Humble Beginnings to Grand Plans – Digital Making at PLMGS
A coffee shop conversation between two teachers kicked off the Digital Making journey for Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary)!
Mr. Lee Yen Chai (left) and Mr. Liew Koi Chin (right)
It all began over a coffee session
What started as a casual conversation over coffee between 2 teachers, ended up as a passionate pursuit to introduce digital making to their students.
Mr. Lee Yen Chai from Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (PLMGS) Design & Technology (D&T) department recalls, “Around Oct 2017, I received an email with information about the micro:bit and casually started the conversation with Mr. Liew during our time break over coffee.” I was hesitant at first as I thought it would be something related to robotics, which I find to be quite common in schools, Mr. Lee added. His colleague, Mr. Liew Koi Chin from the PE department, said “Digital making is more about showcasing the usage of technology in everyday situations, which we thought would be good for our girls.”
PLMGS’ Digital Making pioneers (left to right): Ms. Wendy Khoo, Mr. Lee Yen Chai, Mr. Lee Kee Heong and Mr. Liew Koi Chin
Despite their interest in the micro:bit, Mr. Lee and Mr. Liew had almost no knowledge about the device at the outset, and sacrificed much of their personal time to bring themselves up to speed. After roping in two other interested staff members, Ms. Wendy Khoo and Mr. Lee Kee Heong, the foursome began to meet weekly to discuss and troubleshoot their coding lesson plans, building a curriculum from scratch.
PLMGS tinkerers at work!
Digital Maker Programme adoption and other digital making curriculum
The very first proposal was to have a weekly coding session for a small group of students. Fast forward to today, PLMGS now has a dedicated coding curriculum for all their Sec. 1 students. For the Sec. 2 students, the micro:bit is incorporated into some of their D&T lessons. For students who have further interest, they may participate in the weekly sessions and digital making events such as the Edutech Asia Conference.
Made possible due to the strong support from the School’s Management, the Sec. 1 coding curriculum begins with a 10-week coding programme where students learn the coding basics. Subsequently, they apply their knowledge to practical applications in their D&T and PE lessons. Mr. Liew shared, “During the PE lessons, our students learnt to code the Step-Counter and how to troubleshoot and improve the device.”
The micro:bit works perfectly with PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, iOS, and Android devices
Events participation and breaking the stereotype
“…someone even questioned our girls about their participation, to which our girls cleverly responded: we are here to break the stereotype!”
Despite having embarked on their digital making journey for only about a year, PLMGS has actively participated in notable digital making and tech events such as the Maker Faire 2018 and Edutech Asia 2018.
PLMGS’ digital making journey is not without its obstacles and challenges. As Mr. Lee said, “There is still a gender stereotype that girls are not inclined towards computing and coding. Also in general, students prefer to focus more on their core subjects.”
Mr. Liew also shared, “At the Edutech Asia event, someone even questioned our girls about their participation, to which our girls cleverly responded: we are here to break the stereotype!” Being in charge of the ‘Parent Support Group’, Mr. Liew hopes that in future, he can invite parents to participate together with their daughters in some of the coding activities to let them realize that coding is more about problem-solving and logical thinking.
Both teachers hope that their all-girls team can participate in more IMDA or tech-related events, inspiring other girl-schools and female students to do the same.
Girl power! A successful showcase at Edutech Asia 2018
More than just coding
When it comes to digital making, the 2 teachers agree that their students are learning valuable life lessons beyond the coding.
Mr. Lee emphasized “We want our students to see a real-life application to digital making. We want to encourage them to see that there are many ways to solve one problem.”
“We want our students to focus on the process of problem-solving rather than the coding. We enjoy the process of thinking together with our students, helping them develop a life skill of problem-solving.” said Mr. Liew. Where PE is the education through movement, coding is the education of the brain, he added.
PLMGS digital makers proud to represent!
The 2 teachers are eager to incorporate more digital making into the curriculum for 2019.
The existing Sec. 1 coding curriculum will continue to be further refined to more interesting. Sec. 2 students will be given more platforms to explore their interest in micro:bit coding outside of their D&T lessons. For the Sec. 3 students, something even more exciting is on the horizon. “We will organize a community outreach activity where they have 1 month to prepare their projects that tap into their coding skills to help the elderly.”, said Mr. Lee
“We hope to inculcate their passion to help the community.”
Do also keep a look-out for the PLMGS team at future IMDA and tech events, as they will be there to showcase their digital making skills! PLMGS is excited for more participation at events as the girls will have more opportunities to do presentations and interact with people, including VIPs from the public and private sectors.
Advice to schools that are interested
“Passion and good teamwork is important, as well as support from the School’s Management,” Mr. Lee shares.
“We were willing to give it a try, be it successful or not. There will be struggles in terms of workload and constraints, but I believe ultimately every teacher wants the best for his/her students,” Mr. Liew adds.