Tuesday, May 11, 2021

SLS-8b2 An e-Learning course on SL for students for a wider audience

Previously, PolyU’s had developed an e-Learning module for teaching the basic concepts  of service-learning to our undergraduate students, to be adopted optionally as a part of service-learning courses at PolyU.  In fact, the module has evolved through several generations as we gained experience.  Based on this experience, a new e-Learning course for a wider audience was developed.  This new course is different from the earlier PolyU-specific module in a number of important aspects.  First of all, the material was completely revamped to be more streamlined and concise, based on the experience gained in running the PolyU-specific module for several years.  Secondly, the content is now made more suitable for a wider audience.  For example, case studies in the earlier, PolyU-specific version made extensive sue of projects cared out by PolyU teams.  In the new version, a much wider range of projects are used as case studies.  

The new student e-Learning course “Learn to Serve, Serve to Learn” consists of the following units:

  1. What is Service-Learning
  2. Benefits of Service-Learning
  3. Responsibilities, Attitude and Ethics in Service-Learning
  4. Reflection on Your Service-Learning Experience

The course include a wide variety of learning activities, such as short videos, concept tests, case studies experience sharing by students who have completed service-learning subjects. Based on the the first and second rounds of the pilot run, the visualisation of the content was further improved, with enhanced graphics to provide a better learning experience.  The course was fully implemented at the 4 participating institutions in the second semester of 2019/20 with an enrolment of over 2,300 students.  

The e-Learning course can serve multiple purposes.  The basic concepts have to be taught in essentially all SL courses.  By adopting the e-Learning course, a SL teacher can avoid duplicating the effort that went into developing the e-Learning course, and concentrating on the specific content for his/her own course.  It can also be used to ensure a degree of consistency in the teaching of basic concepts.   Some teachers also use the e-Learning course as part of a flipped-classroom approach.  After the students have gone through the e-Learning course, the teacher brings them to face-to-face discussions on a specific topic based on the material covered in the e-Learning course.  

Monday, May 10, 2021


I thought I was back to normal on Saturday, after running 12 kilometres, 4 days after failing to get out of bed on Tuesday, having the world spinning around me because of BPPV. Some friends and relatives were warning me that I shouldn’t rush things. 

They were right.  On Sunday morning, I got up again with the room spinning around me.  This time I was better prepared.  I lied down, asked my dear wife to perform the same manoeuvres on me, and waited. By noon I was able to get up and walk around a little, gingerly, staring straight ahead. Our good friend P brought us good lunch, washed down with the delicious thick vegetable soup that my wife made earlier.  As the afternoon wore on while we chatted, I got better.  

In the past week, I have been learning quite a bit about BPPV from my wife’s research, my own research, Dr. Kwong, the experience of my sister, my mother, my sister-in-law E, my colleague H, my friend L, my friend M’s mother, …  I have learned that it is something that has no cure, yet.  That is something that I have to learn to live with for the rest of my wife. 

Today I am back to the office.  If you find me walking around as if I have had several beers or glasses of wine, be assured that I am not drunk.  In fact, I have not had any alcohol at all today.  It is the after-shock of BPPV.  I just have a little difficulty balancing myself.  

Friday, May 07, 2021

SLS-8b1 A Teacher Training Program

e-Learning Course for Teachers

Funding from this Teaching Development Grant was used to develop the “Service-Learning Pedagogy & Practice” e-Learning course fort teachers.  The course consists of the following units:

  1. What is Service-Learning
  2. Benefits and Challenges of Service-Learning
  3. Developing and Sustaining Community Partnership
  4. Designing and Implementing Service-Learning
  5. Facilitating Reflection
  6. Assessing Students in Service-Learning  

There are some contents, such as the basic concepts of SL, that are similar to those in the e-Learning course for students.  But the majority of the content are quite different.  The difference is a little like the difference between a textbook for students and the teachers’ guide for using a textbook.  

Teacher Training Course

The e-Learning course is then used as part of a teacher training course “Service-Learning in Higher Education: Teacher Development Course”.  Details of the course has been discussed in an earlier section (7a) in this book, under the topic of the UGC Teaching Award.  Part of the award money was used to subsidise the operation of the teacher development course.  This way the course can be financially viable while keeping the course fee low.   

The teacher development course was designed to run in face-to-face mode in Hong Kong, with a field experience trip to Cambodia, as was done in summer 2019.  In 2020, however, the social distancing imposed by the coronavirus pandemic made travelling impossible.  Hence the teacher development course was run in online mode, with 22 participants (10 from PolyU, 5 from University of Hong Kong, 4 from Open University of HK, 2 from Baptist University, 1 from Education University).  This kind of teacher training for service-learning is currently in short supply in Asia Pacific.  

e-Learning Course for Teachers (Chinese Version)

The Chinese version of the e-Learning course is being developed with an aim to offer it to secondary school teachers in Hong Kong as part of a campaign to promote service-learning in the secondary school sector.  

