12th Jun2012

Coursera, and the alternative education paradigm

by Dorothy

Hello World. Thought of the evening is that Coursera is a really great concept. Signed up for some courses some time ago, and they’ve just started to run some of the classes, which is très exciting. I’ve never been a fan of confining learning to educational institutions or set periods of one’s life, so the ideals behind this site really appeal.

Amongst the many rather random questions that come to mind after the first session (I hopped into the Introduction to Sociology course at Princeton)

  • What this will mean for “branded education”. Coursera claim to provide courses from some of the top universities in the world, and interestingly, one of the readings for the Introduction to Sociology course involve an alternative perspective on the admissions to the Ivies. Should education then be limited only to the few who can gain entrance, or be available for all (as what Coursera purports to set out to do)? Can education in the Ivies continue to count as another way to distinguish between classes? Who are the people who will be drawn to this site beyond the first few sessions where they are merely curious, and what will they get out of the experience?
  • Impact on learning and certifiable education. Will a certificate from a reknowned institution then hold the same value in the distant future?
  • Virtual learning and interaction. This mode of learning takes away all geographical boundaries, if made more prevalent, would disrupt the typical move that would entail uprooting oneself to live on a college campus, changing the rite of passage into adulthood from adolescence for those who choose to learn online. Is this as real as being physically in a classroom, or is it even sustainable? It is one thing to take a single course online, but to do so for four years? Can one’s attention really be sustained this way?
  • What is the difference between learning in isolation and learning in a group? Online participants can volunteer to sit into webcam sessions and introduce themselves, interact with the actual classes etc, depending on the modules, which again is mutually beneficial for both sides.

The initiative reminds me somewhat of the LSBF Global MBA which debuted some time back, but this one seems simpler, cleaner, and stickier somehow, at least for me personally. Perhaps those familiar with academics would also be amused at the option to speed up the video of professors droning talking about their areas of expertise. Three options to speed up, only one to slow the video down…hmmm. Not a bad feature. (:

Just out of curiosity, checked out some charts from Google’s Ngram viewer and it seems that the concept of sociology peaked somewhere around 1975, and again in the mid 1990s, before a continuous decline all the way to present, at least in books. Maybe someone can explain the significance of this more.

 

Another random discovery – for a little red dot, there is a study group already active on the course forum, though nothing really substantial is being discussed in the forum (yet).

 

 

The quiz at the end of each video was a nice touch too, I shall take it as a good sign that I must have digested at least some of the main points by getting all these questions right even after dinner and a small pint. (: I blame the Interwebz for our short attention spans and wandering minds nowadays. At any rate, it will be interesting to see how this progresses, and if the community comes into play or otherwise, as time passes. Better than watching TV for sure (although apparently our generation doesn’t do that as much anymore…or so they report.)

07th Mar2009

The “Difference” Factor – Why it matters…and why it does not

by Dorothy

Here, Guy Kawasaki talks about the Harvard’s admission process, an alternative take on an educational institution that one normally assumes does not have to pro actively reach out to get applicants.

Full disclaimer: I am currently schooling in a tertiary institution in Singapore.

Having said that, I am not going to engage in one of those comparison posts. I do not want to compare, because one cannot do so if one has not been in any of the other major universities in Singapore. What you hear about the various institutions is probably true, but remember that perception largely depends on who is perceiving it. It would be prudent to see if the source of an opinion is of a similar personality to yourself, or is similar enough for you to think that a similar experience would result if you attended X institution. Just because your best friend’s niece loved a certain school and excelled while being in it, does not guarantee the same for yourself. But then again, what do you know when you’re around 18 to 20 years of age? 🙂

The institutional salience filter: Labeling Theory

Obviously, labels make a difference. I suppose, to a certain extent, all these labeling issues will always be around. Here’s a take from the article on Harvard.

“What we aim to do is to get the very best faculty together with the very best students,” he says. “Our hope is that these synergies will develop the talents of these students to a much greater degree and that they will then give back a lot more to America and the world.”

That is their promise, and that is the edge that Harvard students get in their first impressions. I suppose the general rule of thumb is, never, ever in a situation to introduce yourself as being from a certain institution and stop there, expecting that that alone will entitle you to anything. Where you are from at most gives you an edge, it is not a reason for anyone to hire you.

Another thing, it is not just the student cohort that makes any institution different. It is also the gatekeepers, the ones selecting who gets to be in the institution, both at an administrative, faculty and student level. It is the industry, the ones who come into contact with those associated with an institution that will perpetuate the external brand image of the typical character found in that institution. It is the school “culture”.

Why I am loving where I am/have been
Totally awesome modules like the Business Study Mission (I’m New York Dec’07), Digital Media Across Asia (here’s what we’re building for the community), opportunities for Student Exchange Programs (GO HOOS! UVA) are amongst the things that I will cherish in my undergraduate life.

