Archive for the ‘Technologies’ Category

Newspapers are flexible language teaching aids

Saturday, November 14th, 2020
Pix for representational purposes only. -- NSTP File PixPix for representational purposes only. — NSTP File Pix

LETTER: I was thrilled to read the article titled “Reading newspapers will help hone language skills” published on Nov 11, 2020, as it brought me down memory lane. I still remember when, in my primary school days, we had a programme called Newspaper in Education (NIE) in which The News Straits Times pioneered efforts to allow students to buy the newspaper weekly at discounted rates.

My English teacher ensured that we made maximum use of the newspaper in the classroom. We had activities like cutting and pasting new vocabulary into our exercise books, writing sentences from selected pictures and photos for writing skills, and not forgetting the reading aloud of individual segments of selected articles.

Newspapers are one of the most powerful tools if we intend to improve the mastery of English, as it will improve vocabulary, grammar, and of course, ideas for writing essays. Activities like identifying main ideas, comparing readings, forming new phrases and sentences from vocabulary collections, and writing summaries allow for interaction with authentic materials found in the newspaper, which gradually improves proficiency in English.

Another interesting activity was when we were given the freedom to create stories or captions of selected pictures of our choice from the newspaper. Once done, we would proudly paste the work on the class notice board. Though it was not an easy task, it sharpened creativity and of course, enhanced critical thinking skills in us, especially after sharing ideas with peers.

If you are a teacher who believes in meaningful noise and positive movement of students in the classroom, then you can try using the advertisements found throughout the newspaper. Let your students search for an advertisement that catches their attention.

Have them write a few sentences or a paragraph about reasons why they chose the ad, and create a display section for them to role-play selling and buying something at their desks. By doing so, students will not only hone their writing skills, but also verbal persuasion skills.

Another group of students who can take advantage of newspaper use in classrooms are those with learning disabilities. Most often, they become frustrated and less motivated to learn English with traditional learning approaches.

I believe teaching them using materials from newspapers can be helpful for special education teachers who want to create individualised teaching methods, since they appeal to students who are not easily motivated.

In conclusion, English language teachers should realise that the newspaper is an inexpensive and flexible teaching aid to improve students’ language skills. It takes practice to get it into the classroom, but it is worth trying.

I believe dedicated teachers reading this will try using the newspaper in their lessons, whether in a face-to-face or online distance teaching mode.


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High-income nation achievable with tech mastery, says PM

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (fourth from left) says that, the only way for Malaysia to become a high-income nation is to become a high-tech country. - NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAHPrime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (fourth from left) says that, the only way for Malaysia to become a high-income nation is to become a high-tech country. – NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH

CYBERJAYA: Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today launched the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) to accelerate and transform Malaysia into a high-tech and high-income nation.

The NTIS is one of the key initiatives announced under the Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana).

Muhyiddin said the NTIS can accelerate the country’s economic growth opportunities through the use of disruptive technology.

“In my opinion, the only route for us to become a high-income country is to be a high-tech nation.

“The NTIS is one of the ways for the country to accelerate its economic growth through the use of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, drone technology, sensor technology and 5G infrastructure in its mission to resolve issues beleaguering the country.

“Among the issues include those related to dependence on foreign labour, food security risk, health care, unequal access to the internet and the digital divide.”

Present were Senior International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali; Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed; Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad.

The government through the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) has set aside RM100 million in funds for NTIS to fast-track the development and commercialisation of advanced projects especially those with the highest potential to boost key sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, agriculture, education, travel and tourism.

This, said Muhyiddin, will subsequently reduce the country’s dependency to technology and innovation from other countries apart from increasing the productivity as well as the quality of life among the people.

He added several pilot projects have been identified to kick-start the NTIS. Among them are the Farm Assist Robot for Multi Operation (FARMO Robot) for the agriculture sector, Rehabilitation Robotics for hospitals and Linear Robotics for the use in the manufacturing sector.

“From the commercial aspect, I understand that the NTIS is able to catalyze development of innovative solutions for commercialisation purposes with expected Return of Investment (ROI) of approximately RM300 million.

“The launch of the NTIS comes at the right time since many countries around the world, including Malaysia are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As the country is in the process of recovering from the pandemic, the importance of the NTIS is undeniable and reflects the government’s commitment to revive the country’s economic growth through innovation and sophisticated technology development,” he said.

By Adib Povera.

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A decade of innovation

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

THE twenty-tens (the period between 2010 and the end of 2019) has been nothing but stellar, technology-wise. A lot of game-changing innovations were introduced during this period which pretty much changed the way we live, communicate, work, travel, and so on.

We’ve moved from the era of slow Internet to fast broadband, and seen how smartphones evolved into becoming the most important device to mankind. Disruptive e-commerce technologies like e-hailing, online shopping, online bookings and hotel booking engines have changed the industry forever, while the power of social media has brought about new ways in communicating and lifestyles.

