Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Road We're On --- Looking for Your Input

I've mentioned to students in my three tutorial groups this term that when I was a student during nearly 7 years of university, I never witnessed a PowerPoint presentation. That's right---I never saw a PowerPoint presentation. It hadn't been invented yet. (Yes, I am a dinosaur!)

Neither did I ever use a computer (although I saw one, an old "mainframe" that filled a room and spit out cards filled with data holes), nor did I ever have an instructor who used one in class.

(Yes, the 1970s and 80s were not long after the T-Rex roamed the Earth!)

Now, not only can we use slideware and notebook-size, laptop computers and other high tech gadgets, we can communicate even when not in class via facebook and our blogs. These platforms allow us to interact in ways that most people couldn't have imagined when I was a student.

So here's something I'd like to add to the gadgetry: An open discussion about what has been taking place in our classes up until this point in the term.

Yes, you understood me correctly. I am interested in knowing what you think about the direction of our course of study, class assignments, the website, schedule, whatever you'd like to comment on at this point in the term (still way early to make an overall assessment, but I'm sure each of you has an opinion about what we have done so far, so why not start?).

Please feel free to comment openly and without any hesitation here, in the comment section: Flattery won't influence my image of anyone, and my ego won't be threatened by any criticism!

I am truly curious what your impression is of the way we've done things to date. Does it seem like we're flying through the material at Formula 1 speed, or might you feel like we've just been driving around in circles?

Here's my challenge to you all: Who'll be the first to commit to this very 21st century bit of educational interaction and give me a response? (In short, who shall warm my heart!)


Lim Shiying said...

Feedback: This is one Hectic Module!

Nevertheless, it is the most enjoyable module I am having for this semester so far as I do not need to rack my brains to understand every single line of notations and equations. Can’t wait for my Peer Teaching session to be over this Friday, so that I can officially say,” One Presentation Down!”

I do feel that we have so much to cover, so much to learn in this module and time seems to fly past so fast every single lesson! Furthermore, it is like, my 1st presentation is finally going to be over, and now the 2nd project comes along! However, I do feel that I have learnt a lot (though this is just the 4th week), especially from the fact that my 2 peer teaching mates are exchange students from China and German respectively. I was trying to overcome Cultural differences between the group and learn to speak and explain in proper language so that people from overseas can understand me. This peer teaching group had made me realize that, we Singaporean have taken communications for granted, and because we are so comfortable with speaking in our “Rojak”, “Singlish” and broken language with one another that we might result in not being to communicate with people from other parts of the world.

One last thing that I must feedback to you, is that I really love the “getting to know my module mates better every single class, and from every single post they make” class structure, this is like no other modules I have ever encountered and I really really love this idea!

Sumea Mujnovic said...

First of all I want to say that I love this post, it is funny and serious at the same time. That is how I think a blog should be.

The classes are good I´m really enjoying the communication that is going on, and all the people in group nr.7. I also love the curriculum and how we do everything. But when all that is said it goes to fast, every time is something new and I wish we used more time on each thing. I also feel it is a bit pressure on doing things right away, like commenting every post. It takes time to sit down and read every blog but I promise i will do everything just as fast as everything calms down for me. I know it is not an excuse that I have a lot to do, since everyone has too but I´m actually not used to this pressure and I need time to get a rhythm. Except that I think this is one of my best classes here in Singapore.

PS: that photo is taken in hanoi! Legend beer.

Brad Blackstone said...

Thank you, ShiYing and Sumea, for being the first to give me your feedback! That warms my heart!

Ferrari then, right?

And yes, Sumea, that is Hanoi, beside Hoan Kiem! Have you been there?

Renick Lee said...

Hi Brad,

This module has been great in terms of being unlike other modules. I really liked that we had to create a blog for the assignment as i doubt I would have ever made one on my own. Theres alot of learning and things to consider in the process, self discovery etc.
Its great to be using facebook as a tool too. Preparation for peer teaching likewise leads to lots of self discovery as well. I also like the fact that classes are about letting loose; not being tied down to a fixed box of facts and discouraged from contesting ideas.
The pace and workload however is pretty overwhelming. While it gets us to a further goal at the end, I'm just concerned about missing certain depth and details along the way. Take for eg. an assignment, the shorter the period allocated to complete it, the less opportunities there are to reflect at every step; I just feel that at times, with more space you get more of those random moments of realizing a better way to approach something, and being random, we could get to the end point without ever coming across them, and never knowing that we missed them or what could have come of it.
Awesome module anyway, enjoy the interaction, though in view of having 13 weeks with the same class it would be nice to expand the interaction and mix up the classes. Not sure if others would agree though. Having exchange students is definitely a bonus too in my opinion. Really rare opportunity.

