Waraku Education

Ideas, experiments and observations as they occur [and I have time] relating to teaching and learning in a secondary school - special focus on ICT.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tux may have some friends after all

Tux may have some friends in spirit. Open content seems to be abundant here.

Free unencumbered learning
I am seeing lots of learning resources being developed by various levels of the education system, a lot funded by government and some produced by teachers for sharing. All of these resources are free for teachers and students to use and modify. Tux has a friend here.

The purpose of this government investment is to reduce the costs to families of private tuition. Families spend considerable amounts on private tuition and I suppose that this indicates some degree of failure of the public system. These resources are abundant and seem to be very good quality. It feels like students could possible achieve well just using these resources and not showing up to school. When this question was asked it was made very clear that school has a social role and the humanistic goals of education were once again reinforced from the day before.

Tests coming out of their ears
Not only are their learning resources developed at various levels but also test questions. Students are able to log onto sites and test their understanding of the curriculum and determine their areas of weakness. They can then use the various free resources to fix this and of course test themselves again. Korean children are taught how to do well in multi choice tests from an early age and most of the tests seem to be multi choice. On the second day we did see a place where students could write and essay on a given topic and select from a list the teacher they would like to assess it.

Essays are beginning to be used in tests to try and measure creativity. Improving creativity is a clear system goal for improvement. Essay topics are structured to include all subjects so that the student is forced to integrate their understanding of their subjects in some way. We were told that these essays were very very challenging and the fact that the education system was delivered in discrete subjects was not helpful for this.

Student help line
I have noted that students are able to ask questions online on various sites devloped at various levels of the education system. At some levels the people answering the questions are volunteer parents and teachers. At other levels the teachers are specifically employed to do this. Again these are resources that are available freely to all students.

Redundancy of resources and tests
Why have them all? So there is choice for the students.

What's in the bag to take home?
  1. The idea of one sector of a government school system to be producing resources that the other schools then have to purchase is nonsense. Lets make them all freely available and establish infrastructure for this to be expanded by teachers being able to systemically share their resources.
  2. Lets develop lots of questions. The nature of these questions need to be developed with curriculum statements on one side and blooms taxonomy on the other. This might be harder for non senior secondary areas however if we collaborate on developing and classifying banks of these we can use modify and share these as well.
  3. This is the most important one in some respects. A school kids help line. Get assistance from expert teachers and parents. Yes, there are potential child protection hazards with this but I think that these can be managed. I think that this could include welfare questions which is something that I did not notice in the Korean model.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Talent and humanism

There were three things that really stood out yesterday. The first one was a website where students from the region could obtain additional resources and assistance. Students could access tutorials and learning resources, undertake quizzes and so on that are made by the education system and teachers. A shared resource. Students can ask questions and teachers and approved parents could answer these questions. These helpers are all volunteers. Students could even write an essay and select from a list of teachers who they would like to assess it and provide feedback. There is a huge volume of learning resources that have been prepared by the education system and are totally free.

The second thing that really stood out was the idea that good questions meant good knowledge and understanding. There is a noticeable effort at providing lots and lots of good questions that teachers can use and adapt to suit local needs.

Finally there was a consistent message across the visits that we made of the mission to have an education system to promote 'talent and humanism'. I have felt nothing but safety and welcoming in my visit here so that humanism is very evident. Everyone has been extremely helpful. An example of the empathy that seems to pervade the place is evident in the sharing of a story by our interpretor.

She was in a taxi that was driving fast in a very heavy traffic jam and made her frightened. She said to the driver "You must hate these traffic jams?" His response was along the lines of wanting to get her to her appointment on time.

The groups observations of our second day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tux is depressed

Tux has decided to stay at the hotel today and miss out on the meetings. Yesterday he went to the Ministry of Education and KERIS and found no friends to talk to. Jae Duk at the Ministry of Education was friendly in that the schools administration system was running on Linux servers as best we could tell. Mary-Jane at the Australian Embassy seemed to be able to see the sense of some of the Tux arguements. Other than that there were no Tux friendly faces. Curriculum delivery and ICT use by teachers and students seems to have no place for Tux.

We could have been in South Australia for what we were seeing in many respects. Similar challenges are being faced with the need to change learning and teaching methods. There is a repository of learning objects being developed. Class sizes are bigger but there was a indication that they wanted to make improvements on this.

The schools administration system was centralised with a web interface. Parents can access their students academic, behaviour and other information via the administration system NEIS. Apparently it has been successful because of the better information and time savings for teachers and schools. It would be great for the transition from primary to secondary as the data is on this centralised system.

The bandwidth to schools is impressive.

While the computer student ratio is about 1:5.5, this resource seems to be provided centrally. Some schools are using their resources to improve this ratio. I need to find out how they are doing this. Maybe Tux is having a role there somewhere???

One of the standout features of Edunet was the forum/faq that presented teachers with a place to ask questions relating to their work and get some expert advise. The part of this that struck me most was that teachers could use it as a place to ask questions relating to classroom management and methodology. Most of the forums and email lists that I am involved with seem to cover content well and the idea of having a centralised place to ask these method and mangement type questions seemed to be a good idea. Although any teacher could make a response, their was a commitment by Edunet that questions posed there would be responded to within 24 hours.

There is a growing number of students coming to Australia for some of their schooling. The key reasons cited were to learn English and to have a happy childhood. Australia is seen as being able to achieve this while still achieving high academic results. This spoke to me the loudest and the work that we are doing to further improve positive relationships in our school is worth it.

Our group's observations for our first day of visits

Monday, November 27, 2006


Well I have just arrived in Seoul and checked into the 'Koreana' . I had this idea that I would get here and have bandwidth leaping out into my computer. I thought that the connection at the hotel would be either very very cheap or free. How does 300 won a minute sound but no more than 18000 won for a day. That works out to around $0.42AUD a minute sound but no more than $25AUD for a day.