Saturday, September 23, 2006

Revolutionizing Learning in the Digital Age

‘I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them’ - Isaac Asimov

The day will come, as predicted by Isaac Asimov, when human beings cannot live without computers; when computers will become as ubiquitous as the cell phones. Many strongly believe that computers will have a great influence in revolutionizing learning. According to Resnick, the time has come for humans to not only know how to use digital technology but to know how to construct ‘things of significance with digital technology’. To be digitally fluent will become a ‘prerequisite for obtaining jobs’.

It is said that today’s adolescents have grown up with technology (1 to 1 Learning, 2006). Technology is indeed a driving force behind globalization and is vital in teaching and learning. With the change in goals/philosophy and pedagogy, student’s work is more customized, more self-directed and collaborative. As advocated by Kozma, technology facilitates the increased usage of online learning to meet instructional goals. Resources must be made available to students anytime, and from anywhere. Rather than using technology merely to communicate via emails or chat rooms, technology should be harnessed further by developing a network of a community of practice – students, teachers and experts. Here, students will be able to consult a pool of experts in the various fields to discuss related issues or to verify some learning points. These experts are seen as good role models for the students. We should also engage companies to be involved in the education of our young as part of the total learning environment. These companies can invest some of their professional employees' time in 'educational outreach' activities. They can take students from schools; give them hands-on experiences and interesting them in real world technologies. This is one way where we can develop stronger links between the academia and industry, society and government.

Resnick urged for a creative society, where success in the future will be based on our ability to think and act creatively. He believed that the Internet will enable ‘knowledge-building communities’ in which both adults and students around the world can collaborate on projects. An example is Singapore’s Pioneer Secondary School portal ( that hosted Project iBox. The portal has various functions like file sharing, notice board, photo album, team planner, discussion board and a chat room. It also provides facilities for schools to upload their project details and share their views about each others' projects. The chat facility enables students to meet and share information such as the racial interactions in New Zealand (Whites vs. Maoris) and about racial integration in Singapore. Technology is thus able to bridge the world, enabling students from both sides of the Pacific Ocean to interact, collaborate and learn from different perspectives.

Just like Mike Lee who spent much time ‘hanging out’ at the Boston Computer Clubhouse to explore his creative side, we too should spend more time in coming up with new ideas and entrepreneurial approaches to teaching and learning using technology. Computers must do more than finger painting; it must provide the opportunity for students to not only design and create but to construct their own knowledge through active exploration.


1 to 1 Learning. A Review and Analysis by the Metiri Group. Course documents. Retrieved October 18, 2006 from EdT471-06. Lehigh University Blackboard, from

Kozma, R. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19.

Pioneer Secondary School’s portal. Retrieved October 19, 2006, from

Resnick, M. (2001). Revolutionizing Learning in the Digital Age. Publications from the Forum for the Future of Higher Education. Boulder, CO: Educause.

Rethinking Assessment and its role in supporting Educational Reform

Many educators believe that what gets assessed is what gets taught (Bond, 1995) and that the format of assessment influences the format of learning and teaching (O'Day & Smith, 1993). Teachers teach students the ‘knowledge’ deemed necessary for them to pass exams. Students learn how to regurgitate these knowledge; they seldom apply what they know and can do in real-life situations. In Singapore especially, when academic excellence is on every parent’s wish list, teachers are pressurized to complete the syllabus so that students will be prepared to take the exams. Many teachers even utilize the ‘less important’ Civics & Moral Education period to revise Trigonometry and Organic Chemistry. Now, more than ever, we need to rethink assessment and how it will support the much-desired educational reform.

School reform is motivated by the belief that there are competencies needed for graduates to enter the workforce successfully. The Secretary's commission on Achieving Necessary Skills developed generic competencies and foundation skills that all workers will need in the future (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991). These skills include working in teams, flexible problem solving, taking responsibility for one's own performance, and life-long learning. We need to move from the narrow emphasis on academic achievement, to a broader, more well-rounded notion of success; a more holistic approach to education. The pursuit of good grades should not be an all-consuming passion in itself above everything else. It is important to get students to practice the values taught in schools. Of equal importance will be leadership development, and character development of the students.