Mohammad Hasan said...

I find this module very interesting and unconventional considering all the other modules I have done here at NUS. Never did I have the chance to "know" and interact with my classmates like this module requires me to. And our class being so diverse, with people coming from so many different countries, I have to say it is a pleasure getting to know them. Also the many new ideas regarding communication that we have been introduced to are quite interesting.

However, I think the workload is heavy. There is so much to do! The main project, peer teaching, blogging, resumes, cover letters, interviews etc etc. Although the pressure right now is bearable, I am getting a feeling it's going to get a lot more hectic in the coming weeks as we get started with our projects.

But in the end, I have to say that I always look forward to ES2007S classes because they are fun! In all my other lectures the professors just come and show us lecture slides. It's a one way, linear communication process. However, this class is interactive and we all know how a dynamic communication system is better than a linear one!

Serene Chua said...

Firstly, I must agree that we have been flying through the materials. I guess this is largely due to the lesson that we missed in lieu to a public holiday. Looking through the lesson plans, it is a pity that we did not get to spend more time on topics, such as non-verbal communications. I find this a really interesting topic and I wish we had more time to go over the materials.

In addition, the workload for this module is really heavy and needless to say, it will get busier with the upcoming research project! However, I am sure there are many others who are trying hard to stay in balance as well. I guess we are all in it together.

Now for the good points. Frankly speaking, I do not like speaking up in class and since most of my lessons are conducted in large lecture groups, there is no need for me to do so. You may be surprised, but I have only gone through 2 presentations in my whole three years in NUS. At first, I was rather hesitant about reading this module. I was not sure if I will ever speak up in class. However. the small class size and the way the lessons are conducted really provides a comfortable setting for people like me to voice out my opinions.

I am looking forward to the rest of this module - the skills which I will acquire to become in communications and the numerous interactions with my fellow class mates. Not so much of the workload though (Forgive me, Brad).

Serene Chua said...

Typographical error: I am looking forward to the rest of this module - the skills which I will acquire to become better in communications and the numerous interactions with my fellow class mates. Not so much of the workload though (Forgive me, Brad). :)

chickinbiskit said...

Hi Brad,

Am digging the blog post. It is the kind that I intend to be able to churn up some time in the future. Puts the message across clearly albeit with a tinge of humor here and there.

This course is fast becoming the best thing I have decided to do this semester. It is widely-encompassing and I can clearly see how I will have so much to benefit from all the different aspects of the course if I keep up at the rate that I am going, or even better still, up my tempo. The links provided in the web mix such as to the History Channel documentary on non-verbal communication and to the articles on EQ have been eye-opening at the very least . I have only just begun reading on intercultural communication and it has certainly not been a disappointment as well.
I certainly like the requirements of the blogging assignment. Getting input from a whole group of people trying to criticize and improve your work is something whose benefit should not be under appreciated and also, I doubt you can get that sort of input anywhere else.

The diversity in the class is undeniably aplenty. There is so much to learn from each other. However, in my honest opinion, I feel like, 3-4 weeks in, I still do not know many of my classmates. I am a guy who truly appreciates a good chat from time to time. I love the idea of an enriching, value-adding chat. I have been to so many modules and the bonds that I have created have all been but just on the surface. This could be due to the lack of opportunities present in the course but on the other hand, I am thinking, maybe it is because we do not create the opportunities ourselves. Perhaps a suggestion just off the top of my head could be lunches in the different faculties' canteens, hosted by the respective students.

Also, on another note, I remember attending a 3 day seminar once at the expo in Secondary 3 and at the end of it, there was a lot of emphasis on sustaining the momentum that was created in the first 3 days of the seminar. As effective professional communication is a lifelong pursuit, I am just a little worried that all this will end once the module ends.

