Six lauded for innovative ways of engaging students

The six winners of the President's Award for Teachers this year are (from left) Mr Jahangeer Mohamed Jahabar, Madam Lim Hwee Sian, Mr Djohan Abdul Rahman, Ms Asrina Abdul Samar, Dr Ow Yeong Wai Mang and Ms Kwa Lay Ping.
The six winners of the President's Award for Teachers this year are (from left) Mr Jahangeer Mohamed Jahabar, Madam Lim Hwee Sian, Mr Djohan Abdul Rahman, Ms Asrina Abdul Samar, Dr Ow Yeong Wai Mang and Ms Kwa Lay Ping.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Augmented reality, musical stairs are handy tools for top teachers

Teachers are going the extra mile to come up with innovative ways to engage their millennial students.

Ms Asrina Abdul Samar, a Master Mentor at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), uses augmented reality to allow her students to visualise her engineering lessons - from gears to engines - on their phones.

Yesterday, the 37-year-old was one of six to receive the President's Award for Teachers this year, which for the first time has been extended to include educators from the ITE and polytechnics to recognise their role in technical and vocational education, as well as lifelong learning.

The other winners to receive their award from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana were Mr Jahangeer Mohamed Jahabar (Endeavour Primary School), Dr Ow Yeong Wai Mang (Henry Park Primary School), Mr Djohan Abdul Rahman (Bishan Park Secondary School), Madam Lim Hwee Sian (Cedar Girls' Secondary School) and Ms Kwa Lay Ping (Singapore Polytechnic).

They were chosen from 4,105 teachers nominated by school leaders, teachers, parents, former and current students this year.

Asked why Ms Asrina wanted to use phones as a teaching aid, she had a ready answer. She said: "Nowadays, if you ask students to put away their phones, it's not going to work. So why not use these tools and make it more fun for them?"

Her innovation has also been put to use in designing a learning lab for students. She would often shift tables and chairs around for her Mechatronics lessons at the old ITE Tampines campus to allow students to engage in group discussions.

When the college moved to its present site in Ang Mo Kio, Ms Asrina and a colleague proposed a classroom of their dreams.

The result: a jumbo-sized Innovative Lab at the School of Engineering or iLab@SEG. It is equipped with large, carpeted spaces as students prefer to study in open, informal spaces, and walls and tables that can be written on to help those who have difficulty retaining information.

"They remember concepts better when they are free to represent them graphically," said Ms Asrina.

Madam Lim, 47, the lead teacher in music at Cedar Girls', had a similar impact. With the help of other teachers, she rigged a musical staircase on which students can step to create tunes.

She also fabricated an escape room on campus to coincide with Singapore's Golden Jubilee. In teams of five to seven, students had to solve puzzles relating to Singapore's early years of independence.

These efforts are part of her push to get everyone to appreciate the arts. She actively tries to persuade students with no formal training in music or performing to take part in the National Day Parade.

"Every child in kindergarten can sing and he or she will sing loudly. They may not be very good at it, but they all firmly believe they can sing," she said.

"It is only when we grow older that some of us lose our voices because we become more self-conscious. It's more an issue of confidence and encouragement. Everyone has a voice. My aim is to help each student of mine find hers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2017, with the headline 'Six lauded for innovative ways of engaging students'. Print Edition | Subscribe