Here are the top 10 innovations and happenings of this decade.


While players like Apple and Samsung dominated the smartphone market in the early to third quarter, the Chinese mega company Huawei started to show its prowess with devices like P and Mate series phones.

By the third quarter of this year, Huawei had overtaken Apple to take the second spot with 18.6 per cent of the worldwide market share, with Samsung still holding the crown at 21.8 per cent share.

The China powerhouses (companies such as Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo), employing good go-to-market strategies with more affordable premium phones and strategic partnerships with premium makers like Leica (in Huawei’s case), is expected to further penetrate the global smartphone market. The birth and surge of new and aggressive mobile players also saw early giants like Blackberry, SonyEricsson, Motorola and Nokia back out of the industry. Motorola, however, continued to have a second life after it was taken over by Lenovo in October, 2014, and just recently, the company announced the Motorola Razr foldable screen smartphone, which resembles the iconic flip screen Razr phone from 15 years ago.

Nokia, on the other hand, after a failed Nokia Lumia initiative with Microsoft, got another life extension under HMD Global, and now three years after finally adopting Android OS, the Finnish brand is slowly building its global market share starting small, with just 1.1 to 1.2 per cent market share based on Counterpoint Research study.


This is the main platform for almost all the innovations that we use today, such as messaging apps, e-commerce apps, social media, business applications and productivity tools. From being a device that was used only for making calls, sending SMSes and basic web surfing, smartphones have evolved to embrace more than just connectivity.

The advancement in phone processors like the Apple Bionic, Qualcomm Snapdragon, HiSilicon Kirin and Samsung Exynos has enabled smartphones to do almost anything, including replacing laptop computers to a certain extent.

Besides that, the device has become the preferred daily photography tool for most users because of the innovations in phone cameras, and the wealth of mobile apps extend the capability of smartphones today.

With prices going down and as mobile broadband becomes more affordable, the usage of smartphones is predicted to increase by ten-fold by 2020. According to Ericsson Mobility Report, advanced mobile technology will be globally ubiquitous by 2020 with 70 per cent of people using smartphones and 90 per cent covered by mobile broadband networks.

It also states that smartphone subscriptions will more than double by 2020, reaching 6.1 billion, and almost 80 per cent of these new subscriptions will come from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.


Social media, during this decade, has grown to unprecedented heights. Almost, if not all, Internet users today have some sort of social media account like Facebook, Youtube and Instagram. What makes social media so popular, on top of being free, is that it has become an extension of a person’s life and also a source of information and networking platform.

With an estimated 3.48 billion users up to this year, the number of social media users is expected to grow 10 per cent year on year. Besides being used as a platform to share one’s daily activities, thoughts, and photos, social media has also become a formidable marketing tool to many businesses — big and small.

Besides that, its popularity has also given birth to a new breed of “marketers” better known as influencers. With thousands, and even millions of followers, they are often used by companies to “promote” certain products and services. Some are making millions and earning a good living.

Meeting new people is also no longer awkward, as social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and video streaming app TikTok are making this easier.


This decade has also been a “disruptive” one in terms of technological innovations.

The start-up phenomenon has given birth to new companies with ground-breaking products that have completely changed the industry. For example, e-hailing and food ordering apps like Uber and Grab changed the way people commute, while e-commerce sites like Shopee and Lazada revolutionised the way we shop, and hotel booking and vacation platforms like, Agoda, Airbnb, Traveloka and Expedia became companies with the biggest collection of rooms without “owning” a single property.

These companies thrive because of the convenience they offer to users, as well as the trust people have in online transactions. The confidence people have in transacting online has Aldo driven the popularity of online shopping sites like Shopee, Lazada, ShopBack and the likes, which, to a certain point, have affected many of the brick-and-mortar businesses.

The convenience consumers get as well as the access to a plethora of products at cheaper prices, with monthly promotions and discounts; have further strengthened these online shopping sites business. According to ShopBack Malaysia, the traffic and sales of the 12.12 shopping campaign have increased by approximately 150 to 300 per cent compared to last year’s 12.12.


This technology has long been visualised and used in movies. For example, in 2001 a science fiction film Artificial Intelligence was released and it gave some ideas on what AI will be about. Unlike in the movie, AI world domination did not happen but it showed its potential when Google DeepMind AlphaGo AI beat world Go (an abstract strategy board game) champion Lee Sedol in 2015.

Today, we are blessed with voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s Bixby, Microsoft’s Cortana as well as Alibaba’s TMall Genie who all make using the smart devices and tech services easier.


When wireless broadband Internet becomes standard connectivity for smartphones and its coverage becomes wider and affordable, streaming services flourish.

The popularity of cable TV services are diminishing while the businesses selling entertainment content via DVDs and CDs have almost disappeared.

