Ideas

“Can’t have nice things” – an opportunity to analyse travel patterns

“This is why we can’t have nice things!”

So says Singapore, so says Australia and so says many place else. Bike sharing might have brought transportation convenience. It has brought along its fair share of inconvenience.

It spreads like a virus. It spreads like a zombie apocalypse. Everywhere in the neighborhood, a pile of rubbish bike.

IMG_20171102_073954
A pile of shared bikes near a park that is currently under renovation in my neighborhood

On the bright side, its probably not that bad in Singapore. Looking at some of the pictures running through the Internet of bike sharing woes in other parts of the world, bikes found in the drains, found in the water and some are found on top of lamp posts.

I’m not kidding. ON TOP of lamp posts!

I was just thinking, why don’t we analyse travel patterns using these bikes. It would have been an interesting exercise. After all, my understanding is many of these bikes are armed with a GPS sensor, hence, surely we have all the data there, somewhere.

  • We could see how the bikes spread and migrate from places to places.
  • We could see which routes sees high usage of bikes. Maybe we can put in a bus service or a short cut to certain routes.
  • Where does all the bikes end up after the morning, the evening and the weekend peaks? Does it mean that we have to put a bicycle parking space there?
  • And more importantly, we got to work out if it make sense for the profiting companies to pay for the bicycle parking space that the G is going to build. I’m not quite sure if it makes sense for the tax payers to pay for this.

A messy neighborhood brings unhappy citizens and crime. We haven’t gone there yet but preventive measures are always better than cure.

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Ideas

Reflecting ON Reprofiling: FIRST try at Adult Teaching

For any other lecturers in the institution which I taught in, teaching adults is probably a usual thing that they need to do. For me, it was a totally new thing.

I am asked to train a small group on my colleagues to be able to do a bit of programming. It is part of the school’s initiative as well as a national drive to upgrade employees with digital skills. We called such upgrading training a reprofiling exercise.

What are the challenges that I thought I will face?

  • The course should be conducted with only 20% face-to-face time. 80% of the course should be curated and online.
  • My colleagues are also extremely busy people who many are possibly forced will struggle with time to take this course.
  • Of course, I never taught adults before. Yes, I always say that I treat my students as adults, the truth is some of the more controversial techniques that I use in teaching are meant for people without working experience.

Crisis

I like to see such challenges as a crisis. And I like to bring a Chinese perspective into this. This is because, the Chinese characters for the word “Crisis”, 危机, is made up of two very meaningful characters, danger and opportunity. I always feel that seeing opportunities in challenging moments is key to success.

Initial Strategy

What Matters Most

The 20% face-to-face times was extremely crucial to the success on whether my colleagues would be able to “get” programming. After all, programming had a bad name, urban myth knew it as a “you get it or you don’t” sort of subject.

Without the certainty of whether my colleagues are going to have the time to practice programming, I made all face-to-face sessions practice-oriented.

In the first session, we went through how to set up their learning and programming environment involving a couple of installation and creating a learning Lynda.com account.

I also just start programming right away, asking them to follow what I type, flashing out bits and pieces of programming knowledge along the way.

In essence, making sure that they leave the first session with an environment and knowledge of how they can start to programme, an extremely daunting task for first time programmers to learn on their own.

Motivation, Relevance and Just Enough

For all sessions, I start working on problems rather than explaining to them the concepts. This actually flips the way that I usually tackle my lessons, where I will explain concepts first, then tackle the problems.

The main reason was that I felt that there is no need for them to know every piece of concept. Important concepts will come naturally into our discussions when we worked through the problem. The rest can be considered a good to know.

The problems are also specially chosen among one of three themes to make programming more relevant to them:

  • Industry 4.0 (The participants are all engineer-trained)
  • Student result processing
  • Some Singapore-life related use cases (Eg. IPPT Score calculation)

Unlimited Self-evaluation Quizzes and Flexibility

I also crafted out a few self-evaluation quizzes for my colleagues which can be attempted unlimited times. Each answer they give comes with a personalised feedback on whether they are correct or where they might have gone wrong.

I may have given my usual students some bargaining power in terms of choosing their deadlines for assignment submission but to my colleagues, it was full flexibility so that they can work their study plans into their schedule. At the back, I was just encouraging them to submit before the study term begins, telling them that the consequence of submitting after is that they are going to feel more stress once their teaching load kicks in.

Andragogy

Sometimes I wish I had gone for the andragogy course organised by my institution earlier but hey, I’ve already did my best based on whatever I know and whatever ideas I can think of.