Lastly, I agree with the all the previous comments in that it covers a wide variety of topics but at the expense of it lacking depth. Brad, I remember you commenting once that for each of these topics, you could conduct a 12-week course and I most certainly agree. For example, I feel that somehow the take-away from interpersonal communication was a little less than expected.
It is fast starting to be more like a quick introduction into all the various topics to set you in the right path to discover more by yourself kind of module which I am also fine with by the way but was that the intention right at the start? I am of the opinion that perhaps this module could be split into 2 or more modules so that more could be done for each topic.

These are just my honest opinions. All that being said, it still remains that I look forward to each lesson.

sosinasia said...

Hi Brad!
I most say this post is both smart and modern.
It is all about being open minded to improve, some lecturers seems to forget that it includes not only the students but themselves too.

ES2007S is great because:

- You get to interact with class mates in a way I have never done in my three years of university studies. The size of the classes really makes it easier, even for the shyest person.

- You learn so much (if the homework is done properly:)) and it gives an awareness that I did not have a couple of weeks ago.

- I found the variation of every class stimulating, you never know what to expect.

What can be improved in ES2007S:

-As many people mentioned we are literally flying through the material. It is hard to take everything in and it is too bad that we don't have time to discuss all of it in class.

Possible solution: Sometimes we spend almost half an hour going through information (for example about the blogs). Maybe some of it can be processed through emails to give more time to treat the subjects of the day?

Thanks for a great module!
It has truly had an impact on me and my communication so far.


Teresa Widodo said...

Hi Brad,

This module is really an eye-opening experience. We have clear goals and ways to achieve it (I am referring to the well-organized schedule). Besides, I have been looking for a place to improve my English (especially grammar since I am a writer and I'd love to be an editor one day! :D ) while acquiring other things. In addition, the learning process is really interactive. It pushes me to communicate and make friends from all over the world! Whoa. That's something I don't get from my other modules.

However, I admit that this module is rather time-consuming. If only we were given more time to work on the projects and assignments, we would have learned more and acquired more, in my opinion.

Great module, after all!!!! :D

Lim Shiying said...

I agree with sosinasia's solution. I do feel that we spend a great chunk of time on admin matters, though I believe that all these are part of communication as well, and we should be practising it EVERY single time. We could cut down on the admin matters during class, and put more focus on the contents and activities in class. =)

Maple Lai said...

Hi Brad! A light post to read. I believe by far, ES2007S has one of the heaviest workload for me this semester.

With all the consistent updating of blogs and also project blog, this is no doubt one of the hectic module. Yet I would say ES2007S will probably be the most practical and useful module out of the so many that I took in my 3 years in NUS because the skills we learn in this class will be so applicable to our everyday lives.

A pity that our group's lessons are a little behind time and we are kind of rushing through the content and activities which if given more time will be very effective. And like what Sofie mentioned, it would be better if the administrative matters are kept to emails or even Facebook!

Nonetheless, I am enjoying this class thus far and I cannot wait to see the other peer teaching groups present in the weeks to come!


Brad Blackstone said...

I really appreciate all the feedback! Thanks, guys!

Dhanya said...

Haha this seems to be a very popular post, Brad!

For my part, I am loving it!

I took the class because two of your older students (Rohan and EB) mentioned it and encouraged me to take it if I have the time. I decided I did! I think its the best decision I have made so far.

What is working for me - I think of ES2007S classes as the time I unwind from my regular school work. I get to be more of me. I get to enjoy participating in discussions. I get to relax and that is the best way to concentrate on something. I get more time to reflect on my behaviour. I like how you inspire us in a so-to-say subtle way, to think about ourselves and be more aware of our actions.

What I love about the class - Its size! Frankly its different to be in a class where I have interacted with every single person. Your feedback is honest and with candor. That makes it digestible.

What I love about the content and speed - For me its just about getting to know myself better. Being more aware of my effectiveness. Thats all I am here for! I feel the content is just enough to get me working on those aspects. The class activities are supportive of this goal as well. We do skip content once in a while so far. I think its okay as long as we take home a learning for the day.

Looking forward to more!

Ramon Bespinyowong (Jae) said...

