THE LONGING OF THE CROWD!

I  took these pictures  on my way home on the previously known as Jabodetabek train, at the most busy hours.

ImageImage

I was having two old friends visited from Surabaya. After staying overnight in my home, yesterday  I accompanied them to go to the Central of Jakarta to have their purposes of coming to this city get settled. 

Around 7 pm I went back home. After considering  few choices of how to reach back home at a time considering as  busy hours –  when people get back home from work. Then KRL Jabodetabek,  that recently a.k.a  COMMUTER LINE – eventually be my best choice OR let’s say; I had no other choice! 

Have you been in this train? If you haven’t, you should try once in a while, at least to get a sense of how hard life in Jakarta is, particularly in terms of transportation system within the city itself or those to and from some nearby towns. 

So off I went! I started my trip at Sudirman railway station. At that time as it can be predicted, the station had been crammed by commuters. I looked at the benches along the waiting area, hoping to find an empty seat for my tired body. But they were full – no more rooms for even a single and slim butt:), ha..ha!  But luckily, not for long, the train came by! I kept myself in the line – a messy line of passengers  that couldn’t wait to move in. Among that boisterous noise, a woman screamed in pain. It seemed somebody accidentally stepped on her foot. Ouch!!

Deja vu! The situation brought my mind to my days several years back when i was commuting by train, Bogor – Jakarta – Bogor. Crowded, busy and noisy. 

Some changes, though. The trains are better , the railway stations are cleaner, no more hawkers,    and  the orderly ticketing system called COMMET (Commuter Electronic Ticketing). The trains have provided coaches for women passengers only, which are located in the front and back parts.  

There I was…! I found myself standing in the middle of the throng, couldn’t move my feet even an inch, like playing a statue game – if you knew! Even though the coach was air-conditioned, but I felt hot inside and suddenly my throat was parched. Freckles of sweat came up in my forehead. 

But no one complained! At least I didn’t hear anyone shouted of this discomfort! 

I looked around. As I was in a woman coach, every where were women. Those who were lucky could enjoy the seats and fell asleep. Those who were standing, one hand was busy with their gadgets and the other hand clutched on the handgrips to keep their body steady. 

I felt impressed with all those women. They were already tired after their eight-working hours  but still managed to stand up around one hour, or even an hour and a half to reach their home in the packed coach! What a struggle!

Looking at this condition, I absolutely agree why a better public transport system couldn’t be delayed any longer in Jakarta.  It is an urgent need. Most of big cities around the world had developed their mass rapid transit years ago, name a few; Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, London, etc. 

A better public transport system would reduce one of the pressures living in a metropolitan. A comfortable and safe mass transportation is what the commuters long for. 

Believe it or not, a better public transport system is the sine qua non to enhance the life quality of workers;  minimising factors causing stress. Imagine these circumstances.  Arriving at home, these women would do their houseworks. If they did not own a maid, they would cook, they would wash and clean their house themselves. How could they manage to have a restful night, let alone have a quality time with their family with their exhausted body and mind? 

I would like to close this scratch of thought by thanking Jokowi and Ahok for their commitment to make this happen, soon. The mega project has started!  AND WE ARE WAITING! 

Ayu, 

Jakarta, 27 March 2014

The Hundred Languages

No way. The hundred is there.

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi (translated by Lella Gandini)
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

How Intelligent are you? (Part 2)

In many cases,  definitions of intelligence given in encyclopaedia  either contributed by an individual psychologists or quoted from earlier definitions given by a psychologist, commonly agreed that intelligence is “The ability to use memory, knowledge, experience, understanding, reasoning, imagination and judgement in order to solve problems and adapt to new situations” (AllWords Dictionary, 2006) – A Collection of Definitions of Intelligence (Shane Legg & Marcus Hutter, 2007).

None of the definitions mentioned that intelligence is a fixed amount or it can be measured through paper and pencil test so it can be expressed in a numerical grade! Ironically, most of our society  believe this and have come to take it for granted. The source is at the heart of education system that has fed public opinion through the idea of academic ability and the systems used in schools and college entrance examinations.