A whole multitude of other opportunities are out there when potential students come in, for anyone keen to take them up. These come in the forms of the various CCA clubs, Case Competitions, Overseas Community projects, bond free scholarships. And most of all, the hunger and drive that is in the student cohorts. So there are many chances for you to learn, and also to give back. There are many chances for you to step out of your comfort zone and grow.

Of course, you could choose not to participate in any of these, and just exist as a normal undergraduate.

What I am advocating
Take a more proactive stance in your education. The pedagogy is not entrenched in stone, neither is the syllabus, neither is your educational route. The opportunities are out there, it is up to you to find those that have the best fit with who you want to become. There is also nothing wrong with stumbling into something that you find you are good at.

Open House
I have to say I am loving the experiment into Web 2.0 elements in this year’s Open House Campaign with blogs and the like, but there are just too many things going on in the front landing page of the website, completely overwhelming the viewer. Where do I start?

Their Photoshopped signages in the advertorial campaigns need much more work. Take the cue from Industrial Light Magic when they created Star Wars, and realized that a bit of dirt on their shiny spaceships made it seem that much more realistic. The signs are too clean, too glossy, too distant. On a random note, the signs are also mostly significant only to those already in the institution, who outside would know that they are part of the school architecture? Then again, maybe that was a good way for the campaign to build up the rapport from within the school and not just be outward orientated.

To those contemplating admission…
I guess to sum up, I hope that if you are “different” in terms of what you have to offer to your future counterparts in school, you will come. Don’t expect mere admission into an institution to give you that differential edge. The sooner you realize that the world does not owe you anything, the sooner you can change your strategies towards getting what you aspire towards in life. And the good thing about it is, there are now multiple channels open to you (that are also less socially stigmatized).

To the graduated/graduating…
It is myopic to say that this issue does not concern you, just because you are graduating. In some ways, you are affected by the current cohort in school. You should be very concerned about the kind of people that your alma mater is accepting. It’s heartening to see the Student Association asking if seniors should be invovled in the admission process. This concept has was what they envisioned for the LCKSP program, I wonder if it would be possible school-wide.

There you go. I couldn’t be there physically to help out, but at the end of the day, I am thankful for my institution for shaping me into who I have become today.

Be Great.
So yes to being different, even though I still cringe slightly when people talk about it.

But even more so to being great. Some of the most amazing people around still haven’t got a clue about what they would be doing in 5 years time, but they are great at what they do currently and they continue to strive for this.

Focus not so much on being different (it is possible to be different in a wrong way), just take the time to find out what you excel in, and simply, be great at doing that.

Live or merely exist; the choice is yours.

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14th Feb2009

On the Principles for a New Media Literacy: My thoughts

by Dorothy

I was pretty interested in this thread on literacy in new media that has been started in our Digital Media Across Asia class, so here are some of my thoughts on the matter. It is a topic close to home, and also adds on nicely to my earlier posts on Journalism 2.0.

The original article by Gillmor can be found in it’s entirety here. Questions posed from our prof!

Question: What is a literacy? What is Gillmor talking about?

From my interpretation, I take the meaning of literacy as being able to understand a certain subject, to be well versed to communicate about it.

Wikipedia cites literacy as “the ability to read and write, or the ability to use language to read, write, listen, and speak. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication, or at a level that lets one understand and communicate ideas in a literate society, so as to take part in that society.”

Wikipedia also portrays the problem of illiteracy as “a social problem to be solved through education.”

How this links back to Gillmor:
All of these elements are highlighted in Gillmor’s article in

  • His principles of media consumption (“reading”), Principles of media creation (“writing”)
  • Taking part (“Participation”)
  • Right at the end, Gillmor states that “If we really believe that democracy requires an educated populace, we’re starting from a deficit. Are we ready to take the risk of being activist media users, for the right reasons?” (education)

I feel that he is advocating the ‘education’ of the crowd in not just media consumption (as would have been important in the past, since all we did was largely consume our media), but additionally, media creation, now that the tools are widely accessible to all. People have to learn how to digest and make sense of all the information that is presented to them from various sources, and also to use and disseminate that information responsibly. This education is not complete nor thorough, since a large number of web2.0 users are still illiterate about how best to handle the changing media landscape and channels. Some people have yet to even jump on the Web2.0 bandwagon.

2. Why would digital media be important in SG society?

Some important points for me, with regards to the situation in SG:
#1 New media tools are pulling down some walls and helping to create the possibility of deeper nonlegal accountability.
This gives every citizen a choice, and a voice. Whereas previously, complaints and grievances might have been screened by the editors of newspapers before they could make it to print, nowadays, blogs and forums give one instant broadcasting rights to air your opinions.

I like the idea of nonlegal accountability because it suggests self governance, and also implies a more mature process of communication in which we do not have to rely on laws to trust that people will say/do the right thing.