With separate funding support being arranged, the e-Learning course will also be offered on other platforms to reach a wider audience in Hong Kong and Mainland China.  Hopefully these effort will go some way towards addressing the severe lack of teaching material in the Chinese language for service-learning.  

Wednesday, May 05, 2021


On Tuesday morning, I woke up around 7 am.  I sat up on our bed and put my feet on the floor, as usual.  Suddenly I found the room spinning around me. After a while, the spinning seemed to slow down.  I thought perhaps it would go away. But as soon as I tried to move, it started again.  When it didn’t seem to get better, I lied down on my bed again.  Even as I put my head on my pillow, the room continued to spin.  If I lie very still, it seemed to slow down.  But as soon as I tried to move my head, the spinning would start again. It has never happened to me before.  I was so scared that I didn’t know what to do.   I did the only thing I know - I woke my wife.  

She called a friend, Dr. K.  He asked a lot of questions.  Headache? No. Can I move my arms and legs? Yes.  Coughing? No. Muscle aches? No. Chest pain?  I felt nauseous, like car sickness, sea sickness.  …  He said the symptoms sound like BPPV (Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo).  A crystal gets stuck inside one of the three canals at the labyrinth of my inner year.  The fluids in the canals help my brain sense the orientation of my head.  When the crystal blocks the movement of the fluids, my inner gets a bad signal that does not match what my eyes see, and the proprioceptive senses of position and movement returned by sensors from my skin, muscles, and joints.  This results in my finding the room spinning around me. 

Dr. K guided my wife to search for BPPV manoeuvres from the Internet that can be used to confirm BPPV, which one of the 3 canals is blocked, and use gravity to flush out the blocking crystal.  My very smart wife found those manoeuvres and performed some of them on me.  I felt a bit better.  But the room still spins whenever I move.  

Dr. K said if I can go to the University Health Service (Clinic) he could check on me.  After resting some more, perhaps 3 hours after it started, I managed to get up, brush my teeth, and dress, with my head looking straight ahead.  I turned with my body, slowly.  I had to ask my wife to help me put on my shoes because I was afraid to look down.  We managed to get downstairs, get into a taxi, and get to the clinic.  

EEG tests show that my heart was OK.  That was a big relief.  The discomfort in my chest was probably due to the nausea rather than anything with my heart.  Dr. K performed manoeuvres similar to those that my wife performed on me.  He couldn’t detect the involuntary “dancing” of the eyes which would have confirmed BPPV.  He thought my wife might have succeeded in flushing out the crystal already.  All my symptoms point to BPPV otherwise.  There was nothing to be done.  I just have to wait for the residual dizziness to go away, which may take some time. 

One day later, I am almost back to normal. Some dizziness remains, particularly when I move my head quickly.  Otherwise, I am walking around, doing house chores, eating, drinking, reading, working as usual.  I wonder when I can go running again. 

On Saturday, I ran 28 kilometres, up and down Tai Mo Shan.  3 days later, I couldn’t get out of bed.  Such is the frailty of human life - at least that of my own.  

I want to thank my wife for being there, for staying calm throughout, for finding help so quickly, acting so decisively, and sorting out accurate information so effectively and performing the manoeuvres correctly; Dr. K for diagnosing quickly and accurately, answering our numerous questions so patiently, and giving us the information plainly;  the nurses and other staff at UHS for taking care of me; the taxi driver for his understanding and patience; my boss Dr. N for offering help immediately and personally; our children for their support, even though they are far away.  Most importantly, I thank God for putting so many angels around me.  There is still much to learn from this episode.  

Monday, May 03, 2021

SLS-8b - TDG Capacity Enhancement Project

To teach service-learning properly, one needs teachers, well-trained teachers.  It is a simply truth which should have been obvious. Attention of the public, without intimate knowledge of how service-learning is actually carried out, tend to be focused on the students.   However, it is often not sufficiently recognised even by administrators in higher education, who, presumably, should know better.  Learning to teach service-learning, by itself, is not exceptionally difficult. The basic concepts are easy enough to grasp through reading, seminars and workshops.  It is the field work that does require a certain amount of practice - there is simply no substitute for direct, personal experience in the training of an effective teacher for service-learning, an experiential pedagogy.  While universities in Hong Kong are becoming more active in adopting service-learning as an academic pedagogy, the need to build up the capacity to teach become more keenly felt.  At PolyU we have developed a number of strategies to build up our own capacity to teach service-learning.  These include workshops, e-Learning modules for teachers as well as students, field experience for new teachers, etc., as discussed in previous sections.  Gradually, we have also started to share out experience with other universities and teamed up with other universities to further enhance the capacity more broadly and systematically. 