People do not know or might not want to know that at the beginning, Alfred Binet, one of the creators of IQ test, intended the test to identify children with special needs so they could get their appropriate forms of schooling. He never intended it to identify degrees of intelligence. Binet noted that the scale he created “does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not suppressible and therefore cannot be measured as liner surfaces are measured”- (IQ Test: Where does It Come From and What Does It Measure? http://www.edublox.com/dyslexia_dyslexic/dyslexia014.htm

The nature of intelligence has always been a matter of controversy, especially among the many professional specialists who spend their lives thinking about it. Havard psychologist Howard Gardner has argued to claim that human have not one but multiple intelligences. They are linguistic, musical, mathematical, spatial, kinaesthetic, interpersonal, and intra personal. He argues that these types of intelligence are more or less independent of each other, some might be “dominant” while others are “dormant”. He says that we all have different strengths in different intelligences and that education should treat them equally to enable children receive opportunities to develop their individual abilities. (Frames of Mind – Howard Gardner, 1983).

There is no quantifiable evidence to prove intelligence. There may be. But the clear fact of everyday experiences is that human intelligence is diverse and multifaceted – it can be seen from the richness and complexity of human culture and achievement. Human ability is everywhere. We “think” about our experiences in many ways.

According to Ken Robinson in his book “The Element, How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” – 2009, says that human intelligence seems to have at least three main features; diverse, dynamic and distinctive. And let’s call it the 3-D of human intelligence.

Diverse. It is clear that intelligence is not limited to the ability to do verbal and mathematical tasks. These skills are important, but they are simply just ONE WAY in which intelligence expresses itself. Think about the world in all the ways that we experience it, including all the different ways we use our senses. We think in sound. We think in movement. We think visually. Look at how the dancers dance, how the singers sing, how the musicians play their musical instruments, how athletes perform, how painters paint, and many other professions  that involve using multiple forms of intelligence. If we don’t embrace the fact that we think about the world in a wide variety of ways, we severely limit our chances of finding the person that we were meant to be.

Dynamic. The human brain is intensely interactive. Every task we perform involves multiple parts of it. It finds new connections every time we learn new things. Intelligence is not a single linear line that has a clear end. It keeps developing over time through interactions and collaborations or any other forms that enable it to connect and construct knowledge and understanding.

Distinctive. Every person’s intelligence is  as unique as a fingerprint. There might be ten, or hundred different forms of intelligence, but each of us uses these forms in different ways. It involves a different combination of dominant and dormant intelligences. Even twins use their intelligences differently from one another. No two people will do the same things, share all of the same passions, or accomplish the same amount in their lives.

“How intelligent are you?” – What do you think about the question I put as a title of this article? Should the question be “How are you intelligent?” Can you differentiate these two questions after knowing that intelligence is diverse, dynamic and distinctive? Is it clear the differences between both?

Think about it will have a tremendous impact on how you perceive intelligence.

Jakarta, March 15th, 2014

Rahayu

Sources:

-(AllWords Dictionary, 2006) – A Collection of Definitions of Intelligence (Shane Legg & Marcus Hutter, 2007).

– (IQ Test: Where does It Come From and What Does It Measure? http://www.edublox.com/dyslexia_dyslexic/dyslexia014.htm

– (Frames of Mind – Howard Gardner, 1983).

– “The Element, How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” Ken Robinson- 2009

How intelligent are you? (Part 1)

What is your first reaction when given this question? Spontaneously asking yourselves “How intelligent am I?” Then you might try to recall things you have done or learned so far and think how smart you are? You might feel so proud of  yourselves from the thought that, you are intelligent. Or  you  might feel “shrink” inside from the thought that you haven’t achieved anything big or haven’t learned as much as people or you yourselves think you should have. Then you conclude that you are not smart or not intelligent.

Or are you questioning the question back?  Let’s go over it, shall we?

In our society as well, either  in Western or Eastern, people still commonly believe that intelligence does much to determine someone’s future and fate. Many schools  use intelligence measurement or IQ test as a tool to decide whether or not a child could be accepted. Then they proudly admit that their school  rank high as the students accepted there are those with high IQ score.

The students’ intelligence are measured through standardised  test, the “one -size-fits- all” test that offer students no options but giving limited or sometimes predetermined answers. The test that never put any other conditions into consideration. They only consideration is how many numbers that  you have answered correctly!

This phenomena  has led teachers, students and parents to stressful situation. They look for ways to help students to achieve high score. They have extra hundred hours  to review lessons to anticipate the upcoming test. Their intelligence  are being graded! And the grade will have a tremendous impact on a child’s academic future! Good grades mean good colleges, good colleges mean good jobs, if you have a good job, you will have a prosperous life. This cycle goes on like this.

