Monday, May 13, 2013

How do Finnish kids excel without rote learning and standardized testing? by Erin Millar

Learning from the country ranked 1 and consistently in top 3 for their education system..

some excerpts from the article 
Dr. Sahlberg argues that if we want young people with the competencies to innovate and make our economy more competitive, we need to model our schools after how innovation actually happens. “Teaching and learning have traditionally been conceptualized as linear, deterministic procedures,” he wrote in a paper on economic competitiveness and education. “Innovation is an organic entity. Teaching and learning in schools should rely on principles of active participation, social interaction and reflection.”
The reality in Canada, which is unfortunate in Dr. Sahlberg’s view, is that students are rewarded for competing against their peers, teachers are held accountable by their class’s performance on exams, and schools are compared through widely published standardized test results. Finland takes an alternative approach. Students receive only narrative evaluation instead of marks or grades until Grade 5. Thereafter, their grades rely on how they’ve performed relative to their individual potential rather than as compared to their classmates. “Teachers stress grades as little as possible,” Dr. Sahlberg says. “This means that students ‘compete’ against themselves, not one another.”
One of the ways the Finnish education system accomplishes this is by giving individual teachers greater autonomy in teaching to the needs of their classes, rather than a top-down, test-based system.


Friday, May 10, 2013

An open letter to teachers//educators

An open letter to teachers

"Read not to contradict and confute ; nor to believe and take for granted ; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider" - Francis Bacon

        My name is Faizul , and I'm an A-level student who is currently studying in Kolej Tuanku Jaafar, in Negeri Sembilan , Malaysia. For the past few months, I've been working on promoting the flipped learning, something I learned from the Internet while I was preparing my presentation on Massive Open Online Courses(MOOCs) for the school assembly. To those of you who are unfamiliar with the flipped learning, you can visit my blog here . Included in this blog are some rebuttals on common misconceptions about the flipped learning.

      I'm lucky that the principal and the deputy principal in my school are in support of this idea, they are open to new possibilities. Unfortunately,not many people in Malaysia have heard of the "flipped learning"  as far as I'm concerned. When I wanted to make a presentation on the flipped learning in one of the weekly Monday school assembly in my school, I was told that I should not appear as if I'm trying to tell the teachers how to teach, for I am only a student. The deputy principal asked me to use the term break(which was 2 weeks long) to figure out an effective way in presenting the flipped learning.

      At that time I'd been reading Sal Khan's book , The One World Schoolhouse:Education Reimagined. In his book, he mentioned something about the flipped learning, and I think the Khan Academy ( really does complement with the flipped learning, so I made a presentation on the Khan Academy for the school assembly after the term break, hoping that the teachers will get a hint on the flipped learning. -- ever since then , some people have been calling me Mr.Khan!

       3 days after the presentation on the Khan Academy, the deputy principal emailed to the teachers on the flipped learning, hoping that we can have our own video lectures, which is more aligned to the A level syllabus than Khan Academy or other resources that we can find online. Unfortunately , I think most of my teachers seem to be skeptical as to whether the flipped learning is going to work, which is understandable because it is unfamiliar.

                                                      Deputy Principal's email to the teachers

Here are some common questions on the flipped learning:

1. Does it make the teachers less important?

With the flipped learning, the role of a teacher is empowered, by giving perspectives, inspire and mentor the students instead of rote-lecturing. The class will be student-centered instead of teacher-centered. Students will be more likely to claim ownership of their education. It's not just about the student-teacher ratio , it is about student-teacher time ratio. With this,struggling students will receive more help from their teacher, and students will also get to see things from many different nuanced perspective, which develops their critical thinking skills.In short, technology doesn't replace,it complements with the teachers.

2.Isn't it more like an opportunity to bring boring lectures to a different location?

I believe that there are many approach that can be made to make the video more interesting, such as having more dialogue, make it approximately 10 minutes short and etc.

3.What if the Internet is simply too slow?