By the third quarter of this decade, we saw streaming services like Netflix, Viu, Apple TV, Spotify, and others gain traction among users with a steady increase in subscription numbers. In terms of entertainment, consumers have generally moved from watching content on TVs to watching on personal mobile devices. The fact that these streaming services’ content are all on-demand, come in very high quality (even in 4K) and are affordable has made them the preferred way of consuming entertainment, especially among the younger generations.

The advancements in display technology in smartphones and tablets, giving users ultra HD display, have also fuelled the popularity and uptake of steaming service


The twenty-tens is also an era of wireless technology. We’ve seen many products that have cut the cords they once had — devices like headphones, earphones, phone chargers, and even vacuum cleaners. Thanks to the improvement in rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries, more devices are able to operate for hours without the need for a direct electricity supply.

Some examples of these wireless technologies include the Apple AirPods, Dyson Vacuum Cleaners, and many more.


No doubt wearables are among the important innovations of this decade. Wearable technology has a variety of applications which grow as the field itself expands. They appear prominently in consumer electronics with the popularisation of the smartwatches, activity trackers, smart glasses, AR/VR devices, wireless earphones, clothes and shoes.

Apart from commercial uses, wearable technology is being incorporated into navigation systems, advanced textiles and healthcare.


Going green has been one of the main goals of manufacturers and this has resulted in millions of hybrid and electric vehicles on the road, which in a way helps in reducing carbon dioxide output.

While almost all manufacturers have their version of green vehicles like the Toyota Prius, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan Leaf, and Renault Zoe, Tesla is one of the leading ones with its all-electric car line-ups. Its founder Elon Musk even sent one of the new Tesla Roadsters to space under the SpaceX programme.

The Roadster model has a range of 1,000km on its 200 kWh battery packs. The future is definitely big for this type of vehicles.

By Izwan Ismail & Nur Zarina Othman.

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Education Ministry launches CikgooTUBE for teaching and learning

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019
MOE director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin (third from left) speaking at the launch of the CikgooTUBE team. Also present was MOE’s Bahagian Sumber dan Teknologi Pendidikan Resource and Education Technology Division director, Shafruddin Ali Hussin (second from left) and Romizal Amir Rosdi (left). NSTP / ROHANIS SHUKRI.

KUALA LUMPUR: Triggered by the need to solve the problem of students’ disinterest to learn in the conventional classroom, the Ministry of Education (MOE) recently launched CikgooTUBE, a team comprising 500 teachers who create their own YouTube content to facilitate teaching and learning in school.

MOE’s Bahagian Sumber dan Teknologi Pendidikan (BSTP) Resource and Education Technology Division director Shafruddin Ali Hussin said that in line with the trends, teachers in CikgooTUBE are required to upload updated and upgraded teaching and learning videos unlike those currently in MOE’s EduWebTV channel.

“At the moment, the videos in the EduWebTV channel are ‘outdated’ in the sense that they are old and incompatible with the new curriculum.

“Teachers who join CikgooTUBE are expected to share knowledge and know-how on a wide range of subjects as well as upload videos on a fixed basis so that the pool of content can grow exponentially,” Shafruddin added.

He said this during the Segmen Kafe Cikgu, an informal talk session between himself, MOE director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin and a CikgooTUBE trainer Romizal Amir Rosdi at the launch.

Amin said that the ministry is encouraging teachers to create their own YouTube content to ensure students do not miss out on education.

“It is timely that teachers are creating their own YouTube content for teaching and learning in the classroom now. I feel that they are changing the landscape of education in Malaysia by doing so.

“The root of the matter is that teachers need to ensure their students go through the learning process no matter what. As it is widely understood that students are more interested in watching YouTube videos, this is one way of ensuring that students learn the subjects,” he added.

Romizal who teaches technical drawing and mathematics at SMK Sultan Abdullah, Chenderong Balai, Perak and also one of 35 pioneer teachers in YouTube video content creation in Malaysia said he did the videos so that students who do not understand his lesson in the classroom can review it again later.

“Those who are absent can also view the lesson and not be left out,” said Romizal who is known as Cikgu Romie on his YouTube channel and uses a green screen to record his lessons in the classroom.

It may take a bit of time to set up all my equipment, but once that is done, it is very simple to record the lesson and upload it.

“By watching the uploaded videos, teachers can also do a self-reflection on their lessons,” he added.

Cikgu Romie currently has two YouTube channels with over 2,000 videos under each.

Shafruddin said: “We aim to have around 10,000 teachers under CikgooTUBE in the future. They will be categorised according to subjects, levels and so on.

“The only issue we have at the moment is on copyright. We hope to sort that out soon and get the teachers’ permission to use their videos in our EduWebTV channel.”

At the launch, 200 teachers gathered to learn more about content creation for YouTube through sessions such as YouTube @ EduwebTV, Teacher Content Creator and the ‘CikgooTUBE Pencetus PdPc Bestari’ (CikgooTUBE a catalyst for innovative teaching and learning) Forum. The event was organised BSTP.

