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The Briefing 2012

January 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Last Wednesday, I attended The Briefing conference organized by the UBC Dollarproject club. In short, five charitable organizations present their causes at the conference then at the end, each audience member votes on one charity he or she wants the $500 prize money to go to. This is Dollarproject’s biggest event of the year and reflects the club’s philosophy of collective action because while one vote alone may not have any effect, many votes together will have a large impact.

Although the conference was supposed to start at 6pm, the opening address wasn’t given until 6:30 (my biggest pet peeve is waiting). This was followed by a dance performance from the A.R. Macneill senior dance team. Then each charity gave a brief speech accompanied by a Q and A session. There was a short dinner break before everyone went to their breakout sessions and finally returning for the closing remarks that ended at 9pm.

I thought the dance performance and live music were good touches because I would have been bored listening to speakers talk through a three-hour conference. This was a problem last year so I’m glad Dollarproject fixed it. The biggest improvement were the introduction of breakout sessions. Each of the five representatives held their own discussion group separately so we got to learn more about their charities before casting a vote. I attended the session led by Penny Lyons from Seva Canada and had an insightful discussion regarding development and relief charities.

The hallway where we ate was narrow and very cramped. I would have liked to eat where there were chairs and tables although I assume food and drinks weren’t allowed in the lecture hall. Since the conference started late, we attended only one breakout session when there were two scheduled. Marketing has to be more aggressive and I suggest targeting faculty/administrative members and inviting youtube celebrities. I also think the conference would be more attractive if it was shortened to two hours. Each of the five speakers have seven minutes and two 20 minute breakout sessions which takes up only 75 minutes, still plenty of time to have opening/closing remarks and a dinner break.

The winning charity was Seva Canada and they were most deserving. Most speakers only presented what they did as opposed to answering why their work matters so I found it hard to believe in their causes. Also I felt that some didn’t really address the fundamental problems underlying their causes (will blog about this later). Oh I’d like to add that the MCs did a great job making the conference as lively as possible.

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Categories: Global, UBC

Defining the Occupy Movement

January 25, 2012 1 comment

As stated in the Occupy Vancouver’s mission statement, “the strength of Occupy… lies in the ambiguity of its mission”. While I agree with that statement, I don’t think that is a good thing. Imagine Stephen Harper as the prime minister, but no one in Canada knows what his political views are. Would you be comfortable following him if you didn’t know what he was thinking? This is the same situation now with a group of people demanding change, but not specifying what it is. What if the government decides to increase taxes and cut healthcare spending? Technically that is change so according to the mission statement, the Occupy Movement is a success right? It’s like those be careful what you wish for because you might just get it lessons we experience.

Ok in all seriousness let’s say politicians finally give in to the protesters’ demands. Exactly what changes will take place then? Everyone wants change, but different people want different things and you can’t satisfy everybody. Can you justify gathering a mass number of supporters who believe in a blind cause, knowing that at the end, not all those people will get what they want?

So what have the Occupy protesters accomplished so far? As far as I know, they haven’t done much, if not anything. There are many events such as the Keystone Pipeline project that may be attributed with the protesters simply because they are correlated. However that is a fallacy because the first rule of statistics is that correlation does not imply causation. For example how can you attribute Obama’s decision to reject the project due to the Occupy movement or the upcoming 2012 presidential election?

I do believe there is an increase in discussion about political, economic, social issues due to the Occupy movement. However as Tyler had mentioned, people have always talked about these injustices thanks to a wonderful invention called the Internet. I attended a discussion session about Occupy a couple of months ago. I met a few Occupy Vancouver protestors and asked them now that they have everyone’s attention, what is the next step? Their response was to continue gathering supporters and hold discussions about various global issues which tells me the movement still doesn’t have a plan of action. Considering the number of supporters, I would expect there to be someone who could at least devise and implement a plan to improve Occupy Vancouver’s position.

Sunlight, although ubiquitous, shining by itself on grass will not start a fire. However if a lens is placed on top, one can get a fire going. Just as the lens focuses sunlight into a specific point to start a fire, Occupy protestors must focus their energy on clearly defined goals if they wish to achieve the change they seek.