One of the strategies is to develop a comprehensive assessment system using different assessment formats to meet different users' needs. According to Darling-Hammod, various assessment strategies can be implemented together at different levels to provide for the different information needs in a coordinated and coherent manner. Besides the normal ‘paper-and-pencil’ tests, other assessment modes can be introduced such as course work, source-based assessment, and project work. These modes emphasize assessment of skills rather than end-products. These will encourage students to explore and construct networks of knowledge and skills and provide them with exposure to a greater variety of practical tasks. Both schools and teachers can be asked to introduce other modes of assessment which are appropriate for their students, guided by curricula guidelines.

A good example is, an online research project that re-engages young people of school age back into learning (Notschool is initiated by Ultralab, UK’s leading learning technology research centre).’s virtual community of over 1700 young people were given the opportunity to develop their self-esteem and be reintroduced to learning through the support of mentors, buddies, experts and the use of media and technology. Each ‘researcher’ (student) is given a Mac, broadband connection, an inkjet printer and a digital camera. The researchers are also able to borrow scanners, video cameras and drawing tablets. They are encouraged to learn the subjects they are interested in and start their own projects using technology. They will be awarded nationally recognized accreditations when they have completed their learning journeys.’s alternative schooling and assessment methods have indeed been successful in encouraging students to learn and excel in a non-conventional environment.


Bond, L. N. (1995). Critical Issue: rethinking assessment and its role in supporting educational reform. North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Retrieved 13 November, 2006 from

Darling-Hammond, L. (Spring, 1994). Performance assessment and educational equity. Harvard Educational Review, 64 (1), 5-29. Retrieved 13 November, 2006, from

O'Day, J.A. and Smith, M. (1993). Systemic school reform and educational opportunity. In S. Fuheman (Ed.), Designing coherent educational policy: Improving the system (pp. 250-311). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

U.S. Department of Labor (1991). Secretary's commission on achieving necessary skills. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.

Computers as Mindtools for Engaging Learners in Critical Thinking

3Rs x 7Cs = 21st Century Learning

Three of the seven Cs skills that are crucial for our children in the Digital Age are Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Computing (Bernie Tilling as cited in Anonymous, 2005). Whilst critical thinking seeps into the heart of the curriculum in schools, instructional technologists are encouraging educators to use Mindtools or computer applications to engage learners to critically think about the content they are studying (Jonassen, 1996). Such Mindtools are said to be “unintelligent” and only facilitate the learner who will plan, make decisions and self-regulate his or her own learning. As argued by Kozma who advocated that various media can indeed influence learning, Mindtools can be considered forms of media that are developed to help students think deeply about what they are studying.

Among the various Mindtools, I am especially fascinated by Semantic Networking tools that provide visual screen tools for producing concept maps. Programs such as Mind Mapper and Inspiration enable learners to interrelate the ideas they are studying in multi-dimensional network of concepts. Such software allows learners to utilize the mind’s ability to understand and remember visual information. Learners are able to work in teams (collaborate) and brainstorm on which images to use when representing a concept and when linking symbols. The once, unresponsive learners can be more active, strategic learners when they achieve metacognition. Cooperative learning also allows these learners to share responsibility for learning when they work together in small groups to improve their maps. As a result, learners gain and retain a better understanding of concepts and demonstrate knowledge, thus improving their performance across the curriculum.

It is believed that the quickest way to learn about something is to teach it. Mindtools requires the learner to actually teach the computer. When learners develop their mind maps or databases, they are constructing their own “conceptualization of the organization of a content domain” (Jonassen, Carr, & Yueh, 1998). Hence, Mindtools represent a constructivist use of technology. Here, learners participate actively in the environment in ways that are intended to help them construct their own knowledge; rather than have the teacher interpret information and ensure that learners understand those information as they have been told to them. The incorporation of cognitive and affective thinking skills into the daily curriculum and instructions are highly recommended by Richard Paul and his colleagues at the Foundation for Critical Thinking (Black, 2005). They believe that through Mindtools, students will be able to transfer insights to new contexts, analyze arguments and interpretations, and develop intellectual integrity whilst suspending judgment.

Costs aside (most Mindtools software is readily available and affordable), Mindtools are also reasonably easy to learn. As with most construction tools, we need to know their functionalities before we can hammer away and build the proverbial tree house. The same principle applies to Mindtools or “tools for the mind”; they remain useless unless we know how to utilize them to enhance our knowledge. And once we have mastered that knowledge, the possibilities for learning are endless.