We can always consider using flash drive , or burn the videos into a disc.

4. What if the teachers are interested, but do not have the time to produce the videos?

Not all the teachers are expected to make these videos for their classes. Besides , as for a start , we do not need to flip the whole subject , we can begin by using the method only for difficult topics, as pointed out here ( on myth no.2. 

On top of that , I believe that school leaders should find those with the highest ability to combine the subject with their ability to present this in the most creative and engaging ways. For mathematics , we can also use the materials from the examsolutions (  , this website has been very helpful with my maths!) 

        As many of us might be aware, change is happening at an unprecedented scale. New job markets emerge, technology is changing exponentially, an it is evident as we can see from Moore's law. It is most likely that we students are preparing ourselves for jobs that don't exist yet.

              The education system we have now is based on the Industrial Revolution, it is human construct and a response to certain conditions in certain places and time. The world is very different compared to back then. It is evident that our education system needs to be changed. There has also been a degree inflation , in which jobs that used to require degree , now requires masters , and jobs that used to require masters , now requires PhD. 10 or 20 years from now , does it mean all of us need to acquire PhD?  You can visit my blog here on my thoughts about the education system.

          Since the world is ambiguous and ill-defined , the context always change given the pace of change, I think what we students need to be is creative, curious and lifelong self-learners. Being creative is about making fresh connections so that we see things in new ways and from different perspectives. As Robert Greene quoted, "The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways".Besides, human communities depend on diversity of talents,not singular conception of ability. I believe flipped learning is the best solution, given the restrictions of the education system. 

          I'm sure many of us heard of the cliche that change is constant, change is inevitable-- So what about progress? I believe that progress is a choice. And it is our choice if we want to progress. I believe the first step for progress , is by applying the flipped learning. The choice is ours to act within our circle of influence. And it is certainly an important choice for it concerns our education.

If you wish to be in touch , here's my twitter account :  
or you could send me an email on 

        Thank you for your time to read this , I really appreciate it.



Saturday, May 4, 2013

The flipped learning

             First things first, I think it's important for us to understand what the flipped learning is and it is certainly not something that I came up with myself; the earliest work done in this field was by Eric Mazur , at Harvard who developed peer instruction in the 1990s. The flipped learning is pioneered by Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann. Above are a few videos on what flipped learning is.

Flipped Learning Defined
"Flipped learning is when teachers do not use face-to-face time to deliver direct instruction. Instead direct instruction is delivered asynchronously."

              I think it is pretty much expected , many people tend to have some misconceptions on what the flipped learning is,for it is more than just about flipping the class and I think it is best that we should clarify on that.


Myth 1: Flipped classrooms are primarily about putting lecture videos online
Debunked: Flipped classrooms can be just about putting lecture videos online and having students do homework in class,  but they can and should be about much more than that. Research-based methods for flipping your classroom include Just-in-Time Teaching and Peer Instruction. 
Myth 2: You need to flip your entire class 
Debunked: You can flip just one concept or topic, many, or all. When you are just starting out with flipped teaching, it is a good idea to pick a set of the key concepts or topics that are the most difficult for students and go from there.
Myth 3: Students will love not having lectures in class
 While most of us have stared out at a classroom full of bored, half asleep students mired in the tedium of our lectures, when you try to flip you class you may face student resistance in the particular form of demands for more lecture. See this post for some tips on how to address this. 
Myth 4: Flipped classrooms are the latest edutrend
The first modern call for pushing information coverage out of the classroom and guided practice in, dates to at least the late 1800s with the casebook method. Pre-recording lectures for out-of-class viewing shows up in the research literature in 2000.
Myth 5: There is only one way to flip a class
According to Bergmann and Sams 2012, there are many of ways to flip a class and no one right way. Bergmann recently posted his definition here, and he says “you see there is no ONE way to flip a class and in this lies one of the great strengths of this methodology.” Peer Instruction is, of course, our favorite way to flip the classroom. However, we are also big fans of Team-Based Learning and Project-Based Learning.
Myth 6: Flipped classrooms replace faculty with computersDebunked: This is definitely not the case. In a flipped classroom, instructors are essential and they do many of the same tasks that they do in traditional teaching environments, such as helping students learn, selecting and covering content, and assessing student achievement. The most prominent difference is that a flipped classroom leverages the instructor’s expertise during in-and-out of class time in different ways.  Flipped learning operates from the assumption that content coverage occurs primarily out of class and should be more of a shared role with the students, rather than just the job of an instructor.
Myth 7: Students will not do work out of class, even for credit
Peer Instruction Network member Ives Araujo thought this too. So, for a semester he studied his university students’ completion and  engagement with pre-class assignments over the course of a semester. On average the large majority of students did their pre-class work AND demonstrated strong effort. Read how he measured this here.  He has since gone on to observe the same completion and engagement rates in high school classrooms. We do find that you need to provide credit (points) as a motivator, however.