What are these numbers? What are these grades? What do they truly say about intelligence?

What are in a test? Numbers, words? Do they  measure the whole intelligences – (if you believe in multiple intelligences?)

What is intelligence, by the way?

To be continued in Part 2

This answered my wondering…

← Teacher inquiry leads to student inquiry

A Fish-Friend Inquiry →

Can students inquire in a foreign language?

Posted on December 7, 2011 by brianneises

***Re-posted with permission from the author, Alison Yang.  Original post on the Collaborative Learner Blog.

“Can students inquire in a foreign language?” This question is asked very frequently among my conversations with foreign language teachers. My answer is YES! If we observe how toddlers learn, we often find that toddlers who are curious are constantly asking questions by using their limited range of vocabulary and grammar structures, body language, gestures, realia, etc. My 3-year-old daughter is asking more than 15 questions a day and she asks questions in three languages: Thai, English and Mandarin. Through the process of negotiation of meaning, her questions were answered and her understanding was clarified. Simultaneously, her language skills are also increasingly developed and becoming slightly more complex each day.

When students just begin to learn a foreign language, isn’t the process similar to the toddlers acquiring their first language? One of the major differences is that students are more cognitively developed. Foreign language learning and teaching can be and should be inquiry based. In my previous post, I mentioned that many of us learning a foreign language for a sustained period of time are sometimes struggled to have a conversation with native speakers. Based on my personal experience, I believe it is because that language learning has been taken out of the contexts and provided learners with no purpose for their learning. The learning materials are neither authentic nor meaningful to students. People ask questions and want to seek for answers only when they feel curious and involved. By the same token, teachers should provide an environment where authentic content is provided to pique students’ interest in the target language and help them to acquire receptive, productive and interactive language skills, as well as develop their intercultural understanding.

But, how can we help students to inquire in the target language when they don’t possess substantial linguistic knowledge?  In order to help students to acquire their second language, extensive exposure of the target language is unquestionably needed. To what extent, do we allow students to communicate in their first language or mother tongue to facilitate their learning? Will we sacrifice too much instruction time on inquiry-based learning instead of on foreign language learning? These are the questions that usually come to teachers’ mind when promoting second language acquisition through inquiry-based learning.

In my opinion and personal experience, if the learning environment and lessons are well structured, students at different language proficiency levels and ages can be engaged in the inquiry-based learning while acquiring the foreign language. Here are some strategies that I used with my Mandarin students and you probably use them in your classroom already.

1.   Activate students’ prior knowledge: K-W-L chart is a good strategy to investigate what students already know and what they want to know before their quest for the unit. At the end of the unit, students can reflect on what they have learned. THE K-W-L chart can be created in Google doc that allows students to share their prior knowledge and questions. Alternatively, teachers can also useWallwisher to collect data. An anticipation guide is another strategy that can be used prior to reading to identify students’ understanding and misunderstanding of a certain topic as well as provide a purpose for reading.

2.   Provide vocabulary and grammar guide: It is important for teachers to provide students with a vocabulary and grammar guide for each unit. Therefore, students are aware of what target vocabulary and grammar they are expected to master at the end of each unit. It doesn’t mean that students cannot inquire when they don’t have the vocabulary. They think in the first language or mother tongue and if the vocabulary guide and grammar guide is provided, it not only facilitates students to use the target language for authentic communication, but also help students to refine their language.

3.   Use graphic organizers: Second language learners usually find it hard to convey themselves and share ideas in a logic order. Graphic organizers help students to “visualize their thinking” and provide a structure to organize their ideas and opinions. In addition, being able to use graphic organizers is a transferrable skill that enables students to learn how to learn. Here are some graphic organizers that can help students understand different concepts: frayer model,concept map (concept definition map), venn diagram, QAR (Question, Answer, Relationship) and so on. All of these graphic organizer templates can be downloaded from the Internet. Alternatively, Edistorm is a free web tool that allows students to brainstorm and planning collaboratively on line.

4.      Create a question wall: In order for foreign language students to ask questions, we must model how to form questions. A bulletin board is allocated in my classroom with question words and different types of questions. For warm-up, I sometimes have students ask each other questions to find out more information about each other or about the topic. During reading, students can form a variety of questions by using different question word to clarify their understanding of the text and compare the complexity of different types of questions. This websitehttp://www.sparklebox.co.uk/ provides many useful printable templates for classroom displays, including question word templates. Toondoo is a website that students can make short comics. I have my beginner level Mandarin students use this web tool to create a dialogue and practice how to ask questions in different situations appropriately and correctly.