Teachers who are interested to join the CikgooTUBE team can go to this link:….

by Hanna Sheikh Mokhtar.

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Technology the best bet for 2020

Monday, December 16th, 2019
Exhibits at a booth at the 5th 5G Mobile Technology Exhibition in Putrajaya in April. The faster Malaysia can absorb, implement and propagate technology, the faster it can outgrow the limitations that had long chained its progress. FILE PIC

FOLLOWING the 2020 Budget, one of the most talked-about topics in state development circles is the deep push towards the digitalisation of the nation’s economy.

To be sure, this is not the first time we are doing this. Ever since Cyberjaya was established, we always had this aim of turning our developing nation around with the help of technology.

What made it different this time around, however, is our more comprehensive push towards not just developing the digital structure, but also the whole digital ecosystem at the same time.

From the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan, grooming of local digital content champions, matching grants for company digitisation and smart automation, right down to the allocation of additional funds to Cradle and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation for developing micro-digital entrepre-neurs and technologists, our nation has allocated more than RM22 billion for the development of a Digital 2020.

The numbers are huge, and what underlines this big number is the understanding that any endeavour to switch from manual to automated would switch the game from being labour intensive to capital intensive.

That being the case, the fact that the government is putting a lot of money into this now should allow our businesses to breathe a sigh of relief.

As our economic data of the past can perhaps attest to, whenever the biggest spender in the national economy — the government — decides to focus its resources on a specific industry, you can expect some monumental development to take place within it.

However, for all our thrust and focus on building a Digital Malay-sia, there are concerns with regard to its impact on manual labour, especially on how it would significantly reduce the industrial dependency on them, which could translate into fewer job opportunities.

This argument is not without merit, but it is also often the case that we humans tend to give in to our fears and our familiarity with old ways, whenever we are confronted with new ways of doing things.

Despite the fears about the Digital Age, technology remains the best bet we have if we are not to relinquish our position at the regional — if not global — stage of development.


The greatest element that technology has is without doubt the fact that it is not human.

Humans are subjective creatures, and this subjectivity is what drives us to conduct ourselves differently, in different situations.

While in the realm of creativity, this could be celebrated as an advantage; in the arena of productivity, this spells uncertainty, which is a recipe for disaster.

In the hands of technology, the first assurance it gives us is consistency.

This assurance is derived from the fact that technology is emotionless.

It does what we programme it to do, and it does so in a single-minded fashion.

The ability of technology to be single minded is a huge game changer, especially when we compare it with any action driven by man.

No one man can be rational at all times, but with technology, it is almost a prerequisite for its creation; its ability to be objective in any operational scenario.

When placed as a policy, technological implementation in the economy would benefit our nation the most through its unchangeable ability.

Technology does not subscribe to any societal, political and religious beliefs, and because of this, even in the turbulent political landscape that the nation is in, we can put our faith in the ability of technology to keep to what we programme it to do, even in the face of fast-changing circumstances.


Despite all their glory and triumphs, all humans face a similar issue of operationality — their lifespan.

The impact of death has on the sustainability of progress is massive.

All the great civilisations of the past withered as their great leaders died. No matter how great a civilisation is, its progress is halted or limited, in one way or another, by the inability of the successor to fill in the gap left by the predecessor.

What lies at the core of this decline is the ultimate limitation we all have as mortals — our very own lifespan.

With technology, the hope of a sustained progress seems much more realistic. As long as there is energy to keep it alive, a particular technology can outlive its creators.

We have seen this. Take Apple, for example. Even in the absence of one of its core founders, Steve Jobs, the technology lives on.

If that example is not strong enough, you can even turn to the Wright brothers, Henry Ford or even Marie Curie.

Technology has proven to us time and time again that it stands a better chance of outlasting our operational capabilities.

The ability of technology to outlast mankind has a significant impact when it is placed at the core of national development.

Imagine, not only does technology have the ability to reach a higher productivity hour than us, it also has the ability to survive longer than we do.

When we put technology as the driver of our growth, we are effectively setting ourselves on the path of infinite progress.

With the right technology, we would be able to come up with machines that are inherently fearless, objective, devoid of fatigue and always on standby.

The ability of technology to consistently work, to constantly focus on the one thing it is programmed to do, to the point where it is unable to forget the things it is programmed to execute — these are all things that we would have referred to as supernatural, had it been possessed by humans.

But we tend to overlook how possible and achievable all of this is. All that it takes is the development of the right technology.


The huge focus outlined by the nation for technology in 2020 gives a lot of hope to the rural, less developed states in Malaysia.

Kedah is just one example. Compared with its contemporaries, the state is still left behind in three out of four factors of production; there is an obvious limitation of land development due to our relatively smaller land mass, restricted capital for growth, and relatively smaller number of capitalists.

