Friday, 26 February 2010


Here is a little joke which started me thinking...

An older man goes into the Doctor’s surgery.

They always ask at the doctor's reception why you are there, and you have to answer in front of others what's wrong and it can be embarrassing.

There's nothing worse than a Doctor's Receptionist who insists you tell her what is wrong with you, in a room full of other patients. I know most of us have experienced this, and here's how one old guy handled it.

A 75-year-old man walked into a crowded waiting room and approached the desk. The Receptionist said, "Yes sir, what are you seeing the Doctor for today?"

"There's something wrong with my penis," he replied.

The receptionist became irritated and said, "You shouldn't come into a crowded waiting room and say a thing like that."

"Why not, you asked me what was wrong and I just told you," he said.

The Receptionist replied, archly; "Now you've caused some embarrassment in this room full of people. You should have said there is something wrong with your ear or something and then discussed the problem further with the Doctor in private."

The man replied, "And you shouldn't ask people questions - in a roomful of strangers - if the answer could embarrass anyone." The man turned, walked out, waited several minutes, and then re-entered.

The Receptionist smiled smugly and asked, "Yes?"

"There's something wrong with my ear," he stated.

The Receptionist nodded approvingly and smiled, knowing he had taken her advice. "And what is wrong with your ear, Sir?"

"You may not understand this, but I seem to be having a problem peeing out of it!" he replied.

What is wrong here?

Saying the word "penis" in front of strangers? It is just an organ which half of the world population has and most of the other half knows about. What is so embarrassing about it?

Or is it about such question should not be asked in the first place? Why the receptionist needs to know? Assign an appropriate doctor to look after the man?

Or is it about one should not answer a question honestly?

The joke started me thinking ....


Peom by Taylor Mali


In the age of Google, if you don't know something for more than ten minutes it's your own fault. - Unknown

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Science resources

Cassiopeia Project are videos available for science teachers which anyone can use for free.

Dome construction

This can be a very good science/mathematics project

Monday, 8 February 2010

Reflection - Peer Instruction

It has been a few days since I watched the Peer Instuction. The lessons learnt can be summarized below:

1. We should start advocating evidence-based instruction design. This is NOT news, but have educators been serious about evaluating the effectiveness of the learning design based on measurable student achievements?

2. The key to success of the peer instruction is to get the students to discuss with their peers about the answer to questions the lecturer put on. Obviously, the number of questions used per lecture is limited by time and hence directly limit on the coverage of the course.
- The choice is between cover with no understand and small cover but with deep understand.
- The quality of the learning depends on the challenges provided to the students by the questions. This is reflected in the formulation of the questions. Two inputs were used in the question formulation:current students and from previous cohorts' examination answers.

3. In the video, Mazur did not explain the effectiveness of the model answer he gave after the student discussion. I would guess it may be the assuring part for the students, its effect would be more like a re-inforcement than learning.

Areas for online compliment:
I am thinking of making this online in order to scale up and remove the limitation of time which in terms limited the coverage. For discussion, it is best to be done face to face among the students. Here is what I suggest.

Students are asked to form study groups. Study groups will be required to meet regularly with or without the supervision within set time intervals. I suggest initially it is better done in a lecture hall setting for the first meeting - similar or the same as peer instruction as described by Mazur, then the study groups will meet under supervision for the next few times. After that the students should be able to organise a mutually convenient time on their own but within the set time interval.

At a fixed time, the students are asked to read a prescribed text and post questions which they found they have problems. These will be used to formulate the questions to be used in the meetings.

Based on the input from the students and from previous cohorts, questions are formulated and put online at the beginning of the meeting time intervals.

During meetings, all the questions will be presented to the study group (via online web page) and each group can decide on the priority of the questions. This can be done within the first 5 minutes. Then the questions will be presented one by one according to the study group's priority. When a question is presented, each member of the study group must put in an answer independent - via the web page. If all the answers are the same - there is not a lot of disagreement among the member. A model answer is shown for them to check if their reasoning is in line with the expectation. If the answers for the questions are different, there is a valuable learning opportunity. It would be better to let the students spend more time on this question. Again, they are asked to discuss face to face. They should try to arrive at a mutually agreed answer. The agreed answer is then put into the web page. If the agreed answer is correct, the students should be congratulated. If not, the students are given another chance to discuss and find another mutually agreed answer. After the second mutually agreed answer is keyed in, the model answer is shown.

This structure will enable the students to focus on areas which they have problems. The articulation among the students is in accord with Laurillard's conversation model. Time is saved if the problem presented is not a problem for this group of students and allow time to use effectively for those questions with problem of understanding.

In an institutional setting, the study group should meet for a minimum time as prescribed by the course. But if the students are willing to spend more time, they can continue with the rest of the questions.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Peer Instruction

I have just spent 1:20:00 watching the following youTube. The method is brilliant. It can be used in almost every subject. I don't want to spoil the fun of watching it. If you are really have no time, highlight the white area below the movie, I have a summary there which should take about 10 sec. to read.

The students are asked to read a prescribed text before class. During the class, a problem is presented. The students are to remain silence for about 1 minute to think about the problem. Vote the answer. Discuss with neighbour. Vote again. Lecturer explains the solution. Repeat. The important point about these problems are they focus on conceptual understanding, not "receipt substitution".

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination

by J.K. Rowling at 2008 Harvard Commencement Meeting
Absolutely inspiring and brilliant. The full text is also available from the link above.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him back to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just had to give him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country’s regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Oscillating chemical reactions

Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction

Mercury beating heart