Hi Brad,

About the pace of teaching, I think it is good; it is neither too fast nor too slow, which makes the class not boring. In these 4 hours of sectional teaching a week, you manage time efficiently. We learnt a lot from you from such a short period of time and we also had fun from doing activities such as, the role-playing activities yesterday.

I really enjoy your teaching. You always point out some minor points that we may not notice, which makes us more careful; for example, during the activity yesterday,I learnt a lot about what others may think when we communicate with others in various kinds of situations. Moreover, your activities are fun. I am totally in love with yesterday role-playing activities. It was both fun and informative. From my thinking, this is the first class in this semester that have made me laugh a lot! I am looking forward to more fun class activities and also some serious activities like mock interview.

Speaking of the workload, in my opinion, it is very heavy. There are a lot of work such as, project proposal, blogging, and so on. Writing is time-consuming because we have to check again and again to get a good quality post.(But, I think it is worth spending time because we can practice our skill.) Anyway, it is reasonable to have this amount of work because this module is 100% CA.

I hope that my feedback is helpful. Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday.

Tasha said...

Hi Brad!

This module is more fun than any other Science module that I have taken so far, even compared to the sociology module I took 2 semesters ago. The way in which class is conducted is very different as it is more interactive, hands-on and fun. It is also a smaller class so it is easier for everyone to get to know one another, especially online through our blogs. Last semester, I took SP1202, Communicating with the Academy, which was also conducted in small tutorial groups. Even though for that class, interaction was encouraged, this module is even more so.

I feel that this module is beneficial for all students in the long run, even though we may have many projects and assignments. This is because in the working world, we might have to multitask and work in many group projects. However, I also express the same sentiments as Renick. The pace can be a little too fast at times, so I do not have enough time to gather more information on the topic we are learning and reflect on what we have covered. It is more like a touch-and-go kind of travel itinerary as compared to travelling free-and-easy, whereby we can choose which topics are more important and subsequently, learn it more in-depth. Nonetheless, I still enjoy coming for lessons and relish the challenge of improving myself through this module.

Chandra's ES2007S Blog said...

Hi Brad,

I have finished 10 modules in NUS since I joined last year but this is the first module that I genuinely love. This is the only module where I can be myself and interact with people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds. Yes, this module is moving really fast and is hectic but its very unfortunate its just a 12 week course. Sometimes its upsetting that a really interesting and interactive discussion has to come to an abrupt end because of the time constraint. The project meetings and peer-teaching meetings have helped me interact with people from other nationalities and understand different personalities. I had always been a person who had a very professional relationship with people from other nationalities but now I have realised that there are fun-loving and exciting people out there too. The blog posts are another exciting aspect of this course and I have decided to have a blog aside from the one I use for this course, thanks to ES2007S.I am sure this is going to get more exciting as time progresses and am looking forward to the next 8 weeks.

Anonymous said...

keep yer powder dry and don't trip over a muse

Aditi said...

Hi Brad,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to reflect on how I feel about the module.
I remember telling my brother the other day, that I am doing two language modules this semester and there are radical differences in the ways they are being taught and practiced. For one of them two hours never seem to pass, and for other one two hours seem way to short.
I completely love the way ES2007s is going right now. It's a great break from the usual lectures and tutorials where I have to rack my brains in formulae and numbers. More than anything else, I have had an opportunity to reflect upon myself and my objectives. ( will be evident in my next blog post).

Every week brings in something interesting and innovative. The peer teaching lessons, group activities and role play makes me forget I am in a class room and learning a module for which I will be graded. To be frank, I have been looking for ways to pull up my CAP, but not once have I thought about my grade for this module. I just see it as an opportunity to learn and sharpen my skills.

And the best part is I can already see a difference. I have become more conscious of the way I write and communicate. I have become aware of others' feelings and emotions. I guess my seniors were right in telling me take the module its fun, but remember to take it under Brad.

On the other side, as far as the workload is concerned I think it is a bit heavy and not as easy as I had expected it to be. Every nitty gritty detail needs to be taken care of and this makes every task time consuming. But I don't see myself complaining often because I can see the improvement. I especially love the blogging part of the module. I have always been an ardent reader of blogs and always dreamt of having one. Thanks to ES2007s, now I have one :)