Here are some useful links on flipped learning:

flipped learning at a large scale

As for those skeptics , here's a result of a survey (click on the link if you can't see the picture) made in the U.S. (I think it can be replicated anywhere in the world , provided that it is implemented properly )

                    Once again , let me clarify that this isn't my idea , I don't get credit for this. I'm just sharing it because I think it is necessary for us to have a more effective way of learning.The primary reason why this is important is that we(students) are  most likely preparing ourselves for jobs that don't exist yet, for change is happening at an unprecedented scale.  With flipped learning,we can have many different nuanced perspectives as it helps us in our critical thinking(which I believe is important for  the challenges we face in the world).

     There may be very powerful positive points that are not all obvious at first sight. That is how entrepreneurs work. They see the value that those around them have not yet spotted-- there might be more positive points on the flipped learning that I haven't spotted myself, in which you can find out.  Value and benefit are by no means always obvious.

  Thanks for your time to read this , I really appreciate that.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The education system

          Over the years , there has been an increasing consensus that the education system needs to be changed . Creativity(process of coming up with an original ideas that have value).and curiosity are the traits that I believe most employers would look for. Change is happening at an unprecedented scale. The number of discoveries and new infomation found doubles every 18 months . That is why it is important to be creative,since the real-world problem is ambiguous , the context always change.The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways . For futher details on this , you can watch Sir Ken Robinson's talk on TED , on revolutionising the education system and how school kills creativity.

           In his book , Out Of Our Minds, he explained how our education system is based on industrial revolution, where basically students are taught to suffice the needs of the industrial revolution.  It is a human construct and certain responses in certain places and time; which is obsolete in our age. There is also a hierarchy of disciplines , in which science is prioritised. I'm not saying that science is not important , I'm saying that science and art are equally important; they are not mutually exclusive , they overlap one another , they complement one another. On top of that,most students don't get to explore the full range of their ability and interest. Without being too wordy, I'll just paste a picture here to illustrate my point

"Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." - Albert Einstein

However , I think that there is no point to blame the politicians or whoever invented our current industrial-revolution based education model, it was suited at those time anyway , and it is certainly egalitarian which is a good thing. Sometimes it's not just about finding the right answers , sometimes it's about asking the right question. I think the question that most of us should us is that "What can we do about this? " " What can we do about our education system within our circle of influence?" instead of " Why didn't the politician or the authority do something about the education system." 

This question brings forward to a story that I want to tell you. First of all I'm an A-level student, who is currently doing first year college in Malaysia,  I don't even have a job and I certainly don't have much influence in the society. But still , there are 
things that I can do, and I'm still working on it, which is promoting the flipped learning method .I believe(as it is empirically evident) that it works within the constraints of the education system, and will produce students who are 
curious , lifelong self-learners and most importantly , creative ,for human communities depend on diversity of talents,not singular conception of ability.I will post my story in promoting the flipped learning in my next entry.