Archive for October, 2021

Thoughts: Building NIFTI 2.0

Monday, October 18th, 2021


Last weekend, we kicked off the second year of the NIFTI program. I am calling it NIFTI 2.0 – The Sustainable Futures Initiative. Our primary focus will be on sustainability design thinking. There are many situations where sustainability design thinking is absent. The California water crisis is one.

The YCISL program sees sustainability design thinking as comprising smart programming, debugging and release to early adopters as prototypes. We will coach students to get divergent-convergent thinking to be instinctual and an essential ingredient of their emotional intelligence practice.

The new NIFTI will be less about career guidance, and more about upgraded and upgradable thinking skills. We will pollinate NIFTI with exercises from the ITW program so that students can envision what the next-generation of leadership needs to do – and how to do it.

If we were to give the current NIFTI group of students the challenge of solving the California water crisis, how would the divergent-convergent thinking process go? I think first we will have a long list of people who would be accountable. We will then have a comprehensive list of reasons for the water crisis perception. On the convergent side, we would design innovative solutions – perhaps a trio that get all stakeholders to realize we have a glass half full and the challenge is to get it more full, and not prevent it from getting emptier.

One of the premises I presented in the introduction to NIFTI 2.0 is “Sustainability has a PR problem” and that this explains why sustainability is stuck (stuck in the negatives as Alison Ledgerwood puts it) – and why it is so hard to move ahead. I am hoping that the NIFTI students will learn design thinking strategies to make sustainability behavior popular (like phenomenally popular) and practically naturally. And this leads to our NIFTI Roundtable 2021 topic of “Sustainability in Education.”

Google Data Studio: YCISL Skills Survey

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

I have been wondering how to create web dashboards and came across Google Data Studio. While learning how to use Google Data Studio, I played with visualizing the results from the YCISL Skills Survey. I aggregated the results from several YCISL workshops including two NIFTI programs, one ITW workshop and one YCISL Focus Group; there were responses from 107 students.

I will be starting the another NIFTI program next week and will update this dashboard when the survey results are in.

First, a few things I learned about using Google Data Studio:

  1. Collect GEO information. Google Data Studio includes a Google Maps chart which looks cool and would show the worldwide reach of the YCISL program.
  2. Try to eliminate chances for duplicate entries. I use Google Forms to do the survey and that is collected into Google Sheets. I manually moved data from each event’s survey to an aggregate Google Sheet from which Google Data Studio accesses data. I did this because I needed to clean out duplicates manually in Google Sheets.
  3. Include time stamp information. This allows Google Data Studio to display data from different time frames.

And now some observations about what I found through Google Data Studio:

  1. Students rated their Positivity skills very high at 4 or 5. This is a great indication of growth mindset.
  2. Students rated their Design Skills as average with most choosing 3. This suggests that we could discuss the meaning of “design” in the same way we discuss the broadness of “creativity” and “leadership” so every one feels that it is accessible. It was also interesting to see that design was the skill most students wanted to improve. Fits well with our programming on design thinking and design-build.
  3. There are also several students who rate various skills at 1 or 2. This could be an indication of no prior exposure or poor past experiences. Pushes our YCISL program to try to turn this around by creating memorable great experiences.

Looking forward to collecting more survey feedback and updating this dashboard.

CNA: The PSLE Math problem that got everyone calculating – and asking

Sunday, October 3rd, 2021

In my CNA app today (Sunday October 3, 2021), I read an article about a math test problem that reportedly caused immense distress among test-takers and their parents…plus caused a wave of reactions on social media. The story “The PSLE Math problem that got everyone calculating – and asking Why do Helen and Ivan have so much change when everyone’s gone cashless?” was written by Khoo Bee Khim.

The test question as reported in the article was…

Helen and Ivan had the same number of coins. Helen had a number of 50-cent coins, and 64 20-cent coins. These coins had a mass of 1.134kg. Ivan had a number of 50-cent coins and 104 20-cent coins.

1) Who has more money in coins and by how much?

2) Given that each 50-cent coin is 2.7g more heavier than a 20-cent coin, what is the mass of Ivan’s coins in kilograms?

I gave a go at solving the problem. I initially started on a spreadsheet then moved to a pen and paper (and calculator). I scribbled an equality expression and after 10 minutes reached an answer for part 1 when I realized it wasn’t an equality problem. Then I contemplated an approach to part 2 and set up an equality expression for that and reached an answer. My answer for part 1 was correct, but I had done an addition when a subtraction was called for in part 2 and had the wrong answer initially. Switching the addition to a subtraction got the correct answer. I am an average C-student after all.

After this experience, I feel this was a fair question and showed which students had high organizational thinking skills. There are other factors in play as well though. These include:

(1) the ability to interpret story-based questions. We know that girls tend to do better in this area.

(2) the comfort with unknowns. Most students are conditioned to be able to manage two unknowns in a problem: x and y. This two-part question had three unknowns in part 2, but one of them was already expressed in part 1. There was sequential dependency. So the issue here was the perceived high uncertainty because the problem had two parts. In coding, we might call this nested logic.

(3) tracking units. Some students may have got the wrong answer in part 2 because weight information was given in kg and g. This is a classic “trick” in STEM problem solving.

(4) test context. If this question was considered part of the “hardest” part of the test, then perhaps we could assume most of the rest was…less hard? There is also strategy in where this and other “hardest” questions were placed in the test…beginning…middle…or end. This would be the stamina and change of pace factors. In the real world, if this problem was the only one that needed to be solved in day, how many people would be successful?

(5) test balance. Was this question building on a previous problem that tested a similar math skill but in a simpler context? Ever had a test where every single question was “hardest” and filled with booby-traps? I have…once.

In relation to what we discuss in YCISL, I wonder whether students will ever need this particular math solving skill? And after answering that, will the educational system ever help students to become masters at solving this type of problem?

Furthermore, this question is outright positioned on the reasoning side of thinking skills. The storyline set-up is a distraction and perhaps a creativity decoy. There are many ways to make this a creativity-testing question or even a real world type question. Maybe one day, our tests will advance to that more emotionally intelligent level.

Love the Instagrams really though…!