Anonymous (2005, November). Special Report: Envisioning the Future. New Essential Skills. Technology & Learning, 26(4), 11.

Black, S. (2005, February). Teaching Students to Think Critically. The Education Digest, 70(6), 42.

Jonassen, D. H. (1996). Computers in the classroom: Mindtools for critical thinking. Columbus, OH: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Jonassen, D. H., Carr, C. & Yueh, H-P. (1998, March). Computers as Mindtools for Engaging Learners in Critical Thinking. TechTrends, 43(2), 24.

Kozma, R. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19.

Mastery for Learning

Bloom, in his article “Learning for Mastery”, commented on how the education system creates a self-fulfilling prophecy through the grading process. According to him, the set of expectations that only a third will learn adequately, a third will just get by while a third will fail; is indeed a “destructive aspect of the present educational system”. The system destroys the students’ egos, reduces motivation for learning and subjects them to humiliating and frustrating conditions year after year. Whilst it is true that most students can master what we teach them, we must continuously find the means that will enable our students to master the subject they learn.

Most teachers use the bell curve grading that assigns grades to students based on their relative performance in comparison to their classmates' performance. Such classification is deemed as a distribution most appropriate to chance and random activity. They do not reflect students' true learning capabilities and mastery of knowledge. Education should be a purposeful activity and as such, we need to supplement regular classroom instruction by using alternative instructional methods. Most educators know that students learn more when they are creating their own learning opportunity. The “tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand” concept is now being acknowledged and implemented in classes worldwide. More and more students are immersed in hands-on, technology-integrated projects that emphasizes educational opportunities that are student-centered, collaborative and inter-disciplinary (Bradford, 2005).

True to Kozma’s argument that media can indeed influence learning, students apply and integrate the content of different subject areas in the production process, instead of in an artificial or isolated setting. Many of the abilities that students acquire through technology-integrated project based learning are 21st century interpersonal skills. Grades should never be made the ultimate measurement for knowledge mastery. Instead, skills such as teamwork, problem solving skills, effective oral and written communications which are high desired by business communities, should be encouraged. Therefore, teachers need to formulate alternative forms of assessments that recognize students’ varied learning abilities; preferably those that can also track their improvements in the subject area.

As we go about setting alternative assessments based on Bloom’s emphasis on mastery for learning, we must not forget about the Pygmalion effect (or Rosenthal effect). The Pygmalion effect refers to situations in which students perform better than other students simply because they are expected to do so. In a study done by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968/1992), they showed that if teachers were led to expect enhanced performance from some children, then the children did indeed show that enhancement. In some cases, such improvement was about twice that was shown by other children in the same class. Whilst some may argue that it is not good to give students false illusions, I truly believe that positive reinforcements are beneficial to learning. Just as adults who need constant reminders that they performing well, students too need the encouragement and positive taps on the shoulders to rekindle their interest and zest for lifelong learning.


Bloom, B.S. (1968, May). Leaning for mastery. Evaluation Comment, 1(2), 1-12.

Bradford, M. (2005, Jan). Motivating Students Through Project-Based Service Learning. T.H.E. Journal, 32(6), 29.

Kozma, R. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19.

Rosenthal, R. (2002). The Pygmalion effect and its mediating mechanisms. In J. Aronson (Ed.), Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

A Word for Learning. The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer

“Give yourself time.”

Time is one factor, educators and students in this computer age claimed they do not have. Teachers rush to finish the syllabus. Students rush to finish their homework and study for that test on Tuesday. With all those work done, students still do not learn. Ironic isn’t it? Papert (1993) gave the example of psychiatrist M. Scott Peck who conducted a mini experiment whilst trying to fix his patient’s car problem. Peck gave himself time to be in a comfortable position, took time to look at the situation and in a no hurry state, was able to focus and fix the problem. His feat elevated his status from a mechanical idiot to master mechanic. According to Peck, one can “solve any problem, if we are willing to take the time”. Sometimes, we just need time to reflect on what we have learned or to think through a problem. Time is essence to learning. Hence, as educators, it is imperative that we give time to our students to reflect and discuss as a good discussion promotes learning.