Understanding more about Andragogy now and reflecting on my first ever lesson delivery to adults, here are my takeaway points:

What worked really well: Learning Concepts from Problems

The idea of learning concepts along the way while working on a problem seems to work well with my colleagues. Once they have grasped the general concepts, the rest is all about searching for sample codes online to figure out how to do more advanced stuff.

Of course, there were also more stuff which I did, such as providing a set of mock questions and sample answers for the lab test. The lab test is also open book, rightfully so because that’s how most programmers do programming anyway, they code a bit, search for information on the Internet and then code some more.

What seemed lacking: Getting everyone to tap on each other’s knowledge

Robust discussions does not come naturally in my institution. With probably 400 over staff, it’s my 5th year with the institution but I still do not know everyone. One of the big thoughts is how best can I get everyone to talk and help out each other?

I’ve already set up the platform for them: there are both online and offline options for them to share their thoughts but there just seemed to be no incentive to do that, especially a good group of the class is possibly volunteered for the course rather than volunteers.

Or should some face-to-face time be devoted to pair work?

Then again, time is limited and I need them to be individually proficient for this fundamental course. However, I am glad that most of them isn’t too shy to approach me at all. The constant engagement and “love emails” I wrote to them paid off.

Man, it’s tough to change “deep-seated cultural issues” 😀 Asians are just really shy. I myself would probably bahave like that in a coding class too.

What could have been better: Getting them started

Part of what I did during the first session was that I got them started to install the required software on their laptops and start programming straight away, even if they don’t know a single thing about programming.

It didn’t work as well as I expected. I still find people who are not sure how to open what files to write codes and to run the codes. Others didn’t even successfully set up their laptops ready for development, even though I have packaged them nicely in zip files and gone through the steps in the face-to-face session.

I guessed I also assumed a lot about their technical capabilities to handle the computer and this is where my typical 18-year-old trumps them. For the next run, I’m going to write a step-by-step installation and coding guide. I probably want them to show me how they can write and run their programmes and they can be given a classroom participation score for this.

So, when do I start again?

Journal

simplify… phase two

Bit my lips.
Thank it.
Placed it aside to be given away.

Feel like keeping it.
Thank it.
Placed it in the rubbish bin.

Give up an active pursuit to learn it.
Learn to let go of it.
Told myself doesn’t mean I stop it totally.
Just means more time and more focus for more things that matters more.

Throwing away stuff everyday,
Stopping an active pursuit for something that isn’t active in the first place,
The never ending mission to lighten my load.

Need to be free.
free…

~Flex Tio~

I still think I own too much stuff and have too many passion. The irony is that these passions became passive, and if that’s the case, are they still passion?

I decided to stop learning Cantonese as a 5th language formally. I’m giving away my dictionary of Cantonese Slang to my friend and throwing away the Cantonese Drama which I never watched. But this doesn’t stop me from learning a bit of Cantonese here and there right?

And there’s so much more passion and hobbies I have that I better have some clarity how I want to pursue them soon.

Journal

motivation

“Go go! Just go for it!” he shouted at the top of his voice and he came running from behind, passed me and sprint off forward.

He wasn’t anyone who I know, just someone who is taking the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) with me. He chose to cheered on even though I’m sure he is freaking tired. It was infectious.

I reciprocated. I widen my steps and took my best attempt to sprint towards to finish line too, completing my 2.4km run station just behind him, getting my first ever Gold standard!

It was a goal I had for previous years but as I never did achieve it, I drop it out of my New Year Resolution for the past two years. Getting a knack that I could do this this time, I committed for a goal to gold just six weeks before!

As I proudly showed my comrades, who are relaxing at the stadium stand with their fruit juice, the number “5” chip which I got from the run (which meant that I came in 5th out of the cohort of 35 odd), fellow comrade AC chirped in:

At this age, you still can accomplish a Gold, you know that when you believe, you can do anything. Really.

Well, I guess I can. Thank you both of you for your motivation during the run and the after thoughts inspiration. I’ll remember this dearly.

Journal

getting attention

I like goggles for my eye wear, I really do. I couldn’t resist getting this pair of spectacles: the Butterfly Effect series from Owndays when I came across it. I chose the most outstanding colour of the three for myself. Wearing it for about two weeks now, even though this pair of spectacles is causing some pain at various pressure points, I felt very me with this pair of spectacles. The little rebel in me.

It is like those times where I would dress a bit differently to look outstanding: trench coats, suspenders, bow-ties, although not all of it at one go of course. Or sometimes a little bit more subtle with my pair of Walking Tall.

Days that I just felt like getting some attention. And sure I got lots and lots of it! And I learnt quite a fair bit from the attention I’m getting too.