With great power, comes great responsibility (think Spiderman!)
At the same time, we have to learn to be responsible. Emotional rants online about sensitive topics are no more appropriate than discussing the same offline. Do not hide behind the computer screen and feel like this removes you from all accountability for your words. The way I see it, don’t say online what you would not feel comfortable saying in person, in public.

The conversational style that blogs adopt means that more emotions get filtered through. Read, re-read your posts to make sure that your tone of language is not overly harsh/critical/emotional. The easiest solution I can think of is when truly in doubt, get someone else to read what you’ve written and see if it elicits any warning bells.

#2 The tools of creation are increasingly in everyone’s hands + #3 We can make what we create widely accessible
Power comes from being able to control the tools of production. Singaporeans can now take their opinions online and have a worldwide audience, not just local.
This is important for us because other people around the world get access to our thoughts, and can contribute experiences of their own. We are a very young country and can learn a lot from citizens where a more mature system of democracy, or “liberal traditions” are in place. We have to be willing to admit that sometimes, what we feel and think might be myopic in the grander scale of things. Opinions from sources overseas who are distanced from any vested interests are great for getting a sense of balance.

#4 The Concept of being Collaborators
We effectively become collaborators, with anyone in the world. We can find like minded people (not just in a local context), but also off our shores. This sets up a great foundation for brainstorming, and the “education” that Gillmor advocates can finally take place.

#5 Being Skeptical + #6 Going outside the Comfort Zone
Citizens need to become aware of something other than what’s happening locally. Once there is this awareness, perspectives change. It may lead to perhaps more demands on accountability and transparancy, more freedom of press. It could manifest in many other different ways.

If we are to move from an economy driven by mere efficiency to innovation, we need this increased sense of awareness of what is truly happening in the world. To learn how to be discerning about what we read, to understand that it is not enough to just depend on a single source for our “news”, and that combining this knowledge with other credible global sources helps to give a more balanced viewpoints, upon which we can make better decisions on.

I see digital media as a great catalyst where conversations and learning can take place for Singaporean citizens. It has always been a tricky situation whenever a “closed” or “sheltered” society opens up, because it is difficult to control how people will react to this new found freedom, and hard to trust that they are mature enough to use the power responsibly. But these are necessary risks that the government will probably have to monitor, if we are to remain viable. We are (arguably) still very comfortable with a government that we naturally turn to in times of crisis. But is it fair to ask that the government solve our problems all the time, or should we take more initiative ourselves?

Singapore simply cannot exist as a closed society, unlike some other economies of the world, because our sole resources are our people. If we want to have business dealings with our global counterparts, we need to understand more about them, and all the underlying intricacies of cross cultural communication.

Here is where digital media is great ….because (pardon the cliché) the world then is truly your oyster. No one dictates what you will “learn” from this channel, nor is there a fixed set of rules that you follow. You make up the rules. You learn as much as you want to, and along the way, information is constantly added and changing, and you learn about how best to deal with all this.

This flexibility of mind, discernment, coupled with the fact that there will be increased diversity in thinking (rather than producing a whole cohort of people who think and react the same way), I believe, is one step in the right direction in the education of Singaporeans to become more competitive in this fast changing day and age.

It may not be something that we consciously want, but it is something we need.

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14th Jan2009

Quit: It’s not just another four letter word.

by Dorothy

Sometimes in life, issues float about in your mind, and then someone goes and summarizes it in a succinct blog post that pretty much encapsulates most of what I am thinking about.
So, read the post; read my mind.

“People often mistake my love for simplicity, however, as a love for inactivity. Nothing could be further from the truth. The goal of my philosophy is to keep significant percentages of your time unscheduled. That is, not dedicated to work.I define work to be anything that requires a non-trivial amount of your time and attention by a given deadline.

When I say you should quit something this semester, I mean that you should quit something that generates work.”


I have always had an affinity for education and the processes that go behind it. I watch as well-meaning campaigns by the Ministry of Education in Singapore (Teach Less, Learn More, anyone?) somewhat fail to be properly executed, possibly because of the lack of conviction and support by the generally pragmatic citizen. There is nothing wrong with practicality, but if we are to move beyond being merely efficient in our execution and towards a more idea generating economy, we honestly need to make time and room for change to occur.

I am not the type of girl to sit in a room and read about the world. Of course, I do that at times, but not all the time. I want to be out there, seeing for myself. I need to be out there. I’d written some time ago about how learning occurs best outside of a physical classroom. Why confine the process to only the time and things that are in a ‘classroom’, in the most traditional sense of the word?