Jerome Kagan in his study found that some students are characteristically impulsive while others are reflective (Snowman & Biehler, 2006). Kagan discovered that the impulsive students who quickly responded to a question made more errors than the reflective students. The latter spent more time collecting information and analyzing its relevance to the solution. Often dismissed as slow learners, these students tend not to voice out in fear that they are wrong. Papert commented on how people do not like to appear “ignorant” or just plain wrong, especially in the presence of bosses and teachers who have power. Educators should nudge those “quieter ones who seems to be daydreaming” to speak out their thoughts. They may just be surprised at the intelligent answers these reflecting students will dish out.

In his quest to learn about flowers, Papert engaged in frontal rote learning such as learning from textbooks, going to the flower shop and on field trips to the botanical gardens. He would remember some flower names but his paroxysm of flower learning died soon after and he resigned to remaining flower illiterate. However, he soon discovered that his understanding and recollection of flowers improved when he made personal associations and connections to those flowers. It did not matter that those associations seem absurd; the bottom line is that he was able to facilitate his own learning through those connectivity. Students should be encouraged to make personal connections to their learning through whichever method that best suited their memory. I remember how as a student I had difficulty remembering some mathematical equations. I resorted to using images. One such image was the “topsy-turvy heart”. Whenever I think of polynomial equations; I will remember the inverted heart-shaped graph of r=1-sinQ (theta) and the rest of my Math understanding fell into place.

I smiled when I recalled Papert’s anecdote about Frank, the third grader who was labeled as having a learning disability. Frank who unfortunately learned to let “them think that he was doing it their way” just to belong to the culture of School, should instead be encouraged to express himself. His ability to pick up Papert’s insinuation of “Did you think about your teeth?” and used his teeth as an abacus to calculate, is undoubtedly not a characteristic of a slow learner. Given time and a proper nurturing, I am certain many Franks will come up tops.


Papert, S. (1993). A Word for Learning. The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer, (pp. 82-105). New York, NY: BasicBooks.

Snowman, J., & Biehler, R. (2006). Psychology applied to Teaching. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Now more than ever: Will high-tech kids still think deeply?

Epictetus once said “only the educated are free”. Education not only replaces an empty mind with an open one but allows the individual to get out of the poverty cycle and to climb up the social ladder. We take pride in ensuring our students are literate and ready for the outside world and we constantly look into ways to enhance their learning through the latest technological advancement. But we sometimes forget that the highly regarded technology can cause our downfall.

Tarlow & Spangler asked whether the “conveniences that come with technology…..been beneficial to…. our tendency to reflect and think critically?” (Tarlow & Spangler, 2000. p. 93). Has technology erode the time for us to reflect? Have things been made so convenient that we do not have to think anymore? I remember how as a school student, I was made to read and write book reviews; what I thought of the story, the characters and propose an alternative ending (if the present one disappointed me). A book review had allowed me to exercise my reading, reflecting and writing skills. The simple writing task is in fact, an essential piece of knowledge. Unfortunately, our high-tech kids do not even complete that simple writing task nowadays.

On a positive note, technology has indeed enabled learning to be more exciting and fun. Physics teachers are now able to bring to life uninspiring equations on the textbook through simulations programs. Students are also made to reflect on the technologies they use in their Science class (Anderson, Zenner & Gimm, 2004). The bottom-line remains - students must be made to reflect upon what they have learned; to draw connections from the knowledge and their past experience before learning can be successful.

However, technology has made students lazy. The voice-to-text technology (one does not need to type even!), videos, computer software, have all made them lazy thinkers. They now do not need to think of outcomes of stories. They simply have to click on [ Ending ] to have the concluding chapter displayed in front of their eyes. They do not need to imagine anymore – “That’s the software programmer job!” they say. They do not need to read. They can always play the audio tape that will narrate to them. They no longer discuss with each other – no more peer review (where they are forced to utilize their reflection faculties). After all, the computer is intelligent enough to correct spelling and grammar mistakes and even suggest alternative words to use. Our kids have, in essence, become tekkie-zombies (a term I coined to show their state of mind) - they do not think but merely follow technology blindly.

As pointed out by Martinson (1998), more information is not necessarily better information. Much of the information churned out by technology might not stimulate the student’s intellect, but exist as “noise” that is dysfunctional to social intercourse. A bleak soothsayer will probably echo Tarlow & Spangler and warn us that if we are not careful, we may just be hastening the deterioration of our civilization.