In 2017, PolyU led a coalition of 4 universities in successfully securing a Teaching Development Grant (TDG) from the University Grants Committee (UGC) of the Hog Kong Government.  The cross-institutional project aims to build up the capacity of the universities in Hong Kong to teach service-learning.  The 4 universities in the coalition are: PolyU, Baptist University, Lingnan University and Education University.   There were a number of major objectives:

  1. Provide modular and flexible professional development opportunities to enhance teachers’ expertise in designing, offering and assessing SL subjects and projects through the development of a mixed-mode teacher training programme that includes an e-Learning course on teaching SL covering topics such as supervising students, assessing students, facilitating students’ reflections, etc.; complemented with on-site observation and reflection sessions.   
  2. Develop an SL e-Resource platform comprising 
    1. a modular, customizable, platform-neutral eLearning course for students that is designed to complement classroom learning and prepare them to learn the most from the SL experience; and 
    2. a bank of tools for teachers to assess student learning from SL and the impact of SL on the community, validated for use in Hong Kong and East Asian contexts, and 
    3. a database of exemplars of good practice that focuses on various themes (e.g. curriculum, reflection, project execution) in SL, and documents good practice from all participating institutions for reference from colleagues. 
  3. Pilot a number of collaborative SL subjects and projects that leverage complementary skills and disciplines from the participating institutions to facilitate peer learning and collaboration between colleagues in participating institutions. 
  4. Facilitate and support teachers in conducting improvement-oriented action research projects. 
  5. Build up a cross-institutional “Community of Practice” on SL to promote sharing of experiences among SL practitioners and interested staff from all UGC-funded institutions to support social, collective learning opportunities. 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Route Twisk Run 荃錦公路

On a Saturday morning when I do not have to teach, I decided to try to run into Kam Tin through Route Twisk, starting from Hung Hom.

Along Princess Margaret Road 公主道, I was reminded how hard it can be to live in the city.  A decent living space is unaffordable for too many.  

In Shum Shui Po, the line of people waiting to be tested for the coronavirus wraps itself around Maple Street Playground 楓樹街遊樂場.  Another stark reminder of city living - the crowdedness make the situation much worse.  

Turning up Route Twisk, suddenly there seems to be much fewer people, and things seem to slow down. 

Running up is hard, but not too hard yet, in the beginning.  

Unexpected sights makes it seem like I am in a foreign country, like Thailand. 

Transportation is a problem living in a village house up here.  But the surroundings are so much more pleasant.  

Many people drive up in the comfort of a car, powered by fossils.  They are noisy and foul up the air. Some ride their bicycles up, using their own muscle power, assisted by the mechanical advantage of wheels, gears, and chains.  Admirable. I have nothing to rely on, but my own two legs.  It is hard, very hard, but so satisfying.  I have to admit that I had to walk part of the way up.  It is so hard, I am so tired.  Plus that there is no sidewalk for most of the way.  Route Twisk is not just people-unfriendly.  It is positive hostile to people.  

The worse thing, for me, is the hordes of motorcycles tearing up and down, particularly on the Yuen Long side.  Apparently, some of the motorcycles are transported here by vans, so that the riders can roar up and down.  

The Shek Kong - Kam Tin Valley in the distance is beautiful, even in the haze.  If only part of the land is developed to build high rises, instead of 3-storey houses and to store cargo containers, a lot of people can certainly be accommodated.  Kowloon and Hong Kong do not have to be so crowded.  It is not easy, of course.  But why should governing be easy?  If it is easy, why do we pay the officials so much?  

The best feeling is when there is a lull in the traffic, there is nobody around.  

I can hear the birds sing and the cicadas buzz.  

It feels the best when I feel I have earned the pleasure.  

Monday, April 26, 2021

CheckerBoard Hill 格仔山

This hill, at ~100 meters, is the natural high point in Kowloon.  There used to be a red-and-white checkerboard pattern painted on the south facing side to guide landing planes to turn right, in order to align with the runway for landing.  Hence the name.  

There is a covered fresh water service reservoir at the top of the hill.  Standing on top of the hill, one may not realise that one is on top of a reservoir.  

At the top, one should be able to see practically all of Kowloon from the east, to the south, and to the west.  Unfortunately, there is a fence all around the field on top of the reservoir and many trees outside that block one’s view.  

Walking around the reservoir, and asking around, we did find and squeeze through a small hole in another fence to get to the south facing edge of the hill.  We were essentially on top of the checkerboard pattern.  The pattern has faded terribly and, in fact, covered by some construction work.  

It was a cloudy day yesterday, a Sunday.  But one can still see the whole of Kowloon under our feet.  To the east, on our left, Kowloon City, the old Kai Tak airport and its runway, To Gwa Wan, Hung Hom and part of the harbour.  

To the south, Kowloon Tong, Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui.  

Many tall buildings.  Some recognisable to us.  Some not.  

To the West, Kowloon Tong, Tai Hang East, Mong Kok Stadium, Shum Shui Po, Shek Kip Mei, …  

Many recognisable landmarks.  

I saw a school that I used to attend.  The original building was torn down and the space sold to a real estate developer.  In its place is now some high price private residential buildings.  The new school building occupies our old soccer field.  I have never seen it from this angle.  

There is a lot of construction on the south facing slope.  The place may look very different in the future.