This is how I found myself somewhat alone right after high school, away from my direct family and pretty much ‘stranded’. (One honestly cannot survive without a car overseas.)
This is how I found myself trying out completely new and complementary complimentary fields of study and institutions. (Insanely tough to switch mindsets between different fields, but they are all a part of me to a certain extent now.)
This is how I found myself navigating up to Class 5 rapids whitewater rafting (I can’t swim to save my life and I hate sports! Turns out it was pretty fun and I am still alive, obviously.)
And of course, the latest satisfaction of my life – If I really want to do something, I will. (Like I said last December, by hook or by crook, some creative rearrangements thrown in.)

That inspirational post of the moment ends it up nicely with the following:

“To me, the ideal student lifestyle has classes, one or two work-generating pursuits that are receiving longterm attention, and copious amounts of unscheduled time left for exploration. If you’re doing nothing, or, much more likely, if you’re doing too much, you’re at risk for getting stuck in a stress-inducing, non-impressive, busy-work saturated rut.

So start your semester off right. Reduce the amount of work in your life. Then go live it.”

I would say you just need to arm yourself with curiousity. Get out there and let life do the rest.

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05th Dec2008

Education 2.0/3.0 – Permission to think, Sir?

by Dorothy

Another post on education, while I can still write from the perspective of being officially in the system!

Educational Myths?

So, here are several of the educational myths that have been floating around for years. Perhaps myths is not the word that is most apt. Beliefs?

1. Asians are smarter than Westerners.
Asians score better on tests than Westerns. Almost all social psychology texts will milk this example to death. Studies have shown that just telling Westerners that they are going to take a test and be compared to Asians apparently triggers stereotype threat, and causes them to do worse on a test. Interesting.

2. Asians are less creative than Westerners.
And they typically blame it on the rote learning most Asian children are subjected to. Honestly, this is a horrible generalization. Just look at Japan. It is a world of it’s own and anyone who has ever been there and even try to figure out why half the inventions actually made it to market will testify to that. They have amazing things going on there, and they are Asian.

3. Art is only for those who cannot make it into the Science stream.
My personal pet peeve, because I see no reason why people can’t be good at both. May I point skeptics towards this recent article from the Financial Times on what the MBA curriculum looks set to incorporate in the future. Assuming that those who are accepted into an MBA program are supposed to be of a certain caliber, and assuming that those who designed the program are also not merely of average intelligence, all I ask is that the creative/art aspect gets the respect it deserves. It is not to say that one is better than the other, but I honestly believe that all disciplines are complementary, so lets drop the segregation already!

4. And of course, the age old discourse – to memorize or not to memorize, which Daryl and Mark have written on as well. If you ask me, this as a topic is exceedingly close to our hearts to generate all these thoughts amongst other Singaporeans. When I first read the RWW article, it just resonated with me, as a student. Judging from the offline conversations that I’ve had recently and all the other posts floating around in the blogosphere, I don’t think I am alone in this. We sat through a system where basically one hadhas to turn into a sponge, and the more you can get in and regurgitate later, the better, never mind if you truly understood it or not. Why else would our Chinese corrections in high school be instructions to copy the same sentence 10 times over?
(P.s Quick tip: If you tie a couple of pens together, this makes the task faster. I am proud to say I can handle up to 3 pens at one go. Align them properly to fit the lines and you’re good. Blank paper works best because then you don’t have to worry about misalignment. But I digress. 🙂 )

Balance

My point is, with the growing knowledge base of information out there, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know everything. Actually, it is not difficult, it is impossible. Yes, there should be a basic “syllabus” that all children ought to go through, but beyond that, is rote learning and memorization all that essential? I would rather be trained in the methods to help me deal with the various kinds of information, and to analyze what is out there. I cannot fathom why academic journals are sometimes written in such complex ways when the entire research finding could (and is) summarized beautifully in the abstract paragraph. I would rather be trained to be able to think and discern between a valid argument and one that is unsound.

On the flip side, I have to say that sometimes it is not good to focus too much and gripe about the fact that memorization is needed. Sometimes, it is the discipline that goes on behind it, the rigor and persistence of having to deal with and master all that material – that is the real lesson. So it is not really exactly what you are memorizing, but rather, the process that you are going through that you are supposed to learn from.

Also, not everyone has the same level of that need for cognition. And that is fine, because everyone should know themselves best and what they are comfortable with. There is no need to pressurize students into taking all sorts of creative thinking classes and try to force creativity into (or out of) them. It really does not work that way. Provide the channels, provide the tools, and those who enjoy it will naturally make use of what they have learnt. I’m also rather hesitant to box in or label what creativity does and does not entail because that seems to go against what it intrinsically stands for. Everyone can be creative in their own ways. Problem solving is creative. Producing an art work is creative. Writing a story or poem is creative. There is no one definition.

I think that the phrase, “Use it, or lose it“, pretty much sums up everything. If you are going to memorize it, make sure you use it, or it is just going to be lost. An ideal educational system for me combines the best aspects of both rote learning, and creative thinking, allowing for a fluid flexibility and hopefully creating diverse opinions amongst the student population. It is not inspiring to talk to one student, and find out that all of them think the same way. That’s great if you only want a nation of doers, but we definitely need much more than that, going into the future. It is also a psychological weakness, because you(all) become too predictable.