Even in the case of labour, Kedah is losing her brightest minds to other, more developed spots like Penang, Johor and the Klang Valley due to her relative inability to provide wages on a par with these places.

But now, with an informed focus on technology, we have the ability to rewrite not only the development history of Kedah, but also of other states that are currently facing a similar situation.

With the right mix of capital and entrepreneurial courage, rural states have a serious chance of turning things around through the development of technologies in their industries.

In this instance, it becomes painfully clear that if we are still competing on labour supremacy, we are in a race that we can never win.

Nations that were before steady suppliers of cheap labour — Indonesia and the Philippines, for example — are slowly regaining their economic momentum. Already they are limiting the flow of their labour to our nation.

Our best hope to catch up in the regional development race is to put our faith in technology, to nurture and encourage the development of the right digital tools and equipment.

The faster Malaysia can absorb, implement and propagate technology, the faster it can outgrow the limitations that had long chained its progress.

The best time for us to do this was years ago. But having lost the opportunity to do it then, the next best is now.

By Dr Mahadi Mohamad

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King extols responsible use of communications technology

Saturday, December 7th, 2019
The King added that higher education institutions must undergo various transformations in order to prepare graduates to face the challenges of the new digital age.

PEKAN: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah today called on Malaysians to use modern communications technology responsibly.

His Majesty said that new digital technologies and communications systems should not be used to exploit issues in ways that could be detrimental to national unity and harmony.

“The act of spreading slanderous, false news and statements that could threaten national harmony and unity is irresponsible.

“I call on the people to be more responsible and to respect the harmony of the country. Modern technology should be a tool for (enhancing) the well-being of the people and to create success, not to destroy the country,” he said.

Al-Sultan Abdullah said this at the DRB-Hicom University of Automotive Malaysia’s sixth convocation ceremony here, where 686 graduates received their Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees, diplomas and certificates.

Also present were DRB-Hicom Berhad Group managing director Datuk Seri Syed Faisal Albar; DRB-Hicom University of Automotive Malaysia vice-chancellor Datuk Professor Dr Omar Osman; state secretary Dr Sallehuddin Ishak; and state police chief Datuk Abd Jalil Hassan.

The King added that higher education institutions must undergo various transformations in order to prepare graduates to face the challenges of the new digital age.

He said that the advent of the fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.0) will have an impact on a world in which technology and information systems will replace humans in many jobs.

“Higher learning institutions should offer multidisciplinary courses in technology as well as the application of inter-personal skills, communication, teamwork and leadership,” he said.

His Majesty, who is also the chancellor of the university, also touched on words of wisdom posted on the wall of the hall, which encourages students not to give up in their endeavours and to keep on going despite facing numerous failures.

“I hope this reminder will be used as a guide for young people not to fear failure… but to look at it as an opportunity to achieve more successes,” he said.

Al-Sultan Abdullah also congratulated all the graduates, their parents and the management of the university today, a day when 18 graduates in the first Master’s degree programme group received their scrolls.

The King then highlighted the successes of the university, which now offers 45 foundation, diploma, degree and post-graduate programmes – with a speciality in the automotive eco-system – which he described as a “proud achievement” after the institution was upgraded to university status in Oct 2015.

“I have been informed that the university has introduced virtual campus experiential learning which allows students not to be on campus physically to participate in learning sessions.

“The university has also launched an academic programme, through work-based learning via a partnership with the Composite Technology Research Malaysia, that will provide (more in-depth) exposure to the latest technologies,” he added. – Bernama

By Bernama.

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Connecting classrooms for global learning via Skype

Thursday, December 5th, 2019
Hafieeszath Abdul Malik (left) and Tabitha Anne Ramesh (right) showcasing how to cook fried rice to Microsoft Education vice president Anthony Salcito (on screen) while being joined by Isaac Jeremiah from home.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Tiara Permai, Kuala Lumpur Year Four pupil Isaac Jeremiah has been missing out on school since the beginning of the year. He is constantly hospitalised due to lungs malfunction.

Despite ongoing treatments and long stays at the hospital, learning does not stop for Isaac. He has joined lessons via Skype in the Classroom by Microsoft with his other classmates from home with the help of his teacher, Basir Wahab.

“By leveraging Skype, Isaac is able to meet his friend and be a part of the class virtually.

“I usually informed his parents earlier on before setting up the class to include Isaac in the PdPc (teaching and facilitation). His friends have been missing his presence in class and we know that he misses going to school as well,” said Basir.

SK Tiara Permai started using Skype as part of learning and teaching tools in 2015 spearheaded by teacher Fadzillah Mohamed Osman.

It has become a platform for pupils to go on virtual field trips, experience new cultures, hear from guest speakers and learn from other students, educators and experts from around the world.

The school recently selected to have a livestream with Microsoft Education vice president Anthony Salcito in a Skype session in conjunction with Microsoft Global Learning Connection formerly known as Skype-A-Thon.