5.   Use story-telling: Everyone love stories and many questions naturally arise in this process. However, it does take some time for teachers to adapt and revise the story in order to meet the linguistic needs of the students. Through the story, the teacher can guide the inquiry further, for example, by having students come up with different endings and justify their reasons. Students can use Storybird to create a story. I have never used this web tool as it does not support Mandarin script yet. However, it looks interesting and definitely save students’ lots of time on illustrating for the story!

6.   Structured note-taking strategy: I use this a lot when students are reading short passages or watching short video clips. Structured note taking strategy provides a purpose for students in the learning process.  3-2-1 note taking strategy can be used easily. Teachers can modify 3-2-1 for different purposes, for example, 3 main ideas, 2 key words and 1 question or connection. Accessing change is another structured note-taking strategy to help students generate discussion in response to a topic. This link http://tinyurl.com/c2k8p3a provides an example how to use this strategy. Students are more likely to share their findings and thoughts when they have a chance to think about it.

7.   Design authentic assessment:  Assessment should allow students to demonstrate their understanding and use the language in real context. Instead of asking students to simply make an oral presentation, we can create situational problems to engage students in the learning process and keep them motivated performing the assessment. When I did a unit about Chinese cuisine, I organized a Top Chef competition, which is a simulation of the TV show “Top Chef”. Students worked in groups and each of them was responsible for one dish. After cooking, they had to explain to the judges what ingredients they used, what Chinese cooking technique they used, how Chinese people usually ate this type of dish, etc. Students loved this unit and it was truly a valuable experience for them to speak and interact with Mandarin speakers outside of classroom.

The list of strategies can go on and on. Inquired-based learning promotes collaboration, communication and interaction. There are certain obstacles that we have to deal with, especially when instructions are delivered in a foreign language classroom rather than in an immersion language classroom. However, it doesn’t mean inquiry-based learning is impossible in a foreign language classroom. We, as teachers, need to provide comprehensible input, encourage students to ask questions in the target language, and use our best professional judgment to decide how we can help students to “learn language, learn about language and learn through language” (Michael Halliday). “Students develop language as a means toward an end and not as end in itself.” (Schwarzer, 1996).

 

This what answered my wondering…

A Fish-Friend Inquiry →

Can students inquire in a foreign language?

Posted on December 7, 2011 by brianneises

***Re-posted with permission from the author, Alison Yang.  Original post on the Collaborative Learner Blog.

“Can students inquire in a foreign language?” This question is asked very frequently among my conversations with foreign language teachers. My answer is YES! If we observe how toddlers learn, we often find that toddlers who are curious are constantly asking questions by using their limited range of vocabulary and grammar structures, body language, gestures, realia, etc. My 3-year-old daughter is asking more than 15 questions a day and she asks questions in three languages: Thai, English and Mandarin. Through the process of negotiation of meaning, her questions were answered and her understanding was clarified. Simultaneously, her language skills are also increasingly developed and becoming slightly more complex each day.

When students just begin to learn a foreign language, isn’t the process similar to the toddlers acquiring their first language? One of the major differences is that students are more cognitively developed. Foreign language learning and teaching can be and should be inquiry based. In my previous post, I mentioned that many of us learning a foreign language for a sustained period of time are sometimes struggled to have a conversation with native speakers. Based on my personal experience, I believe it is because that language learning has been taken out of the contexts and provided learners with no purpose for their learning. The learning materials are neither authentic nor meaningful to students. People ask questions and want to seek for answers only when they feel curious and involved. By the same token, teachers should provide an environment where authentic content is provided to pique students’ interest in the target language and help them to acquire receptive, productive and interactive language skills, as well as develop their intercultural understanding.

But, how can we help students to inquire in the target language when they don’t possess substantial linguistic knowledge?  In order to help students to acquire their second language, extensive exposure of the target language is unquestionably needed. To what extent, do we allow students to communicate in their first language or mother tongue to facilitate their learning? Will we sacrifice too much instruction time on inquiry-based learning instead of on foreign language learning? These are the questions that usually come to teachers’ mind when promoting second language acquisition through inquiry-based learning.

