RICE 2008 - Raffles International Conference on Education. The "Raffles" part being the name of the Junior College organising the two-day event (10 & 11 Mar 2008).
Two months earlier, Adrian and I chatted online about what he did in school as a teacher, and what I did with my projects in the public library. Both concerned youths.
Adrian then pointed me to the conference website. Said I should submit what I'd shared as a paper for consideration.
At that time I doubted if what I had to share had relevance to the conference theme of "Interweaving Curriculum and Community".
Our public libraries worked with schools for outreach events, visits to the library, information literacy workshops etc. But to date (at least in my last 12 years), no school ever weaved their curriculum with the public library service.
Years back, I remember discussing with some teachers on the possibility of doing so. To cut a long story short, that sort of integration never happened.
I accepted it as the reality of the education system in Singapore. The teachers simply had no time. The school curriculum was too jammed packed. Teachers moved in and out of schools too frequently to establish any long term understanding and relations.
My doubt about the conference was also from my lack of feasible ideas on how public library services could be integrated with school curriculum (schools in Singapore generally have their own libraries -- well funded and supported too).
I was skeptical, I even told Adrian. Probably a futile exercise in submitting the paper, I'd thought.
Still, he was adamant that I send the Abstract in. So I checked with my boss. OK, go ahead. I submitted the Abstract* (barely meeting the submission deadline and giving Adrian grief in the process, heh). A week later, I was told the abstract was accepted.
But I had doubts, both in my capacity as a presenter and a participant.
Doubtful of whether my presentation could make a connection with the teachers. And doubtful that I'd learn anything new from the conference.
It was one of those instances when my mind was closed to possibilities.
(Reflecting upon it now, I'm reminded of this bumper sticker I saw in SF: Minds are like parachutes. They work best when open.
I should've known better).
I was jaded, perhaps. From too many lackluster and superficial networking sessions at conferences. The kind where people would say "We Must Meet To Discuss More" but will eventually and conveniently forget after the event.
But after Day-one of the conference, I was glad I'd signed up.
For the first time in a long while, I'd actually enjoyed myself at a conference.
Where I met and got to know new kakis like Thomas and Cheng Puay (we hit off right away, leading me to call us The Bacteria Boys... sounds childish but hey, the best form of Education is Play!)
After we'd all gone home on Day-One, Siva had already blogged about it. I was tempted to do so, but I needed time to organise my thoughts properly.
I was tired. But happily so.
The 30-minute presentation format worked quite well (although the downside was I'd missed the presentations by Thomas, Siva, Adrian and Cheng Puay 'cos we were presenting at the same time slots for concurrent sessions. Wished I was there when Adrian whipped out his Mer-dog drawing in a midst of his presentation).
I'm not sure what the participants thought about my presentation. Personally I was happy with what I shared. The room was full. I might have made some sense to at least two or three teachers (out of maybe 40) in the classroom.
My presentation covered how the public library experimented with Instant Messaging and blogs for Teens Programming. The learning points from infusing IT, the idea of "Global Connectedness", and the concept of "Teen Expressions". I gave examples from events that started in 2005, continued in 2006, and refined in 2007 (I should blog about that soon). And I invited teachers to work with the library on possible projects hopefully in the near future.
Hanging out with Siva, Cheng Puay, Adrian and Thomas during break time was like comedy hour between the seriousness of the speeches.
I walked away with a positive attitude from each presentation by teachers. I believed they were representative of a shift in thinking in schools -- on what is Education Vs. Instruction.
Day-two came and went.
At the end of it all, after everything was packed and the conference venue deserted, Adrian gave me a lift in his car. We stopped by a cafe. I treated him to coffee.
I didn't tell him why. He probably thought it was a buddy-thing. Which was.
But in truth, it was a quiet Thank You.
For presenting a chance for me to learn something new.
And having fun in the process.
[Next: Part 2]
* The Abstract of my presentation at RICE 2008:
"Changing the World, One Friend At A Time: Infusing Digital Media and "Global Connectedness" in the Public Library Teen Programming" Teenagers (13 to 19 years) are an important user segment to the Public Library. They are also one of the most challenging user groups to reach, as the typical delivering modes for programmes ( e.g. talks and lectures) do not appeal to them. Since 2004, the Public Library has experimented with using digital mediums like blogs and Instant Messenging as part of the programmes and activities for teens and young people. The strategy was to leverage on teens being IT savvy, as well as infusing the element of "Global-connectedness", so that programmes for teens are genuinely appealing, relevant and meaningful. In addition, the library also actively publicised and sought to involve teens overseas, though various overseas partners. The paper will include case studies that involved Singaporean teens and those from other countries. For example, the "Pseudo Book Club", a reading group managed and facilitated by teens. Another example would be a Teen Online Chat event, where 57 teens from Singapore and Germany participated in online chat sessions in their respective countries and timezones. Singaporean teens were able to showcase their creativity and multimedia skills by presenting the Singapore sights and sounds to their German peers. The paper will share the practical aspects of using digital/ new media as part of the programme, as well as learning points from implementing events that cover different time zones. It will also share some future plans on using this particular programming approach for teens.