Categories: Global

Edcamp Delta

January 16, 2012 2 comments

I went to Edcamp Delta last Saturday at Delta Secondary School. For those unfamiliar with how an Edcamp works, David Wees summarizes it nicely on his blog. Coincidentally there were two other Edcamps running on the same day: Coquitlam and Santiago. I arrived in Delta at 8:30 am after only 2.5 hours of sleep which is a record since I never had less than three hours of sleep a night even during my four years at UBC. There were free lunch and snacks which I wasn’t expecting because the website said we would be responsible for bringing our own food.

Unfortunately the topic that I most wanted to talk about, What do Grades Mean,was left out. There was an overlap of similar topics such as Technology 101 – Social Media, Technology in Science, Google apps in Education and Twitter in the Classroom. I thought those four topics could have been combined into broader ones so we would have more of a variety of topics to discuss. I was considering to propose my own topics Knowledge vs Critical Thinking Based Learning and Math Education but it was my first time at an Edcamp and I didn’t know what to expect then.

My first workshop was Formative Assessment. I wanted to stir up a debate whether the BC Provincial Exams and FSA should be mandatory, but we didn’t get enough time. A main concern among educators is how to personalize education for each student given the time constraints and when class sizes are 30+ students. There were three interesting points brought up:

  • Fist to five method – Students show using their fingers how much they know about the current unit. It’s a quick way to see if everyone is on the same page. I would question whether that method measures more of a student’s confidence or their actual understanding of a topic.
  • Choice – Students would be able to choose to do a play, painting, sculpture, etc… instead of being forced to write an essay each time to represent their learning.
  • Blogging – One high-school teacher gets his students to blog about what they’re learning which comprises 20% of one’s mark. I see potential in that since students reflect on what they’re learning and they get to see their peers’ interpretations of various issues.

The second workshop was What Must Stay and What Must Go in Education. The discussion centered around the babies and bathwater metaphor. I didn’t understand the metaphor, but did get the point that some things needed to stay (the babies) in the education system and some things needed to go (the bathwater). Again the teachers recognized the education of the masses system is not ideal. It was suggested that teachers streamline learning outcomes (go with the flow) rather than have an absolute standard that every student has to meet. I also mentioned that education is lifelong and shouldn’t be restricted to schools. To be honest, all the important life skills and lessons I know, I learned outside of the classroom. If I wanted to know the pathway of glycolysis or which hormones are secreted from the anterior pituitary, I can get that information within two minutes on my phone. Some babies mentioned were integration of subjects, focus on students and relationships, portfolio of learning (ie keep records of learning), passionate teachers and eco-literacy. Some bathwater mentioned were the numbered grading system, report cards and knowledge-based learning. I ended the discussion by asking what is the purpose of education (I blogged my answer here). Once we find an answer we will have a better idea of what the babies and bathwater should be.

My third workshop was Project Based Learning. It is synonymous with problem based learning, but our group treated the two as the same. Apparently the teachers had trouble coming up with PBL ideas for science courses and not art courses such as English and Social Studies. I find that counterintuitive since science is all about answering questions and solving problems. I thought the time could have been better spent since people mostly discussed the different PBL activities they have used in the past. I also got the feeling that many teachers were unsure of how to carry out PBL effectively and there was no one at the session who could give advice.

The last workshop was Helping Students Learn for Knowledge’s Sake. One teacher suggested replacing the numbered grading system with a comments section. Instead of receiving a percentage, students would get comments such as good, satisfactory, needs improvement etc. on their report card. However I argued that  is very subjective since what does satisfactory mean to each person? We should keep the grading system, albeit imperfect, rather than abandon it since we still need a way to distinguish students who are applying for scholarships, universities, professional schools etc… The problem is that grades extrinsically motivate many students to learn so removing the grading system will not address that issue. Instead we need to find a way to intrinsically motivate students to learn. Unfortunately we didn’t stay on topic to discuss that.

Although the level of discussion wasn’t the same as the ICE event at UBC last October, I enjoyed my day in Delta very much. Most of the participants were high-school teachers and administrators so the crowd was homogeneous, but there were still lots of interesting discussions. It was amusing how everyone I met asked me what I teach since they assumed everyone there was a teacher. My biggest complaints were that I had to trek all the way from Vancouver and it was on the same day as the UBC Student Leadership Conference. I look forward to attending the next Edcamp event. Hopefully I will be able to lead my own discussion too.