From the abovementioned FT article –
We do think it is important for pedagogical reasons to do something different. We need to create a little space for people, to really get people to open up and think more reflectively and critically,” says David Bach, academic director of the international MBA programme at IE business school in Madrid, and professor of strategy and economic environment.

If you want a generation of thinkers to emerge and lead the country, please provide them with space to think. Train them to think.
I don’t have to ask that you allow them to think, because, once they know how to, I believe that they are going to engage in it regardless of what anyone says.

..Your thoughts?

My previous posts on education here.

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04th Nov2008

Youth Marketing Forum 2008 – Part 2 – “If you were given $1000 to spend immediately, what would you buy?”

by Dorothy

Long overdue post!

Sept 5:
I was at Day 2 of the Youth Marketing Forum at Dragonfly on Wednesday. I suppose many of you are now expecting a post on the hottest trends in youth marketing. What I got out of it though, were more presentation how-tos (or more like how not to) and lessons in life. Education was a huge theme in a lot of the thoughts too. Might be a strange theme for a youth marketing post, but if you think about it, life really IS all about constant learning, and hence, indirectly, the education of oneself.

I will start of with the issues close to my heart.

During the youth panel session, we were asked,”If you were given $1000 to spend immediately, what would you buy?”
Typical answers ensued. Shoes, bags, travel tickets, the Iphone! I kept silent, because I honestly had nothing top of the mind that I wanted.

Now I realize what I wish I could really buy.
Time. I want time enough to be critical about issues around me. Can a $1000 buy me that? No, it can’t. Maybe a million could.

In January, I penned that how a particular sentence from a UVA campus publication caught my eye. It was about how this particular student writer found that he “had no time to be critical”. That was one of the things that really caught my eye. I strongly identify with this sentiment, and I think that one sentence really holds a lot more than it appears to.

Time, not money, is the new commodity. Another thought that I picked up from the head worker at world vision when I was volunteering there 2 Christmases ago. How true it is. We simply have no time for anything anymore, but I’m not sure if anyone realizes that work expands to fill the time that you have. It is a rather complex arrangement to realize that the chances of you waking up, with absolutely nothing in the world to do, are going to become slimmer and slimmer as we go along, and that the only way you’ll ever get to actually live, is to intentionally take time out to do so. Maybe I shouldn’t use the word “We”, becuase, really, what I’m referring to is “I”, and I shouldn’t speak for everyone.

We want to inspire thinkers, but our universities are mainly producing do-ers. Simply because there hasn’t been enough time to go out there an explore, everyone is just too b-u-s-y to ponder about anything. And I am guilty as well. Deprived of time, I find my writing frame of mind degenerating. Deprived of time, I find my thoughts disappearing as I morph back into sponge mode at times. But at least, I am still constantly learning!

> Education

I loved what some of the Stikfas peeps brought up.
An important lesson on focus. It’s true, just looking at the word seems to imply that we focus on one thing. It is actually more apt to describe it as having to focus on many (selected) things.

Take risks – Ask yourself- Will it kill us? If no, do it!
Pride, not proud. Take pride in what you do. Everything I do, I want to do it real good!

> Organizing the Rhetoric Around Why to Go to College


Do you find it disturbing that many poly students are simply or worse, intentionally going through what they’re learning just to get a place in university? They enroll in any course as long as it entails them a possibility to get into college.

> On Work and beyond college


Graham Perkins asked if any of us really had any reason to fear, compared to say, a 17 year old youth from the UK who fears being one of the statistics in the knife stabbling epidemic. What is it we truly have to fear?

I love life. I love having time to explore nature, people, the surroundings, the different cultures. I want to find a home base that will let me do all these things, and it’s exciting to walk through town areas and seeing construction works going on. It’s exciting to hear any talks of new projects like the F1 coming to our shores.

All these are signaling mechanisms for me that the place I call home is experiencing some sort of winds of change… and I want to see more!

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13th Sep2008

Creativity + Censorship

by Dorothy

With a controversial title like “Daydreaming is important business“, this post combines two seemingly paradoxical worlds.

Almost every other day, I am surrounded by a lot of bland personalities in school. It’s startling, to say the least. I am grateful for the friends who still have an active mind around me. I am shocked by how much can change in a few years, in just half a year. I sense a perceptible shift in the student composition, something that I can’t quite put my finger on, but is most definitely there.

I am a dreamer; and always have been. I am also blatantly using this as an explanation for the times that I seem to be, “staring haplessly into space”, as this other article so aptly describes. Daydreaming, combined with a certain kind of control, I say it’s a powerful force.