Thmed “Open hearts. Open Minds”, the annual event makes it possible for students to virtually travel around the world and connect beyond the classroom.

During the session, the kids demonstrated how to cook nasi goreng, a local dish of fried rice, before proceeding to have a chat with Salcito about Malaysian culture and their experience using technology in education. Appearing alongside his mother on Skype, Isaac also had the opportunity to join the session from his home.

Chatty twelve year old Hafieeszath Abdul Malik clammed up when Salcito appeared on the screen during the livestream.

“Despite many practices we had for the demonstration, I still get butterflies in my stomach going live on Skype. After a while, I eased my nervousness and started talking calmly.

“I am proud that we were able to show Anthony how to make fried rice with my friends,” he said.

Fadzillah Mohamed Osman (sitting, second from right) with the pupils during the Microsoft Global Learning Connection.

Another Year Six student Tabitha Anne Ramesh said she enjoys interacting with friends all over the world via Skype.

“I remember when I had my first Skype session, it was overwhelming. A lot of us refused to talk but now, we can’t wait to have more interactions with friends from other countries.

“Speaking to my international friends, I have improved my confidence and English proficiency. I believe my classmates feel the same way. It was a truly enjoyable learning experience for all of us.

“It is exciting as we get to learn about others’ cultures and traditions while showing them our own. Our Skype friends from South Korea mailed us a box full of souvenirs and ‘ramen’. Now we are preparing our gifts for them,” she said.

Fadzillah explained that she utilises Skype in embracing the 21st century learning.

“My first Skype session was with a primary music school in Balatonboglar, Hungary. They introduced our students with Hungarian children’s songs – Suss Fel Nap and we also taught them to sing Rasa Sayang song.

“It is not only about fun learning. The sessions have piqued students’ interest in learning Geography. They became curious about the countries we were Skyping with so they started to ask about their capital cities and attractions,” said the Music, Visual Arts and Moral education teacher.

Other than collaborating with schools across the globe, Fadzillah added that the school also had a chance to connect with the local fire and rescue department.

“Instead of inviting the firefighters to our school, we took a virtual tour to the fire department which gave the pupils a more holistic exposure. It was a good session to teach the topic of occupation as we saw some pupils were inspired to be firefighters,” she explained.

To date, Fadzilah has held close to 200 Skype sessions. Previously, Fadzillah utilised the school library for their sessions but the school renovated an empty room and turned it into an exclusive Skype classroom.

On top of Skype, Microsoft provides other online learning platforms — Teams and Flipgrid. Teams is a hub for collaboration where students and teachers can share files and communicate. Meanwhile, Flipgrid enables students to share their voice via short videos allowing them to reflect, discuss and showcase what they are learning.

By Murniati Abu Karim.

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Giving students the tools to experiment

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

Students taking part in the Young Innovators Challenge.

“WHAT is your name?”, I asked. “Muhammad”, whispered the young boy wearing a jubah, who was representing his tahfiz school at the recent Young Innovators Challenge. When I asked him to tell me more about his project, Muhammad began to shyly describe the security device he and his team mates developed to protect his school from intruders. However, as he continued to explain to me the intricacies of the system, he couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for the project as his face grew visibly more animated and his voice became more confident. His excitement for the project was both endearing and contagious, and I was eager to see the other innovations on offer.

I didn’t have to look far. In the next booth, Usha was already a clear winner as the project lead of another security system. I listened in rapt attention as she went into detail on the sophisticated security device her team developed specifically for gated communities. Her team’s security device would enable visitors to be tracked from the point of entry at the guard house until they exit. The choice of a gated community as a focus reflected the demographics of her school’s student body, which she added was lucky to be able to enjoy coding, robotics and programming lessons at private learning centres as an after-school activity.

One encouraging shift I noticed was that girls are no longer strangers in science competitions. Speaking to a petite innovator who confidently explained to me the details of her electronic flag raising device in perfect English, I thought perhaps years of efforts to encourage young women to pursue their interests in science have finally paid off. This self-assured young lady also shared with me how technology has made the process of learning more efficient, fun and intuitive, declaring she learned to speak English and Korean, thanks to the Internet.

Not being very scientifically minded, I was impressed that she and her two team mates enjoyed coding and programming as hobbies, but I was disheartened to hear that they cannot pursue their interest much further as science is not offered after Form Three in their school.

The challenge held earlier was refreshing because it was inclusive and diverse, bringing more than 200 students from 22 schools in Selangor ranging from national schools, national religious schools, international schools, vernacular schools and tahfiz schools together to celebrate their creativity and creations. The excitement in the air was palpable, generated by students who had a keen curiosity for innovation with many of them seizing the opportunity to experiment and invent without being boxed in by rigid curriculum and learning methods.

