sec 1 class I took over for my CT for maps... their general reaction was "Cher, when I grow up I will never take any job that has anything to do with maps!" I tried my best to convince them that maps will be useful wherever they go, but 35 mins just wasn't enough and I hadn't come prepared since my CT had given me other stuff to complete. If I had a chance to take maps from the start, I would probably bring the photos with me. Better still if I had a reprint of an old map... any idea where I might get that? National Museum?

Anyway, just for fun, here's something interesting from one of the maps. There was a list of the properties, owner, occupier, and road, in that order. Looking through the entries, we found an odd one: a property owned and occupied by a guy named Honghee, at Burial Ground Road:

And an even odder entry: Pearl's Hill, owned by the Government, occupier was Artillery, and road was Jail:

Other than that, some of the names there should be quite familiar... see how many you can spot!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

quick reflections on microteaching

I've been skimming through the posts by my wonderful class and some of the main points were:

1. my shakiness. Yup, I'm usually shaking at the beginning of a class cos I haven't warmed up yet. Or rather, I'm shaky throughout the class sometimes...

2. my temper. I never really lost my temper, believe me! Maybe I exaggerate a lot in my acting or something, but I never ever really lose my temper at a class. Maybe I learned this from my dad! Bad, bad. I'll keep this in mind.

3. my sarcasm. Oops, I lost control of that again. Those who know me in real life know that I already tend to be quite sarcastic very often. I really have to keep a tight rein on that...

Other points: photos etc. Those photos were what I could come up with on short notice; I thought I would have more time to prepare but was caught off guard by an unexpected assignment from another module. So I just printed out the pics on photo paper with my inkjet. Apologies for the unclear photos...

And the Flash presentation didn't go too well - didn't get the attention of the class like I hoped, and the back buttons I so painstakingly put in somehow refused to work. Oh well. Better luck next time!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Flash experiment...

The only time I've ever used Flash was for a Year 1 presentation in NUS! Now I've forgotten all my Flash skills! But I did manage to churn out a very simple presentation for tomorrow. Nothing that Powerpoint can't do, no audio or fancy animations, but if it turns out well tomorrow, I'll feel better about adding in other cool stuff in using Flash in actual classroom teaching.

I have a few thoughts regarding SW's wonderful microteaching session last week, but I think I'll voice them in class tomorrow instead... simply been too busy to blog long entries!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

microteaching session today...

So today was the second session of microteaching, by our resident karst expert and our Geobabe. *g* Before I start, let me just put a disclaimer that everything I say here is NOT personal and I don't mean to seem like comparing the two of you, even though I suspect that I'll end up sounding that way... I know different people have different teaching styles.

Anyways. First we had LY's lesson, in which she heroically took on the daunting task of dumbing down karst landscapes to our ignorant Sec 3 level. It wasn't a bad job, given the topic, but I think karst is taught at JC level for two reasons: 1) it's mind-numbingly cheeem. Joints, bedding planes, pervious rocks, waaaah. 2) because it's so mind-numbingly cheem, it requires a lot of teacher-to-student type interaction. I like how you gave us rock samples to examine, but I think it wouldn't have been clear to a sec 3's muddled mind how that little piece is related to what you were telling us. Maybe you could have linked it to your Powerpoint slides somehow?

For class management, I like how you threatened to take our ezlink cards. But after that, you didn't come across (at least to me) as being very firm with your threat. You kept saying "one more time and I'll confiscate it" but you didn't. And having our ezlink cards on the table did create opportunities for all sorts of mischief involving theft of cards etc. Maybe the threat alone would have been enough without asking us to take out our cards?

Other than that, I think you really did try hard, although with such heavy going, I think students are bound to get restless and bored. Especially if they've been having lessons without breaks! XD I mean, you know lah. Sorry if I kept yawning, I assure you I wasn't doing it on purpose, or trying to be a bad student or anything... I was honestly, truly tired!

Regarding YZ's session, I was quite surprised and impressed. Having known her for one year, I never figured she could sound so stern and firm! Also I really liked the props. Man, since I'm doing the mountain-building after you, I'm stressed to keep up the good work! The only thing I might have some problem with is your handling of Wes's "asthma attack". It's partly the class's fault that we didn't give you a realistic scenario to work with, but if this was the first time Wes was having an attack, I think the class would be in an uproar, especially if an ambulance had to be called. But I honestly think you shouldn't have given the permission for the ambulance to be called. Isn't there a school nurse for this kind of thing? I mean... after all we are teachers, I think it's just not for us to decide if a student needs an ambulance or not, especially if the student is no longer in the classroom for us to monitor and if there are 39 other students just waiting for an excuse to go and "kaypoh" the situation.

yeah, I think that's it for now... those were the major points I wanted to bring up. Man, you guys are setting such high standards for your microteaching, I'm feeling pressured to keep up! *g*