Tarlow, M., & Spangler, K. L., (2002). Now more than ever: Will high-tech kids still think deeply? The Education Digest. 67(3), 23-27.

Martinson, D. L. (1998). Educators and the New Mass Media Technology: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Contemporary Education, 69(3), 150-154.

Anderson, M., Zenner, M. G., Gimm, J. A. (Nov/Dec 2004). Technology Society: Their impact on each other. Science Scope, 28(3), 20-22.

An Evaluator looks at Cultural Diversity

The computer is said to reinforce the form of subjectivity, moral relativism, human-centeredness and other characteristics of Western modernity. According to Bowers, computers help to “spread these ideas and values among larger segments of the local community that have not received Western-style education” (Bowers, 2000. pg 93). Hence, one must be careful when arguing for globalizing computer-based culture as it might erode distinctive cultural traditions that have developed over hundreds of years. When designing and evaluating instructional materials, one must also be sensitive to cultural diversity and pluralism and ensure that the learning environments are enriched by values of each culture.

When Reeves brought up the question about social diversity and how it is a “serious issue in the evaluation of instructional programs and products”, I began to appreciate the conscious effort undertaken by the curriculum and textbook writers of the Ministry of Education in Singapore when producing educational materials. Often brushed aside as propaganda, these culturally sensitive instructional materials are in fact an education in itself. Singapore, a melting pot of different races and cultures, needs to showcase the diverse religious, cultural and linguistic practices in a favorable light without seemingly portraying one culture to be superior to the others. An example would be the recent textbook illustrations of Malay Muslim women wearing the headscarves in respect of the modest dressing advocated by Islam.

Another illustration given by Reeves is the computer-based programs for ESL learners that blatantly ignored the importance of traditional family in Chinese families. Some may argue that students will now be exposed to a new set of moral values that differs from theirs; and any added knowledge is good, n’est pas? However, one must be cautious towards the usage of insensitive icons and images that contradicts the learner’s religious or societal beliefs. Edutainment software using the pig and dog icons can be insulting to Muslims whilst the Hindus might find the cow images (the cow is a sacred animal in Hinduism) indiscriminately used in the software as offensive. Even the structuring of examination questions need to take into account one’s cultural background. Fortunately for Singapore, the Cambridge University examiners are often briefed about Asian culture and beliefs. This helps minimize the cultural biasness in the Cambridge examination papers that the Singaporean students sit for.

As the world evolves into one global village, instructional design and programming should evolve into a culturally sensitive one. As mentioned by John Ogbu (1992), minorities in the United States have their own inherent attitudes towards education and unless the negative belief systems are altered, cultural diversity will continue to plague the education field. Thus, a shift of mentality needs to be made. When one designs an instructional material, one should always bear in mind one simple formula: Unity in Diversity - Respect for diverse cultures will lead to a more unified society. Technology is always changing but cultural issues will always remain the same. Therefore, a good instructional material should not only be sound pedagogically but involve the participation of the audience through the correct portrayal of their culture.


Bowers, C. A. (2000). Let Them Eat Data. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press.

Ogbu, J. U. (1992). Understanding cultural diversity and learning. Educational Researcher, 21(8), 5-14, 24.

Reeves, T. (1997). An evaluator looks at cultural diversity. Educational Technology, 37(2), 27-31.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

"The Truth Shall Make You Free."*

As we reflect on Marshall McLuhan’s infamous "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man", we will understand how technology had affected human beings. The "high priest of pop-culture" (McLuhan, E and Zingrone, F. 1995. pp. 53-74), McLuhan had indeed predicted many things in 1964, long before computer came into being and when television was still in its infancy. McLuhan talked about how technology is an extension of the human body; how society sees something in a way that extends the range of the human body and mind. An example is the automobile which is an extension of the feet. According to McLuhan, with every technological extension comes the “amputations”. The automobile amputates the walking culture, making us less healthy.

As a response to his critics, McLuhan developed a scientific basis for his thoughts called the Tetrads. Any medium from this point (i) extends something (ii) renders something obsolete (iii) retrieves or brings back something, and (iv) transcends itself or "flips into" something new. The discussions during the Wiki task presentations can be summarized into one important point: Technology makes the Man. Hence, true to McLuhan’s words, “we have become what we behold”.

