PMQ Corner #42

Blended Learning into Innovative Education – Put the practice of empathy in action

Lau Siu Kei, Tai Po Old Market Public School

Written by: Lau Siu Kei, Tai Po Old Market Public School
Translated by: Joel Wong

A commonly used method in moral education is value clarification, which allows students to choose or judge what is right or wrong to establish a proper philosophy towards life. With the reform of education, however, value education should no longer stay at analysis and selection but focus on introspection upon action, make improvement from innovation and utilize design thinking to allow students to learn how to be in other’s shoes, be empathizing, be brave to try, and be intrepid to create.

Last year, our school was fortunate to participate in PMQ's "BEING BEINGS" School Outreach Programme, alongside an experienced team of mentors, teachers from our school and 24 students to experience an innovative learning process. Those professional mentors integrated the five steps of design thinking, namely "Empathize", "Define", "Ideate","Prototype"and "Test", into some experiential teaching activities which guided the students to analyze users' needs step by step, then design and put together feasible solutions to truly accomplish improvements for the future.

Explore innovative ideas from daily life

The teaching team set the “public toilet” as the theme of this course because public toilets can be treated as a portrayal of a country's cultural literacy, reflecting the people's ethics and empathy when using them. The teaching team aroused students to emphasize the needs of different users, allowed them to learn to analyze problems from the guided users, build up student’s empathy, and find inspiration for innovation.

Innovative blended learning

In the face of the current pandemic situation, face-to-face teaching model has not been able to function normally. Before the programme launched, our school and the teaching team have continuously explored the new “normalized” teaching model. They also tried to apply different interactive learning platforms from the education sector. As a result, the teaching team conceived blended learning to integrate face-to-face classroom and online learning with design thinking that fully played to each other's effects and achieved greater learning benefits.

The use of learning platform for students to explore

Although the pandemic situation has restricted the teaching model. But in response to respective restrictions, the team utilized Flipgrid alongside the Google Classroom interactive platform used by our school to inaugurate an online learning system for the students. In order to cater both online and offline learning needs for students, we also guided them to watch our video tutorials before and after classes, then let them create and share their own coding in Micro:bit project through online learning platforms.

Blending multiple instructions into thinking process

To cope with student's inability to observe and collect data on the spot, the teaching team shot a video to demonstrate various problems faced by a “user” when entering the toilet. The collaborative board function in Nearpod, the interactive learning platform, allowed students to take screenshots from the video and uploaded them to the discussion forum immediately. The "AEIOU" analytical tool allowed students to analyze the needs of the “user” in real-time, then used the online voting system to let students choose the most immediate concern to be handled. Finally, used the Time to Climb game to consolidate the concept of empathize, define, and ideate to the students.

Collaborative exploration between teachers and students

Once the prototype was established, the mentor led the students to the rounds of “think and create” prototyping before entering the “prototype and test” phase. Each group of students was divided into two teams according to their own interests. One team was responsible for designing and manufacturing the prototype. Students needed to draw blueprints, build, cut, and combine different components. The other team was responsible for writing the simulation program code and performing repeated tests to achieve the preset results.

Finally, members of the two teams worked together to assemble the two components, and perform testing and fine-tuning of the final product. As a result, they successfully created 6 innovative products, including infrared automatic disinfection machine, automatic disinfection toilet seat device, toilet paper usage and toilet compartment occupancy notification device, out of toilet paper notification device, toilet paper consumption notification device, and men's and women's toilet usage notification device. PMQ had put together a meticulous public exhibition which given students their first finished-product exhibition.

The new trend of moral education as innovative education

In the past, moral education solely relied upon reading picture books, adventure experience, and other services, etc., while most of it stayed in the "empathize" area, but after triggering the process of empathy or self-evaluation, there was often a lack of improvement plans and actions to put design thinking into practice which guide the students to a new level of thinking.

Therefore, our school held a teacher’s development day this year to allow the teaching staff to understand and grasp the concept of design thinking and add these concepts to our school’s activities, such as Biomimicry Learning Day, V Goal Crowdfunding for the future @TPOMPS, Bazaar@TPOMPS, World Citizen Day and others, etc. These activities enable students to construct values and improve their lives through innovation. The school will also continue to integrate moral education, STEM, and innovative education to develop new education directions.

I would like to thank PMQ and the teaching team for their hard work and dedication. They are still full of enthusiasm under the current pandemic situation and provided the students a journey that dared to think and create.

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