“If your mind didn’t wander, then you’d be largely shackled to whatever you are doing right now,” says Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “But instead you can engage in mental time travel and other kinds of simulation. During a daydream, your thoughts are really unbounded.”


Creativity
Just the other day, I was musing over what a friend had mentioned about creativity. She’d gotten horrendous grades for anything “art” related all her life, and this label stuck. She thought she was absolutely uncreative- that is, until she went overseas, and discovered she was not. That she was, in fact, rather good with craft and making things with her hands. Who gave our elementary school teachers so much liberty to shape a child that way?

Back to the article on daydreaming:

What these studies all demonstrate is that proper daydreaming – the kind of thinking that occurs when the mind is thinking to itself – is a crucial feature of the healthy human brain. It might seem as though our mind is empty, but the mind is never empty: it’s always bubbling over with ideas and connections.

One of the simplest ways to foster creativity, then, may be to take daydreams more seriously. Even the mundane daydreams that occur hundreds of times a day are helping us plan for the future, interact with others, and solidify our own sense of self. And when we are stuck on a particularly difficult problem, a good daydream isn’t just an escape – it may be the most productive thing we can do.

What benefits have exploring unorthodox interests conferred?
Observation, attention to detail, being able to create and visualize links between seemingly unrelated concepts, alternative ways of thinking, a fuller appreciation of the world, and what it means to be human.

The article was interesting if only because most people associate daydreaming with a very idealistic frame of mind, and at the other end of the spectrum where practicality is concerned.

Cencorship
Which brings me to another issue. On the other hand, I am tired of people complaining about censorship. Rants from these people could be anything ranging from complaints that “My movie experience is ruined”, ” My government doesn’t allow this and that”, to ” Why did they have to edit (this) out”. Every single guest speaker that we have who comes from the art or film industry can expect students to question if they are ‘hindered’ by censorship issues.

Come on. Let’s be realistic. How difficult is it to get your hands on the original, unedited version? No one wants to admit it, but the chances are, you know it is relatively effortless. The point also is that our society is just not ready for certain issues either.

Liberation
We could take another viewpoint. Censorship exists partially to hone your creativity. How best can you achieve what you want, and how can you find a way around the tape that has been designed to “keep you in”? If everything were legal, where would the fun be?

That is why some people have quipped that life is over after 21, because most of the things that were “illegal” because of your age… suddenly becomes mundane. The rules only constrain those that mean to break them. Some day, you’ll wake up realizing there are no boundaries except those that you set for youself. It will be a strange, exhilarating, exuberant moment. You’ll feel scared, you may choose to retreat back into the (now open) cage, or you can choose to venture out. It is an interesting benchmark, to use physical age as a criteria of maturity. It used to work, but with the new complexities of our cultural landscape, I’m not so sure.

At any rate, it’s interesting that songs are censored on radio, certain words are edited out of television shows and movies, whereas absolutely foul language in books seemingly goes undetected. The icing on the cake? I’m also quite taken aback at all the morally dubious themes running on the serials on TV Mobile, just because that is about the only television I will allow myself to be subject to-mostly to due the fact that I can’t quite escape it. So, it is alright to show families broken up, family members screaming hysterically at each other, domestic violence, infidelity, divorce, teenagers on drugs?

Don’t give me all that jazz about how art reflects society. We know it is reflexive as well. You are only perpetuating certain themes in the minds of the very impressionable public that you purport to draw up rules to protect.

In which case, since all this (acceptable but morally dubious) material is so easily accessible already, does censorship really matter then?

As for the general public, I question what you really are asking for then, since you wish to be ‘liberated’ like some of our foreign counterparts. What does true liberation entail to you?

If you are going to fight for the rights to view pieces in their full entirety, what are you going to do with it when you get it? Are you going to take it a step further and engage in debate with others? If you are just going to watch it and take nothing away from the experience, does censorship really matter to you in the end?

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22nd Aug2008

Bitten by the Senior-itis Bug

by Dorothy

Yes, I am graduating next year.

For many of my batch, it will come sooner than that, aka end of this year.

Which leaves me thinking hard about where I want to go after this.

It has been an interesting situation, to have been working when my peers were studying, and now studying when my peers are out working.
I’ve been the youngest in my class, close to the oldest in my class, which has resulted being stuck in some kind of a time vacuum or limbo, in some sense. It has been interesting, if only because it has contributed to a certain fluidity in which I ease into any position. I place markers at personal goals, and not by age. Many seniors feel compelled to do certain things by a certain time. I want to be a millionaire and retire (before 30). I want to get a job (before I graduate). There is nothing wrong with that. Just make sure that is what you want, and not something you feel compelled to do, because everybody is doing it. That’s a lame excuse, and makes you seem like sheep.

Having graduated before, the second time round should not seem as scary as the first. But come to think of it, I knew no fear when I first graduated into the working world. It was a come what may, do your best kind of attitude. And look at where it’s taken me.