Let’s take the example of the ubiquitous television. Even though the invention of the goggle box allowed simultaneous access to events around the world, it amputates or diminishes family ties based on oral communication. This is because once the television is switched on, the roomful of people became silent. What are retrieved are the multiple, related views of man and what it becomes is the global theater, where we are mere actors.

Technology has made us into a divided society (the haves and the have-nots in the information maze). Imagine the ‘talk’ among our students as they compare their latest iPod or other sophisticated gadgets. And worst is the diminishing human socializing. Instant messenging, texting using the phones in our pockets, and online gaming allow communications with our virtual presence being represented by almost all imaginable icons. Lost is the intellectual banter that is enhanced with facial gestures. Now all we need to do is to type :) to inform the other party that we are happy or use acronyms such as “brb” to inform him that we will be right back. Even languages are affected as students start to incorporate new slang picked up online into their school compositions.

Everything is an open secret. Personal broadcasting, blogs, online diaries and other new technologies further reduce physical interactions and the need for personal private space. In the modern era where everything is so mechanical, the human touch is much valued. As we go about inventing new technologies to help us, we must stop to think. Does the “hugs” emoticon give the same warm feeling as the real hug?

And yes, McLuhan was right; the truth shall indeed set us free. But the question is whether we choose to see the truth or just blindly let technology overwhelm us.

*as written on McLuhan's gravestone


1969 interview in Playboy magazine originally titled "A Candid Conversation with the High Priest of Pop Cult and Metaphysician of Media," in McLuhan, E. and Zingrone, F. (1995). The Essential McLuhan. New York: Basic Books.

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Gingko Press.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Will or will not media influence learning? The Clark/Kozma debate

Clark, the skeptic, did not believe that the media will influence student’s achievements. Using the metaphor of a delivery truck, he argued that the media does not cause changes in our ‘nutrition’. Instead, he claimed that learning outcomes are due to the method of instructions and not the medium. He contended that we should not “continue to waste resources studying media ‘solutions’ to learning problems we don’t understand” (Shrock, 1994). On the other hand, Kozma, the advocate, posited that media can influence learning and that the medium of instruction is as important as its content. He debated that both should have a more integral relationship and not viewed as separate entities.

The debate points to the differing roles of the media, method, learner and the instructor. Before one takes a stand, one must ensure that the instructional media and method are mutually modifiable to response to the instructional and learner outcomes. We had seen varying degrees of success with the introduction of film, radio, and television into classrooms. Each new medium seems to make claims for its ability to improve learning and classroom instruction (Clark, 1983).

Does it or does it not influence learning? That is the question.

In this sophisticated age where technology remains the buzz word, the ‘wow’ factor is needed to attract users. Students are often in awe of animations, graphics and interactive games. Research done by Kulik (1995) on the learning benefits of various media (especially computers), has shown that it is the instructional method built into the computer and not the computer itself that accounts for the learning gain. According to him, design technologies do somewhat influence student achievement.

Enhanced learning and retention can take place through the use of visual material (Dwyer & Baker, 2001). The use of the visual medium in teaching and learning is supported by research demonstrating that learner preferences and styles can be more effectively addressed (Gardner, 1993). The visual medium can be an effective tool in the teaching of certain concepts and values which textbooks would not have otherwise been able to reinforce. Subjects such as Music and Geography require resources that are visual in nature. Through technology, students are able to hear and learn the sound of Sizhu music built on the pentatonic scale, see and identify the graphical formation of a sea stack and even recognize bullying (through drama re-enactment); all these achieved in the comfort of the classroom. Some students are unable to travel beyond their homes due to financial constraints. However, their learning will not be compromised as technology is able to bring the world to them - students can visit a squatter settlement and come close to the endangered Proboscis monkey of Sarawak.

However, as technology grows, there is the fear that students might be exposed to undesirable content as they rely on information available on the Internet. Some students do not have the information literacy skills to critically analyze the information they read. The appeal of the colorful and vibrant materials on the Internet might also outshine books and journals. And if teachers themselves become too reliant on technology, one wonders what would happen should technology fail us one day. Furthermore, technology lessens face-to-face pupil-to-teacher interactions. Technology can perhaps replace content but it cannot replace skills that only teachers are able to impart.