Categories: Education

Sundodgers 2011

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Last November I went to Burlington, WA and played in the Sundodgers ultimate frisbee tournament with the UBC Men’s team. It was an eye opening experience since I was playing against good teams, with many players having participated in the CUC and a couple going to represent Canada at the World Championships. The weather was terrible the long weekend, it was raining and very cold the entire time. I was hoping we would get away from the Vancouver weather, but we didn’t travel south enough.

On Saturday, we had to wake up at 7 and get on the field early which was fine since I’m used to waking up early after 4 years at UBC. I had a free breakfast meal at McDonald’s thanks to credit card roulette with our group. We played four games and won only one of them. I wasn’t happy at all with my defense since on the very first 3 points I was on, I got beat deep on huck plays which rarely happens to me. Fortunately that was the last time it happened. I don’t know why the other team didn’t keep running those plays, but I stayed closer to my check after those defensive breakdowns. Another first for me was the second game. I’m still amazed, but everyone on the other team was dressed nicely and by that I mean they were wearing cardigans, dress shirts, khakis etc… In the rainfall, they were still diving for discs on the muddy fields. Hands down they were and will be the best dressed team I have ever played against. After 2 more games (much of which I have forgotten), we went back to our hotels, cold as fuck and all our clothes muddy.

After getting cleaned up, we had dinner at Olive Garden (credit card roulette would have been interesting with our group of 20). Being a rookie, I had to make the reservations, but the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations on Saturdays. They still asked for a name so I told them to write down Genghis Khan (apparently the waitress didn’t get the joke). We had to wait for 30 minutes for a table after arriving and that sucked cause I couldn’t drink at the bar to pass time since I’m still underage in the states.

On Sunday, we woke up at 7 again to play 2 games. Everyone was late cause of all the drinking the previous night and no one touched a frisbee until the other team pulled to us. It wasn’t a surprise that the other team quickly built an 8-point lead although we eventually got break points and lost the game only by 3 points. The second game, although meaningless, was a one-sided affair with us dominating with our zone defense. We had a third game, but had to wait for 2 hours. No one wanted to wait so we all went our own ways home. My group went to have lunch at Wendy’s (another free meal for me thanks to credit card roulette) then went to Nike so I could get new cleats and socks. Didn’t know this until a week later, but the UBC Women’s teams placed 1st and 2nd in the tournament!

Overall the tournament was fun and I learned a lot. One thing that occurred to me is whether I should be marking the tallest person on the other team and if that could relieve some pressure off my teammates. That happened a few times during the tournament accidentally when I ended up marking the tallest person after turnovers against a zone defense. My rationale is that it’s not going to make much of a difference whether I’m marking a 5’10” or 6’5” person in terms of having to fight sky battles. However, it may make a bigger difference if a 5’10” person is marking someone his height or 6’5”. FYI I have scored a callahan while marking a 6′, 200lb man and I have marked a 7′ player once so I can take on anyone hehe.

Categories: Sports

Goal Setting

January 3, 2012 2 comments

From my sports psychology lecture notes for those who have made new years resolutions. The goals you set should be…

Specific

  • simple, clear and understandable
  • focus on particular behaviours or outcomes

Measurable

  • observe and quantify particular outcomes
  • need baseline, pre-post comparison

Attainable

  • individually matched to ability
  • too easy: lose interest, no value
  • too hard: frustration, reduced confidence, giving up
  • “just right”

Realistic

  • match goals to preferences, challenges, priorities, time available etc…

Time-framed

  • use short-term and long-term goals, set deadlines
  • too short: give up
  • too long: procrastinate

To enhance motivation, goals should be:

Fostering individuals (and teams)

  • challenge personal fears and stereotypes
  • if you put in more effort/sacrifices, you will see positive changes
  • team goals focus on group values and “scores”, not individuals only

Internalized and Inspired

  • self-determined (known task) or assigned (unknown task) so if you know how to do the task, it’s better for you to set the goal
  • supported by others
  • have role models
  • keep reminders (eg pictures, sayings)

Rewarded and Reinforced

  • make rewards appropriate for goal
  • social, material reinforcement

Evaluated

  • record strengths and needs
  • review “plan of attack” ie keep logs, video
  • ask for input and feedback

SMART goals FIRE up motivation!

Categories: Education, Life