In my opinion and personal experience, if the learning environment and lessons are well structured, students at different language proficiency levels and ages can be engaged in the inquiry-based learning while acquiring the foreign language. Here are some strategies that I used with my Mandarin students and you probably use them in your classroom already.

1.   Activate students’ prior knowledge: K-W-L chart is a good strategy to investigate what students already know and what they want to know before their quest for the unit. At the end of the unit, students can reflect on what they have learned. THE K-W-L chart can be created in Google doc that allows students to share their prior knowledge and questions. Alternatively, teachers can also useWallwisher to collect data. An anticipation guide is another strategy that can be used prior to reading to identify students’ understanding and misunderstanding of a certain topic as well as provide a purpose for reading.

2.   Provide vocabulary and grammar guide: It is important for teachers to provide students with a vocabulary and grammar guide for each unit. Therefore, students are aware of what target vocabulary and grammar they are expected to master at the end of each unit. It doesn’t mean that students cannot inquire when they don’t have the vocabulary. They think in the first language or mother tongue and if the vocabulary guide and grammar guide is provided, it not only facilitates students to use the target language for authentic communication, but also help students to refine their language.

3.   Use graphic organizers: Second language learners usually find it hard to convey themselves and share ideas in a logic order. Graphic organizers help students to “visualize their thinking” and provide a structure to organize their ideas and opinions. In addition, being able to use graphic organizers is a transferrable skill that enables students to learn how to learn. Here are some graphic organizers that can help students understand different concepts: frayer model,concept map (concept definition map), venn diagram, QAR (Question, Answer, Relationship) and so on. All of these graphic organizer templates can be downloaded from the Internet. Alternatively, Edistorm is a free web tool that allows students to brainstorm and planning collaboratively on line.

4.      Create a question wall: In order for foreign language students to ask questions, we must model how to form questions. A bulletin board is allocated in my classroom with question words and different types of questions. For warm-up, I sometimes have students ask each other questions to find out more information about each other or about the topic. During reading, students can form a variety of questions by using different question word to clarify their understanding of the text and compare the complexity of different types of questions. This websitehttp://www.sparklebox.co.uk/ provides many useful printable templates for classroom displays, including question word templates. Toondoo is a website that students can make short comics. I have my beginner level Mandarin students use this web tool to create a dialogue and practice how to ask questions in different situations appropriately and correctly.

5.   Use story-telling: Everyone love stories and many questions naturally arise in this process. However, it does take some time for teachers to adapt and revise the story in order to meet the linguistic needs of the students. Through the story, the teacher can guide the inquiry further, for example, by having students come up with different endings and justify their reasons. Students can use Storybird to create a story. I have never used this web tool as it does not support Mandarin script yet. However, it looks interesting and definitely save students’ lots of time on illustrating for the story!

6.   Structured note-taking strategy: I use this a lot when students are reading short passages or watching short video clips. Structured note taking strategy provides a purpose for students in the learning process.  3-2-1 note taking strategy can be used easily. Teachers can modify 3-2-1 for different purposes, for example, 3 main ideas, 2 key words and 1 question or connection. Accessing change is another structured note-taking strategy to help students generate discussion in response to a topic. This link http://tinyurl.com/c2k8p3a provides an example how to use this strategy. Students are more likely to share their findings and thoughts when they have a chance to think about it.

7.   Design authentic assessment:  Assessment should allow students to demonstrate their understanding and use the language in real context. Instead of asking students to simply make an oral presentation, we can create situational problems to engage students in the learning process and keep them motivated performing the assessment. When I did a unit about Chinese cuisine, I organized a Top Chef competition, which is a simulation of the TV show “Top Chef”. Students worked in groups and each of them was responsible for one dish. After cooking, they had to explain to the judges what ingredients they used, what Chinese cooking technique they used, how Chinese people usually ate this type of dish, etc. Students loved this unit and it was truly a valuable experience for them to speak and interact with Mandarin speakers outside of classroom.

The list of strategies can go on and on. Inquired-based learning promotes collaboration, communication and interaction. There are certain obstacles that we have to deal with, especially when instructions are delivered in a foreign language classroom rather than in an immersion language classroom. However, it doesn’t mean inquiry-based learning is impossible in a foreign language classroom. We, as teachers, need to provide comprehensible input, encourage students to ask questions in the target language, and use our best professional judgment to decide how we can help students to “learn language, learn about language and learn through language” (Michael Halliday). “Students develop language as a means toward an end and not as end in itself.” (Schwarzer, 1996).