Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The ads and CVs' and cover-letters all have that word: dynamic. Everyone claims to be that. It's so trite and worn-out you wonder if it continues to make any sense using that word. Especially when you consider how many people fail to cash the cheques their profiles write.

So here's putting some meat on that word 'dynamic':
  • Do you work fast and well? Can you superiors expect a high-quality event/deliverable way before they start to wonder what happened to it?
  • Are you enthusiastic and do you contagiously spread excitement and adrenaline in whatever team you're on?
  • Do you ensure that you never shy away from projects (especially if you're fresh out of school)? Are you always volunteering to do the hard stuff?
  • Do you have many ideas and are you always trying new things or offering new angles to old problems? Do you make it a point to keep sharing your thoughts and proposals?

The answer to the above is almost always yes or no. Even allowing for the natural downtime in mood, there should be no great ambiguity, not in the context of the workplace. Most importantly, 7 (or more) out of 10 of your colleagues should agree.

It's virtually impossible for someone to be constantly 'exploding' on scene and not be noticed - or, eventually, rewarded.

Value-Adding Lectures

Lecturers contribute a bare minimum if all they do is repeat what's in the text or the slides. The situation is worse if you have a group of students (as I believe I do) who are independent learners and can absorb all the basic references without much help.

What, then, ought lecturers do to add value? Here are some ideas, by no means exhaustive:
  • Give a fresh slant to what's in the textbooks - either give a new perspective or just challenge everything the writer says
  • Lecture on a related sub-topic (one not in the generic handouts)
  • Facilitate a discussion or a case-study (thus taking the class away from recall-mode to application-mode)
  • Get the students to present
  • Show a video
  • Facilitate a project which takes them out of the classroom (kinda like a case-study on steroids)
  • What else?

Adding value nowadays usually involves creating new value. Whatever this is, it's probably not repeating what's already available.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lesson Planning

View more presentations from Alwyn Lau.

Learning Theories

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All At Once

Today a colleague lecturing in law shared with me a great class activity. This would work for subjects like Law (obviously), Literature and Philosophy where a compelling case needs to be presented.

Select about half a dozen students, get them to prepare their case/speech/argument/whatever, group them in a circle, and make them talk simultaneously.

The rest of the students (who could be standing anywhere or even allowed to move from speaker to speaker) would be instructed to listen carefully and select the speaker they find most interesting. The speaker with the highest number of votes 'win'. Then we change speakers and go again.

All the ingredients for charged-up learner-centered learning are here:
  • multi-directional communication (instead of I-talk-you-all-listen-ism)
  • a competitive element with the class as a whole judging the winners (and not the facilitator)
  • initiative and creativity i.e. the students shape the learning (as opposed to the facilitator deciding exactly how and what will happen)
  • real-world simulation where we really do have to match our voices/performances against that of others (compared to totally abstracted superficial scenarios)

That's what it's all about.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Power-Hunger, Power-Shyness & Power-Joy

In Malaysia, it's a rare sight to see people volunteering for leadership positions. We need to be asked. We need to say we have to think about it. We need to mention if other people were more suitable. We're generally passive and even when we end up saying yes (and eventually take up the post), there's an inevitable air of not totally wanting to lead simply but doing it "because there's a need" and so on.

It's like we're shy to say we want to lead. That if, of course, unless we're politicians (all of whom can't quite seem to shake off that element of greed and power-hunger).

This has to stop. We needn't make the choice between power-hunger and power-shyness. What about power-joy? Delight in exercising power for the good of people; fulfilment and belief in one's leadership; gladness and all-out excellence in being a good leader?

Students should be taught to seek out leadership positions. Find a problem, issue, department, area, event one's passionate about and just go for it. March up to "whom it may concern" and say I'm the one to handle this. I'll need a team, some time, resources and most importantly a happy green light.

I'm not shy and I'm not the next Genghis Khan. I only want to do something great for the community. Wouldn't that be a sight?

Friday, September 4, 2009


Read the full piece by Ben McConnell:

Hype is:Excitement is:
An impossible promiseA realistic promise
Exclamation pointsPassion
Cause for mistrustCause for belief
Overuse of adverbsAdverb-free
SegwayBike Friday
UnsustainableFuel for the future
From COTC readers:
Bound to burn out quicklyBound to improve ROI (Zoltan Devai)
OverpromisingOverdelivering (Dan Limbach)
"Some restrictions apply"Free (Bob Poole)
Mob mentalityIndividual thrill (Jeannie Walters)
Artificially colored cornstarchTop sirloin steak, medium-well (Jon Nichols)
Showing offShowing up (Maria Reyes-McDavis)
Focused on yourselfFocused on your customer (Bruce Kaechele)