Ironically, these young inventors were given the space to explore and innovate simply because their teachers didn’t know enough about coding and therefore couldn’t “instruct” or “direct” their students. This is not a criticism of the teachers, and indeed they were very supportive of their students. While coding is taught (under the Asas Sains Komputer and Reka Bentuk & Teknologi subjects) in schools, teachers find it a challenge to catch up with technology which changes at a pace that few can keep up with. To prepare for the Young Innovators Challenge, the students and teachers were supported by the secretariat, Chumbaka, which offers coding, programming and STEM programmes at their centres, and by the students of the engineering faculty at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam.

When we read countless articles on Malaysia not being able to move up the value chain in manufacturing or that we are still stuck in IR3.0 while the world is accelerating towards IR4.0, we must look for answers to this conundrum.

The answers lie with our young generation, whether they are in vernacular schools or national schools. Being young, they are not able to suppress their natural curiosity to learn and explore. The Government and teachers can stimulate learning by giving them the tools and space to experiment and innovate. These tools can be inexpensive, such as using open-source embedded systems and software.Teachers should also feel comfortable stepping back and be facilitators and not “teach” a prescribed curriculum to students. It is no wonder when I learned that the Education Ministry has introduced coding in schools, I cannot help but fear if the rigidity of the teaching and learning methods or curriculum that characterise our national schools will curb the students’ inquisitiveness and steal their enthusiasm. My mind also wonders about the petite young budding scientist I spoke to and whether her interest in STEM, clearly ignited by this competition, will be sustained or just simply fade away after Form Three when there is no science stream in her school.

Another thing that struck me about the challenge is that we can use a common interest to bring all Malaysians of various demographic groups, race and religion to engage and speak to each other, in a common language of coding. This diversity, from the varied participation of schools, the organising committee and the panel of judges, should be celebrated.

I urge the Government, the Education Ministry and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia to provide stronger collective support to offerings of alternative approaches to the teaching and learning of STEM and technology, if indeed we are to produce innovators and scientists of the future.

The challenge is an annual programme that aims to catalyse maker movement in secondary schools. It has been held yearly since 2013 and has so far involved more than 5,000 students. This year, the state-level competition for Selangor was hosted by UiTM Shah Alam under the sponsorship of Yayasan Sime Darby and Malaysian Technology Development Corporation with Chumbaka as the competition secretariat.

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Preparing communicators for a digital future

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

Mobile technology has changed the way we communicate today.

MOBILE technology has changed the way we communicate today. With more than five billion people around the world currently owning a mobile device – half of which are smartphones – one would be hard-pressed to imagine a time when mobile phones were not part and parcel of everyday life.

Whether it’s WhatsApp chat groups, subscribed Twitter feeds or Facebook live broadcasts, the rise of social media means that communication is no longer a one-way street. Not only are people able to obtain information instantly and in different forms, but they generate content as well.

“Technology has made the way we consume information more visual, such as the use of memes to make sense of things. In some ways, digital and social media have made it easier for lots of people to express themselves and be heard. Still, there needs to be an understanding of who gets to say what, the power dynamics inherent in contemporary forms of communication, ” said Monash University Malaysia’s School of Arts and Social Sciences Communication and Media Studies Assoc Prof Emma Baulch.

Universities have to continually reassess programmes to ensure the course content is relevant and effective.Universities have to continually reassess programmes to ensure the course content is relevant and effective

Why theory matters

As educators of the future workforce, universities have to continually reassess programmes to ensure the course content is relevant and effective in producing graduates that are market-ready and well equipped to tackle digital disruptions that come their way.

According to Baulch, instead of focusing on the technical know-how of the latest in communication technology, Monash University Malaysia’s new Bachelor of Digital Media and Communication (BDMC) course aims to build a strong foundation in media and communications theories, albeit with a digital focus.

The new BDMC course aims to build a strong foundation in media and communications theories, albeit with a digital focus.The new BDMC course aims to build a strong foundation in media and communications theories, albeit with a digital focus.

“This course sits within an arts school, so there is an emphasis on theories and concepts that look at digital within a social context. We look at how digital shapes society, which fits in with universities’ historical role in developing theoretical and conceptual knowledge around contemporary developments, ” she said.

Understanding how digital media sit within a broader context of history gives students a greater appreciation of what makes digital unique so that they can better figure out how new technologies shape the future and forge social change, Baulch added.

“We talk about how to develop critical thinking when engaging in a digital environment rife with misinformation. We also provide an understanding of the particular ways digital content circulates. If you understand how content becomes viral, you will then understand the possibilities digital environments present for things like corporate communications or crisis communications, ” she said.

Multiple career pathways

A communications degree is not just reserved for media professionals, said Baulch. Potential careers BDMC students can look forward to include public relations, corporate communications, marketing, advertising, policy development, HR, management, research, editing and writing.