System hopping
I’ve been in almost every single educational system you can think of, from the strictest, most traditional and academic kind of environment… to the fluid, relaxed and creative sanctuary and of course, institutions that fall somewhere in between. I’ve enjoyed them all to varying degrees.

I suppose the main driver that caused a super introvert like me to throw myself into a system that espoused verbal participation, was the mentality that I wanted to try out something new and break out of my comfort zone. On an aside, I believe that just like learning a foreign language, there is nothing quite as effective as throwing yourself into another country that speaks mainly that language. Only then are you forced to learn, or basically, have to deal with your handicap in various ways. Or sink.

So yes, jumping from system to system was challenging in itself. It would be the same thing each time. Coming in, having to adjust all over again, and then after a while, getting comfortable. I don’t just get comfortable, I get really comfortable. It is always fun to meet people from all walks of life and listen to them, and share with them. And then, inevitably, it is always time to leave.


Let’s get comfortable. (Just not too much)
So N was talking about being very comfortable over lunch a week ago, and I immediately disagreed verbally. Another asked why? I said anyone who is feeling comfortable is never going to move forward. You tend to get so comfortable that you see no need to move from your current position and that is dangerous. I happen to think you should allow yourself to enjoy some comfort, before telling yourself its time to go again.

That is the only way that I can be truly “comfortable” because I’ve accepted change as part of what I crave in the long run.

I guess I would just like to share this sentiment, in which the author states that,

“If the importance of your credential and the prominence with which you advertise it does not decrease with age, you are not achieving or succeeding that much in the real world. Would a successful lawyer begin a letter to a prospective client, “Dear Joe, I graduated from Columbia Law School in 1990”? Of course not. He’d hang his hat on real experiences. Al Gore’s bio on this page doesn’t even mention Vanderbilt or Harvard, two brand names most people would be eager to display. He doesn’t need to. His work speaks for itself.”

How true.

Oh, what’s in a name?
I suppose no one really wants to face the fact that unless you are from an Ivy League school, effectively, the degree that you obtain in Singapore is not that significant when viewed from a global perspective. All that trivial quibbling between the three(or four) universities locally is actually redundant. This post, “Danger in Our Education System, houses several opinions about the state of education locally.

You know, instead of forcing requiring students to go and terrorize help out at the local charitable organizations, it might just be better to have them take modules where everyone gets a chance to travel to a neighbouring country, or some variation of taking them out of their daily lives and opening their eyes. Just to put things in perspective.

If you think about it, corporations could afford to spend less on advertising that just gets lost in the clutter out there or less on their swanky designer furniture, and just pool together their insane amount of resources to help those without the means to just be able to take this trip somewhere. It is just going to translate to better(and hopefully smarter) employees in the long run.

I suppose it is not really in our culture to take a gap year of sorts, to travel the world, to see things and to experience life. This is ironic, when you think about the fact that with Globalization and all that jazz, the world is our oyster like never before. But most people will not have the luxury, but mostly not the intent to “waste” any time on this. It used to be that graduates aspired to get a job after graduation, then it became getting a job before graduation. Now, we’re working even before we graduate.

I don’t know how else to say that rushing to graduate is a worrying trend. Fast trekking to anything is a worrying trend. You can’t get much out of speeding through the learning process, because it still takes ten years to acquire expertise in any field.


Uncertainty and Ambiguity, more Friends than foes
I would also share this mock commencement speech by Mary Schmich, published by the Chicago Tribune, 1 June 1997, possibly forwarded to death, but still encapsulates so much, and of course, sells hope, something of which seniors (or most people for that matter) seem to be in short supply.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

It seems to me, that the people who know exactly what they want to do with their life, don’t really have much of one, because, they’ve mentally limited themselves to the one thing that they (think that they) want to do. I am not advocating a lifestyle in which you just sit around the fire and roast marshmellows. I am advocating the fact that we need to have some openness in deciding what we want to do with ourselves. Given the current times, maybe you might find yourself in a job that did not exist a mere two years, one month ago. These things slip by easily, when you’re happily doing the one thing that you knew you’ve always wanted to do, and not concurrently looking out at what is happening around you. The sooner you realize that the social landscape is now changing faster than you will ever be comfortable with, the happier you will be. The sooner you understand that people (basically, ourselves) are in general really bad predictors of what and why they are feeling, the better off you will be.

But here I am, living in the future again. Guilty as charged. I end with another quote that I distinctly remember from an IDN conference I attended more than half a decade ago, surely. Joshua Davis. He had a really awesome website that I used to frequent. It was called once-upon-a-forest and was a highly experiemental flash based experience, in the age when Flash was still considered a novelty. The only thing I remembered from the entire IDN conference was that he used to put food colouring in his eye (yes, really!), and his phrase,

“If you have one foot in the past and one in the future, then you’re pissing on the present.”