Glasses

I learnt that my students were more ready to give me compliments compared to my colleagues even though they probably don’t know me as well. Perhaps my students were surprised by my antics where to my colleagues, they have sort of expected it.

I learnt that there will still be haters and I still get affected by that single “bad” comment out of all those good. But I also learnt to laugh it off as best as I could. Not sure if I feel good deep inside, but it’s just part and parcel of living.

Finally, I also learnt that this pair of spectacles could get me an extra serving of noodles at the cookhouse yesterday morning! When I was helping myself to the breakfast, the cookhouse lady had initially prevented me from getting the noodles (apparently, you can only choose to have either the “Western” breakfast or the noodles). As I was about to clear my tray, she asked me to come get another serving of noodles and we struck a conversation about my pair of spectacles.

Just hope that the pain points can go away as I get used to wear this pair of spectacle. Then all would be well.

Journal

DIFFERENCES in culture

“Are Europeans friendly?”

This is a usual question I had for friends who went to Europe for their vacation. While my personal experience with Finnish had been a pleasant one, I couldn’t help but ask that question as I hear too many stories about Europeans being unfriendly.

I guess I got my answer today, with an opportunity to chat with a German, T, who has been living in Singapore for the past 9 years.

“Germans are straight forward. In fact, I had a little culture shock when I went back to Germany recently. The waitress was telling us that we should leave the seats as we only spent $5 in the cafe and seats are reserved for those who spent at least $10,” T shared his little nugget of story with me.

“I guess I’m getting too used to Asian culture. It’s not that the waitress was unfriendly, I knew she was…” he added.

It was a moment of epiphany for me.

Strangely, it should be something I ought to know, especially as a learner of the Japanese language and someone who likes the Japanese culture.

A big aspect of Asian culture is face-saving and if we observe the Japanese culture, which in my opinion has exercised this “face-saving” culture to the greatest extent, the culture is even built into their language.

For instance, even though the word “No” exists in the Japanese language, it is seldom used as it is considered rude to reject a person. The proper way to reply would be “A little…”, coupled with a smallish body language of backing away with a gentle smile and an eye frown on their faces.

As for the person receiving the reply, he/she is expected to understand that it means a rejection and not push further if he/she could help it.

For the Germans, it was about being direct and getting the point across. Yes, even though they may throw in a bit of sarcasm in the midst maybe. As T puts it, two guys could be having a heated argument in work but once work is done, they can go into the same bar together and drink like brothers in the evening.

It’s just a difference in culture.

Probably it’s just that I’ve never met enough people who are more blunt and direct. After all, I’m guessing that Singaporeans are probably pretty German compared to our Asian counterparts.

Journal

cold calls

She called me three times the past few months, on the pretext that she knew a board gaming friend of mine (who I’m still unsure who he is at the moment). Tried asking her for the purpose of her call to no avail. Sensing something funny going on, I postponed her calls till one month later and three months later respectively.

And finally on the third call, she was like “I play board games too.”

Oh? In my mind I was like so are you trying to invite me to a board gaming event? Or have you also heard that I was trying to design a board game and you would like to invite me to a special event for board game designers?

“Actually I’m a financial advisor…”

Never mind the rest of her conversation, it was 1 hour after the call and my reaction was still like:

Rant

Can’t take it that I decided to take it out on Facebook

***

After taking it out on Facebook, I decided to do something which I don’t normally do. I called her back.

Frankly speaking, I do not know why I bothered.

I just felt that I should.

***

“Sorry, you cold called me just now?”

“Oh, I must have pressed the wrong button while I was flipping through my phone book just now.”

“No, I called you back. There’s no mistake. I’m calling you back because I would like to give you my feedback on why I rejected you. Except, I’m not sure if you would like to listen to it.”

“Oh, ok…”

Didn’t expect this to turn into a 20-minute chat.

It seems that this lady was not that new to financial advising. She was expecting to do a referral call but this particular one with me ended up as a cold call. I told her that she actually had a chance, if only she was upfront about the purpose of the call, there’s a chance I might listen more, instead of a tough rejection.

I really believe she could do cold calls. I’ve seen it working for many people whom I knew.

She was insistent that she’s making a referral call.

As it progressed, we chatted about other stuff, her profession and mine, she shared a bit of stuff about her husband also, trying to find a bit of common ground to chat about. And we parted amicably (I hope). Left her a link to LusiGroup. Offered to arrange a free pass to their preview if she wanted to find out more.

Strange to say, now it seems as though I am doing the cold call eh?

Anyway, still not sure why I did this though it did made my day interesting.

Afternote: As to whether it made my day, well… a friend of mine did commented: “(she) probably will brush it off and think it’s just one irritating person.”… Right…. Ouch!