“We are training people to have knowledge and skills that are transferable across different sectors and industries. Social theories are important to this skill set. They afford a critical reading of the way things are in the world, and how they might be changed. Without critical knowledge, tasks requiring leadership or management skills become very difficult, ” she said.

Through the course, students learn research skills essential to cultivate critical thinking and to become agile thinkers. There is also a strong emphasis in developing written and oral communications skills, as well as skills in group work.

“You need to think for yourself and be flexible if you’re to keep up with the changes in digital environments, ” she said.

The course also includes a professional practice stream in which students undertake a digital research project with an NGO and undergo an internship for practical experience and exposure.

“This stream is strongly supported by our industry partners who provide vital input on industry perspectives and needs, ” she said.

A Monash degree gives students “international mobility”.A Monash degree gives students “international mobility”.

Having a Monash degree gives students “international mobility” because the Monash brand is globally recognised

Established in 1998, Monash University Malaysia was the first Monash campus outside Australia. The Malaysian campus has approximately 8,400 students from 78 different countries. Monash University has 60,000 students internationally and a community of over 380,000 alumni living in 155 countries.

With over 100 partner universities worldwide, Monash students can opt for international mobility schemes as part of their course.

While there is a lot of hype over pursuing a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the digital age, mastering communications is still pertinent. “Digital communications is now part of our every waking moment. Nearly every individual on the planet has a mobile phone. Those with an understanding of the social and cultural challenges and possibilities of digital change will be among those to shape the future, ” said Baulch.

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Technology and the road to education, training

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

The promises of the digital world are everywhere. We use apps to help us learn a language, manage our money, lose weight, sleep better. We sign up for online professional certificate courses and stream thought-provoking lectures; firms increasingly conduct training via platforms and parents use digital tools to prepare children for the classroom.

This trend shows no signs of slowing: the global E-Learning market is expected to reach $325 billion by 2025, up from $107 Billion in 2015, according to Forbes Magazine. In the United States alone, the Yale Tribune reports, over 6 million college students have enrolled in some form of distance or online education.

The great promise of all this technology is that it will allow us to improve our performance and, ostensibly, ourselves. No longer must you have the good fortune of economic and social capital in order to gain access to premium-branded learning opportunities. Anyone with a WIFI signal, the desire for self-improvement, and the enrollment fee can take advantage.

Still, as the number and uses of these tools increase, we must stop to ask: How will we decide which brands to use, and how will that affect our performance?

Perhaps the old aphorism, “You get what you pay for,” applies. Indeed, we know from past research that products bearing premium brand labels can increase perceptions of efficacy and improve consumer performance relative to lesser-branded equivalents. This is described as a marketing placebo effect. For example, exposure to Apple logos has been shown to increase consumer creativity, writing with an MIT-branded pen leads people to see themselves as more intelligent and perform better on math tests, and using a Nike-branded putter can improve a user’s golf score.

Yet, new research by my colleagues and me in The Journal of Consumer Psychology suggests that, in the case of premium-branded performance and learning experiences, the process can work in reverse. That is, despite identical products, the branded experiences that consumers perceive to be of higher status may counterproductively impair performance. Nevertheless, users are willing to pay more for these identical products.

Our experiments suggest an interesting mechanism: When the prestige of the premium brand creates a power dynamic that renders the consumer “subordinate,” and the brand as “master” of the performance domain, this may improve subjective outcomes (feeling prepared and willingness to pay) but simultaneously lower objective outcomes (scores and performance). This paradox, found across several domains, illustrates reverse placebo effects of branding: poorer performance when using highly-esteemed brands.

These findings raise important questions about societal implications. One could imagine that premium-branded product experiences hold great appeal to people who are performing in fields where they seek to bridge a status gap to gain greater access. The fact that our participants repeatedly experienced lower objective performance while at the same time feeling subjectively better-prepared and willing to pay more, is greatly concerning. The mere presence of a brand name that evoked a dominating “master” consumer-brand relationship dynamic created this unintended and undesired effect.

Does this mean that the promise of digital learning and training is squandered? Of course not, there is great value in investing in oneself via training and education, and we need more, not less, inclusivity in the rarefied air of high-status institutions. Nevertheless, our research suggests that the nature of the user’s relationship with the brand moderates the product’s efficacy. In order to experience true benefits, the user must not see the brand as a “master” of its domain (and its user), but as a tool to serve them.

But when a user’s orientation toward the brand is subordinate in nature (even unconsciously), the brand becomes the master and, as a result, people experience lower performance.

A new dawn has risen in a digital world with unprecedented access to the educational and training options that were previously only accessible to a few. Understanding whether we are bridging the digital divide means that we need to examine the unconscious barriers to gaining the full benefits of these tools. If we fail to understand how our relationships with these brands affect their efficacy, instead of lifting everyone up, we will, in fact, be leaving people behind.

by Renée Richardson Gosline, PhD via Psychology Today

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