Even though the media is effective in enhancing teaching and learning, the teacher’s role is still vital in providing advice, care and concern that technology is lacking in.


Clark, R. (1983). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29.

Dwyer, F. & Baker, R. A systematic meta-analytic assessment of the instructional effects of varied visuals on different types of educational objectives in R. E. Griffen, V.S. Williams & J. Lee (2001). Exploring the visual future: art design, science and technology. Blacksburg, VA: The International Visual Literacy Association.

Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: The theory in practice, New York: Basic Books.

Kozma, R. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19.

Kulik, J.A. (1985). The importance of outcome studies: A reply to Clark. Educational Communications and Technology Journal, 34 (1), pp. 381-386.

Shrock, J. (1994) Guide for educators: Critical evaluation survey. Chicago: Contemporary Books.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Using blogs in classroom

Razlee, a teacher friend of mine, uses blog to showcase his pupils' learning process. He introduced games, cooking experiments, etc to highlight mathematical and scientific concepts and moral values. Pupils are also encouraged to blog their thoughts and reflections in the class blog. As a result, the pupils are excited to learn more. Blogging also allows parents to view their child's progress in school. Kudos to Razlee!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Useful links on teaching & learning

Educational videos -
Videos by students -
Online resources -
Video clips on Malay, Chinese, Indian & Eurasian cultures -
Ministry of Education, Singapore -
Educational Technology Division, Singapore -
Ultralab [UK's leading technology & research centre] -
Hidayah's website -

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The History of Technology's Use in Education

Although the audiovisual movement started in the 1900s, it was the Second World War that boosted the popularity of audiovisual instruction in the industry and military (Saettler, 1990). Generous grants given by both the government and private organizations enabled the growth of educational broadcasting in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, about the same time educational television started in Singapore. I remember how eager we elementary school kids were when our teacher brought us to the AV laboratory for lessons. Although the videos we watched were boring talking heads or drama of lame acting, we were excited to ‘escape’ from routine classroom learning. This concept of ‘learning beyond the classroom’ is not a new phenomenon as educators around the world continuously embark on different ways to enhance teaching and learning beyond the classroom walls, especially with the advancement of technology.

As highlighted by Bishop (2006), the longevity of certain educational technology tools such as the language laboratories and projectors (now upgraded to ‘visualizers’) are due to their effectiveness in enhancing the comprehension of a language skill or a mathematical problem. Students love to fiddle with gadgets. Thus, educators need to use ‘toys’ to entice students. In today’s world where our children are exposed to the Internet, LAN gaming and other sophisticated equipment, educators and instructional technologists need to up the ante by incorporating the latest technology into their teaching. Computers must no longer be used to teach word processing or simple spreadsheets applications as it was set to do in the early 1990s. In my opinion, a revamp of certain computer lessons or even a more advance form of technology to teach certain subjects must be done to keep up with rapid changes.

I am also a firm advocate of the indirect infusion of knowledge through fun activities. The Schools Video Awards, a nation wide video competition that I had the opportunity of chairing 2 years ago, is an excellent platform for students to use technology in producing short documentary, drama or advertisement. Students beamed with pride when they saw their own work being showcased to other students. Indirect learning takes place as students learn to respect intellectual property and work in teams. This is in line with one of the guiding principles for technology education as highlighted by Raizen, Sellwood, Todd and Vickers (1995) which is to develop “…personal skills necessary for working effectively with people”. Education should not only be about grades. A total education will not only equip a person with essential academic knowledge but the social skills and graces to interact with others.

Students, I believe, will have no problems keeping up with technological changes but the question remains with our teachers. Among some of the issues raised by Fouts (2000) are the training needed to help teachers use high quality instructional programs and the time needed for them to absorb discoveries and design engaging learning experiences. In order to be effective educators, we too must keep abreast with technology.


Bishop, M.J. (2006, August). The History of Technology in Education or what goes around…, LST401 Seminar 1.

Fouts, Jeffrey T. (2000). Research on Computers in Education: Past, Present and Future. Retrieved September 2, 2006, from

Raizen, S., Sellwood, P., Todd, R., Vickers, M. (1995). Technology Education in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. P. 39

Saettler, P. (1990). The evolution of American Educational Technology. Englewood, CO: Libraries Limited (as cited in Raiser, Robert A. 2001).

Schools Video Awards. Retrieved September 3, 2006.