I wish I had the guts to truly live.

Some of you may be shaking your head at this “display” of idealism. Seemingly. If you must have reasons, blame it on the time of the day, on the lack of sleep.

Still, pure idealism, I don’t believe in. But the kind mixed with rationality, the force that everyone purports to align themselves with, just so they can justify their actions.
Now that, is another creature altogether.

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12th Aug2008

Visit to the Microsoft Innovation Center: The Spirit of Innovation

by Dorothy
In his book The Medici Effect, innovation guru Frans Johansson asserts exactly that, putting forward the idea that our knowledge about an area can make us put up “associative barriers,” or stifling assumptions we make can subconsciously influence us to do things a certain way. “Although chains of associations have huge benefits,” he argues, “they also carry costs. They inhibit our ability to think broadly. We do not question assumptions as readily, we jump to conclusions faster and create barriers to alternate ways of thinking about a particular situation.”

– excerpt from The Pirates Dilemma, of which I am still going through, because I am trying to test out my tolerance for new reading habits, what with the audio books, pdf books and what not!

I decided to write on this topic, simply because innovation has been a recurring theme amongst a lot of material that I have encountered lately.
I was listening to the very charismatic leader of the Fellowship of Inventors on the 25th of June, and the notion of organizational fluidity really excited me. Being able to assemble teams of people of varying expertise for short innovative projects, pulling them together, and then, letting them return to their “mother” organization is not really done much here. But think of the possibilities!


I also paid a visit to the Microsoft Innovation Center, where their evangelistic team repeatedly emphasized the importance of software as a driving factor for any technological magic in the future. And there were some interesting things going on in there, I saw the 3d version of an application that emulated Google’s street view, the Silverlight technology in action, as well as a video documenting the touch screen technology that was unveiled some time ago.

Interesting, but I disagree that software is everything, and incidentally, after reading this, maybe you might too. For me, it’s always been about the talent and people behind. It is about making sure that your message is communicated across and it becomes something that people can feel and identify with.

I was a huge Star Wars fan a couple of years ago, so I remember when George Lucas had to hold off making Episodes 1, 2 and 3 because the “technology he needed wasn’t quite there yet”. Well, he did get the films made in the end, but they never quite achieved the same cult status as the original Episodes of 4,5 and 6, did they? Something was missing. So yes, while software and technology are important, you do not require it to create magic.

I guess the final issue really is, so how do you get things going? You can check out this PDF manifesto for some good pointers. Ironically, most of the points mentioned there on innovation are nothing all that innovative, but most books effectively sell hope to people, just worded differently.
I also like how Mitch Ditkoff substantiates his points.

There’s a lot of talk these days—especially in business circles—about the importance of innovation. All CEOs worth their low salt lunch want it. And they want it, of course, now. Innovation, they reason, is the competitive edge. What sparks innovation? People. What sparks people? Inspired ideas that meet a need—whether expressed or unexpressed—ideas with enough mojo to rally sustained support.

1. Follow Your Fascination
2. Immerse
3. Tolerate Ambiguity
4. Make New Connections
5. Fantasize
6. Define the Right Challenge
7. Brainstorm
8. Look for Happy Accidents
9. Use Creative Thinking Techniques
10. Suspend Logic

A couple of friends and I were musing about the prospects of Singapore’s future. In due time, whatever advantage we might have in manufacturing, efficiency, and the likes will be lost to the next cheapest, fastest competitor(s).
What would we be left with then?
We need to encourage people to think. One thing that stood out for me during the Microsoft site visit was how some of the students candidly admitted that they had been “forced” to go for the trip, and hence, their presence. I would have been pretty discouraged if I were their lecturer, or the speaker for that matter. How else can we cultivate a spirit of learning?

04th Aug2008

ITunesU: “Follow your curiousity wherever it takes you” // Web 2.0 Crash Course

by Dorothy

And the introductory video ends off with the sentence,”There’s no limit to what and where you can learn.” Which makes Itunes U right up my alley!

I have been giving myself a crash course in Web2.0 ever since I came back, if only because I would love to take it as an official school module, but no, time does not permit. So I thought, in the spirit of Web2.0/3.0, I shall just take matters into my own hands.

Links to some sites that I’ve found immensely useful so far. There are millions out there, so I’ll just share some highlights.

Chrisbrogan.com – I am especially loving his Social Media 100 project, which he touts as “ A project by Chris Brogan dedicated to writing 100 useful blog posts in a row about the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests.”

ItunesU is looking very promising as well. Haven’t fully explored all the wonders of it all, but all the good stuff can be found here if you’d like to check it out for yourself.

Slideshare.net has a lot of gems if you’re willing to trawl through. I love the fact that they often have the text from all the slides for an easy skim through in their Slideshow transcript!

Anything else you think is really cool? Drop a note!

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